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A Skagit startup casualty, and lesson

Jyst founder thinks incubator would have helped

Co-founder Karli Pickett sits at her home office in June 2022 following Jyst's launch that year. The startup closed at the end of 2022. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)
By Frank Catalano Business & Work Columnist

One promising software startup that wasn’t able to overcome both the challenges of starting a new business and its Northwest Washington location was Jyst. The Mount Vernon-based company, launched in early 2022 to help service industry employers and potential employees find each other with a swipe on an app, closed at the end of 2022 after being unable to raise additional funds.

“We definitely had early user traction. We had employers, we had pilot programs with some larger national employers,” said Karli Pickett, Jyst co-founder and CEO. “They liked the concept.”

One obstacle, Pickett said, was the changing funding climate for startups that generally made investors more conservative. But another, with Pickett in Mount Vernon and another co-founder in Bellingham, was the location.

[ Read more: Northwest Washington state: Dead zone for tech startups? ]

“I think being from this area, but not being from Seattle and not being a Seattle tech-type company was against us” when dealing with investors, Pickett said. 

She said they’d be asked where they were from often enough that, eventually, “we started saying, anytime we weren’t in Seattle, we just said ‘Seattle.’”

Pickett — who now owns the Go Outside store in La Conner — said one thing she wished Jyst would have been able to do is get into a startup incubator.

“I don’t know if that would have changed the outcome,” she said. “But I think it would have given us a lot of the confidence we needed, and also I think it would have helped to destigmatize that we are starting this in a non-startup ecosystem.”

Overall, Pickett described the tech startup climate she encountered in Skagit and Whatcom counties as “nonexistent.” But, she said, the area has so much potential for startups, and for her — though she wouldn’t do it again — it was a valuable experience.


Frank Catalano is CDN’s business & work columnist; reach him at frankcatalano@cascadiadaily.com.

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