Heading West: Detroit-based Slope on Joining the Seattle Accelerator
“Brian. Did you check your email?”
My heart was pounding… Brian had just left my apartment in Cincinnati, and was driving back to Detroit, so I knew he hadn’t checked his email. So yes, it was a dumb question.
“What?” Brian asked. “Why? No. What are you talking about?”
“WE GOT IT!!!! WE F***ING GOT IT!” I was unabashedly yelling into my cell phone, jumping up and down in my apartment.
“What? We got it? No. Dan, stop it. No... What?” Brian yelled back.
“WE GOT IT! We are going to Seattle!”“Holy shit. We are going to Seattle.”
And just like that, we were headed to Seattle to participate in the Microsoft Accelerator.
Less than 20 days later, Brian and I rolled into Seattle after a 48 hour bender road trip from Detroit. We packed all we could fit in his 2001 Toyota Land Cruiser and drove west. Okay, we weren’t exactly Lewis and Clark navigating by the stars, but I’m telling the story so, be quiet and enjoy.
We’ve been in Seattle for six months now. We’ve hired three people locally, and signed leases to stay here and keep building Slope. That was not the original plan. We came into this adventure with a pretty open mind—read that as most people telling us to be skeptical of Microsoft (forcing us to use their products), and that we’d be living our life under a perpetual rain cloud. So “open-minded” really meant we were going to approach this opportunity very cautiously and hope for the best (and yes, my mother bought me a raincoat in preparation for my move).
It turns out Seattle is a gem, especially for a young, ambitious startup. I’ll tell you more about that in a minute. Microsoft is a big company populated with smart people, who are surprisingly willing to help. Don’t get me wrong—I was totally ready to jump on the evil empire bandwagon - and I’ll tell you that I don’t even have Microsoft Office... True story. I’m writing this blog on Google docs. From Day One of the program, Microsoft has proven that it is very interested in supporting startups in the community. We received countless introductions to investors and potential customers. Specifically, we got invited to pitch to fortune 500 companies about once a month as part of Microsoft’s “Customer Access Program” for startups. That has led to some amazing, tangible opportunities for our company.
Moreover, there is nothing better for two non-technical co-founders than receiving technical support. And last time I checked, Microsoft knows a little something about building software. Our Microsoft mentors connected us to some senior engineers to help us make architecture decisions, and they even put our top engineering prospects through technical tests to help us vet them during our hiring process. As a cherry on top, once we released our beta, there were multiple teams at Microsoft that offered to test it and give us feedback. I’m not sure what your definition of evil is, but our experience with Microsoft continues to be incredibly positive. Like Luke Skywalker good… from the original series, obviously.
The Seattle ecosystem is fortunate enough to have solid anchors in the community—Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing, Expedia, and many others. These organizations fuel growth and innovation in the city by bringing people from all over the world. There are tons of meetup groups, hackathons, happy hours, and other events that allow for serendipitous interactions to take place. Seattle has welcomed us with open arms, and we are working hard to keep up and get connected.
If the Seattle freeze exists, I’ve never felt it. Or maybe it’s my warm, bubbly personality that’s so common among people who grow up in Boston (that is a joke). This community is special. It’s got all the pieces in place to make it the next hot place for entrepreneurs, and we are excited to be here at this pivotal moment in the city’s history. Unprecedented growth mixed with an influx of wealth and talent… yeah… talk about a dream scenario for startups. Oh, and it turns out that when it’s not raining in Seattle, it’s possibly the most beautiful place in the world. Mountains everywhere, water everywhere, combined with all the perks and ease of living in a major city. While I may never be a devout Seahawks fan, I believe that this is a city where our company can grow and flourish. It has all the right elements in place, and a lot of the intangibles that are hard to explain. It’s more of an energy. Come check it out and see for yourself!
But me? I’m all in.