As an entrepreneur, I am always curious of how people come to start their projects. Here’s a little Q & A with SURF founder Seaton Gras. SURF Incubator is Seattle’s newest hub for tech startups and my new home for the foreseeable future.
1) Where did the idea of SURF originate?
The idea for creating the SURF Incubator came out of my personal frustration when I was trying to learn mobile app development from a textbook. No matter how hard I tried with great pains of details, none of the sample apps would function. The book, as it turns out, was full of bugs and there was no way that a novice, such as myself, could discern where the bugs were located or how they could be fixed because the error messages were even more baffling to me. I started looking for other programmers who wanted to learn a new language, which led to the formation of a Meetup group, which later pivoted into SURF Incubator.
2) Sounds like SURF is a startup itself? Can you describe the path that got it here?
I attended a Meetup group for iPhone developers and proposed that it would be easier to learn iPhone coding with peer support. I had one eager participant: Ken Decanio. So, we agreed to meet weekly, starting the very next day. The group grew organically as we expanded the hours and the frequency. It did not take too long before we outgrew our free location.
Then, the meetings were terminated until I made favourable arrangements with Regus. But, as it turns out, the economy caused Regus to reduce their own space and there was not enough room for SURF Incubator to continue. In November last year, I began to look for a permanent home for SURF Incubator. When I toured the Exchange building, it was so obvious that it was absolutely ideal for many reasons. For example, it was fully furnished and included Internet wiring to every desk. This provided a way for SURF Incubator to get up-and-running very quickly with minimal capital expenditures.
Surf Incubator: Seaton Gras (left) and Neil Bergquist
3) Why does Seattle (and possibly other parts of the world) need SURF?
Entrepreneurs around the world can be more productive when they collaborate and have access to a broad network of business and technical resources. Working at home or in a coffee shop makes it difficult to gain exposure to fellow subject matter experts. It’s also hard to maintain momentum or gain any serious traction. Trying to secure an office is a major step forward but few landlords are willing to lease office space on month-to-month terms to a tenant with little to no operating history. SURF can reduce the barriers of entry by providing flexible and affordable space with a robust community of resources. This reduces entrepreneurial risk and enables startups to operate incredibly lean.
4) What do you look for in founders and startups wanting to be part of SURF?
First and foremost, we are looking for passionate people who are committed to advancing their business. Second, we are looking for product and service ideas that have the ability to rapidly scale and disrupt large markets. The ideal businesses are the ones that challenge mainstream thinking and can make a significant contribution to the well-being of the world.
5) What do you think SURF will look and feel like in 3- 5 years out?
SURF will be an international community of entrepreneurs launching and advancing globally disruptive companies and technologies. It will be a community that enables startups to go further with less money. They’ll receive access to critical services at a fraction of the cost if they were to go at it alone and they’ll have exposure to a diverse set of global thought leaders. In the few weeks leading up to our launch I am already overwhelmed by the quality of connections made in the SURF community. “Game-changing” advancements are already occurring. I can only imagine what will happen in 3-5 years time. The success of the SURF residents is really what gets me fired up.
If you are interested in SURF, feel free to email Seaton directly – [email protected]
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