Be part of StartupSeattle’s design project this summer!

This is a guest post from our StartupSeattle intern, Mulki Mohamed. 

I am currently an undergraduate student at the University of Washington’s Human Centered Design and Engineering (HCDE) program, and interning for the summer with the Office of Economic Development’s Startup Advocate, David Harris. In addition to running the StartupSeattle program, David is also a recent graduate of the HCDE Masters program at the University of Washington. We are excited to be working on a User Experience Design project for OED’s StartupSeattle program, which focuses on connecting Seattle’s tech startup founders and investors to information and resources.

The design challenge for this project is to uncover how we might use the City’s website to better connect tech startup founders and investors with information and resources. During my summer internship, I’ll be conducting research, ideation, prototyping, and the evaluation phases of the project, and plan to document our process via StartupSeattle’s Twitter and Facebook.

After researching Seattle’s startup ecosystem, as well as meeting with local founders and investors, we have learned some interesting insights. For instance, we found that identity, whether racial, gender, or other aspects, can be a help or a hindrance in a founder’s journey.

Our goal is to not only share what we’re learning, but to also engage in dialogue with our followers about their experiences as well.

Starting this month, we’ll be launching a few ongoing conversations on our social media platforms as a part of this project. We hope that by sharing the information that we discover, we can invite others to the discussion as well.

If you’d like to learn more about Seattle’s tech startup community, or you have things you’d like to share, then this is something you won’t want to miss! We want to hear your ideas on how we can improve so make sure to follow StartupSeattle on Twitter and Facebook to get the latest updates on the project.

Startup Seattle Stories: Bellom

Bellom CEO Jyde Ojo and COO Karina Krivenko.

If there is a “usual way” people meet their future business partners—maybe in business school, or at a networking event—then Jyde Ojo and Karina Krivenko did not meet that way. They met at a salsa dancing class three years ago. The pair now runs Bellom, an app that allows users to coordinate cleaning, pet care, meal prep and more.

The Bellom CEO and COO don’t appear to have a lot in common at first glance, besides that they are both immigrants to the United States. Jyde’s background is in tech; he moved to Washington for a job with Microsoft, where he worked for years before leaving to start his own social media platform aimed at the Christian community in 2004 (pre-dating Facebook, as he notes). Karina moved here from Russia six years ago and has a more varied professional history, having worked in every industry from beauty to heavy machinery, typically in “a support role, operations role, making sure everything runs smoothly and easily.”

Spend some time talking with the two and you’ll notice that beyond their immigrant backgrounds, they also share a common energy and curiosity, both always focused on moving Bellom forward. Throughout our conversation, the two trade off finishing each other’s sentences and asking me about my opinions on Bellom’s services.

Karina says that the idea for Bellom originated with Jyde trying to find a way to simplify his own busy life. “About a year ago Jyde shared his challenges in just a simple task, you would think: scheduling housecleaning. And it was such a, just a mess, trying to coordinate your schedule, and get a quote, and it’s so inconvenient, and they cancel on you, and you’re overpaying…” she explains. “He was describing all that, and he came up with an idea of creating something simple, a solution that will let you basically do all your chores seamlessly, in a few clicks. And so he started building the app that we’re using now.”

Bellom users can schedule and coordinate pet care, laundry, shopping, cooking, cleaning, and even ordering fresh flowers through the app. Customers aren’t obligated to sign up for a monthly subscription, and the app advertises simple pricing without surprise service fees.

Jyde explains that Bellom’s services are useful for over-worked techies, a demographic he can relate to: “When you work for companies like Microsoft, Amazon, you are working a lot…you code all night long. And as a result, you don’t have time for anything.” The goal of Bellom is to provide a “new approach to living for busy people, for busy professionals,” so that workers have leisure time to enjoy the money they’re earning. Jyde and Karina also see the service being useful for people who are less able to perform household tasks on their own, such as seniors and people with disabilities.

Karina and Jyde both have years of business acumen that have served them well in starting Bellom, and they also point to working with the Office of Economic Devlopment’s Startup Advocate, David Harris, as critical to their success. “One of the greatest things that OED has been helpful for us, is [making] connections,” says Jyde.

“David connected us with the Women’s Fund in Portland, and he’s been advising Jyde on other sources as well,” continues Karina. “We never would have met [our mentor], ever, otherwise, without a soft introduction from David.” Their business mentor is a Seattle angel investor, who now is serving on Bellom’s advisory board. Through working with David, Jyde and Karina met investors and entrepreneurs throughout Seattle and California, and built a network of people to call on for help and advice. “That support system, it’s priceless,” says Jyde.

“OED has been very very instrumental in our core survival and for us to be where we are,” Jyde says of working with David. Karina continues, “I come from a country where if you are a small business, you are in constant survival mode. It’s not because it’s hard and there’s competition, it’s because the government is trying to shut you down. Not helping you, just the opposite. So to me, [OED’s support] is a blessing.”

Karina describes Seattle’s startup scene as “hard, but exciting.” “There is a lot of help, definitely, that’s created by the City for example. But there’s also just huge competition, because just like Silicon Valley, this place is filled with smart people. And they’re all trying to start something new.”

Even in the face of all that competition, Jyde and Karina advise aspiring startup owners to dive in. “Do it now, don’t wait for the stars to align, because they won’t, ever,” Karina says. “Something will always come up, and something won’t be right, but just, give it some more, strategize, get feedback. Talk to people, get opinions, refine your strategy and go get it.

She continues, “You will always fail. As long as you learn from it and do something better next time, they’re learning opportunities.” Jyde responds, “If you’re coming back up, they’re not failures.”

Learn more about OED’s resources on our Startup Seattle page, and contact Startup Advocate David Harris at david.harris@seattle.gov.

The Seattle Public Library Will Help You Develop a Plan to Launch Your Small Business

 

Having a plan is imperative to building a successful small business. Because of this, the Seattle Public Library is offering free business planning seminars during the following times.

January appointments are available at the South Park Branch, 8604 Eighth Ave. S., 206-615-1688, for the following times and dates:

  • 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays, Jan. 4 and 18
  • Noon to 3 p.m. Wednesdays, Jan. 11 and 25

February appointments are available at the Delridge Branch, 5423 Delridge Way S.W., 206-733-9125, for the following times and dates:

  • 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays, Feb. 7 and 21
  • Noon to 3 p.m. Tuesdays, Feb. 14 and 28

Seattle entrepreneurs can make an appointment with a librarian trained in business reference and market research. Per a Seattle Public Library Press Release

“Librarians will work with entrepreneurs at all stages of business development to find information and data for planning a business or operating a current business. The Library has print and digital resources which can help with many kinds of business questions, including finding industry information, writing a business plan, sizing a market and identifying customers”.

Those interested can make an appointment on the Seattle Public Library website. For more information, call the Seattle Public Library at 206-386-4636 or Ask a Librarian.

Seattle Invests in Startups, Naming Rebecca Lovell as Startup Liaison

 

REBECCA LOVELL NAMED AS CITY OF SEATTLE’S STARTUP LIAISON

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The city of Seattle’s new startup liaison is a face you’ll likely recognize. The Office of Economic Development announced Thursday that Rebecca Lovell has taken on the newly created role overseeing the Startup Seattle program. “My big initiative this year will be the talent pipeline,” Lovell said. “When I meet with startups, finding talent seems to be one of the biggest throttles to their own growth.” Another important initiative for Startup Seattle, Lovell said, is to reach out to communities that are underrepresented in the startup sector, such as women, people of color and diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.

Rebecca Lovell, Startup Liaison,
City of Seattle’s Office of Economic Development

“I love Seattle and the startup community, and couldn’t be more excited to be an advocate for our city. We have so many key ingredients for success, and I look forward to working with community organizations, schools and universities, and future and current startuppers to ensure Seattle is on the international map of innovation where it belongs,” said Lovell. “I’m excited to carry on the great work began by Red Russak, supported by the community.”

“As one of dozens of community volunteers working alongside the city, I’m incredibly excited we’re launching this initiative to ensure competitiveness, benchmark our progress against that of other leading cities, and expand opportunities in technology entrepreneurship,” said Chris DeVore, Startup Seattle advisory committee member and chair of the city’s Economic Development Commission. “Rebecca brings passion, industry experience, and an incredible network to this position, and I very much look forward to working with her in this new role.”

Read the full news release here.

Read more of the coverage here on GeekWire.