Now, what for Tacoma? We’ve got a couple of small tech companies around here, but choosing to locate in Tacoma (rather than, say, Pioneer Square AKA startup central) is the exception to the rule. There’s not a lot of networking between employees at different companies. There’s not “district” where these companies tend to locate. Programming talent is hard to find. (I’m not sure if this last thing is because programmers don’t live here, or because they’re all commuting to their jobs in Seattle/Redmond/wherever…)
But generally, the question is begged, why isn’t there an active startup community in Tacoma. We are within an hour of the Seattle market. There are all sorts of buildings with the cool loft spaces that small software firms like so much. UWT’s Tech Institute is by all indications growing, turning out both undergraduate and graduate software developers. UPS and PLU, both excellent schools, also turn out CS graduates in respectable numbers. Sure, there’s not the sexiness of being in Seattle, and I don’t have any illusions of Tacoma having as broad a tech presence as said neighbor-to-the-north, but it’s hard to see what’s standing in the way of more of a startup presence here.
I wonder if maybe the funding piece of the pie is one of the factors holding us back. Yes, there’s the Tacoma Angel Network (and non-funding-related support from the William Factory Small Business Incubator), but those are a little bit heavy on some of the details that many tech startups tend to scoff at, such as detailed business plans. In all honesty, most of these startups are coming to fruition through the efforts of programmers and designers, not MBAs and marketers, and the value is in the idea (and making it come to fruition), not long term goals and overly-thorough market analysis. Yes, there will be failures, but providing a framework for seed-funding ideas for small companies, without formal business process overhead, simply works for small tech companies. Bay Area venture firm Y Combinator has proven it with companies like Justin.tv, Loopt, and reddit. Curious Office has seen success with Imagekind (acquired by CafePress) and Shelfari (acquired by Amazon). Granted, there’s nothing precluding any of these firms from funding a Tacoma company, but to my knowledge it hasn’t happened yet.
So what if there were a Tacoma tech startup funder/incubator? It could be an extension of the Angel Network or it could be it’s own thing, but the operative thing is that it would provide relatively minimal funding (at least in the venture funding sense), and favor ideas over formal business plans. Picture a shared office of small two-to-three member teams working on a number of projects, each with just enough funding to cover equipment, salaries, and other overhead. An exciting collaborative atmosphere. Tons of new tech jobs for Tacoma residents! If it were connected or closely allied with the UWT Technology Institute (and/or UPS, and/or PLU), even better, because we can tap that talent before it takes jobs elsewhere–a great way to keep one segment of “cultural creatives” in town after they’re done with their degrees. (And the area around the UWT would be great, location-wise, for this…) Now, I don’t have the money to be a part of making this happen, but I really think it would open up some exciting potential for the future of Tacoma, downtown development, commerce, etc.
Melissa recently purchased some fine footwear from Shoes.com, and various aspects of the site left some impressions on me. Mostly positive, though I had a couple of observations of things that could be improved, too…
(more after the jump…)]]>
Skoot, the large file transfer software that has essentially been the constant focus of my day job for about the past year and a half, is getting a day in the sun today with the launch of TroopSkoot, a program to allow soldiers and their families to use the service for free.
As always seems to be the case with any news coverage, I have a few quibbles with the details, but it’s nice to have it out there and see some press for something that I had a big part in creating.
Here is a bit of the coverage in the news and blogs:
I also want to plug the free trial available for anyone who wants to give Skoot a try. It is available for both Windows and Mac OS X. Just head to SkootIt.com and give it a shot.]]>