Entrepreneur veteran writes a startup how-to book; childhood poverty increases in state; Costco stand firm on egg issue.
Seattle serial entrepreneur Dan Shapiro had a burning question for the head of O’Reilly Media, which publishes technology books that line the shelves at startups.
About five years ago, Shapiro asked publisher Laurie Petrycki, in charge at the time, why the company hadn’t published a book about startups since they seemed to be one of O’Reilly’s biggest audiences.
It was a great idea, Petrycki agreed. And that’s how Shapiro ended up writing a book.
Shapiro, 39, founder of Ontela (acquired by Photobucket), Sparkbuy (acquired by Google) and Robot Turtles (acquired by ThinkFun), wrote “Hot Seat: The Startup CEO Guidebook” to offer a general road map for anyone thinking about starting a company.
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He’s targeting a big market in Seattle alone, where about 700 startups exist within the city limits.
Shapiro currently is CEO of Glowforge, a 3-D laser printing company in Seattle that he co-founded. Glowforge raised a $9 million Series A financing round in May.
The generally accepted, not-so-encouraging truth is that nine out of 10 startups fail. Even when they succeed, it is often a long, strenuous road.
“It’s very tough on family, it’s very tough emotionally,” said serial entrepreneur Sunny Gupta, CEO and co-founder of Bellevue-based Apptio, which makes software that helps companies manage their IT. “I definitely think it ages you much faster.”
A few founders, such as Moz’s Rand Fishkin, are known for publicly discussing bouts with loneliness and depression that can be found in many startups’ ranks. But most don’t share what is going on, and Shapiro wanted to let founders know that hard times are not exclusive to them.
“Of the companies I talked to, 100 percent had founder problems, 100 percent had self-doubt, 100 percent felt like something was terribly wrong with them and they were in grave danger of failing,” Shapiro said.
He wrote “Hot Seat” to let founders know they aren’t the only ones dealing with intense growing pains.
Shapiro didn’t know that the first time he started Ontela in 2005. (Shapiro technically started a company before that, which he refers to as his zeroth startup because “it was half-baked and we never even incorporated.”)
Ontela was “really, really hard” because he constantly felt he would fail.
That fear never goes away, but at least with his second company, Sparkbuy, he had met other founders who felt the same way.
“My personal belief is one of the differences between being crippled by (impostor syndrome) and being driven by it is knowing that you’re not the only person affected by it,” Shapiro said.
Hot Seat details five areas of an early company’s growth, including founding, funding, leadership, management and the endgame. Shapiro also goes in depth about taking Sparkbuy through its Google acquisition.
Bonus: There’s even a math formula Shapiro uses to split shares among co-founders to avoid arguments.
— Rachel Lerman
Child poverty growing in state
Although the economic recovery is well under way, more children in Washington state are growing up in poverty now than before the start of the Great Recession, according to a report on child welfare released this week.
Nineteen percent of children in Washington were living in poverty in 2013, compared with 14 percent in 2008, according to the 2015 Kids Count report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The annual report looks at how states, and the U.S., fare in four areas related to child welfare: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.
Among the 50 states, Washington came in 19th overall, faring especially poorly in economic security.
“A lack of quality employment for parents, combined with high cost of living, is a significant challenge for Washington state,” according to a blog post from the Washington Budget & Policy Center, which worked with the Children’s Alliance on the state data.
Thirty-one percent of the state’s children have parents who lack secure employment, up from 26 percent in 2008. And the cost of housing remained a burden for the households of 36 percent of children in the state — though that figure is improved from 41 percent in 2008.
One in three black, American Indian/Alaska Native and Latino kids, and one in four Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian kids, live below the poverty line, according to the Washington Budget & Policy Center blog.
The state fared relatively well in health, with declines in child death rates, teen alcohol and drug abuse, and percentage of children without health insurance.
Education and family and community results were more mixed, with the percentage of children not attending preschool going up slightly but with improvements in on-time high-school graduation rates. The percentage of children in single-parent families went up.
Nationally, the percentage of U.S. children living in poverty also went up since the Great Recession. Twenty-two percent were living in poverty in 2013, compared with 18 percent in 2008.
— Janet I. Tu
Costco stands firm on egg issue
Costco Wholesale plays hardball. This might not be news to the suppliers the Issaquah retailer squeezes good prices from, but it was to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
The society, which is not affiliated to local humane-society organizations, recently launched a campaign to get Costco to commit to a timeline for switching entirely to cage-free eggs.
Matt Prescott, senior food-policy director for HSUS, told The Seattle Times during a visit here that based on his organization’s previous dealings with Costco, he’d hoped the company would have taken action after the society published an investigation showing grisly videos of caged hens at a farm in Pennsylvania that supplies the retailer.
Celebrities such as Bill Maher and Brad Pitt soon joined the call to pressure Costco to cut its ties with farms that keep hens in cages, expressing shock at what they perceived as a slip in the company’s famously progressive values.
But Costco dismissed the investigation, saying that its own review showed the farm in question had adequate procedures. It said it would stick with its supplier. “They stuck their heads in the sand and dug their heels in the mud,” Prescott said.
So now the society is considering bringing out the big guns, “eyeing the potential for a much more substantive, comprehensive, international effort urging Costco to free chickens from cages,” he said.
One of the measures taken could be a more aggressive advertising campaign. (Recently HSUS bought prominent ads in The Seattle Times to drive its point in Costco’s hometown.)
Costco says it likes selling organic, cage-free eggs; in fact, 40 percent of its sales are organic.
But it says there are not enough of those to entirely switch over, given its gargantuan needs. HSUS’ Prescott says that suppliers end up producing whatever buyers want, and that all Costco needs to do is commit to a timeline.
The lives of 5 million birds are at stake. Caged eggs are “one of the biggest single sources of animal suffering on the planet,” he said.
— Ángel González