Executive Q&A: Maud Daudon, President/CEO, Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce

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EARLY YEARS: I grew up outside Chicago, where my father was a corporate lawyer. He loved the law, and was a huge participant in civic life—very involved in United Way. My mother was on the board of Planned Parenthood for years. My parents were both Republicans in the days when Republicans were centrists, like Dan Evans. We worked hard on Chuck Percy’s campaign for governor [in 1964]. At 8, I remember singing and waving at the crowds while the campaign song blared out of the loudspeaker on the roof of the station wagon. I was totally into it.

EDUCATION: I went to Hampshire College [in Massachusetts], which focused on experiential learning. It was then an all-female boarding school where it was assumed women were equal to men. The only thing under discussion was what are you going to do to save the world?

CITY PLANNING: For my senior thesis, I spent nine months in the Methow Valley waitressing to feed myself while I interviewed tons of people about a proposed ski resort. It came down to “how to avoid going the way of Eagle Valley around Vail [Colorado].” I was inspired by the people at the county planning office, who published a zoning ordinance [to regulate growth]. Proponents of development broke into the office, stole all the copies and burned them on the front lawn of the courthouse. It was dramatic.

FIRST JOB: I got a job in Corvallis, Oregon, working with a commission of downtown leaders to help save downtown. There was a threat of an outside shopping center robbing downtown of its vitality. They changed the zoning [to thwart the development]. They also built a bypass for truck traffic and brought new shopping downtown. The effort was successful. The chair of the commission who used to mentor me told me after two years: “You need to get an MBA because you don’t have a clue about economics or finance. You think these decisions are made on a policy basis. Wrong. It’s all economics.”

BUSINESS: I knew my weakness was quantitative stuff, so I studied finance at the Yale School of Public and Private Management, which is about public management as well as private and nonprofit management. They advocate the idea that your life should be spent moving among the different sectors to have the biggest impact.

BASKETBALL ARENA: In terms of the [proposed arena’s] economic impact on the city, it’s probably about a wash. I think the issue is more about the emotional and civic pride of the city. We suffered a loss as a city with the Sonics’ departure, and here we have [from Chris Hansen] a fairly generous proposal. If we are unable to make that work, it feels to people, rightly or wrongly, that once again we haven’t gone where we need to go. The question for the city is: How do you balance all the competing needs in South Downtown? We have an existing problem with freight mobility in that area, arena or no arena. We will have pressure whether it’s this proposal or another to have an arena because that’s what a lot of people want. We will also have pressure to develop South Downtown. As a chamber, we see ourselves as a convener to help get everyone on the same page. We have to figure out how to solve all of the congestion issues and get ahead of the problem. I think world-class cities figure out ways to make accommodations. We are a smart, innovative city. I would hope we could find a way to get a win-win out of this.

SEATTLE CHAMBER: The chamber’s mission is to achieve economic health and growth as a region, while not sacrificing the wonderful place we live and making sure everybody has access, and we don’t leave anybody behind. If you are fractured on any of those points, you don’t have a healthy business community. To thrive, you have to take care of things like infrastructure, education, health care. We are very eager to have a transportation funding package put through our Legislature and funded. Not just roads. Transit is also a big part of that. In the education area, there are multiple groups that are working on initiatives that are jelling and will need our oomph to give them support.

PERSONAL GOALS: There is no one thing we need to accomplish. It’s the integration of many things. Cities are like giant organisms. They evolve and move. The chamber is in the heart of this organism, constantly watching and getting informed about efforts and always evolving in ways consistent with our agenda.

WATERFRONT: Everything connects to everything else. The seawall is fundamental to public safety. It’s about protecting buildings, it’s essential. The waterfront is going to be a 20-year effort to totally build out that vision. And it will come in phases. It’s a huge opportunity for the city to face the water very differently, to develop a place where people love to walk, bike, play and shop.

THREATS TO DOWNTOWN: I’m getting e-mails once or twice a week from businesses distressed by the tenor of activity on the streets. It’s not just panhandling. It’s an array of behaviors that put off customers and make customers more apt to be reticent to spend time in downtown Seattle. We were a big supporter of [City Council member] Tim Burgess’ measure [to limit panhandling] that the council passed and the mayor vetoed. We are hoping that an ordinance will come down the pike that will help address these concerns.

THE FUTURE: People sometimes ask how come Seattle can’t get anything done. But, in fact, we are getting things done. Look at South Lake Union. Look at the tunnel and 520, winning the supertanker and getting the 787 program. We are getting big things done but we just aren’t recognizing it. I think [the city] is on the cusp of reaching a different level, and we need to seize that opportunity. We are the envy of a lot of other regions. Because we have Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon, Nordstrom, Starbucks and REI all headquartered here, we have a brand and recognition when we go overseas. To seize the day, we need to educate people so they can take all the jobs that those companies create. We need to make sure that we build infrastructure to keep transportation lines open so that goods and services can get out of here to other parts of the world. I think shame on us if we don’t do that. But we are doing it and that’s encouraging.

Three Investors Who Believe in the Innovative Capabilities of Local Entrepreneurs

Three Investors Who Believe in the Innovative Capabilities of Local Entrepreneurs

Meet Matt McIlwain, Nick Hanauer and Dan Levitan.
FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 

As much as we’d like to think otherwise, Seattle is not yet a hotbed of venture capital activity. Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff said as much in an interview earlier this year with The Seattle Times. While discussing the healthy state of the region’s tech business, Rascoff observed, “From a technology landscape standpoint, I’m pleased with the vibrancy of the startup community, [but] I still think … Seattle needs more institutional venture capital. The fact that we have really only a handful of venture-capital firms based here is going to hold the region back from fulfilling its potential.”

Still, without capital from local investors, many of the companies that now form the backbone of the Puget Sound economy — from Amazon to Zulily, from Julep to Juno Therapeutics — might not exist, or might exist elsewhere.

So here’s to the venture capitalists who call Seattle home and who find promise and potential profit in betting on companies like Apptio and Avvo. Dato and Drugstore.com (acquired by Walgreen’s). Front Desk and FanNation.com (acquired by Sports Illustrated). Isilon Systems (acquired by EMC) and Insitu (acquired by Boeing). Moz and Modumetal. Redfin and Rover.com. Shippable and Spaceflight Services. Trupanion and Talyst. And plenty more.

On the pages that follow, we feature three prominent members of Seattle’s venture capital community who believe in the region’s ability to create viable, sustainable businesses here. Two have made Forbes magazine’s annual Midas List of the top 100 venture capitalists in the world. The other has become a civic activist dedicated to addressing — and solving — economic inequality.

DAN LEVITAN
Dan Levitan cofounded Maveron with Howard Schultz in 1998. Since then, he has been the key player on many of Maveron’s home runs, including Zulily. In 2014, Forbes magazine named him to its Midas List of the top 100 VCs in the world. Levitan is a graduate of Duke University and has an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School.

Investment you’d characterize as your biggest success.  Zulily and eBay 

Company you passed on and now wish you had invested in. Blue Nile

Most important things to look for in a startup. The entrepreneur and his/her team; the size of the market; and a differentiated product/service

Best location for closing a deal. The CEO’s office

Kinds of companies you’re looking for and why. We specialize in identifying, financing and mentoring highly disruptive and immersive, consumer-facing companies. We love — and invest in — companies that integrate into the lives of consumers and make the world a better place.

The most effective entrepreneur you’ve encountered. Howard Schultz [of Starbucks], because he built one of the most respected brands in the world. 

Top two deal makers. Awesome entrepreneur, insanely driven to succeed

Top two deal breakers. Anything outside of consumer or anything too small

What do you do for fun? I go to Duke basketball games.

What kind of car do you drive? Tesla Model S 

You might not know. Levitan has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Rainier. He found a mentor in Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, who taught Levitan the central lesson of Maveron’s consumer-focused success: Always ask, “Do you love your team?” 

NICK HANAUER
Nick Hanauer is an entrepreneur with a broad range of experience across manufacturing, retailing, e-commerce, digital media, advertising, software, aerospace, health care and finance. In 2015, he also founded Civic Ventures, a small group of political “troublemakers” devoted to ideas, policies and actions centering on significant social change. He holds a degree in philosophy from the University of Washington.

Investment you’d characterize as your biggest success. For sure, aQuantive. I founded it and funded a big part of it and sold it [to Microsoft] for $6.4 billion. Also, Amazon as a first-round investor.

Company you passed on and now wish you had invested in. Rich Barton asked me to invest in Glassdoor, but I was too lazy to do anything. That was a screw-up.

Most important things to look for in a startup. My first screen is “Nick’s rule of transformational value.” Every great business is predicated on a product or service that creates what I call transformational value — that is, it is either 10 times better or 10 times cheaper or, ideally, both. Second, of course, the quality of the people. Bad people can kill a great idea but great people can evolve a mediocre idea.

Best location for closing a deal. My office.

Kinds of companies you’re looking for and why. My partners and I look for very early-stage-ideas companies. We try to be hard core about them being headquartered locally, but have made exceptions for entrepreneurs we already knew and trusted. We are somewhat agnostic to industry, reasoning that it’s the stuff you have not considered before that may be the biggest opportunity. For example, one of our best and most exciting investments was Insitu [acquired by Boeing for $400 million], and they made drones before anyone knew what drones were. 

The most effective entrepreneur you’ve encountered. It’s hard to beat [Amazon’s] Jeff Bezos. My pal Rich Barton [of Zillow] comes close.  

Top two deal makers. Simplicity and focus

Top two deal breakers. Complexity and confusion

What do you do for fun? What don’t I do for fun? I believe that one of my finest and rarest qualities is my ability to efficiently convert money into fun.

What kind of car do you drive? Tesla Model S P90D

You might not know. Hanauer is a co-author (with Eric Liu) of two best-selling books in the political genre, The True Patriot and The Gardens of Democracy. He has been featured in two documentary films on economic inequality — American Winter and Inequality for All.

MATT MCILWAIN 

Matt McIlwain joined Madrona Venture Group in 2000 and focuses on a broad range of software-driven firms. Current investments include Apptio, Envelop VR and Smartsheet. A graduate of Dartmouth College, he holds an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School and a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.  He was named to the Forbes Midas List in 2008, 2009 and 2011.

Investment you’d characterize as your biggest success. Isilon Systems [acquired by EMC for $2.25 billion]

Company you passed on and now wish you had invested in. Airbnb

Most important things to look for in a startup. Customer-driven problem/need; differentiated and technology-driven solution; compelling founding team that can build a great company

Best location for closing a deal. Coffee shop or a great restaurant

Kinds of companies you’re looking for and why. Virtual reality/augmented reality companies and “application intelligence” companies that leverage machine learning to make apps smarter

The most effective entrepreneur you’ve encountered. Sunny Gupta [of Apptio] is world class at customer focus, attracting great people and product-market fit.

Top two deal makers. Great judgment, passion for the opportunity

Top two deal breakers. Not focusing on the customer’s problem, lack of transparency

What do you do for fun? Travel, play (and watch) sports, discuss policy issues

What kind of car do you drive? 2011 BMW 535i

You might not know. McIlwain came to venture capital investing from an unlikely place: the Genuine Auto Parts Company in Atlanta, Georgia, which owns NAPA Auto Parts. He ended up spending a lot of time with venture capitalists and venture-backed companies that were interested in investing in the sector. He worked with Madrona on some projects and joined the firm in 1999.