Friday, February 22, 2013

Seattle Angel Conference Is an Indicator of Seattle Startup Diversity

Guest Post by Geoffrey Harris - Angel Investor in Seattle Angel Conference

"Educational and Exciting"

My participation in the second Seattle Angel conference was my first participation in a formal investment group. I had certain assumptions as I went in– some of which were validated and others not.

One of the assumptions was about the nature of the startups that would make it through our process. I knew the makeup of the investors: overwhelmingly a group of current and former technology professionals. This led me to assume that we would bias towards our areas of knowledge and the finalists would end up looking like a who’s who of local tech startups.

But then a funny thing happened – we ended up with a highly diverse set of finalists. We had our traditional tech startups to be sure (ExoLabs, the eventual winner as well as Talk to the Manager). We had a couple for whom technology was an important part but which also had a strong attachment to very non-tech marketplaces ( (authors) and Corengi (clinical trials)). We also had a hydroponic lettuce grower (Suncrest Farms) and a medical device manufacturer (Redpoint). These last two in particular seemed outside of my expectations for companies we would consider for investment.

The diverse nature of the finalists made for some very steep learning curves in performing due diligence. Once we completed due diligence we then had a significant challenge in comparing these companies against each other. Not only were they at different stages of their development but they were also in completely different industries. The debates over how to weigh the merits of hydroponic techniques as compared to the opportunity presented in the clinical trial marketplace were certainly some of the most educational and exciting aspects of the conference.

The nature of our finalists also had me questioning one of my core assumptions about the Seattle startup scene. Given that I spend most days steeped in the technology sector coupled with the fact that several of Seattle’s most successful recent startups have been in tech tended to make me think of Seattle as another high tech center - Silicon Valley North, if you will. What became clear to me however is that there is a rich collection of startups run by entrepreneurs as passionate in their space as any in the technology sector.

What is less clear is that the same financial backing is available to these companies.

In the end that (diversity and passion) is what the Seattle Angel Conference is all about.

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