go beyond your zip code to raise capital

Lj-salazar-consulting---raising-money

Many great ventures start in coffee shops where dreams are crafted in between espresso shots and public WiFi access to the internet. Just like our geographic location cannot limit our access to the best talent and technology, it would be a disservice to our dream venture if we limit ourselves to local sources of capital. It is often a good idea to start local when launching a new product or service because one can learn faster in a local niche, but ideally, we act local and think global when raising capital.

Seattle is a fantastic hub for entrepreneurship; CBRE’s annual Scoring Tech Talent report ranks Seattle among the top three cities in the US based on metrics such as the number of tech employees, population trends, wages, education levels and business costs. Seattle is also among the top cities on patents filed per capita.

“Our zip code should not limit our thinking when raising capital; we need to act local and think global as entrepreneurs.”

Access to investment capital in Seattle is not as mature as New York, the Bay Area, or Boston. But given the dynamic and interconnected nature of entrepreneurship and venture capital, we must go beyond our borders when searching for the best investors who can bring not only money but experience and connections to help us in our journey.

In my first journey through startup land in Seattle, at Global Market Insite, a leader in technology for online market surveys in the enterprise sector, we had the support of Voyager Capital in Seattle, but also Bay Area firms such as TCV and Silicon Valley Bank.

In my journey as co-founder of Jobaline, a leader in cloud-based technology for high volume recruiting of hourly workers, we raised $11 million from Madrona Ventures and from Trilogy Partnership as well as fantastic private investors from Seattle, New York, Georgia, and California. These private investors proved to be critical to our success by helping us through their network and their own operational expertise in User Experience, Business Development, Enterprise Marketing and Go-to-market strategy.

I will always be grateful for the money they invested, but the value delivered in terms of expert advice on execution was priceless.

In raising our seed round I went to New York and the Bay Area, not because we ever thought about moving there, but because there is access to good capital, good value-added investors, and some of our target customers were there. As a result, some of the money came from those areas, which was a good long term move and it was also good for Seattle’s entrepreneurship ecosystem, as every Seattle entrepreneur raising capital beyond our city limits becomes an ambassador creating awareness of the local talent pool and business climate.

Investors from New York, Texas, Boston and California are increasingly investing in Seattle and Portland. Firms like Madrona Venture Group or Voyager Capital take a fresh approach to Venture Capital by providing not only money but also resources in the areas of Communications, Human Resources, and Finance. We have many great programs like TechStars and Founders Coop. Tech giants such as Google, GoDaddy, Facebook, ServiceNow, eBay, and others growing a substantial part of their operation in the state of Washington, alongside with the local tech anchors: Microsoft and Amazon, create a fertile ground for talent development and exchange of fresh ideas. It also graduates talent that eventually become entrepreneurs.

I do not think of Seattle as the place for building the next “Yo” app, but a place where we build solutions to real and complex problems in e-commerce, productivity, finances, travel, labor, transportation, agriculture, manufacturing, security and Data centers.

“While the Bay Area is the capital of the consumer Web, Seattle is the place for the Smarter cloud.”

Tech and Enterprise Go-to-Market talent and quality of life are just fantastic in Seattle. We welcome capital from California, from the East Coast, Europe, Asia and many other places as this is a great place to build real solutions to real-life problems in order to make a positive impact on society.

As entrepreneurs and investors, we absolutely need to expand our thinking and go beyond artificially created boundaries when thinking about raising capital. We need to mature our approach and go to those other cities and countries, explaining why our specific venture is a good investment, why our team is the right one to deliver on the vision, why they provide important added value to the venture, beyond the money, and why Seattle is such a great place for their investment to succeed.