When Microsoft landed here in the '80s, Seattle was known for fish and airplanes, but just as Bill Gates has changed the way America works, he's also transformed Seattle into one of the nation's undisputed high-tech engines. The big action nowadays: dot-com start-ups that have taken off in the wake of the success of Seattle-based Amazon.com. New dot-coms include online pharmacy rivals Drugstore.com and Soma.com, as well as HomeGrocer.com. There are also hundreds of little software companies, and Seattle remains home to the king of the cyberhill, Microsoft.
Joe LePla, co-owner of Parker LePla, a Seattle high-tech integrated-brand development firm, gives the local scoop:
Why it's hot: Venture capitalists, plenty of muscular industry groups (like the Washington Software Alliance) and "an overwhelming belief on behalf of the local populace that software/Internet content are key to everyone's future," says LePla. A compelling geography--snow-capped mountains, lakes and ocean--doesn't hurt when luring newcomers.
What's not so hot: "Rampant development of residential communities" to house the newcomers, and "traffic problems," says LePla. "The other problem, especially for people from California, is rain, rain, rain."
Hot networking spots: LePla recommends Washington Software Alliance dinner meetings, but says lots of networking happens in "people's own offices via job-hopping friends."
Power eats: "Who has time?" LePla asks. "Everyone's rushing to do an IPO." Those who've done their IPO hit McCormick & Schmick's, Wild Ginger and Satay Bar, says Clare Hagerty of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce.