Odile Roujol
7 min readNov 23, 2017

Deep dive into the West Coast. Seattle a rising Tech and Lifestyle epicenter.

Would you come for more than a few days in Emerald city? Time to think about it.

When you dive into the West Coast, from Seattle to Los Angeles, you encounter multiple interesting & rising startup ecosystems.

I was lucky enough to be part of a one week dive into both Cities, with 10 entrepreneurs and business angels from France 50 Partners . And I learned a lot.

First, I discovered spending time with French friends and living in San Francisco, that I became a little Californian for them: making sure to be on time, apologizing to the Uber driver when too noisy as a group, and preferring salads and juices to a great beef tenderloin and a glass of wine. I believe they still like me as we had a lot of fun too.

Second, San Francisco should create more bridges with the 2 cities. Here is why.

Seattle is one of the top Tech markets in the US with a unique mindset, «to build Companies for the long run».

Seattle has 3.7 million people as a population and is the most educated market in the US: 62 percent of all residents over 25 possess at least a bachelor’s degree (Portland nearby, home for Nike, is at 49 percent).

It means 136,000 tech jobs and 33% increase since 2011, with a big influx or fresh-faced techies (cheaper place to live and work than the Bay Area).

Seattle is home to tech industry leaders Amazon and Microsoft (meaning cloud infrastructure, SaaS, e commerce, and marketplaces), Enterprise innovators such as Concur and Tableau, Aerospace, etc.

Facebook and Google have also created big offices here.

Bill and Melinda Gates chose this place for locating their huge foundation and you can’t miss their buildings.

And top tier Ventures firms from the Silicon Valley spend a few days every quarter to come and visit if not having an office in the city.

Amazon is clearly an amazing and fast-growing platform for entrepreneurs.

Microsoft is also a core driver of the ecosystem. We met their accelerator team. @MSaccel aims at providing support to entrepreneurs wanting to test their product, with great labs and costly machines. They don’t take equity and just bet on their potential client to use their services in the future. They have also signed partnerships with TechStars, and launched an AI startup competition with Madrona Venture Partners.

When you visit the « Emerald city », from the Pike Place Market to the Space Needle, you mostly see American tourists. And you realize it’s far away from every other City.

People a century ago were dealing with wood and fish. Perhaps it’s why it gives to the people here a different mindset.

People settle in for long careers at a company, most VCs have spent time at Microsoft and Amazon as a C-suite level executive and understand well their corporate culture and needs.

John Connors is the great Managing Partner at Ignition, famous for all startups in SaaS & cloud (and now AI), and has spent 16 years at Microsoft (latest job as CIO).

People want to build a company for the ages, which is a good mindset to have. Redfin backed by the successful Madrona Ventures has been founded 12 years ago as a real estate new online solution.

That’s how Expedia was build (with his former CEO Dara Khosrowshahi joining Uber), now in 2000 travel booking websites in 75 countries and listing 350000 hotels and 500 airlines.

The local market is also inventive in the way to support startups. Greg Gottesman Co-Founder Pioneer Square Labs creates and launches tech startups (they are backed by 50 angel investors and venture capital firms).

Building a great startup is hard. It requires domain expertise, uncommon talent and great execution, perfect timing and a little luck. This is a startup studio: they develop ideas and validate or kill them. They turn the best ones into fully-funded companies with rapid customer adoption.

Boundless led by Xiao Wang, aiming at helping you to navigate the US immigration labyrinth (visas), is one of them: disrupting costly lawyer fees and making it faster.

Seattle has a unique « pop and alternative » creative culture, inspiring great founders.

Seattle is also home to unique retail brands such as Starbucks, Costco, Nordstrom and REI.

You need to visit the MoPop (museum of pop culture) in the City, in the colorful Frank Gehry architecture.

Listening to David Bowie or Nirvana (yes Kurt Cobain was born in Seattle), then taking time to visit Fremont district with indie shops and hip bars, walking in Theo’s chocolate factory (fair trade, organic ingredients), a trendy second hand and vintage clothes shop, or a vegan make up and designers post cards mix with air plants… Take your time, you’ll understand the creativity here.

We met the Leafly team.

According to CB insights, Cannabis-focused startups have raised over USD 200m per year in the past couple years. There is still an intense debate over legalizing Marijuana, yet there are over 50 cannabis startups in the US…

We are in the Washington state. Producing, distributing, educating customers about legal marijuana is possible.

Leafly have launched a portfolio of global, responsible and mainstream cannabis brands.

Tirlay (pharmaceutical-grade cannabis), Marley natural (in association with the Bob Marley’s family) are interesting by their sharp positioning, design and packaging. Leafly help consumers make informed choices about cannabis and has more than 50 million page views per month, and 2 million subscribers.

I must say as an ex L’Oréal that I was amazed by the consistency of the messages and the clear DNA for each brand, and understand their big plans to expand and add new brands as time goes on. They listen to their customers, generate insights, build a portfolio according to needs and moods. Sorry to have missed the opportunity to test the cookies and chocolates (even if legal, you need to purchase in the store, and we still had other meetings after!).

Seattle is a great place to live and work, and has a passionate and vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem.

In the Silicon Valley, we should think of Seattle not only to find a great deal flow with still reasonable valuations, but as a leading ecosystem with its unique culture, and a lot to learn from them.

I’ll come back, and will just continue with a Thanks giving break in Portland city. See you soon in Emerald City!

Odile Roujol

Founder Fab Ventures and Fab Fashion & BeautyTech community - Conscious Living -Women. BA, Board member, ex CEO Lancôme @loreal /CDO @Orange - L.A. / SF