Image: Joshua Huston

Ben Gilbert knows a good idea when he sees it — or at least how to put it through a rigorous amount of testing to make sure it’s as good as it looks.

Gilbert, 29, puts that talent to the test as co-founder of Pioneer Square Labs, a start-up studio and venture capital fund. Their team of 25 receives and comes up with concepts for start-ups and systematically puts them through the wringer, killing nine out of every 10. The survivor is matched with a CEO and spun out into a company. In three and a half years, 14 ideas have gone the distance. (More than 100 failed to make the cut.)

For Gilbert, those moments of success make all the work worth it. “It’s difficult to describe the adrenaline rush that you get from working on an idea that goes from not working to working,” he says.

GeekWire’s 2017 Young Entrepreneur of the Year got acquainted with entrepreneurship as a student at Ohio State University, where he participated in Startup Weekend, eventually getting involved with and helping run the event in 25 different cities. While in college, he also developed a to-do list app that got 1 million downloads in the early era of iPhones.

In his free time, Gilbert co-hosts the popular podcast Acquired, which analyzes tech acquisitions. He also enjoys the great outdoors — the Eagle Scout has fallen in love with Seattle’s ample opportunities for hiking and biking — and volunteers with the Trust for Public Land. He recently joined the board of the Anti-Defamation League, whose mission to combat hate resonates with him in the current political climate.

“Taking lessons we’ve learned as Jews to help others who are currently oppressed really hits home for me, because a lot of the negativity that we’re seeing in the world with both anti-
Semitism and the oppression of other people is happening online,” Gilbert says. The more that technologists pay attention to these issues, he believes, the better the chance of making online spaces safe for everyone.

Sounds like a good idea.

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