No poop required: Researchers devise blood test for gut microbiome diversity using data from defunct startup Arivale

No poop required: Researchers devise blood test for gut microbiome diversity using data from defunct startup Arivale

5:08am, 3rd September, 2019
Researchers at the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle developed a way to test for microbiome diversity from a blood sample. (Artist rendering courtesy of ISB) If you want to know what’s going on in your gut microbiome, the community of bacteria in our intestines that are tied to overall health, there are plenty of companies willing to help. You just have to pay them — and send in a poop sample. But it turns out that bottling feces isn’t the only way to gain insights into the gut. Researchers at the (ISB) in Seattle have devised a new way to look into the state of your microbiome with a blood test. Microbiome startups have proliferated in recent years. Some are going after drug discovery for specific diseases, such as Finch Therapeutics and Maat Pharma. Others, including Seattle-based , are selling microbiome insights directly to consumers for overall health. Given the relatively early stage of microbiome research, how useful insights from the gut can be. That’s why ISB researchers decided to focus on the diversity of microbes. “There’s not a good correlation between diversity in and of itself and clinical health. But there are specific cases in which it does seem to be a huge risk factor,” said, who worked with on the study, which was published today in Nature Biotechnology. Low microbiome diversity is a strong risk factor for patients with recurring Clostridium difficile (C. diff), Gibbons said. C. diff is a potentially life-threatening bacterium that comes back in nearly a third of patients following antibiotic treatment. ISB researchers Dr. Nathan Price and Dr. Sean Gibbons. (ISB Photos) “Getting these recurrent infections is super hard on patients,” Gibbons said. “If you could avoid that cycle, you could not only decrease the cost of healthcare, you would actually be saving lives and producing a lot less suffering.” Patients with C. diff can be treated with a fecal transplant, but those are only administered after antibiotics have failed. Gibbons thinks that a blood test could pre-screen patients at risk of recurring C. diff and avoid the painful cycle. Related: To create the test, researchers leaned heavily on data compiled by Arivale, a Seattle startup that aimed to help people become healthier and avoid disease through wellness. in April after it failed to find a market for its pricey service. But Dr. Lee Hood, who co-founded both Arivale and ISB, rescued much of the data and technology from the startup and brought it to ISB. That resource gave Price and Gibbons extensive data on hundreds of former Arivale customers who had their microbiomes sequenced and their blood tested, among other tests. The researchers were able to train a model to predict which individuals are likely to have very low microbiome diversity by looking at 11 blood metabolites. Arivale customers gave permission for their data to be used for research, and the information was anonymized. The ISB study is a “beautiful example” of how personal data clouds can give new insights into biology and disease, Hood told GeekWire in an email. They also found what they believe to be a “Goldilocks zone” of gut diversity. People with low diversity tended to have diarrhea and inflammation, whereas those with very high diversity tended to be constipated or have toxins in the blood. With the help of Arivale’s data, ISB researchers think more microbiome-related insights can be found. “We’re trying to build a real map that can lead to actionable insights of how to manipulate the microbiome,” Gibbons said. One disadvantage of the dataset is that it skewed toward white, health-conscious people, who were more likely to be Arivale’s customers. “It is a bit of a biased sampling,” said Gibbons. In the future, ISB intends to partner with Providence St. Joseph Health, which would give researchers access to a more representative population.
Geek of the Week: How lifelong entrepreneur Bob Crimmins’ little poker game ballooned to a 2,300-person startup group

Geek of the Week: How lifelong entrepreneur Bob Crimmins’ little poker game ballooned to a 2,300-person startup group

1:25pm, 4th August, 2019
Bob Crimmins with his daughters on the day they met their Kickstarter goal for the ‘Wise Walker.’ There are plenty of stories of entrepreneurs who got their start in dorm rooms and garages, but how many can trace their startup hustle back to the playground? At 12-years-old, Bob Crimmins began his education in entrepreneurship by upselling lollipops from 7-Eleven to his classmates, learning a valuable lesson in demand-based pricing. As a kid, Crimmins also worked for his family’s businesses and went door-to-door selling custom glasswork he made. Entrepreneurship and innovation often go hand-and-hand, and Crimmins was no exception. “I wrote my first program on punch cards in 1978, a time when it was neither cool nor lucrative to be a 15-year-old programmer,” he said. Crimmins founded his first tech startup in 1999 and went on to launch four more after that. Along the way, he started a poker game for friends in the startup community. That was back in 2006. Fast-forward to 2019 and what began as a casual gathering has grown into Startup Haven, a community for entrepreneurs with chapters in six cities and 2,300 members. Up until now, Crimmins estimates he dedicated about 15 percent of his time to Startup Haven. This year he decided to make it his full-time gig so he can continue to scale the organization. He plans to expand Startup Haven to three additional cities in 2019 and 10 in 2020. Members must qualify as “venture-scale” founders before they are accepted into Startup Haven. In addition to regular poker games, the group hosts founder dinners and other events each month. Crimmins still makes time for the occasional side hustle, like , a startup he founded with his daughters. Together they designed a clip-on carrying case for dog owners to stash smelly poop bags on walks. Related: “The most rewarding experience I’ve ever had as an entrepreneur and as a father was teaching my twin daughters about entrepreneurship by actually co-founding a company with them,” he said. We caught up with Crimmins for this Geek of the Week. Learn more about his journey and Startup Haven below. What do you do, and why do you do it? In 2006, I started asking folks I knew if they wanted to learn how to play poker. Since virtually everyone I knew at the time was a startup founder, exec or investor, that’s who joined in. Learning the game was fun but what fascinated me was the relationships that were formed by the folks around the table. Seeing the impact of those relationships was amazing and it inspired me to keep the game going and growing. Fast forward a dozen years and that humble monthly card game took on a life of its own and became what is now Startup Haven, a founder support community with more than 2,300 founder, exec and investor members in six cities. We still host that fun, invite-only, low-stakes poker event every month in all six of our chapter cities (we have hosted more 300 Startup Poker 2.0 events so far)! But if you’re not a Startup Haven member then the reasons we play poker are probably not what you think. I have written extensively about . If you’re a full time, venture-scale founder or an active startup investor, you might find it interesting. Over the years, Startup Haven has become much more than just a poker event. We have hosted hundreds of Founders Dinner events, dozens of special educational events. Beginning in 2019, scaling Startup Haven’s impact has became my full-time focus and over the past few months, we have launched a members-only recruiting program, an accelerator program and an investor matching program. Startup Haven started a personal passion project and it will always remain that. But scaling requires a different mindset and that makes it feel like a startup. It’s an exciting time. What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? My “field” these days is helping founders succeed more by failing less. Startups fail so often that it’s a wonder why everyone hasn’t just stopped trying. A “Top 10” list of the reasons why startups fail would include a hundred reasons. This stuff is hard and there is no silver bullet, but I have come to believe that relationships and cogency are the two best hedges against failure. I’ll buy dinner for the first person to convince me otherwise. These principles are precisely what motivated me to keep Startup Haven going for all these years and it’s why I’m genuinely excited about the new . Where do you find your inspiration? My daughters. Humble founders. The magnitude of human experience. What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? CNC lasers. I reckon I use mine three to four days a week — there’s always something to make, to fix, to experiment with. Growing Startup Haven has made that more difficult lately but it’s always on my mind and if it’s been more than a week since I’ve had the opportunity then I really miss it. What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? I’m a nomad. I work out of a backpack. As a community organizer and a mentor, I spend time at a variety of co-working spaces around town. I’m currently working primarily out of Thinkspace, which I love. Crimmins at the Columbia Tower Club, where he often works. Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life. Everyone in the startup world is perpetually overcommitted. So protecting your calendar can be a superpower. Largely, this amounts to figuring out how to say “no” respectfully, helpfully, and more often. Mac, Windows or Linux? Windows. Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? Picard. But, go Janeway! Transporter, time machine or cloak of invisibility? Philosopher’s Stone is missing from the list, so I’ll go with time machine. However, I will travel back in time to the moment the cloak of invisibility was discovered and find it myself the day before. Then I would travel forward in time to whenever the Philosophers Stone becomes and option. If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would Put the money in the bank and use the interest to fund experiments with the aim of developing a cogent startup thesis that warrants putting $1 million to work at day zero. I once waited in line for: I waited in line to see Star Wars when it first hit the theaters. Your role models: I often find myself channeling great entrepreneurs and investors I’ve known. What would Andy do? What would Dan do? What would TA do? What would Chris do? What would Dave do? Without fail, I immediately see the issue/questions/challenge/decision in a new light. It’s palpable. I don’t always take the action I think they would but I’m always informed by what I think their perspective would be. Of course, I could be terribly wrong about what they would actually do if I were to ask them, but the exercise is so effective and immediate that I wouldn’t want to break it by actually asking them. Besides, none of them have time to take speed dial calls from Bob. Greatest game in history: D&D. Viva la imagination. Best gadget ever: Staedtler 2.0mm mechanical pencil … and paper. First computer: I learned to program on VAX-11 in high school, then got excited about computers with my best friend’s TRS-80. I really wanted the Osborne 1 to be my first computer but they were so expensive that I had to eventually settle for building an IBM XT Clone. Current phone: Samsung S8+. Every time someone switches from an iPhone to an Android, an angel gets its wings. Favorite app: I love, love, love Audible. Audiobooks are a secret weapon for sure. I even read the Mueller report in less than two weeks while driving to and from meetings. Favorite cause: My “favorite” is youth entrepreneurship, which I think is an important and valuable cause and it’s something I think I am especially equipped to help with. But I don’t think it’s nearly as important as so much other work that needs to be done in the world. Most important technology of 2019: Boring old social media has proven its ability to fundamentally subvert democracy. That needs to be fixed. I can’t think of much that’s more important than that. Most important technology of 2021: AI … for as far out as our headlights go. Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: My advice is for early entrepreneurs. Having good ideas is easy. The hard part is determining whether and how some good idea or other could also be a successful business — before you sacrifice your savings account, your relationships and your emotional health. Mostly, good ideas turn out not to be good businesses. And to be clear, I’m not just talking about the ideas that only half the room thinks are good. I’m also talking about the ideas where everyone in the room thinks the idea is good, i.e., that the problem should be solved, that the product should exist and that the world would be a better place with your startup in it. If it were only the marginally good ideas that failed then the startup failure rate would not be in the neighborhood of 95 percent. Aye, the allure of an idea that everyone tells you is “such a good idea” is irresistible. Coupled with your passion, confidence and ambition, keeping an open mind about whether your good idea can also be a good business is super hard. So hard that you barely paused before jumping off the cliff. Reid Hoffman famously described entrepreneurship as the act of jumping off that cliff and building a plane on the way down. He is right. But he didn’t say you had to design the plane on the way down. You can do a lot to figure out which planes might possibly be built in the distance from the top of the cliff to the bottom. Of course, certainty is impossible; but there are ways to reduce your chances of disintegrating on impact at the bottom of the cliff. Passion is helpful, even necessary; but it’s not sufficient. You also need a lot of customer development, some math and a little critical thinking. Constantly be on the lookout for assumptions you are making, i.e., what would have to be true in order for your startup to be a good business? Notice that this is a different question than “what would have to be true in order for your startup to be a good idea.” Ideas don’t come with labels that identify them as a good business or not. You have to figure that out yourself. To do that, talk to lots of customers and then identify and quantify as many of your assumptions as possible and model them in a spreadsheet. If you can’t tell a cogent and quantifiable story about how you could get from here to there (wherever you think “there” should be) then you are operating at a ridiculously high level of uncertainly and risk. Founder, meet cliff.
High-tech compression shorts maker Strive aims to measure the ‘miles per gallon’ of athletes

High-tech compression shorts maker Strive aims to measure the ‘miles per gallon’ of athletes

10:35am, 3rd August, 2019
Strive co-founders Nikola Mrvaljevic and Carsten Winsnes with the Sense3 compression short. (Strive Photo) As a professional basketball player in Montenegro, got the idea that there must be a better way for athletes to train. “Not everybody trains efficiently. We tend to get tired and most of the time we don’t know why,” Mrvaljevic said. So he started , a wearable technology startup that seeks to answer how and why athletes fatigue. The Bothell, Wash.-based company aims to quantify the “miles per gallon” for a given athlete. One advantage of Strive’s Sense3 system is that it attaches to ordinary compression shorts and therefore doesn’t require athletes to get used to wearing a new gadget. (Strive Photo) After hanging up his basketball jersey, Mrvaljevic went on to study biomedical and electrical engineering at the University of Rhode Island. He later got an MBA from the University of Washington before co-founding Strive with, a former NCAA crew athlete who is now the company’s COO. Strive’s core product is , a sensor system that is sewn into ordinary compression shorts that can measure muscle exertion, distance and heart rate. “We combine metrics that nobody else has. There’s no product on the market that can do muscles, heart and motion in a single solution,” Mrvaljevic said. “If you put those three together, you can understand how efficient the athlete is.” And because the sensors are part of compression shorts, the athletes don’t have to get used to any straps, wristbands or other wearables that might be distracting. Knowing when athletes are tired can be vital to coaches. As players fatigue, they tend to fall into bad habits, their form becomes worse, and they’re more likely to sustain an injury. “We will never predict an injury,” Mrvaljevic said. “But we will try to point out risk factors for injury or for body inefficiency.” Used properly, this information can signal when an intervention is needed during a training session. Strive works with coaches to review the data and gain insights, a process that it plans to automate in the future. “If we know that the right quad is cramping up or not firing properly during high accelerations, a coach should know that. And that information should that be communicated to the athletic trainer,” Mrvaljevic said. While the average person’s interest in wearables may begin and end with counting steps and monitoring sleep, professional sports teams have been quick to embrace the mountains of data generated by more specialized devices. Among the most prominent manufacturers is , whose wearables and software are used by teams around the world from college football squads to the UK’s Premier League. Just down the highway from Strive’s headquarters is the Seattle Seahawks practice facility, to get an edge on the competition. The startup’s customers include the University of Maryland, Rutgers University and a few NFL teams. It is also seeking approval from the NBA to work with professional basketball teams. The company is collaborating on research projects with Cal Poly and the University of West Florida. Strive is also working with the U.S. Air Force’s AFWERX program, which partners with entrepreneurs on projects that benefit the military. Strive recently raised $1.5 million, according to a The company has seven full-time employees.
Google Cloud vets launch Seattle startup Kaskada to bolster machine learning tech with real-time data

Google Cloud vets launch Seattle startup Kaskada to bolster machine learning tech with real-time data

2:28pm, 2nd August, 2019
The Kaskada leadership team, from left to right: Davor Bonaci, Ben Chambers, and Emily Kruger. (Kaskada Photo) After spending several years working at Google Cloud, and saw an opportunity to help companies take better advantage of machine learning technology. Their idea turned into , a Seattle-based startup that is launching out of stealth mode and unveiling its software that uses real-time, event-based data to bolster machine learning features. Davor Bonaci. (Kaskada Photo) More and more companies are implementing machine learning capabilities into their workflows to serve up better recommendations, detect fraud, and other related applications that use the burgeoning technology. But Kaskada contends that these models aren’t using the most up-to-date information, resulting in stale data and poor predictions that don’t accurately reflect the needs of a given user. The startup’s tools let companies implement machine learning features that fully take advantage of up-to-date streaming data. “There is lots of evidence that this is not done as well as it could be done,” Bonaci said of using real-time data. “Companies are leaving money on the table.” Kaskada has raised $1.8 million from investors including Voyager Capital; NextGen Venture Partners; Founders’ Co-op; and Bessemer Venture Partners. The company, founded in January 2018, employs four people and expects to grow. In March it hired , a veteran of Amazon Web Services, as vice president of product. We caught up with Bonaci for this , a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire. What does your company do? Kaskada is a machine learning studio that uses event-based data to compute feature vectors for machine learning in real time. Kaskada empowers data scientists by allowing them to discover, test, and deploy features from event-based data sources in a collaborative, version-controlled environment. By empowering data scientists we help organizations make better predictions and drive more impact from machine learning. Inspiration hit us when: All the time — we’re inspired by progress. Every conversation with data scientists and data leaders helps us refine our vision and make a better, more impactful product. VC, Angel, or Bootstrap: VC. We’ve been incredibly lucky with our investors so far, which include Voyager Capital, NextGen Venture Partners, Founders’ Co-op, and Bessemer Venture Partners. We are also supported by a group of angels that includes directors and senior vice presidents of companies like Google, Twitter and Yelp. Not only have they provided the working capital, but they are also meaningfully helping build the company. Their insight, personal networks, and day-to-day support have been instrumental in getting where we are today. The value we have gotten from our investors is as important — if not more important — than the funding itself. Our ‘secret sauce’ is: Streaming data of course! Our team has deep experience in building distributed systems for data streams and data processing and believe we can fundamentally change how ML is practiced by helping companies harness the power of real-time data. The smartest move we’ve made so far: We came to the startup world with a lot of experience in the data space which also meant we had many existing opinions and biases about it. It can be hard to listen carefully, probe, and ask the right questions if you think you already know the answer. It was important for us to forget what we thought we knew and look at the space with fresh eyes. We also had to be willing to admit when we were wrong and refocus our direction based on what we heard from customers. Putting the customer stories first allowed us to learn and ultimately make much better decisions about product and company direction than we would have made in a vacuum. The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: Gauging time it will take to get to major milestones. Everything takes longer than you expect that it will — particularly if you’re an optimistic person! Sometimes those same delays can end up ultimately being positive, though, as you realize a much better way of achieving the same goal. Which leading entrepreneur would you most want working in your corner? Success doesn’t depend on a single individual. We believe that building a strong team that can work together toward a common vision is more important than any single individual. Our favorite team building activity is: Game night! We have a weekly team game night and (optional) whiskey tasting. We typically play various cooperative board games, which makes it more about winning together. Our current favorite is Hanabi. The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: Culture fit. Building a company is a journey requiring significant growth — both personally and as a group. We’re looking for people who want to be part of that journey and actively participate in that growth. We’re looking for people who would have fun participating in lively discussions as we seek to push each other and the company to be the best we can be. What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: Pick your team and supporters wisely. They will make you or break you. No other early decision is more important than that one. When you start a new company, there are many people seeking to be involved. Regardless of the role, you’ll hear how much they can help you. But, there are no shortcuts; you and your team will have to solve the hard problems. Always focus on the team and the people who are committed to the long-term success of the company.
Commercial IoT startup Rigado sells Bluetooth tech to Swiss wireless company u-blox

Commercial IoT startup Rigado sells Bluetooth tech to Swiss wireless company u-blox

12:57pm, 31st July, 2019
Rigado’s lineup of Bluetooth modules. (Rigado Photo) , a nine-year-old Portland, Ore. startup that builds commercial IoT products and services, to Swiss wireless company . Rigado sold off its , a group that builds hardware components to enhance wireless connectivity and make it easier to link up Internet of Things devices, the companies said Wednesday. As part of the deal, Rigado CEO Ben Corrado and six other Rigado employees will join u-blox’s Short Range Radio product strategy team. Rigado’s Salem, Ore. office will become a North American engineering center for u-blox. , Corrado said Rigado co-founder will stay on at the startup and lead its technical vision as chief technology officer, and will step into the role of president. Going forward, Rigado will focus on its “edge-as-a-service” solution providing connectivity for smart buildings, asset tracking, connected retail, and other applications. “We’re very proud of both our market-leading modules division and Rigado’s fast-growing edge infrastructure gateway business,” Rau said in a statement. “The value we capture from the acquisition of the modules division will allow us to further accelerate Rigado’s growth in the gateway market — especially in key solution areas such as smart building and asset tracking.” Rigado was founded in 2010 and it raised a lifetime total of $20 million, including a just over a year ago. It has amassed more than 300 customers around the world for its edge-as-service products and connected more than 5 million commercial IoT devices. Rigado has offices in Portland, Salem, London and Shenzen, China.
Portland Seed Fund raises $13.9M for third fund, looks to invest in more early-stage startups

Portland Seed Fund raises $13.9M for third fund, looks to invest in more early-stage startups

11:55am, 31st July, 2019
The Portland Seed Fund leadership team: Angela Jackson, Jenn Lynch, and Jim Hutson. (Portland Seed Fund Photo) has raised its largest fund yet as the firm looks to invest in more startups up and down the west coast. PSF just closed its third fund, raising $13.9 million, nearly double the size of its second fund and triple the size of its first. The firm, founded in 2011, is one of the top seed-stage investors in the Pacific Northwest. It typically makes $50,000-to-$100,000 investments and occasionally leads rounds with larger checks. Most of its dollars goes toward follow-on rounds. PSF focuses on Portland, but has backed companies based in Seattle and the Bay Area. “We’re excited about Oregon,” said PSF Managing Director Angela Jackson. “We’re benefiting from smart entrepreneurs moving here from other, more expensive locations. There is a constant supply of new talent, and good deal flow, at value prices when compared to other adjacent markets.” Some of its recent include Megh Computing; Wild Friends Foods; Goodwell; Snap2Insight; Zembula; Streem; and NurseGrid. PSF was an early investor in Auth0, the Seattle-based identity authentication startup that , and backs The Riveter, . It also recently put cash behind Node, . Most investors in the third fund are based in Oregon. They include the state of Oregon’s Oregon Growth Fund; foundations; angel groups; high-net worth individuals; and families. , , and lead PSF. Jackson and Lynch are on .
Ex-Microsoft engineers land $3M to launch distributed computing platform Edge Delta

Ex-Microsoft engineers land $3M to launch distributed computing platform Edge Delta

8:18am, 31st July, 2019
Edge Delta co-founders Ozan Unlu and Fatih Yildiz. (Edge Delta Photo) , a Seattle-based startup that’s building a distributed analytics platform, raised $3 million in seed funding from lead investors MaC Venture Capital and Amity Ventures. The freshly-launched company was founded by and , who met while working at Microsoft. Their paths later diverged when Unlu joined Sumo Logic and Yildiz went on to become an engineer at Twitter. What brought them back together was a shared belief that the way data is currently managed — by collecting it into the cloud for processing — is fundamentally incompatible with much of tomorrow’s technology. They point to self-driving cars and Amazon Go’s cashier-less stores as examples of applications that needs a lot of data processing to happen close to the source. Related: “If we can essentially get very close to that data … then we can be 100 times faster, we can be infinitely scalable, we can have better privacy and security posture. And all of it can be fully automated,” said Unlu, who serves as Edge Delta’s CEO. Yildiz is the company’s chief technology officer. The startup is using federated learning — a distributed form of machine learning — to flag problems related to DevOps and security. Unlu said they are targeting clients across a range of industries that have critical systems that run on edge computing. In securing the financing, Edge Delta worked with MaC co-founder Adrian Fenty, who was formerly the mayor of Washington, D.C. and an advisor at Andreessen Horowitz, as well as Peter Bell, a general partner at Amity Ventures. Edge Delta is one of several Seattle-area startups in the edge computing space. , and are all working on services that make it easier for companies to build and manage edge computing applications. Microsoft has made the “intelligent edge” a core focus and earlier this year , which was designed with edge computing processors in mind. Edge Delta has six employees and will soon move into new offices in the South Lake Union neighborhood. The company is actively recruiting engineering talent and plans to hire 12 or more employees in the next year.
Downticket merges with Politiscope to let voters follow candidates, donate to campaigns in one app

Downticket merges with Politiscope to let voters follow candidates, donate to campaigns in one app

3:39am, 31st July, 2019
Politiscope executives (from left): Brandon Williams, Jackson White, Walter Powell Jr., Israel Lopez. (Politiscope Photo) In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, dozens of apps have cropped up seeking to arm voters with better information about candidates. Today, two of those apps announced plans to pool their resources ahead of the 2020 election. Seattle startup is merging with Secaucus, N.J.-based to create a combined app with resources for voters and an option to donate to specific candidates. Terms of the merger were not disclosed. The new app will retain Politiscope’s name and brand, which launched in late 2018. Previously: Politiscope was by former NFL players Walter Powell Jr. and Brandon Williams. Its existing app helps voters track members of Congress, political candidates, and issues. Users can follow politicians and see info about their voting records in a similar format to sports player profiles. , founded in 2016, is a similar app with voting guides but it has another key feature: allowing users to donate directly to campaigns. Downticket makes money by retaining a percentage of the donations. “As a B2C mobile application with ad space and data revenue strategy, it’s important for us to figure out how we can generate revenue before we hit scale with our user base,” Powell Jr. said in a press release. “In merging with Downticket, it opens up the e-commerce play where we are taking a small percentage of all transactions through the application.” Both Downticket and the first iteration of Politiscope will remain live until the integrated app launches. The integration will combine the functions of both apps in one place. The companies plan to launch the new Politiscope app this fall. “Beyond the obvious ways that the Downticket and Politiscope products complement each other, I’m particularly excited about the power Politiscope can bring to communities that have traditionally been difficult to reach,” Downticket CEO Nim Desai said in a press release. The combined company is raising a new round of funding after the merger closes, according to the press release. An posted earlier this month revealed a $6.2 million investment for Downticket. The companies declined to comment on the filing. Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk poses with Politiscope co-founder Walter Powell Jr. (Photo courtesy of Politiscope) Seattle-based Unlock Venture Partners in its portfolio. Serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, founder of VaynerX, will join Politiscope as an advisor and investor, according to the company. Politiscope is also pitching professional athletes to promote the new app on social media. Downticket’s advisors include , an account director on Google’s cloud and AI team, and Mon-Chaio Lo, Uber’s head of engineering for driver compliance, . Chatterjee co-founded Downticket but will not have a role beyond advisor following the merger. Other voting and politics-oriented apps developed in Seattle over the past few years include Vote With Me, which to nudge friends to get to the polls around the same time Downticket was founded. In 2016, Seattle-based Democracy Live called LiveBallot.
Seattle Children’s spin-out MDMetrix raises $3M to unlock data from medical records

Seattle Children’s spin-out MDMetrix raises $3M to unlock data from medical records

11:24am, 14th May, 2019
(MDMetrix Photo) Imagine knowing that all the data you need to do your job better was locked in a system that you couldn’t access. That’s the frustrating reality for many healthcare workers who aren’t able to extract useful data from their hospital’s electronic medical records systems. Seattle startup just landed $3 million to make medical records more useful with a product that lets caregivers ask data-driven questions about their patients. Warren Ratliff. (Warren Ratliff Photo) The seed round was led by Founders’ Co-op along with investors Arnold Venture Group and WRF Capital. , CEO at MDMetrix, said the company plans to use the money to speed up its plans and apply artificial intelligence to help clinicians filter out “the signal from the noise” of patient data. The idea behind MDMetrix is to give healthcare workers the ability to track improvements over time. “We give clinicians visibility they’ve never had before into what’s going on. They’re able to ask questions on the fly. They’re able to really manage clinical operations in a continuously improving way,” said Ratliff. The company, which has raised more than $4 million to date, was started in 2016 by , an anesthesiologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital. It employs around a dozen full-time and contract staff. Seattle Children’s uses MDMetrix at its main campus hospital and surgery center, but the company declined to talk about its other customers. Dr. Dan Low, an anesthesiologist and co-founder of MDMetrix. (GeekWire Photo / Clare McGrane) Electronic health records are a popular punching bag. They’ve been blamed for everything from among doctors to . “Something’s gone terribly wrong. Doctors are among the most technology-avid people in society; computerization has simplified tasks in many industries. Yet somehow we’ve reached a point where people in the medical profession actively, viscerally, volubly hate their computers,” wrote Haven CEO Atul Gawande last fall. Haven is a healthcare joint venture between Amazon, JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway. Ratliff says the frustration doesn’t just come from the countless hours spent clicking around poorly-designed interfaces. Doctors are also fed up with not being able to use data from the health record to answer questions. Ratliff joined the company last August. He was previously co-founder and COO of Caradigm, a healthcare joint venture between GE Healthcare and Microsoft. MDMetrix essentially tries to make it as easy as possible for a licensed practitioner to find answers to basic questions related to patient care. Ratliff said the interface was designed to be as easy to use as the Airbnb app. The platform also brings together key metrics into a control center for leaders and staff to monitor. The idea is to avoid a situation in which important questions go unasked and unanswered. With more useful data, clinicians can more easily establish best practices. Ratliff contrasts the situation facing medical professionals with that of a chief financial officer, who has tools to easily see high-level profit-and-loss statements as well as granular expenses. “In medicine, we’ve tolerated a system where clinicians don’t have the visibility you would expect in any other kind of industry or business,” Ratliff said. “Imagine trying to run a complex financial organization with a spreadsheet. There are just better ways of doing that.”
When LinkedIn isn’t enough: Ex-Microsoft leaders raise $6M for recruiting startup SeekOut

When LinkedIn isn’t enough: Ex-Microsoft leaders raise $6M for recruiting startup SeekOut

10:22am, 14th May, 2019
The SeekOut team. (SeekOut Photos) LinkedIn can be a valuable resource for hiring managers sourcing potential candidates. But oftentimes it isn’t enough — and that’s where is stepping in. The Seattle-area startup today announced a $6 million investment round led by Madrona Venture Group, with participation from Mayfield. The company helps HR departments by using swaths of data to provide an AI-powered “360-degree profile” of potential candidates — particularly those that have sparse or no LinkedIn profiles, but may be qualified based on harder-to-find accolades. SeekOut is led by CEO and co-founder , a former technical assistant to Bill Gates who previously led Microsoft’s Unified Communications Group; and CTO , a former Microsoft partner engineering manager who worked on products including Bing and Office. Anoop Gupta with Aravind Bala, co-founders of SeekOut. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop) Their company is an evolution of , a professional messaging service formerly known as that Gupta and Bala founded. The premise of Nextio was to give recipients of promotional LinkedIn messages money paid by marketers, recruiters and others seeking to reach them. Microsoft acquired LinkedIn for $26.2 billion in 2016 — one year after Gupta and Bala left the company. While Nextio never took off, there was a “career insights” feature that analyzed millions of resumes to give users a birds-eye view of potential career paths and the necessary steps to achieve certain jobs. That garnered interest from recruiters who wanted to understand requirements for various roles at companies; how people moved from different jobs; and so forth. About 18 months ago, Nextio pivoted to SeekOut. “Since then the growth and traction has been phenomenal, and we are truly humbled and energized about serving this critical need for companies,” Gupta said. SeekOut’s thesis is that developers and engineers often don’t promote their experience or work on a LinkedIn profile, but may do so in a place such as GitHub or in research papers and patents. But sourcing potential hires based on public data is only one part of the company’s business. SeekOut also provides built-in diversity filters to help reduce unconscious bias; a machine learning-driven search engine that understands past hiring patterns and needs based on job descriptions; and the ability for recruiters to “hyper-personalize” messages when engaging with candidates. SeekOut has more than 75 enterprise customers from various industries including tech, defense, pharma, consumer-packaged goods, and more. “Our secret sauce is that we are engineering leaders who have tons of experience hiring tech talent for our teams and with challenges our recruiters faced,” Gupta said. “We also know of data available and how to apply machine learning, natural language processing and other technologies to the problem that we and our customers face every day: finding qualified candidates.” SeekOut competes against a flurry of existing hiring-related tools, from giants such as LinkedIn itself and Workday, to smaller startups including fellow Seattle company . Gupta said that most competing HR tech tools are spread over a wide range of tasks, such as chatbots or candidate scheduling. “The companies in the sourcing space where SeekOut focuses are fewer, and less mature,” he said. Gupta and Bala both left Microsoft in November 2015 and came up with the Nextio idea in early 2016. SeekOut has raised $8.2 million to date. The company employs 12 people and expects to double headcount this year. As a result of the funding, Madrona Managing Director S. “Soma” Somasegar will join the board. “As every company goes through the digital transformation, the need for technical talent is growing leaps and bounds,” he said. “The SeekOut team deeply understands these challenges and has the expertise and drive to address them.”
Seattle startup TomboyX raises $18M to further develop its underwear brand for all body types

Seattle startup TomboyX raises $18M to further develop its underwear brand for all body types

1:04am, 14th May, 2019
(TomboyX Photo) , the Seattle-based startup bringing gender-neutral underwear to the masses, is apparently a good fit for investors, too, as the company just closed an $18 million Series B funding round. Launched in 2013 by married founders Fran Dunaway and Naomi Gonzalez, TomboyX targets “plus-sized, gender non-conforming and specialized tradespeople” with its apparel products. The company raised $4.3 million in a Series A round last summer, and total funding is $24.3 million to date. This round was led by , which becomes TomboyX’s majority stakeholder, and the capital will be used to invest in product development and brand-related campaigns, according to a news release. “We are very excited to collaborate with the team at The Craftory as we continue in our mission to design inclusive and gender-neutral underwear for our diverse global audience,” Dunaway and Gonzalez said in a statement. “We are confident that their expertise in branding and consumer goods will complement our own creativity and disruption of traditional products.” TomboyX founders Fran Dunaway and Naomi Gonzalez. (TomboyX Photo) TomboyX stresses that its underwear produces comfort across a broad range of silhouettes and sizes, and is fit-tested on hundreds of bodies, from size XS-4X. Elio Leoni Sceti, co-Founder and chief crafter at The Craftory, called TomboyX a “forward-thinking brand” taking on some of society’s biggest issues. “We are extremely proud to be welcomed to join the team as they expand their global reach and continue to design innovative sustainable pieces,” Sceti said. “It is crucial that companies like TomboyX continue to champion self-esteem as we move towards a more open, progressive society.” Craftory directors will join the TomboyX board along with fashion industry veteran Pauline Brown of TAU Investment Management, a New York and Hong Kong-based investment firm with expertise in the global apparel and textile value chain.
Women’s sexual health startup Joylux raises more cash, lands in Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop store

Women’s sexual health startup Joylux raises more cash, lands in Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop store

11:30am, 10th May, 2019
(Joylux Photo) , a Seattle startup that aims to improve women’s sexual health with a wellness device, has raised an additional $7 million. Joylux plans to use the money to bolster its sales team and scale the company. Colette Courtion. (Joylux Photo) The additional Series A financing brings total funding to $12 million, with backing from the Alliance of Angels, Belle Capital, Portfolia, Sofia Fund and Kimberly Clark. Joylux first launched its flagship product, the , a little over a year ago. The vFit uses a combination of red light therapy, heat and sonic vibration to help restore healthy sexual function. It’s an at-home device that can be used on its own or in combination with in-office treatments. Joylux is now in 200 physicians’ offices and available through some retailers. The company’s business model pulls a page from the Sonicare toothbrush or Clarisonic pore cleanser, selling to customers through physicians. Goop, the wellness company started by Gwyneth Paltrow, last month. , CEO, said Joylux is filling a blind spot that has been overlooked by male entrepreneurs. “There’s been no innovation in this space in decades,” she said. “Imagine raising capital from a majority of men,” Courtion added. “It takes a lot of brave investors.” Courtion has a background in medical aesthetics and started Joylux with the goal of applying techniques that are commonly used in skincare to sexual health. The company has 12 employees with plans to grow to 20 by the end of 2019. Joylux is also working on gaining FDA approval for vSculpt, a device to treat incontinence and vaginal atrophy. The vSculpt is already approved as a medical device in Canada and Europe.
Seattle’s Joe Coffee is uniting indie coffee shops through tech to compete against Starbucks

Seattle’s Joe Coffee is uniting indie coffee shops through tech to compete against Starbucks

10:28am, 10th May, 2019
Joe Coffee’s co-founders, from left to right Nick Martin, Brenden Martin and Lenny Urbanowski: (Joe Coffee Photo) In Starbucks’ own backyard, a family-built startup has taken hold and assembled one of the largest networks of independent U.S. coffee shops. Launched in 2014, Seattle-based has created a platform that allows customers of local coffee shops to pre-order and pay for their drinks on mobile devices. The service also tracks purchase and rewards frequent caffeinators with free drinks, just like a paper punch cards do. The business has 300 independent coffee shop partners using its service, with 150 participants in Seattle. Last fall, Joe raised $1 million in its first round of funding, led by Flying Fish Partners. The idea for Joe was sparked by a road trip. More than four years ago, brothers and were driving from Eastern Washington to Seattle and made what should have been a quick pit stop for java. The two started talking about the long waits at coffee shops and drive-thrus and began percolating ideas for a solution, ultimately landing on the notion of a mobile ordering system. Take your pick of independent coffee shops through the Joe Coffee app (Joe Coffee Image) Between the two of them, they had experience in marketing, startups and product management. And as kids, they’d had front-row seats to entrepreneurship when their dad started a company in Central Washington building and selling lawn-and-garden storage sheds. They saw firsthand that “you have to pour your heart and soul into that thing to make it work,” Nick said. And even then, it isn’t always enough. After running his company for about 10 years, the national brand Tuff Shed squeezed out their dad’s local business. Not long after Joe got its start, Starbucks launched a pilot of its mobile ordering app. That made Joe’s product key not only to speeding up coffee purchases, but also to competing with international purveyors. A main driver for Joe’s founders is “empowering small businesses in the coffee space,” Nick said. To round out their team’s skill set, Brenden enrolled in a coding school so that he could lead the development of their minimal viable product (MVP). It was there that he met , who would become their third co-founder and chief technology officer. Joe’s business model charges a small “convenience fee” for consumers of 35 cents per transaction, and charges coffee shops an 8 percent fee on purchases made through its system. Some of that money is used to cover the cost of the rewards program for loyal coffee drinkers, essentially a buy-10-drinks-get-one-free sort of deal, which can be redeemed at any shop using the Joe platform. Coffee shops manage the Joe-enabled orders through a tablet provided by the startup. The eight-person company expects to triple in size in the near future and in August is moving to larger offices in Seattle. They have plans to expand into a second market soon, saying it will be another large, West Coast city. Competitors in the space include Cups, which has offices in Brooklyn and San Francisco, and Vancouver, B.C.-based JoJo. Growth is still challenging for Joe. Every coffee shop has a different menu, a different work and customer flow, a different physical setup. For the company to succeed, partnering businesses need to ensure that freshly-made drinks are ready to go as quickly and smoothly as possible for their customers. Despite that challenge, the Joe founders have venti-sized dreams. “Our goal,” said Nick, “is building a network that meets and beats what you can get at a Starbucks.” We caught up with Nick, who is Joe’s CEO; Brenden, software developer and product manager; and Urbanowski for this . Continue reading for their answers to our questionnaire. Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: Joe is a mobile order and rewards app for local and independent coffee retailers that empowers them to compete with the “shop on every corner convenience” of national chains and allows coffee consumers to quickly and easily order directly from their phone. Joe Coffee CEO Nick Martin. (Joe Coffee Photo) Inspiration hit us when: Initially, it was while waiting in the drive-thru — a process that is designed for speed and efficiency that was clearly failing. When people pass up the experience they prefer for one that is more convenient, it hurts the relationships that our partners work so hard to cultivate. Ultimately, it also affects their bottom line. We started thinking about a way to level the playing field on convenience while enhancing the things that make local coffee so special to begin with. VC, Angel or Bootstrap: We’ve done all three now. We bootstrapped it ourselves in the beginning because we had to: cashing in 401Ks, putting expenses on credit cards, taking on multiple freelance jobs and driving for Lyft. We didn’t have access to the right network of people, but eventually, we did make the right connections. Our first round was a mix of angles and VC. Initially, we were targeting angels because we weren’t sure that VCs would be interested in us. As it turns out, they were. The feedback and guidance we’ve gotten from both Flying Fish and our angel investors have been invaluable to our development. Our ‘secret sauce’ is: We have a significant lack of ego and a real focus on outcomes. We have an intense focus on doing whatever it takes to empower our partners and relying on data to create value around coffee-specific behavior on both sides of the transaction. We believe that our coffee-specific focus creates a comparative advantage that allows us to deliver higher value faster for partners and our users. The smartest move we’ve made so far: We started working closely with our partners to refine the experience. We needed to think beyond just the technical experience and more on providing real, tangible value to their customers. Through that learning, we’ve built a better experience for everyone in a way that fits seamlessly into our customers’ existing processes at a cost structure that equals in-person orders. Making an order through Joe Coffee (Joe Coffee Image) The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: The biggest mistake we’ve made is basically the inverse of our smartest move. We thought that if something didn’t scale right away, it wasn’t worth building from a product and process perspective. In the early phase, it’s more about learning than anything else. Once we took a step back and focused on learning about the unique needs of different segments of our audience, we could move faster and find a model that would scale. Which entrepreneur or executive would you want working in your corner? Nick: I have great respect for the leadership team from my time at Zillow. The way that and represented themselves as leaders — they were authentic and approachable. To me, you empower your team to move faster and take risks when they know you trust them and that everyone has a shared mission of moving the business forward. Brenden: I would love to spend time with the leadership team at . The way they’ve been able to scale in the food space, there’s a lot of things we can learn from them. Also, the Lyft team. They way they’ve gamified the experience is awesome. They know what makes a great end-user experience and they truly empower their partners and make them feel valued. Lenny: While at Microsoft I had the pleasure to work under (now chief product officer at Looker). He is truly one of the most inspirational engineering leaders I’ve ever encountered. He continuously fought to empower and elevate those who reported to him, and his example largely guides my management style today. Our favorite team-building activity is: Every Friday we do what we call an “unwinder.” We get a few cocktails and we debrief on the week as a team. We talk through what’s going on with partners and the end users. We try to bubble up as many insights as possible, and we talk about wins and opportunities. The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: We are looking for people who are ambitious, eager and want to stretch and contribute in big ways. We are still testing and learning, so we need people who are OK trying new things and can come with solutions. They also need to be able to speak their truth while also leaving their ego at the door. We have a culture of always speaking up, and assuming any criticism comes from a place of good intention. Ultimately, we all want to grow and improve so this has been critical to the quality of the Joe experience. What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: First of all, startup life can be overly glorified — it’s not always as sexy as you might think. You go through serious ups and downs and some extremely challenging times so you have to believe in what you’re doing and be in it for the right reasons. To us, we couldn’t NOT work on Joe. We almost didn’t have a choice — that’s how hot the fire was burning to get it done and it’s taken every bit of that to get this far. Similarly, ideas are worthless without the right execution and as a startup, you’re already facing an uphill battle. Make execution and relentless improvement your core competencies. Lastly, spend time really developing your network. Regardless of the merit of your ideas, the right advisers can create an incredible amount of value in keeping you on track and connecting you to people and investors. For three founders from a working-class background, getting access to those networks was imperative.
Seattle’s Joe Coffee is uniting independent coffee shops with tech to compete against Starbucks

Seattle’s Joe Coffee is uniting independent coffee shops with tech to compete against Starbucks

8:33pm, 9th May, 2019
Joe Coffee’s co-founders, from left to right Nick Martin, Brenden Martin and Lenny Urbanowski: (Joe Coffee Photo) In Starbucks’ own backyard, a family-built startup has taken hold and assembled one of the largest networks of independent U.S. coffee shops. Launched in 2014, Seattle-based has created a platform that allows customers of local coffee shops to pre-order and pay for their drinks on mobile devices. The service also tracks purchase and rewards frequent caffeinators with free drinks, just like a paper punch cards do. The business has 300 independent coffee shop partners using its service, with 150 participants in Seattle. Last fall, Joe raised $1 million in its first round of funding, led by Flying Fish Partners. The idea for Joe was sparked by a road trip. More than four years ago, brothers and were driving from Eastern Washington to Seattle and made what should have been a quick pit stop for java. The two started talking about the long waits at coffee shops and drive-thrus and began percolating ideas for a solution, ultimately landing on the notion of a mobile ordering system. Take your pick of independent coffee shops through the Joe Coffee app (Joe Coffee Image) Between the two of them, they had experience in marketing, startups and product management. And as kids, they’d had front-row seats to entrepreneurship when their dad started a company in Central Washington building and selling lawn-and-garden storage sheds. They saw firsthand that “you have to pour your heart and soul into that thing to make it work,” Nick said. And even then, it isn’t always enough. After running his company for about 10 years, the national brand Tuff Shed squeezed out their dad’s local business. Not long after Joe got its start, Starbucks launched a pilot of its mobile ordering app. That made Joe’s product key not only to speeding up coffee purchases, but also to competing with international purveyors. A main driver for Joe’s founders is “empowering small businesses in the coffee space,” Nick said. To round out their team’s skill set, Brenden enrolled in a coding school so that he could lead the development of their minimal viable product (MVP). It was there that he met , who would become their third co-founder and chief technology officer. Joe’s business model charges a small “convenience fee” for consumers of 35 cents per transaction, and charges coffee shops an 8 percent fee on purchases made through its system. Some of that money is used to cover the cost of the rewards program for loyal coffee drinkers, essentially a buy-10-drinks-get-one-free sort of deal, which can be redeemed at any shop using the Joe platform. Coffee shops manage the Joe-enabled orders through a tablet provided by the startup. The eight-person company expects to triple in size in the near future and in August is moving to larger offices in Seattle. They have plans to expand into a second market soon, saying it will be another large, West Coast city. Competitors in the space include Cups, which has offices in Brooklyn and San Francisco, and Vancouver, B.C.-based JoJo. Growth is still challenging for Joe. Every coffee shop has a different menu, a different work and customer flow, a different physical setup. For the company to succeed, partnering businesses need to ensure that freshly-made drinks are ready to go as quickly and smoothly as possible for their customers. Despite that challenge, the Joe founders have venti-sized dreams. “Our goal,” said Nick, “is building a network that meets and beats what you can get at a Starbucks.” We caught up with Nick, who is Joe’s CEO; Brenden, software developer and product manager; and Urbanowski for this . Continue reading for their answers to our questionnaire. Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: Joe is a mobile order and rewards app for local and independent coffee retailers that empowers them to compete with the “shop on every corner convenience” of national chains and allows coffee consumers to quickly and easily order directly from their phone. Joe Coffee CEO Nick Martin. (Joe Coffee Photo) Inspiration hit us when: Initially, it was while waiting in the drive-thru — a process that is designed for speed and efficiency that was clearly failing. When people pass up the experience they prefer for one that is more convenient, it hurts the relationships that our partners work so hard to cultivate. Ultimately, it also affects their bottom line. We started thinking about a way to level the playing field on convenience while enhancing the things that make local coffee so special to begin with. VC, Angel or Bootstrap: We’ve done all three now. We bootstrapped it ourselves in the beginning because we had to: cashing in 401Ks, putting expenses on credit cards, taking on multiple freelance jobs and driving for Lyft. We didn’t have access to the right network of people, but eventually, we did make the right connections. Our first round was a mix of angles and VC. Initially, we were targeting angels because we weren’t sure that VCs would be interested in us. As it turns out, they were. The feedback and guidance we’ve gotten from both Flying Fish and our angel investors have been invaluable to our development. Our ‘secret sauce’ is: We have a significant lack of ego and a real focus on outcomes. We have an intense focus on doing whatever it takes to empower our partners and relying on data to create value around coffee-specific behavior on both sides of the transaction. We believe that our coffee-specific focus creates a comparative advantage that allows us to deliver higher value faster for partners and our users. The smartest move we’ve made so far: We started working closely with our partners to refine the experience. We needed to think beyond just the technical experience and more on providing real, tangible value to their customers. Through that learning, we’ve built a better experience for everyone in a way that fits seamlessly into our customers’ existing processes at a cost structure that equals in-person orders. Making an order through Joe Coffee (Joe Coffee Image) The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: The biggest mistake we’ve made is basically the inverse of our smartest move. We thought that if something didn’t scale right away, it wasn’t worth building from a product and process perspective. In the early phase, it’s more about learning than anything else. Once we took a step back and focused on learning about the unique needs of different segments of our audience, we could move faster and find a model that would scale. Which entrepreneur or executive would you want working in your corner? Nick: I have great respect for the leadership team from my time at Zillow. The way that and represented themselves as leaders — they were authentic and approachable. To me, you empower your team to move faster and take risks when they know you trust them and that everyone has a shared mission of moving the business forward. Brenden: I would love to spend time with the leadership team at . The way they’ve been able to scale in the food space, there’s a lot of things we can learn from them. Also, the Lyft team. They way they’ve gamified the experience is awesome. They know what makes a great end-user experience and they truly empower their partners and make them feel valued. Lenny: While at Microsoft I had the pleasure to work under (now chief product officer at Looker). He is truly one of the most inspirational engineering leaders I’ve ever encountered. He continuously fought to empower and elevate those who reported to him, and his example largely guides my management style today. Our favorite team-building activity is: Every Friday we do what we call an “unwinder.” We get a few cocktails and we debrief on the week as a team. We talk through what’s going on with partners and the end users. We try to bubble up as many insights as possible, and we talk about wins and opportunities. The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: We are looking for people who are ambitious, eager and want to stretch and contribute in big ways. We are still testing and learning, so we need people who are OK trying new things and can come with solutions. They also need to be able to speak their truth while also leaving their ego at the door. We have a culture of always speaking up, and assuming any criticism comes from a place of good intention. Ultimately, we all want to grow and improve so this has been critical to the quality of the Joe experience. What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: First of all, startup life can be overly glorified — it’s not always as sexy as you might think. You go through serious ups and downs and some extremely challenging times so you have to believe in what you’re doing and be in it for the right reasons. To us, we couldn’t NOT work on Joe. We almost didn’t have a choice — that’s how hot the fire was burning to get it done and it’s taken every bit of that to get this far. Similarly, ideas are worthless without the right execution and as a startup, you’re already facing an uphill battle. Make execution and relentless improvement your core competencies. Lastly, spend time really developing your network. Regardless of the merit of your ideas, the right advisers can create an incredible amount of value in keeping you on track and connecting you to people and investors. For three founders from a working-class background, getting access to those networks was imperative.
The top 3 pitches from Techstars Seattle 2019 Demo Day

The top 3 pitches from Techstars Seattle 2019 Demo Day

1:04pm, 8th May, 2019
The tenth Techstars Seattle cohort gathers after Demo Day on Tuesday at Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry. (GeekWire Photos / Taylor Soper) From Seattle to Miami, from blockchain to augmented reality — it was another round of polished pitches at the annual Techstars Demo Day in the Emerald City. Techstars Seattle held its 10th annual Demo Day Tuesday night as founders walked on stage and pitched to an audience of fellow entrepreneurs, investors, family, friends, and community members at the Museum of History and Industry. This cohort marked a milestone as the 10th class for Techstars Seattle, which has now graduated 110 companies to date. Alumni of the accelerator — companies such as Remitly, Outreach, Skilljar, Bizible, Leanplum and Zipline — have collectively raised more than $700 million in investment capital. Most have built their startups in the Pacific Northwest, helping expand the entrepreneurial clout in the region. Techstars Seattle Managing Directors Aviel Ginzburg and Chris DeVore give opening remarks on Tuesday. Techstars provides $120,000 in funding in exchange for 6 percent common stock as part of the three-month accelerator, which is part of a larger Techstars network that spans across the globe and also features a Techstars venture capital fund and a . Techstars Seattle is based at Startup Hall at the University of Washington and shares space with the , a separate program co-led by Techstars and Amazon focused around voice technologies. Amy Nelson, CEO of Seattle-based startup The Riveter — which just won Startup of the Year at the — gave the keynote address before Tuesday’s pitches. She recounted her own startup journey, one that started when Nelson was a corporate lawyer and became pregnant. That’s when she learned how 43 percent of women with college degrees “offramp” after having kids. “To me, that meant the system was broken,” Nelson said. “We all knew it and yet we weren’t doing anything about it.” The Riveter CEO Amy Nelson. Nelson, now pregnant with her fourth child, decided to do something and helped launch The Riveter two years ago. The women-focused co-working space operator a $15 million investment round last year and recently opened its sixth location in Austin, with plans to reach 100 locations by 2022. “Starting a company is, as many of you know, incredibly hard and nearly impossible,” Nelson told the crowd on Tuesday. “There will be many days when it is easier to quit than to keep going. There will be many days when you feel like you can’t keep going. But the thing is, you have to believe in the biggest ideas and believe that you can pull it off — and you likely can, if you truly believe that and dig into it.” Read on to learn more about and see our favorite pitches of the evening. , who reflected on the longevity of Techstars Seattle and on how the Seattle tech scene has changed over the past decade. Tagline: “Growing machine learning teams from hiring to productivity” AdaptiLab co-founder James Wu. Why we liked the pitch: Hiring engineers is hard, and AdaptiLab wants to help. James Wu, co-founder, didn’t miss a beat with his pitch on Tuesday, showing how his startup helps reduce the amount of time and money hiring managers spend interviewing candidates for machine learning-related roles. Wu said companies can spend as much as $180,000 hiring a single machine learning engineer. AdaptiLab has built a technical screening platform that customers use to screen and interview potential new employees. The company applies its own machine learning technology to rank candidates and provide technical report cards. It has already racked up customers such as Pinterest, Zillow, and Remitly. AdaptiLab is similar to fellow Seattle startup Karat, , though AdaptiLab is focused on one specific type of role with machine learning jobs. That specialization could limit how quickly the company can grow, but Wu teased its vision for scale. “Our plan is to use our screening product to build a wedge into the machine learning talent market by solving for the biggest pain points and building industry trust and customer relationships along the way,” he said. ” “As machine learning demand continues to skyrocket, we will leverage relationships to expand to a technical diagnostic marketplace, where we will source, evaluate, and place candidates,” he said. “…We will use this flow of candidate and company data to begin to own the machine learning hiring pipeline and to expand into the even larger talent development market for machine learning with strategic partnerships and SaaS products.” Tagline: “Building your personal electronic memory bank” Kristalic co-founder Jos van der Westhuizen. Why we liked the pitch: Kristalic has a big vision. The San Francisco-based startup is building an AI-powered assistant designed to record your work-related conversations throughout a day and capture all the data in an easy-to-digest searchable format. The idea is to help workers remember important information they might have otherwise forgotten — for example, who agreed to what in last week’s meeting, or what changes did the customer request? Kristalic does not require additional software, using already available hardware such as AirPods or your smartphone to record voice conversations. “We’re giving our customers memory superpowers not available to ordinary humans,” said Kristalic co-founder Jos van der Westhuizen. Both he and his co-founder Filip Kozera earned a master’s degree and PhD in machine learning at Cambridge University — a validation for their expertise that van der Westhuizen called out at this beginning of his pitch. The entrepreneurs aim to ride a surge in voice-related technology and usage. One investor that voice tech will replace keyboards in five years. Tech giants such as Google are also . Kristalic has a huge idea that could very well fall flat. There are also some privacy implications that the company will need to address. But it was refreshing to hear such an ambitious pitch — these “big swings” are something the Seattle startup scene could probably use more of, albeit from a Bay Area-based startup. Tagline: “Web3 made easy” Nodesmith CEO Brendan Lee. Why we liked the pitch: Even though big companies such as are building blockchain-related services along with a flurry of other , the jury’s still out on how important the technology will actually become. “Some of the skepticism is valid,” said Nodesmith CEO Brendan Lee. “Adoption hasn’t exactly been explosive. One of the core reasons for this is the lack of mature infrastructure and tooling that’s available for developers.” That’s where Nodesmith comes in. The Seattle startup provides access to blockchain networks and a suite of services that allow developers to easily build user-friendly applications. It provides the “picks and shovels” for blockchain developers, bringing a “much-needed professional polish to the wild west world of blockchain,” as Lee described. In his convincing pitch, Lee said building a blockchain app today is like building a traditional web app without the support of tools such as AWS, Auth0, or New Relic. It’s unclear how many customers Nodesmith has, and there’s the larger question of blockchain adoption. But investors oftentimes bet on people, and Lee and his co-founder Samm Desmond certainly have the necessary chops to fulfill their vision as they previously spent four years at Tableau building developer platforms. They’ve also been building on blockchain networks since 2016.
Led by F5 founder, Seattle cybersecurity startup Tempered Networks raises $17M

Led by F5 founder, Seattle cybersecurity startup Tempered Networks raises $17M

12:33pm, 8th May, 2019
Jeff Hussey. (Tempered Networks) Seattle-based has raised an additional $17 million to invest in engineering, sales resources, and partnerships. The company confirmed the new funding to GeekWire this week. The fresh cash brings total funding to $57 million, with backing from Ignition Venture Partners, IDG Ventures, Fluid Capital, Ridge Ventures and Rally Capital. Founded in 2014 by , who formerly helped launch F5 Networks, Tempered Networks builds products around , in which anything that connects to a network must pass an identification test. That’s in contrast to the traditional approach of trusting people and machines who are connected the organization’s network on site or through VPNs, while keeping out bad actors with firewalls. The company’s main technology, called “identity defined networking,” is a platform for zero trust networking. Connections are granted based on a whitelist that identifies trusted entities and gives access to the network. Tempered also claims to make the process of creating and managing networks easy with a simple point-and-click interface. Tempered’s customers include oil drillers, electrical substations, hospitals and smart buildings. The 55-person startup has recently been working on to accommodate the growth with internet-of-things devices. It has also to build secure systems for smart buildings. Tempered is part of a hive of cybersecurity activity in Seattle, joining startups including Auth0, ExtraHop, DefenseStorm and Polyverse, among others.
Fast-growing sales tech startup Highspot leases big Seattle waterfront office with room for 800 people

Fast-growing sales tech startup Highspot leases big Seattle waterfront office with room for 800 people

5:59pm, 7th May, 2019
The World Trade Center East building. (Highspot Photo) will soon have a new spot to call home. The startup that builds artificial intelligence-powered sales software has leased two floors with options to take more at the World Trade Center East building near the Seattle waterfront. The 55,000-square-foot space, which will be ready around the end of the year, will have room for roughly 450 people. Highspot CEO Robert Wahbe. (Highspot Photo) Today, Highspot has about 200 employees and expects to hit 300 when it moves into the space. The company will hold on to its existing offices in Seattle, giving it a total footprint of more than 90,000 square feet and capacity for roughly 800 employees. Robert Wahbe, co-founder and CEO of Highspot, said the company is experiencing explosive growth in revenue and other key business metrics, and it is hiring fast to keep up. “We are growing more than 100 percent per year across all the normal business metrics and growing more than 100 percent in our headcount,” Wahbe said. “Given how competitive the environment is we are very focused on attracting and developing world-class people.” Last year, Highspot landed a to power its rapid growth. The company has raised more than $64 million in its lifetime. Wahbe called his company the fastest-growing tech startup with fewer than 1,000 employees in the area. He came to that conclusion by looking at headcount growth numbers on LinkedIn of companies in the index of the top Pacific Northwest startups. Highspot’s customer base is growing 300 percent year-over-year, Wahbe told GeekWire last year, adding to a big-name stable of customers that includes Amazon, Dropbox, Uber, Lyft Twitter, Zillow, Airbnb and SAP. A finalist for at the 2019 GeekWire Awards, Highspot equips sales teams with artificial intelligence-infused technology to improve how they have conversations with prospective buyers. Its “sales enablement platform” is a sales playbook of sorts, analyzing hoards of internally-produced information — historical data; marketing presentations; case studies; data sheets, etc. — and then applying AI to optimize the selling process. Highspot also provides communication and analytics tools with a goal of helping marketing and sales teams better collaborate. Highspot’s future office space. (Highspot Photo) The concept of bringing sales and marketing teams together has been around since the beginning of the modern office, but the technology hasn’t been there. That all changed around 2010, as mobile technology, AI and software-as-a-service innovations progressed rapidly. Since then, the category has taken on a renewed importance, Wahbe said. “It’s a problem that’s been around that people have been trying to solve, but now that it can be solved, you’re seeing the heads of marketing and the heads of sales really excited about this category and buying this software to help their teams be more competitive,” Wahbe said. Wahbe named and as Highspot’s top competitors. The company’s differentiator is its sophisticated AI that helps identify what content should be surfaced at the right time. Wahbe got the idea for Highspot when he was working at Microsoft, where he spent 16 years equipping sales teams with necessary information to help craft perfect pitches to potential customers. He quickly realized it was a difficult task and made a bet that others were experiencing the same problem. He founded the company seven years ago with former colleagues with and . Highspot was recently named to list for 2018, one of just two Seattle companies to earn the honor — Outreach, another fast-growing sales tech startup and a , was the other. Seattle has established itself as a hub for enterprise software, led by giants such as Microsoft, homegrown startups, and satellite offices for big companies including Salesforce. Wahbe emphasized Highspot’s commitment to Seattle, saying he didn’t plan to expand its offices internationally anytime soon. “It’s a little bit against the grain, but we really think the best way to build great software is to be here in Seattle,” Wahbe said.
Seattle travel planning startup Utrip will shut down after critical deal falls through

Seattle travel planning startup Utrip will shut down after critical deal falls through

4:57pm, 7th May, 2019
Utrip CEO Gilad Berenstein accepts the award for Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2015 GeekWire Awards. (GeekWire Photo) journey is over. The Seattle-based trip-planning startup is ceasing operations after a deal that would’ve kept the company afloat fell through at the last minute. “We are devastated to no longer be able to continue to operate and partner with you,” Utrip CEO said in an email to clients obtained by GeekWire. Bernstein declined to comment further when contacted by GeekWire. Utrip’s services will remain online until June 7, at which point the servers will come down, according to the email. Founded in 2011, the company offered free itinerary-planning tools to consumers built with machine learning. Users entered information about the types of activities they like to do when traveling and related preferences. Utrip would then produce a schedule and other information to help them plan their trips. Utrip made money by and building products for businesses in the hospitality space, such as hotels and cruise lines. In 2017, to create a trip-planning portal stitching together flights, hotels, must-see sites, activities, and restaurants. Other “strategic partners” included Hilton, Holland America Line, Allegiant, and Starwood Preferred Guest. “Leveraging machine learning and advanced traveler preference data, Utrip enables travel companies, both large and small, to increase conversion rates, ancillary revenue, customer loyalty and engagement,” the company wrote on its . Utrip’s itinerary service. Utrip also had some high-profile investors. Executives from Apple and Costco, as well as Acorn Ventures, Plug and Play, and Tiempo Capital, participated in in early 2017. Seattle hotelier Craig Schafer was also an investor and former sat on Utrip’s board of directors. The company has 27 employees, according to . It was ranked No. 194 on the , our index of top Pacific Northwest startups. “We are so grateful for your partnerships over the years and for enabling us to help millions of travelers see the world in unique and personal ways,” Berenstein said in his email. The CEO graduated from the University of Washington in 2009 and at the 2015 GeekWire Awards. He helped launch Utrip after a trip to Europe left him wanting a more personalized travel experience without paying a travel agent or spending a lot of time to research. Other Utrip founders include and Yair Berenstein. Travel startups have taken off over the past five years, with a bevy of competitors such as Noken and Journy offering similar services to Utrip. Over that period, travel companies raised more than $1 billion in venture capital funding,
‘Airbnb for warehousing’ startup Flexe raises $43M to help online retailers take on Amazon

‘Airbnb for warehousing’ startup Flexe raises $43M to help online retailers take on Amazon

9:12am, 7th May, 2019
The Flexe team in Seattle. (Flexe Photo) As more consumers shop online, retailers need capacity to ship products across the country — particularly as they battle e-commerce kingpin Amazon. , a Seattle logistics startup that operates an on-demand warehouse marketplace, is helping them do that. The company today announced a $43 million investment round to meet demand from a growing number of companies needing “pop-up” storage space. Activate Capital and Tiger Global Management led the Series B round. Seattle VC firm Madrona Venture Group also invested for the first time, while previous backers Redpoint Ventures, Prologis Ventures, and others put more cash behind Flexe. Total funding to date is $63.5 million. Flexe operates much like Airbnb — instead of matching travelers with open homes and apartments, it matches retailers with warehouses that have excess capacity. Companies such as Staples, Toms, Ace Hardware, and others use Flexe to help support their online businesses and reduce the costly “last mile” delivery expense. Giant brands including Walmart and P&G are also customers. Flexe benefits warehouse owners who make revenue on space that would have otherwise sat empty, which Flexe estimates is 20-to-30 percent of a given warehouse. More than across the U.S. and Canada use Flexe’s software to bid on various offers, up from 370 warehouses three years ago. Flexe tripled revenue in 2018 and was the fastest-growing company in Washington state last year by Deloitte. “Flexe invented the on-demand warehousing category for businesses facing a crisis of agility while trying to meet rising consumer demands,” Flexe co-founder and CEO told GeekWire. Flexe co-founder and CEO Karl Siebrecht. (Flexe Photo) Flexe offers customers pay-as-you-go flexibility; merchants don’t need to sign long-term leases for warehouse space — only when they know how much capacity is required, as well as where and when. They can avoid the fixed costs that often come with a lease, particularly for retailers that only need extra storage space for a limited amount of time — a beverage vendor that sees sales spike in the summer; a retailer that sells its inventory during the holiday season; or a company such as Lime, the fast-growing mobility startup that has thousands of shared bikes, scooters, and cars. There are other unique use cases, too, such as Ace Hardware using Flexe to support its emergency response initiatives during Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Michael. Flexe has described itself as a “warehousing-as-a-service” company. “We needed space in the northeast U.S., the Midwest, and on the West Coast,” Justin Schuhardt, a supply chain executive with Walmart, at a recent industry event. “So, what ended up happening was Flexe was able to, through their marketplace approach, give us a selection of different providers from coast to coast with different size buildings and different available capacity.” Walmart is one of many companies using Flexe in the e-commerce battle against Amazon. While Flexe’s customers are competing against Amazon, so too is Flexe itself. Instead of selling on Amazon, Flexe offers brands an alternative that lets them ship products in their own branded boxes and existing shopping software. The third-party warehouses, meanwhile, handle labor and administrative work. It also keeps retailers from having to share any data with Amazon. “Companies that depend on Amazon logistics to meet their customers’ expectations will hand over their customer data, customer experience and customer relationship to Amazon,” Siebrecht said. “We believe there’s a better way —  a new option that uses technology to offer an entirely new model for on-demand warehousing and fulfillment.” (Flexe Photo) Amazon forever altered the retail landscape when it introduced the Prime two-day shipping program 14 years ago. The Seattle company upped the ante again late last month when for Prime members. Amazon will spend $800 million during this quarter alone on the new shipping initiative, signaling the importance of building out its fulfillment network to meet consumer demand. But Flexe can offer similar delivery speeds given how many warehouses are on its marketplace. In 2017, Flexe began . Siebrecht said Amazon’s recent 1-day shipping announcement “has already driven a pop in demand for Flexe.” “When Flexe announced one-day shipping capabilities two years ago, it allowed our clients to offer the most competitive delivery promises and successfully fulfill them,” he added. “Not only is our network of warehouses massive, it’s connected through a single technology platform and it’s provider agnostic. In other words, companies aren’t limited to a fixed provider or set locations of fulfillment centers.” Since launching in 2013, Flexe company has amassed a huge warehouse footprint, with approximately 30 million square feet available on its platform. But that’s still a far cry from Amazon, which owns of space at its own fulfillment centers across the world. (Flexe screenshot) Consumer expectation for fast shipping is driven not only by Amazon but rivals such as Target and Walmart that have instituted their own two-day shipping initiatives and turned physical stores into mini-warehouses for popular programs such as order online and pick up in store. Two market trends are playing to Flexe’s hand. One is the growing online shopping industry — e-commerce sales during the last holiday season $126 billion, up 16.5 percent year-over-year. Another is the rising cost of industrial real estate and . Will O’Donnell, managing partner at Prologis Ventures — an investor in Flexe — said vacancy rates in logistics real estate are near historic lows. “As the industry continues to grow, we recognize the value of integrating flexible options into supply chain planning,” he said in a statement shared with GeekWire. “We have been an investor in Flexe and are supportive of new business models that can help meet our customers’ business needs.” Prologis, a publicly-traded logistics real estate giant, is an example of a company that might be considered a competitor to Flexe “when in fact these companies are partners in the Flexe network,” Siebrecht noted. An additional use case for Flexe is when businesses face unpredictable problems that affect manufacturing and production with suppliers and distributors, such as President Trump’s China tariff that . (Flexe Photo) Flexe competitors include industry giant XPO Logistics, newer startup Stord, and UPS, which its own warehouse technology startup called Ware2Go in August. Siebrecht, a former executive at aQuantive and AdReady, said the new UPS service focuses on small and medium-sized businesses, while his company targets “high growth, venture-backed startups all the way up to Fortune 50 global corporations.” There are a bevy of other startups building solutions for supply chain improvement, including fellow Seattle on-demand trucking startup , which helps match trucking companies with shippers. Flexe has plans to expand internationally, but for now it is focused on the U.S. and Canada, said Siebrecht, a Pacific Northwest finalist for . Siebrecht co-founded the company with . Flexe estimates the logistics industry to be $1.5 trillion. The U.S. market for warehousing is worth $27 billion, according to . Flexe, a finalist for the category at last week’s , is ranked No. 88 on the index of top Pacific Northwest startups. The company has 80 employees and plans to double its headcount this year. This year Flexe has beefed up its C-suite by hiring , the company’s new chief people officer and general counsel; , chief technology officer who was previously a transportation exec at Amazon; and Matt Millen, chief revenue officer. Flexe also just moved into a new, 24,000 square-foot office headquarters in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood. As a result of the new funding, Raj Atluru, managing director at Activate Capital, has joined the Flexe board. “Flexe presents such clear value for forward-looking businesses who recognize that structural flexibility is a competitive differentiator and key ingredient to winning in the market,” Atluru said in a statement. Tiger Global, which co-led the round with Activate Capital, has made several recent Seattle investments, including last week for Zenoti. It also led for Seattle marketing startup Amperity; in Seattle-based real estate company Redfin; and is an investor in Bellevue, Wash.-based OfferUp, a Craigslist competitor valued at more than $1 billion. Siebrecht called Tiger Global “one of the most sophisticated and experienced e-commerce and logistics technology investors in the world.”
Real estate startup Loftium pivots to rentals, stops offering down payments for share of Airbnb profits

Real estate startup Loftium pivots to rentals, stops offering down payments for share of Airbnb profits

9:30am, 6th May, 2019
Loftium co-founders Yifan Zhang and Adam Stelle. (GeekWire Photo / Monica Nickelsburg) Loftium, the Seattle real estate startup that helped people buy homes in exchange for renting out an extra room on Airbnb, has shifted its focus to rentals. The company to providing down payment assistance to potential homebuyers who agreed to split their Airbnb profits with the company. But late last year, Loftium quietly pivoted in a big way. Now it rents out apartments to tenants at a discounted rate if they agree to become an Airbnb host. In an interview with GeekWire, Loftium CEO cited skyrocketing housing prices as the reason for the shift. Loftium’s original offering was popular — the company signed up more than 10,000 customers for down-payment assistance, Zhang said. However, thanks to high housing prices, competition among buyers and the complexity of the mortgage process, many of Loftium’s customers still weren’t able to afford to buy the homes they wanted. “Given how quickly home prices have risen, we realized that a large portion of our customer base were not able to buy a home even with Loftium’s down payment assistance, and that was a very frustrating part of the business,” said Zhang, a finalist for Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the . Loftium CEO Yifan Zhang leads an all-hands meeting at the company’s new office. (Loftium Photo) Similar to WeWork’s business model with office space, Loftium now rents units directly from landlords and then leases them out to its customers. Zhang wouldn’t say how many units Loftium has in its portfolio, but the switch to rentals has let the company expand quicker. Loftium collects rent from customers, as well as a cut of the money from renting rooms on Airbnb. It hopes that those combined income sources outweigh rent the company pays directly to landlords. The new model is easier to scale because Loftium doesn’t have to raise huge loads of capital to help people with down payments, and it’s much faster and easier to lease out units than it is to close home sales. After making the switch to rentals, Loftium quickly expanded beyond its core area of Seattle to Denver and Portland. Further expansion appears on the horizon, as the company has open positions on its for property acquisition leads in Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., New Jersey and San Jose, Calif. Loftium today has approximately 15 employees, and it is hiring across a variety of areas. Though still small, the company is anticipating significant growth, and it just signed a lease for a new office space: A single floor at in downtown Seattle totaling 5,600 square feet. The Loftium office. (Loftium Photo) The idea for Loftium struck Zhang, who has founded multiple startups, when she first moved to Seattle. She and her husband bought a townhome and rented out one bedroom on Airbnb. “I was just amazed by the income stream from that,” Zhang told GeekWire in 2017. “Just one bedroom in our three-bedroom condo could cover the vast majority of our mortgage, taxes, and insurance, which was a little crazy.” Technology companies of all sizes are trying to figure out how to disrupt buying a house, which remains one of the most challenging and costly experiences a person faces. A number of well-funded large companies including Zillow, Redfin, Opendoor and Offerpad have decided that taking control of the process by purchasing homes directly, sprucing them up then and selling them to consumers is the solution. In the Seattle area alone, startups such as FlyHomes, JetClosing and others are tackling different parts of the problem. As she ran Loftium, Zhang was exposed to every wart in the homebuying process. Zhang pointed to the mortgage approval process as a major headache. It can be tough to get a mortgage if you haven’t been in a job for more than two years, an issue that could impact tech workers who make good money but tend to jump around. Zhang would like to see potential revenue from renting out rooms on platforms like Airbnb figured into mortgage calculations as well. “We signed up homebuyers, and then we sent them into this complex process of homebuying,” Zhang said. “With rentals, we do get to control the experience much more and create a really good experience for renters and landlords.”