A common experience among people, especially those new to Seattle, is known as the “Seattle Freeze”. This is what it feels like. You go to a networking event and meet some incredibly interesting, friendly, and apparently receptive people. You follow-up with a successful LinkedIn connection. You feel excited that you’ve found new friends and colleagues. Yet, afterwards, when it comes to building relationships and getting to know people on a more personal level, that is proving more difficult. Would you agree?
This is the 5th in a series about Seattle’s prospects as a health innovation hub from the perspective of health startups. In prior posts we have looked at these criteria:
- Cost of doing business – Seattle ranks in the middle.
- Financial capital – Seattle is lowest of the comparison cities in the amount invested in healthcare; 30% of angels are specifically associated with healthcare.
- Human capital –Highest ranked city in our study with the largest share of college grads[i]; hub for technology and sciences.
- Health Institutions– Seattle has world-class academic and research institutions, like the comparison cities, but lags Boston, New York, and San Francisco in the amount of funding. Seattle’s healthcare delivery systems are seen as relatively complacent and risk averse when it comes to working with local health startups.
- Regional culture- this post.
Perhaps one of the more important criteria in deciding where to locate a new venture is a startup-friendly culture. Being in a location where startups thrive and can support each other can be a powerful advantage. How open and friendly is the startup culture in the metro area? Is it cut-throat competitive? How likely is it that other companies will poach your team? Typically startup entrepreneurs need help or advice when building their company. Quality of life for our teams is critical to being able to recruit the best people. Despite the media hype around startups, it is not all about late night sprints and cold pizza. Living in a beautiful area with diverse cultural resources (museums, concerts, parks) and the ability to maintain a healthy lifestyle and to build relationships all contribute to building a sustainable team and an amazing company.
To answer these and other questions we worked with Amy Young, of ZenCloud Consulting, to conduct a survey of the membership of the Seattle Health Innovators group. With 120 responses we have some interesting findings.
Overall, most Seattle area healthcare innovators feel the community is collaborative, open and trusting. This is an overwhelming endorsement of the quality of the health innovation community here, and is possibly a differentiator of Seattle from socially colder and more established communities. We did not survey the comparison cities so this article focuses only on Seattle.
Start-up vs Non Start-up
By “health startup” we mean new ventures building products and services in the health sector. Our sample includes all stages of startups, from self-funded/bootstrap through angel, seed, A,and B rounds. About half of the survey sample works in startups, the other half in non-startup organizations including healthcare delivery organizations, payers, consulting firms, and research/academic organizations. While the majority in both segments finds Seattle a trusting culture, we found a difference in responses based on where people worked. In Seattle, those who are working for a health industry start-up are more likely to agree Seattle is an open and trusting place to work, 73% vs 58%.
Yet when it comes to meeting and getting to know people in Seattle, health innovator start-ups are feeling the “freeze”(62%), to a greater extent than those in non-start-ups (55%).
This experience is by no means universal- more than a third of the respondents disagreed that the so-called “freeze” is real. We suspect there are many variables contributing to this experience, but it seems to be felt by enough people to acknowledge as a socially experienced fact. It is helpful to understand this desire for more personal connection so that we can design experiences that facilitate building on what could become one of the region’s most competitive advantages.
We will share more insights from our Startup Location Attractiveness survey at the November 4th Seattle Health Innovation Forum:Assessing our Impact and our Competitive Advantage. At this event we will also learn about findings from the new release of the WA State HealthCare Sector Economic Development Report, sponsored by the Cambia Grove, the Washington Biotech and Biomedical Association, and the WA Department of Commerce. This will lead to a town-hall discussion of what we can do to improve the competitiveness of the health innovation community in our region, Please join us on Nov 4th at 5:30pm in Seattle to help thaw the “Seattle Freeze” and to connect with others interested in our region’s health innovation community.
Amy Young, President ZenCoud Consulting, moved to Seattle from Anchorage in 2014. She joined the Health Innovators Research team’s Startup Location Attractiveness Study in March 2015.
Ed Butler, a co-founder of Videris Health, moved to Seattle in 2001. In 2013 he organized the Seattle Health Innovation Forum, a grass-roots community of people interested in transforming health and healthcare.