The Bluest Skies I’ve Ever Seen Are In Seattle

In 2007, after selling Current Wisdom, I decided I wanted to get more involved in the Denver/Boulder tech ecosystem.

I had lunch with Danny Newman to tell him about a new idea I had.

“You should talk to David Cohen. He is the most active angel in Boulder.”

I wrote this long email that outlined my idea, and asked if we could meet to discuss it.

David did as David does, and responded almost immediately. I opened the email excited for what I might find.

“I don’t know crap about pets, but I am running this thing called Techstars, and you should come check it out.”

That one line email was the first time I saw the power that an ecosystem can have on a region. I saw first hand entrepreneurship’s impact on a region.

In late 2009, I had joined Graphicly after they went through Techstars. David asked if I would go to Seattle to as part of a road show that highlighted some of the best companies to come out of Techstars.

It was there that I met Greg Gottesman, a managing director at Madrona, the largest venture fund in the Pacific Northwest. We talked about some of their investments, and I knew he and I would be friends for years.

I met Andy Sack, who later founded Techstars Seattle; and dozens of Seattle angels and founders. Each, better than the last.

On that day, I fell in love with Seattle and its tech ecosystem.

Seattle has all the major components of a world-class startup ecosystem: Founders working on real problems, big companies that participate in the growth of the region (including companies like Google, Facebook, Apple and others with large engineering offices here), investors that are active and with high potential, and a high level of new imports into the region. In fact, there are more than 50 software engineers moving to Seattle every week!

Fast forward ten years from that email from David Cohen, helping grow Lijit which became one of the larger exits in Colorado (2010), landing Graphicly (2014), joining Amazon (2015), moving to Seattle (2017), and most recently leaving Amazon (2018).

Well, not really most recently. Most recently, I joined Madrona Venture Group.

When we started talking about working together, we discussed many things, but my first (and only love) is really supporting founders and growing ecosystems. I saw Boulder first hand; I travelled the country seeing places like Omaha, Chicago, New York and Kansas City just explode. I got to watch LA as a participant while at Amazon. It is clear that world changing starts locally with your Startup Community.

The Pacific Northwest has all the components that other ecosystems have; most specifically a desire by founders to see the ecosystem grow by supporting each other.

I want to help in the best way I know how, focusing on founders. To do that, I have taken on an unique role.

I will be the Executive Director of a new innovation space launching in partnership with Madrona.

What will the space be? What I have always wished would exist.

  • A safe place for founders to be human.
  • To meet people that will truly drive their business up and to the right. It will be a stop on every enterprise, founder and investor’s trip to Seattle.
  • A set of programming that is truly founder forward. Not how to raise money, but how to succeed as a leader.
  • Space for a small number of highly curated, thematic companies to work and support one another. These companies will come from the region, and may, or may not, be Madrona investments.

It will be a place where good founders become great leaders.

If you are interested in learning more, shoot me a note: