An Interview with Rebecca Lovell
Director, Entrepreneurship and Industry, City of Seattle
When you think of entrepreneurs, you think of people with vision, passion, perseverance, resourcefulness and open mindedness. Rebecca Lovell has all those qualities and more. That is one reason why she was chosen to lead a team that drives the Seattle sector strategy, with a goal of making it the most innovative and equitable place to start and grow a business. I have been an admirer of her work for years and have modeled much of my entrepreneurship state programs after her work. Prior roles include the City’s first Startup Advocate, Program Director for Alliance of Angels, Executive Director of Northwest Entrepreneur Network, Chief Business Officer for GeekWire and adjunct instructor on venture capital investing for the UW Foster MBA Program. She brings 20 years of operating and management experience to her leadership roles in both for-profit and non-profit sectors, was recognized as one of the top 100 women in Tech from the Puget Sound Business Journal, and Tech Flash’s “Do Gooder of the Year,” and currently serves as a mentor for 9Mile Labs and Techstars.
Why do entrepreneurs want to be in Seattle?
Seattle is an absolutely beautiful place to live, but it’s more than good looks that brings entrepreneurs to the city. We have a world-class research institution, committed investors, and a whole host of anchor tenants and tech titans that attract, cultivate and spin off talent. Seattle has close to 40 co-working spaces creating serendipitous collisions and spurring innovation, as well as accelerators such as Techstars and incubators. In my opinion, the real secret sauce is…coffee. Not because we’re so highly caffeinated, but because you can get a cup of coffee with just about anyone you need or want to meet. The entrepreneurial community benefits from an authentic under-current of collegiality, spurring grass-roots meetups, volunteer mentoring, and peer-to-peer support at the heart of Seattle’s startup scene.
What quality does a person need most to be an entrepreneur?
The founders that most inspire me follow their passion, not just the latest trend. They possess clarity of vision, and can’t *not* do their startup. They balance confidence (and the grit to pursue their vision) with humility (and the willingness and ability to listen to their customers).
What do you think is the most misunderstood aspect of being an entrepreneur?
It’s widely understood that entrepreneurship is about embracing risk. What’s less understood is that successful entrepreneurs navigate uncertainty.
What is the most successful program you have done that helped entrepreneurs?
In my role as Seattle’s first Startup Advocate, I met with over 300 entrepreneurs – not by asking them to come to City Hall, but rather by getting out of the building and meeting them where they worked, in co-working spaces around the city. The goal was both to provide assistance (triaging and accelerating solutions, generally by making introductions and referrals to resources), as well as to identify systemic issues that the City could address with policies and programs. Access to talent was one of the most prevalent hurdles to growth, and looking ahead to what I believe will be our most successful program…the White House’s TechHire initiative is designed to address exactly this issue.
TechHire is a jobs program providing, to under-served candidates, accelerated training, internships and career pathways in information technology. Seattle was designated as a TechHire community in March this year, and as such have committed to a goal of providing training and placement to up to 2000 area residents by 2020. Our specific focus is on under-represented groups in the tech sector: women, people of color, and those with barriers to employment such as justice-involved individuals. My incredible colleague, our new Startup Advocate David Harris, is leading the charge for the City, and I’m delighted to report that our training partners Seattle Central College, LaunchCode, Ada Developers Academy, Floodgate and Unloop have just received a $3.8 million TechHire grant from the Department of Labor.
Please do check back with us in 2020 to see how we did—but we’re thrilled to be a part of addressing the issue of talent while pursuing more equitably shared prosperity for our residents.