I came up with this very complex equation: Problem solving products + lots of community early adopters = more immediate customer validation and “successful” startups
Let’s look at how Seattle plays into this equation.
1. Early adopters = visionaries who see potential in ideas and will deal with imperfections in the initial stages of products.
2. Seattle tech = Amazon and Microsoft
3. Working at Amazon, Microsoft,etc. = Expectation of perfection in products shipped
4. Vast majority top tech talent in Seattle goes to work at Amazon and Microsoft.
Thus, vast majority top tech talent in Seattle expects perfection in products shipped.
Conclusion: Vast majority of top tech talent in Seattle expects perfection in products shipped ≠ lots of community early adopters
Now, the reason I bring this up is because I believe in this search to find out how to continue to build up the Seattle startup ecosystem to become a thriving powerhouse, we have 1 part of that top equation right. I went to TechStars demo day a couple weeks ago and I was just at the Seattle Startup Weekend in F5 Networks and there was over 150 participants and 18 teams that demoed amazing products that were built in just 54hrs. Seattle continues to invest in creating events that help build more and more ideas, but where I think we are lacking is in the amount of early adopters we have to help take those problem solving ideas to the next stage of a startups life after their initial launch. To help startups get from very early stages to a credible amount of users where startups can survey enough feedback to build a scalable product is the big grey area.
Take this graph for example. I believe a community that is built around generating ideas is the red line. They launch startups, get some traction but ultimately struggle to make it to profitability and scalable stages. Some ideas break through, but most find it hard to grow. The green line is a community that is built for generating innovations plus has a big pool of early adopters.
Imagine if in Seattle, the number of startups that are called “successes” (either still existing or successful exits) is 10%. Now lets assume in a bigger startup community like San Francisco that percentage is 17%. All else equal, my belief is that if you look at the top equation, the amount of problem solving ideas isn’t that much different between the cities. Ultimately, there are tons of the same exact startups launched in multiple communities. I mean, Startup Weekends and Hackathon’s are put on all over the world and there is only so many different ideas that can be built. But where the big difference in the equation is the amount of early adopters. Communities are what help startups in the early stages continue to grow. They even push forward a lot of ideas that would fail elsewhere. For example if Facebook actually stayed in Boston and had not moved to Silicon Valley back in ’05-06, the end result may have been drastically different because of the tremendous amount of early adopters in the bay area.
Whether you are in Seattle or in a different startup community trying to grow, here are a couple things that you can do to help build a better part of the early adopters side of the equation:
1. Don’t just test new products once, but use it multiple times
2. Understand the process of a startups life and know the first version you test isn’t where the founders expect it to be
3. Envision the potential of what this idea could be
4. Cheer and support founding teams
5. Offer high quality feedback
It is remarkable having Amazon and Microsoft to continue to invest in developing the technical talents in the Seattle area but we need to start investing in developing a community of early adopters as well.