Startup Hall — One Year Later

There was a traffic jam last night in Startup Hall.

At six o’clock, sixty-plus angel investors were wrapping up a discussion hosted by the Seattle Angel Fund; while another, even larger group of Techstars founders and mentors were milling around in the main reception area, waiting to kick off a speed-dating style Mentor Mixer that officially ended at eight-thirty, but was still hosting pockets of animated conversation two hours after that.

Just a year ago, Startup Hall was an empty building and a dream. Today, one year later, that dream has not only been realized, it’s already bursting at the seams and leaking out into the surrounding neighborhood (just as we’d hoped it would).

Here are just a few things that have happened in the past 12 months:

  • Techstars Seattle has welcomed 21 new companies into the space, many of which relocated from other cities — and other countries — to participate in our 12-week accelerator program. As in years past, many of those companies have gone on to raise millions of dollars of angel and VC capital, building out their teams and scaling their operations here in Seattle.
  • The Startup Hall co-working space — in a neighborhood not previously known as a hotbed of startup activity — has gone from 100% vacancy to fully booked, with a waitlist of new companies lined up to join as desks turn over and new capacity is added. Some of those early co-working teams have gone on to join top-tier startup accelerators and raise capital from prominent Bay Area investors.
  • Two of the anchor tenants who partnered with the University of Washington to realize the Startup Hall vision — Techstars and UP Global — have now merged into a single, global company dedicated to developing entrepreneurial talent and building companies around the world. Over 20 percent of Techstars’ global staff now lives and works in Startup Hall.
  • The University of Washington has announced several new initiatives — including a major expansion of the Innovation mission (under the “CoMotion” banner) and the launch of an international partnership with Microsoft and Tsinghua University to accelerate the development of the region’s technical talent pool — extending and deepening their commitment to the entrepreneurial capacity-building of which Startup Hall was an early reflection.
  • Sound Transit announced that the Stadium light rail link station would be opening ahead of schedule in 2016, pointing the way to an on-time (or even early) delivery of the University, Roosevelt and Northgate links that will connect the neighborhood to the city to the north and south.
  • The University of Washington made an advance commitment to a new building on Roosevelt to ensure the delivery of new commercial space in the UDistrict, making room for the expansion of commercial innovation activity as close as possible to the University campus.

The pace of change in regional economies and the urban landscape is typically measured in decades. On that scale the collective rate of change within Startup Hall, the University of Washington’s innovation function, and the University District neighborhood is now approaching warp speed. We still have much to do, but we’re off to an incredible start. Thanks again to everyone who has played a role in making the impossible happen — I can’t wait to see what the next twelve months will bring.

(Note: The image at top is an architectural rendering of the University Center commercial building currently under construction on Roosevelt Way.)