What do you get when you put a bunch of Jewish techies in a room together?
“Chances are, magic is going to happen,” says Joshua “Red” Russak, founder of StartupSeattle, an organization that helps budding technology startups succeed.
Which is exactly why Russak, 28, helped the Jewish Federation of Greater launch J-Tech, a “meetup” group for Jewish techies that met for the second time on December 5. The event, which featured keynote speaker Norm Judah, chief technology officer of Worldwide Services at Microsoft, saw over 100 participants.
“StartupSeattle was all about creating a central hub for startups, so if you’re new to the startup community you could go to startupseattle.com and boom, there’s everything you need to know,” Russak says.
The December program ran along similar lines.
“If you have J-Tech, you’ll most likely meet your investor, your mentor,” he says. “There is the standard Jewish community, but it’s so much more beneficial if we have the high-tech community also come together.”
Russak began StartupSeattle approximately a year ago, after a friend urged him to use his talents to help the startup community. It includes a host of web and offline resources for people interested in creating a startup, and is dedicated to helping startup communities around the world better attract talent, grow and learn from each other. The newsletter has over 2,000 subscribers, its Facebook page has nearly 2,000 likes, and more than 1,000 people follow the startup on Twitter.
“StartupSeattle is my labor of love,” he says.
Russak was originally a recruiter after finishing Yeshiva University in 2007 with a degree in speech and drama.
Russak, a redhead, was known for most of his life as Joshua.
“I worked in New York with agents and people who worked in IT departments who came from Russia, India and Poland and they didn’t know how to spell Joshua or Russak,” he says. “But they could spell red, and I went with that. It stuck.”
Now, everyone — except his wife — calls him Red.
StartupSeattle is reportedly self-sufficient; aside from finding sponsors, it needs little more than manpower.
“There’s no question: You want to start up something in Seattle, it can happen — it’s just a matter of who can help you,” Russak says.
And with Seattle being a major hub for startups, the conditions could not be more perfect for a budding techie.
“If I went to anyone in Seattle and said, ‘Do you have a friend in a startup?’ the answer would be yes,” Russak says.
But the J-Tech program fits into that mold as well.
“Surprisingly, half the people I work with in the tech world are Jewish,” he adds.
Russak notes that while the J-Tech group is tailored toward the Jewish community, non-Jews are welcome.
“By no means is it exclusive,” he says.
And those are the rules Russak — and StartupSeattle — live by.