Seven years ago we announced the launch of Founders’ Co-op as a new $2.5 million fund dedicated to supporting seed-stage startups in the Pacific Northwest. Today I’m delighted to announce that we’ve just completed the final close on our third fund — our largest ever at just over $20 million — to continue the journey we began in 2008.
We’ve learned so much in the past seven years. Not just about our core work of investing in startups, but — just as importantly — about what it takes to build a truly excellent regional ecosystem that can support them as they grow.
Our mission is to make the Pacific Northwest the best place on the planet to build a world-class software company — the kind that achieves the scale and impact of a Microsoft or Amazon.
This is an ambitious goal, and it will be even harder than it sounds because of fundamental changes in the way technology companies are built and scaled. The relentlessly accelerating pace of technology change keeps shortening the shelf-life of companies and ideas. Looking ahead, the only sustainable source of competitive advantage will be the capability to foster, fund and promote new ideas more quickly — and with shorter cycles times between learning and action — than the next most agile competitor.
Cities and regions that demonstrate this capability will not only be the birthplace of great companies, they will also enjoy the benefits of compounding, continuously attracting and retaining a disproportionate share of the world’s most important resources: insanely talented and ambitious human beings, and the capital needed to fund their work.
On the scale of the multi-trillion dollar global economy, or even the hundreds of millions of dollars available to a “traditional” venture fund, our ambitions are laughably grandiose and our resources laughably small.
But our theory of change doesn’t require us to write huge checks or transform global opinion overnight. All we have to do is scout out the most talented and hungry founding teams we can find — people who understand how to wield the long lever of technology to transform limited resources into massive impact. Then we do everything in our power to help them build teams, products and companies that matter.
Seven years ago, our resources for this mission were few. Today we have a little more to work with:
- Over 100 individual and institutional investors across three funds, including many current and past leaders of the region’s entrepreneurial community, offering a powerful network of support and mentorship for us and the teams we work with.
- A portfolio of over 50 amazing companies, employing nearly a thousand people locally and with an aggregate enterprise value of well over a billion dollars.
- Leadership of Techstars Seattle, the region’s most selective startup accelerator and part of the global Techstars network, the #1 startup accelerator in the world.
- A deep partnership with the University of Washington, one of the world’s leading research universities, with the shared goal of accelerating world-class commercial innovation in the region.
Each company that thrives here in the Pacific Northwest becomes another beacon of excellence for our region. Each successful founder becomes a hero, mentor and angel investor for the next generation of leaders. And each turn of that cycle adds depth, strength and diversity to the system as a whole.
Seven years is a lifetime for a startup, but it’s an eyeblink in the life of a city or region. We’re proud of how far we’ve come as a fund, but the real work has just begun.