Something was different about the 2019 GeekWire Bash. Attendance continued to grow, the dodgeball competition was fierce, but what really stood out was the excitement in the air emanating from the fresh, excited faces of young company leaders, employees, and families.
It’s no secret that Seattle’s tech scene is booming. Startups are sprouting, top talent is arriving from Silicon Valley and beyond, and local companies are investing heavily in STEM education.
These realities came to life in a visible way at the event — from the number of notable startups attending to children participating for the first time. After mingling with Seattle’s brightest tech stars and crushing the ping pong tournament like quota, the Highspot team left with three insights that illuminate the exciting future of Seattle’s technology landscape.
While giants such as Amazon and Microsoft have spurred a wave of growth, so have a fresh crop of technology startups. Seattle still trails behind places like the Bay Area, Boston, and Los Angeles in terms of its venture capital ecosystem, but determined local startups have been reaping the benefits of what Geekwire calls the “era of giant funding rounds.” 2018 saw investors pour $793 million into Seattle startups during the second quarter alone — the highest amount since 2015, and the second largest since the dot-com era of the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Highspot was among the companies that attracted investor attention, raising our $35M Series C in September led by new investor OpenView with participation from existing investors Madrona Venture Group, Shasta Ventures, and Salesforce Ventures.
With investor cash flowing and startups catching the wave, what did we see at this year’s GeekWire Bash? Sprinkled among big names such as Zillow and Alaska Airlines were hundreds of employees donning brightly colored, branded t-shirts with both familiar and unfamiliar names — the new cohort of technology companies had a substantial presence. From Hiya to Skykick, local startups are taking off — raising funds, hiring like mad, and shaping Seattle’s blossoming tech scene.
With young companies often come young employees, which was evident as energized, enthusiastic young adults rallied ping pong balls at lightning speed. The next generation of tech talent has arrived — literally.
Generation Z is entering the workforce, and they’re hungry for tech careers. A recent Glassdoor survey revealed that 19% of job seekers are looking for jobs as software engineers, with software developer jobs coming in second place. The majority of job applications were for companies in the tech industry, followed by business services, finance, and retail.
Home to tech titans such as Microsoft, Amazon, and thriving startups, Seattle has Gen Zers’ full attention. The city remains the second-best market for tech talent, based on metrics including growth, talent supply, and industry outlook for job growth. With awe-inspiring ocean and mountain views on top of an exciting, opportunity-filled job market, Gen Z is flocking to Seattle in full force. What does this mean for Seattle companies like Highspot? Access to a pool of top talent — it’s no wonder big things are moving and shaking in the Emerald City.
Education from a Young Age
Nearly 2,000 people came together to celebrate geekdom at the 2019 GeekWire Bash — and for the first time, the event was graced with the exuberance of families and students. Passion was written across young faces as more than 200 kids coded their robots to complete missions as part of the first Robotics Competition Cup. Between the children’s wide-eyed stares and celebratory chanting of “We love STEM!” it couldn’t have been a bigger success.
These kids are the engineers of the future. Forward-thinking organizations like GeekWire are increasingly investing in initiatives that encourage the pursuit of science, technology, engineering, and math careers. With the skills gap issue persisting and the global economy expected to have a shortfall of 85 million skilled jobs, mostly in STEM, by 2020, companies are taking an active role in STEM education. Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon are just a sample of companies who have pledged to fund K-12 STEM education programs.
Nonprofit organizations are also playing a critical role in opening the tech sector. Ada Developers Academy and Year Up are two organizations that provide tuition-free training programs and internship placements at local tech companies to people who want to become software engineers, but need education and experience to do so. As a sponsor of both organizations, Highspot is honored to have recently welcomed two interns to our product team.
The Highspot team left the GeekWire Bash with more than good memories of zipline rides, ping pong victories, and great conversations — we left with a deep appreciation for Seattle’s incredible tech community. And it’s only getting bigger and geekier with the arrival of the next generation of companies, employees, and students.
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