Venture Out expands to help more people validate their startup ideas while still working at a day job

Venture Out leaders Sean Sternbach (left) and Ken Horenstein. (Venture Out Photo)

Venture Out expands: The Seattle-based organization that aims to help tech workers leave companies and create their own startups has added a new program called Moonlighter Lab.

What it does: The lab charges $1,499 for an 8-week program designed to validate startup ideas from people who are still working at full-time day jobs. Venture Out originally launched by offering its 12-week Venture Lab, which preps entrepreneurs for their startup fundraising journey in exchange for 4% equity.

“Putting ourselves in the founders’ shoes, we realized it was not founder-friendly to exchange equity for participation in a lab where founders were still full-time in their day job,” said Venture Out co-founder Sean Sternbach. “So, we decided to change our pricing model to charge an upfront fee instead.”

The lab launched its first program in January with eight startups; some of those founders ended up quitting their day jobs to pursue ideas. Applications for the second cohort are due Thursday.

Venture Out background: Sternbach left a manager role at Amazon in 2019 and teamed up with Ken Horenstein, who previously was a manager at Microsoft’s VC arm M12, to help launch Venture Out.

Last year it raised a $700,000 investment round led by Microsoft’s VC arm M12. Other venture capital firms including Founders’ Co-op, Flying Fish, and Liquid 2 Ventures invested.

Venture Out also offers a free Founder Network that lets founders ask questions and get support from other startup builders, mentors, advisors, and investors.

More context: Seattle has become a global epicenter for tech talent, but many of the top engineers, data scientists, program managers and others are at working big companies such as Amazon or Microsoft, or one of the 130-plus engineering outposts in the region — Facebook, Google, Salesforce, Oracle, and more have large offices.

As a result, those giants get blamed for sucking up much of the would-be entrepreneurial talent across Seattle with their “golden handcuffs” and opportunities to work on some of the leading technologies. That trend, along with a lack of homegrown investment firms, is one potential reason for why Seattle’s startup ecosystem is not as strong as some might expect.

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