The Power of Collaboration: Q&A with Bellevue Mayor Lynne Robinson About Innovation, Tech, Transportation and More (Part 1)

New Tech Eastside was thrilled to welcome Bellevue Mayor Lynne Robinson to present at our event last Tuesday evening. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing the Mayor for four years as she has been an early supporter of startup and tech culture starting with her work as a city councilwoman.

If you’re not familiar with her and the great work she’s doing, here is a deep dive into everything that’s happening in Bellevue, from the growth of tech companies and the accompanying development to the future of autonomous vehicles and the arrival of light rail in a few short years.

Congratulations on your recent election by the City Council as Mayor. What do you hope to accomplish in the next two years? Anything specific to the tech sector that might be of interest to the New Tech community?

Thank you! The next two years will be a very exciting time for Bellevue.

Just to give you an idea of what to expect, we will be welcoming businesses expanding in the area while continuing to support our local, longstanding, and small businesses at all stages. The Eastlink light rail project and other mobility modes such as rapid bus transit will be in final development stages and regional projects will be underway to support a multi-modal system, which will include non-motorized options, that are predictable and reliable. I also look forward to advancing the work of the Affordable Housing Strategy, adopted by the council in 2017, and completing the rapid implementation of our Ped/Bike plan.

Through all of that we have the overarching mission to maintain our welcoming character as we focus on providing amenities and services that make Bellevue the place you want to be whether you are a resident, visitor, worker or business.

You have such an interesting background in community involvement and civic participation. What led you to become such a champion for startups and the tech community?

As someone who has worked hard to create a successful small business and has a technology background, I appreciate the value of having a healthy tech startup scene.

Part of what makes Bellevue special is that we have this undeniable strength in technical acuity in both our businesses and community members. It really helps us to leverage the innovation happening right in our backyard.

During my time on the council, I’ve strongly supported our strategic Economic Development efforts. Some things we are doing to encourage startups and entrepreneurship is through our Startup425 business support program, which registered over a thousand people in 2019 and started a new branch of programming for business essentials training. We also are in partnership with Microsoft, UW and global universities to offer master’s-level academic programs for technology innovation through our Global Innovation Exchange in the Spring District. It brings a local resource for startup innovation and education, and expects to enroll three thousand students in its first ten years. That is great for businesses large AND small.

I understand you’ve encouraged startup equity and crowdfunding workshops at City Hall in the past. Can you share a bit about what you learned from those workshops with our readers?

I learned many things: 1) that it is very hard for most startups to get funded in this region 2) that there are many incredible ideas in our city – in fact Bellevue residents have the second most patents for cities our size in the U.S. 3) many entrepreneurs yearn to have office space in Bellevue and 4) that our city needed to do more to support our innovative culture. Because of that early work, we now have many programs in place to support the diverse startups in Bellevue. Small business now makes up 97% of all business here.

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