Last week, a group of 55 consuls general representing countries from around the world made a special trip to Seattle to learn best practices from one of the world’s premiere innovation ecosystems. The day began with a visit to City Hall, Fred Hutch, and the Amazon headquarters. The day concluded with a trip to CoMotion where the consuls heard from our Executive Director Vikram Jandhyala, a panel of representatives from our own CoMotion innovation ecosystem, and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray. Representatives from countries such as Germany, China, and the Netherlands were all hoping to learn the same thing: how can they bring the innovation mindset of Seattle back to their own respective countries.
Vikram began the presentation with a breathtaking video that flies over Seattle giving the viewer a full visual of the Seattle skyline in addition to benchmarking all of the major organizations that were founded in Seattle (Boeing, Amazon, Tableau, etc.) and those that have chosen to establish large branches here (Google, Facebook, DropBox, etc.). This video was an impressive and compelling visual to convey the truly expansive reach of Seattle’s innovation ecosystem.
Afterwards, Vikram went on to discuss CoMotion’s mission, our three innovation pillars, the different programs we offer to startups such as CoMotion Labs, and some of the projects we are partnering on such as the new Global Innovation Exchange, a partnership between UW and Tsinghua University to develop leaders in innovation. One of the consuls general was curious about how they might be able to help CoMotion and vice versa. Vikram’s response was that it all starts at the university level. If any of the consuls general knew of universities within their respective countries that were interested in emulating CoMotion’s model, we would be more than happy to provide the guidance and mentorship.
Next, a panel of representatives from our internal CoMotion innovation ecosystem were available to answer questions from Vikram and questions from the consuls general. The panel consisted of Ben Waters, CEO and co-founder of WiBotic, Haresh Ved, founder and Chair of TiE Angels Group Seattle, and Elizabeth Scallon, Associate Director of CoMotion Labs.
The conversation included a discussion about the difficulties startups are experiencing with fundraising in Seattle. Ben agreed that fundraising in Seattle can be challenging for a new company and commented that his first ever funding was actually provided by CoMotion’s Innovation Fund. Most recently, WiBotic just closed their second round of funding where they raised $2.5M. International investors and investors from the Bay Area led this round and then, after securing that initial funding, Ben was able to come back to local investors to finish out his round. Haresh echoed that, though raising capital in Seattle has proven challenging for many local startups, VC groups in the area are working to close some of the gaps, and Seattle has a wealth of active Angel groups who are looking to invest in early-stage companies.
The conversation moved then to a discussion of what qualities or characteristics comprise an effective incubator and accelerator program, where Elizabeth was able to give a thorough overview of the many intricacies and differences between the coworking, incubator, and accelerator models.
Finally, Ed Murray took the stage to provide some closing remarks. He commented on how vibrant and advanced Seattle has become, a complete comeback after the city’s struggles in the 1970’s. He cited that while over 125 different languages are spoken in Seattle, students across the state are still struggling to graduate from high school and, given this daunting fact, he implored the entrepreneurs and innovators of the world to make sure to give back to their local communities and give back to the education systems.
It was such a pleasure to welcome representatives from so many different cultures to discuss our universal goal of encouraging innovation and preparing for an increasingly technological future. We hope the consuls general enjoyed their time in the United States and we look forward to supporting them in any way we can.