Tech Talent Density: A lens on Seattle and Vancouver, BC

One of the main benefactors of the city's growth was the University of Washington. The campus is littered with household names that helped shape the city

Seattle is a hotbed of talent. It hosts the 2nd and 4th largest companies in the US and is fondly called "Cloud City." From local tech giants Amazon and Microsoft, to day passers turned permanent fixtures like Meta, Alphabet, and Apple. The region has benefited from its roots as a hub for innovation. 

Let’s take a deeper look at what's led to the regions success:

Before it was tech dominating the headlines, it was the Klondike Gold Rush putting Seattle on the map. The immigration that would ensue led to the start of Boeing, Weyerhaeuser, Nordstrom, Foss Maritime, Washington Mutual, and more. Not to mention companies that would follow like Costco, Starbucks, McCaw Cellular, and aQuantive. The region has always had a proclivity for building companies. 

One of the main benefactors of the city's growth was the University of Washington. The campus is littered with household names that helped shape the city and fortuitously, innovation. Gates and Allen tinkered with PDP-10s and B-5500s at Roberts Hall and at C-Cubed. Early Boeing engineers spent years at the UW - Kirsten Wind Tunnel testing the Stratoliner and B-29. Curiosity runs deep.

Today, the University of Washington is #2 in STEM education degrees awarded, ranks #9 in the world for Computer Science, within that #3 for Mobile and Web Applications, #4 for Data Analytics/Science Theory, #5 for Artificial Intelligence, and #7 for Software Programming in the world. Those are some heavy accolades. It’s no wonder that in the last 10 years alone, $30B+ in enterprise value has been created by UW alumni.  

According to The FRED® Blog, Washington State has the 3rd highest patents per household, despite being the 13th in state population size, and carrying the smallest metropolitan population size. Ahead of Washington is Massachusetts and California. 

Even with broad hiring freezes across the tech industry, our growth continues. Companies like Amazon and Microsoft, as well as job listings on the 'Built in Seattle' startup page, are currently advertising 18,000 corporate and startup job openings. 

Danny Sheridan, a prior Seattleite, wrote an interesting analysis of The Densest Talent Hubs in the U.S. that we drew inspiration from for this article. When you actually compare the tech talent to the metropolitan population you see Seattle really stands out among its peers.

Tech Talent Density

Similarly, let's take a look at Vancouver; since 2021 it's been the fastest growing tech city in North America, two years running. Vancouver is home to the #2 academic institution in Canada, UBC, and it houses the near-shore hubs for Meta, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Alphabet. Favorable immigration policies and the proximal location to the densest tech hub in the country add to its promise as a center for growth. Its tech talent density percentage is only 27% smaller than San Francisco and it’s on track to surpass San Francisco in the next two years.

Lastly, we will talk more about Calgary in future Tide Charts, but we are keenly focused on the cities growth. It’s home to seven post secondary institutions that have experienced a 300% increase in tech graduation rates since 2019. It’s been the recipient of nearly $1B in Canadian government spending to spur tech innovation, specifically in engineering. And it recently won the top spot for 'most livable city in North America' according to the Economist, ranking 3rd overall in the world. 

The Pacific Northwest & Western Canada are a powerhouse of innovation and the regions will continue to leave their indelible mark on history. As Bill Gurley said in a McKinsey interview last year, "there are places that have had incremental success over the last two decades. Seattle has just been phenomenal for start-ups."

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