How Microsoft became a secret startup ingredient, and what the trend says about the tech world


Would you have guessed that nearly 25 percent of the Seattle region’s top tech startups are led by CEOs with backgrounds at Microsoft?

That was the result of our analysis of the GeekWire 200, our index of the top privately held tech companies in the Pacific Northwest.

As we discuss on this episode of the GeekWire Podcast, the trend is surprising and interesting for a few different reasons.

  • Historically, Microsoft’s ability to empower executives and managers to build big new businesses internally created an entrepreneurial mindset that led many of those same people to launch and lead their own independent businesses when they left the company.
  • The trend illustrates the long-term impact that large tech companies can have on a startup community, potentially overcoming the short-term drawbacks from those big companies hiring talented engineers and executives in competition with startups.
  • Many of the current startup CEOs in this category got their experience at Microsoft in past eras at the company, and one open question is whether the company will continue to have this impact long term. Microsoft’s new culture under CEO Satya Nadella may help retain talent, and the talent does leave may not have the same entrepreneurial mindset.
  • Amazon so far has minted far fewer startup CEOs than Microsoft has, but the Seattle company is also at a different place in its evolution, and it will be interesting to see if this changes in the future.

Read our full analysis for more.

We start with some related news: fundings for the Seattle region’s startups bucked the national trend in the second quarter, rising significantly, as reflected on our new startup deal tracker. Look for more on this in an upcoming post.

Also on the show: Nintendo unveils a new iteration of its Switch game console; former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer pulls off what might be his greatest deal ever; and an Amazon employee shows the potential of AI with a high-tech cat door.

Plus, the debut of our new theme song, by composer Daniel L.K. Caldwell.

Listen above or subscribe in your favorite podcast app. 

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