Madrona managing directors, from left to right: Tom Alberg, S. “Soma” Somasegar, Scott Jacobson, Matt McIlwain, Tim Porter, Hope Cochran, and Len Jordan. (Paul Goodrich is Madrona’s other managing director) (Madrona Photo) Call it the “ones we missed” fund. has raised $100 million for what it calls an “acceleration fund.” The Seattle firm, which has focused on early-stage deals across the Pacific Northwest throughout its 24-year history, will target later-stage companies based across the country with the new investing vehicle. Madrona began thinking about this new strategy last fall, just after it $300 million for its seventh fund. The venture capital firm had dabbled with later-stage deals, investing in more established companies based outside of Seattle such as , Tigera, and over the past few years. Matt McIlwain. (Madrona Photo) “We’ve done some of those, but very selectively,” said Madrona Managing Director Matt McIlwain. “We wanted to have a dedicated fund and a dedicated focus on that acceleration stage.” In an interview with GeekWire, McIlwain described this stage as when a company has already found product market fit and is “really starting to accelerate the growth of the business.” “This fund is focused on Madrona making new investments in companies for the first time in that acceleration stage, not only in Seattle but across the West Coast and the country,” McIlwain said. The longtime Madrona director admitted that the firm has missed out on investing in some companies early, pointing to fast-growing Seattle startups such as Outreach, Auth0, Icertis, and Textio. The new fund frees up Madrona to participate in later rounds for more mature companies both in and out of the Pacific Northwest. “It’s fair to say that there are some great Seattle companies that we didn’t get right early on,” McIlwain said. “If it makes sense to be able to add some complimentary value to the other folks on the syndicate, we’d love to be thought of as a group that can do that. “Madrona has been known for being the seed and Series A group,” he added. “This helps communicate that we could lead or partner in a B or C round with other great investors and entrepreneurs.” (Madrona Image) Madrona will be “super selective” with the acceleration fund, with plans to make six-to-nine investments over a three-year span, McIlwain said. The average check size will range from $7 to $10 million. If all goes to plan, Madrona could raise another acceleration fund when it starts planning for its eighth traditional “core fund.” Madrona’s existing investors provided the capital for the acceleration fund. The firm remains committed to making early-stage investments in Pacific Northwest startups via its traditional fund. Madrona prides itself on planting seeds in companies from “Day 1” and sticking with them throughout a journey to acquisition or an IPO — Smartsheet, Impinj, and Redfin are examples of those investments. “We love our core strategy,” McIlwain said. “Nothing is changing there.” In fact, cash from the acceleration fund could very well go toward additional Seattle companies. “We are more committed to this region than ever,” McIlwain said. He noted Madrona’s partnerships with organizations including Techstars Seattle and the University of Washington, and said the firm’s new founder center, , has been “incredibly successful.” Madrona employs 30 people at the firm and has been bulking up its lineup, adding and over the past year. The same team will be working with both funds — this could help Madrona avoid issues that plagued Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which dealt with internal rifts after establishing a “growth” fund in 2010 to compliment its early-stage fund. “Our approach is very different,” McIlwain said when asked about last month’s Kleiner Perkins story in . “A unified team, unified process and consistent fund economics across the firm along with our collaborative approach will allow us to bring the full Madrona team’s value-add to all our companies across all our funds.” A staircase connects Madrona Venture Group’s existing office to Create33, a new founder center that aims to be an epicenter for Seattle startups. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) Madrona is facing increased competition from Silicon Valley firms that are . Recent investors in later stage rounds for companies such as Outreach and Auth0 include Mayfield, Spark Capital, Trinity Ventures, and Meritech Capital. McIlwain said he welcomes the new entrants in the Seattle market. “It is great for the Seattle ecosystem to have more investors partnering with great entrepreneurs and investors like Madrona to build global-leading companies,” he said. Madrona has proven its ability to back nascent startups that become huge companies. Its track record for investing in later-stage companies for the first time, especially those outside of its backyard, is not as clear. The firm hopes to use its hometown as an advantage. “And, we believe, it is essential to have the ‘Seattle Perspective’ as part of your team to accelerate growth and maximize long-term value,” it wrote in a blog post today. McIlwain said that perspective includes proximity to homegrown companies such as Amazon and Microsoft, and the cutting-edge technologies being developed across the city in industries such as cloud computing, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. Madrona believes it can make a difference for companies not familiar with the Seattle tech scene. “It’s the access to the insights from those domains; access to the innovators both in small and big companies we’ve had the opportunity to work with; and this whole area of a cultural approach that really values taking a trust-based, long-term style to company building,” McIlwain said. In addition to Create 33, other Madrona-related initiatives include , the “startup studio” backed by Madrona. Recent investments made by the firm include deals backing Igneous, Ovation, Knock, Polly, Pro.com, and Clusterone.
The TerraClear team poses with the farmland rock picker that is part of what they’ve been developing. Founder and CEO Brent Frei is second from right in second row. (TerraClear Photo) TerraClear’s bid to upend the farming industry by using advanced technology to help farmers clear rocks from fields is producing a reliable crop — cash. The startup just closed a $6.1 million funding round led by Madrona Venture Group to bring its total capital raised to more than $13 million since launching in December 2017. Based in Bellevue, Wash, and in the farming community of Grangeville, Idaho, TerraClear was founded by Brent Frei, the former CEO of Onyx Software who co-founded Smartsheet in 2005. Born out of a desire to take the heavy lifting out of vital farm work and prevent damage to expensive machinery, Frei’s team and technology have been growing steadily. TerraClear will add Madrona Managing Director Matt McIlwain to its board of directors and has just hired Trevor Thompson, a former U.S. Navy SEAL and Rhodes Scholar, as president. The new funds will help to accelerate hiring, product development and testing as the company brings more automation to the $5 trillion global agriculture industry. PREVIOUSLY: McIlwain was the first venture investor in Smartsheet, the publicly-traded software company that helps automate key work processes. “The value that he and the team at Madrona brought to Smartsheet was significant,” Frei said. “He had exceptionally good advice along the way, he was very good at mentoring the leadership and our strategy. So in a lot of ways when he said he was interested in being on [TerraClear’s] board, I felt honored. We’re still at a very small stage right now relative to the things he’s involved in. To get his focus on this, there’s just nothing but upside.” For his part, McIlwain called Frei a “visionary leader” and said the TerraClear team is drawing on their “deep understanding of both the life and work of a farmer as well as expertise with robotics and software-enabled machine learning to change how fields are cleared and planted.” TerraClear’s Dwight McMaster addresses a group of farmers in Grangeville, Idaho, during a demonstration of the company’s rock-picking machinery. (TerraClear Photo) With 15 employees now and positions currently open, Frei said he wouldn’t be surprised if the team is double the size at this time next year. The company formally opened a fully outfitted lab and test facility this spring in Grangeville, a town of 3,000 where Frei grew up and where his family still farms. Earlier this month they hosted a field day and invited a dozen farmers from the biggest and most advanced farms in the area and showed them end to end how TerraClear works. Fields are surveyed by drones, rocks are classified and localized by a neural network, rock size and location data is mapped, and finally the heavy lifting is done by automated machinery. “It was fantastic. It exceeded all of my expectations,” Frei said of the show and tell. “Both from the candidness of the input and the things that we learned all the way to the interest and the financial potential of the product and the business.” (TerraClear Graphic) Farmers can be a stubborn lot, a characteristic perhaps born out of having to locate and lift heavy rocks out of their fields by hand over generations. Finally showing those who have been relying on inferior processes that the tables have potentially been turned was eye opening for the farmers and Frei. “One of the farmers there, who I have a lot of respect for, when he first came in he said, ‘I’m interested in seeing what you’ve got, but we’ve got a process in place and we don’t really need anything, but I’m perfectly happy to give you advice.’ As we went through the process his opinion didn’t change much until ultimately he saw the thing working and he said, ‘Yeah, we probably need this.’ “That admission all by itself was a real checkmark in the box of ‘this has got legs,'” Frei added. “Because when you’ve got some of the more advanced farmers who have really worked on automating the expensive and mundane and routine processes and they’re looking at this going, ‘I could save a lot of time and money doing this’ … that’s meaningful.” Brent Frei holds a “field day” with farmers in Grangeville, Idaho, where TerraClear has established a production and test facility. (TerraClear Photo) With ready access to many thousands of acres of farmland around Grangeville, TerraClear plans to be all about testing this summer, with hundreds of hours in the field planned. The picker is mounted on either a human-driven piece of machinery, like a front-end loader, or could eventually be attached to an autonomous vehicle. If TerraClear’s engineers can collect and analyze data and innovate and iterate on the picker prototype quickly enough, the hope is to put a beta product in the hands of farmers next year and learn from real customers. “Right now it’s just making sure that that thing grabbing the rocks is as foolproof as possible,” Frei said. “The market is huge and we’re laser-focused on building exactly what farmers need to make their lives easier.”
Cherry blossoms were in full bloom at the University of Washington earlier this month. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) The University of Washington has one of the world’s best computer science programs. MBA recruiters recently the UW’s business school No. 2 for entrepreneurship reputation. Its CoMotion innovation center has helped the university spin out 80 startups over the past five years and land among the top 10 on . Yet for some reason, , the famed Silicon Valley startup accelerator, sees far fewer UW graduates applying for its program compared to other top public universities. That’s why two YC partners, and , made a quick trip north earlier this month and spent several hours on the UW campus in Seattle, hosting both “group office hours” and a two-hour workshop. The purpose was to educate students about startups and encourage them to apply to YC. Of the more than 4,000 founders who have gone through YC’s 3-month cohort program over the past 14 years, only 50 of them attended the University of Washington, according to data from YC. “There is a lot of talent at the UW and a lot of talent in Seattle — and I want to make sure people know that YC is an available path if they want to start a startup,” Manalac told GeekWire after the event. Y Combinator Partner Gustaf Alstromer speaks to UW students at the Foster School of Business as part of a YC workshop on campus earlier this month. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) Manalac, who specializes in finding entrepreneurs that can join the accelerator, said UW students tell her that they get so heavily recruited by big companies in Seattle — Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Expedia, T-Mobile, Starbucks, etc. — and “often don’t even think about starting a company as a viable option.” Added Manalac: “The pull of the FAANGs and big companies like Boeing are strong up here.” “In some cases, students are interested in starting a startup but fall into the trap of thinking, ‘I’ll work at a large company for a couple years to get experience and then start a company,'” she explained. “Once you’re used to working at big companies, it’s harder to make the shift into startups. And working at big companies doesn’t teach you what you need to know to start a company. The best way to learn about startups is to start one — or work at an early stage startup.” The thesis that homegrown tech giants such as Amazon and Microsoft, along with the bevy of Bay Area companies with huge engineering outposts in the region, are sucking up would-be startup talent and preventing Seattle from becoming another Silicon Valley startup mecca has been for . “In the past, I have noticed that most of our students do take the ‘safer’ established industry path over the startup path,” said , a UW computer scientist who has sold startups to , and . Patel agreed with Manalac and said it is indeed hard to jump to a startup after joining a big company. But others say that experience at a place such as Amazon or Microsoft can be valuable preparation for startup life. Knock co-founders Tom Petry and Demetri “Some of the fastest-growing companies in Seattle boast 20-something and 30-something entrepreneurs fresh out of Amazon who cite that experience at integral to their startup path and success,” noted Julie Sandler, managing director at Seattle startup studio Pioneer Square Labs and a lecturer at the UW’s Foster School of Business. and graduated from the UW and worked together at UBS Wealth Management before coming back to Seattle to launch their real estate startup Knock, which just a $10 million investment round. The founders say they picked up important skills and built a network at UBS that ended up being crucial to their decision to make the startup leap. “Ultimately, my time with a big company gave me enough confidence to enable me to say goodbye to that world,” Themelis said. “And I imagine a lot of founders get the necessary motivation to start something when they see first hand the rat-race of a big company culture — it definitely was for me.” But the opposite was true for , a 2013 UW grad who a fashion startup while still in school. He’s now working at Amazon as a product manager. “Beginning my career at a startup was definitely more beneficial for me than getting a job at a big company right away,” Bartlow said. “First of all, I don’t think I would have been able to get the product management roles I wanted without being able to leverage my startup experience. Second, it is much easier to stay in the frugal and hungry mentality coming right out of school.” Bartlow credited the UW’s Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship for promoting startups through business plan competitions and programs such as the Jones + Foster Accelerator program. In a statement, Amy Sallin, interim director of the Buerk Center, said that “the framework is in place for students or alumni to feel prepared to launch a startup at any point in their journey.” “Our graduates leave with the entrepreneurial skills that do make them attractive to very large companies looking to innovate from within,” she said. “However, we also see graduates who do take their startup and grow it into a business — whether in retail, food and beverages, health, social impact, cleantech, biotech, etc.” Nanodropper team members Jennifer Steger, Mackenzie Andrews and Allisa Song won the $15,000 grand prize at the University of Washington Hollomon Health Innovation Challenge in March. (Matt Hagen / UW Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship Photo) Sandler said she hopes the UW can encourage more cross-department connections across programs such as computer science, business, and human-centered design. She said that can help expose entrepreneurship to more students. “At other universities, it not uncommon to see one big student success kickstarting a positive entrepreneurial cycle,” Sandler added. “Students see other students successfully build impactful companies during their years in school and they’re inspired to do the same.” Whether the lack of UW grads applying to Y Combinator says anything about the university itself, or the larger Seattle tech ecosystem, is up for debate. It’s true that the UW ranks lower than schools including UC Berkeley, University of Michigan, University of Texas, UCLA, and others . And some of the higher-profile startups with UW roots — Turi, Senosis Health, Vicis, etc. — originated due to the work of professors, not students. Ed Lazowska, a longtime UW computer science professor, said geographic influence must be considered when comparing what a graduate from Stanford does after school, for example, to what a UW grad might do. “Stanford sends a disproportionate number of students to startups because the startup ecosystem in the South Bay is an order of magnitude more vibrant than anywhere else in the U.S.,” he said. “UW sends a disproportionate number of students to major companies because all of those companies are either headquartered in Seattle or have engineering offices here, and UW is a public university where most students do internships, which have a high conversion rate to permanent employment, and the established companies have great internship programs.” Lazowska said the UW has taken a number of steps to “address this balance,” from work being done at CoMotion and the , to the activity at Startup Hall, which houses the Techstars Seattle program and Founders’ Co-op venture capital firm. He added that “as the startup community in Seattle expands, the involvement of UW students in startups will surely expand commensurately.” And while some UW grads, such as Jason Tan and Brandon Ballinger of , do migrate to the Bay Area and launch startups, many of them stick around Seattle, where there are plenty of startup accelerators and studios. “Yes, YC is the gold standard,” Lazowska said. “But UW students come from Washington and remain in Washington.” For some, the idea of relocating to the Bay Area to work on a startup may not be as attractive as in years past. , co-founder of Seattle startup , participated in a YC cohort last year and came right back to Seattle. “In my opinion, right now Seattle is the best place to start a software company,” Kalb said. “The talent is here, Seattle is a beautiful place to live, and it’s way cheaper to live in Seattle than in San Francisco. No wonder Bay Area VCs . I think we’ll see some of the greatest, fast-growing startups come from Seattle in the next ten years. If I were a YC partner, I would heavily index on whether a company is based in Seattle.”
ChefSteps co-founder and CEO Chris Young shows off the Joule sous vide cooking device during the 2016 GeekWire Summit. (GeekWire Photo / Dan DeLong) In the days following news that , the cooking technology startup, had to make , co-founder and CEO Chris Young has said that while the situation “truly sucks,” the company is still operating. Young shared some insight in a public group on Facebook last Friday night, writing that ChefSteps’ “funding situation unexpectedly changed” and a “significant fraction” of the 7-year-old company’s team — reported to be about 50 people — had to be let go. “I appreciate your understanding that in the coming days our focus will be on supporting our affected friends and that we may be a bit slower to respond than usual,” Young wrote in a post to the group, which is a community of more than 17,000 users and fans of ChefSteps’ signature product, the sous vide cooking device. Young said certain lines of business, including Joule Ready and any additional content being added to ChefSteps Premium, would be discontinued. But product and customer support for Joule will still be available. In a follow-up text to GeekWire this week, Young said he had nothing additional to add to what was in the Facebook post, and said, “We are still operating while we explore strategic options.” ChefSteps was by Young and Grant Crilly, who both previously collaborated with former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold on his epic . The startup, which is currently of the Pacific Northwest’s top privately held companies, has been funded through a low-interest loan from Gabe Newell, head of the video game company Valve. “I won’t lie, this is all incredibly difficult, but making these changes will allow us to focus on Joule and continue to support the hundreds of thousands of customers that cook with Joule,” Young wrote on Facebook. “We remain confident in our Joule sous vide business, which continues to exceed our expectations. We will continue to provide product and customer support for Joule — yes, your Joule is going to keep working.” Read the Facebook post in full and captured below: (Facebook screenshot)
Screenshots from the IPO filings from (clockwise from upper left) Lyft, Uber, Slack and Pinterest. What do Pinterest, Lyft, Uber and Slack have in common? Yes, they’re all newly public companies, or preparing to make their initial public offerings. But they also share something in common on the bottom line — proceeding with their IPOs with lots of revenue and growth but, so far at least, without the consistent profits to show for it. And they’re part of a trend. Eighty-three percent of IPOs in the first three quarters of 2018 . Ben Gilbert, co-founder of Pioneer Square Labs and co-host of the podcast Acquired. So what’s the future of these companies? And what do they say about the state of the tech industry? On this episode of the GeekWire Podcast, we’re joined by someone who has spent a lot of time looking at the financials of many of these companies: , co-founder of Seattle’s Pioneer Square Labs, and co-host of the podcast , which tells the stories of major tech companies, acquisitions, IPOs and other deals. “I would say we are seeing way too much similarity between these IPOs and what you would see in early stage pitch decks, which is selling on a story and selling on a narrative,” he says. At the same time, he notes, some of these companies have reached unit profitability, making money on their products and services even as marketing and related expenses make them unprofitable. And there’s a lot more in play with these companies that could impact their long-term earnings — from autonomous vehicles and electric scooters to the future of workplace collaboration. Ben Gilbert and his Acquired co-host David Rosenthal have been focusing on this new wave of public companies on their recent podcast episodes, starting with and . Subscribe to the Acquired podcast . Listen to the GeekWire Podcast above, or subscribe in your favorite app. Related Links
Bags of coffee beans are shown sitting on scales developed by Bottomless, a Seattle startup that measures coffee consumption and delivers refills. (Bottomless Photo) The next cup of coffee should be on . The Seattle startup using technology to make sure that coffee lovers never run out of the stuff they love has raised $1.9 million, according to a recent . The company declined to reveal investors. RELATED: Michael Mayer, the entrepreneur who co-founded Bottomless alongside his wife Liana Herrera, had been bootstrapping the 3-year-old company prior to raising $245,000 last summer. Bottomless combines original hardware, an online marketplace, machine learning and more to determine when customers need a shipment of fresh beans. The solution, in part, is a rechargeable scale on which users set a bag of fresh beans that they’re using to make their daily coffee. The scale is connected to WiFi (and to Bottomless) and as the bag becomes lighter, it triggers the order for more beans. Users select from numerous Seattle-area roasters — Caffe Vita, Ladro Roasting and more — who are partnering with Bottomless. Mayer, a “self-taught developer/technologist,” said his machine learning algorithms have already matured and that the plan with the new capital is to “add a few team members to continue investing in our algorithms and tech.” He also wants to scale up in the fresh coffee market with eyes on expansion, and they just added roasters in the San Francisco Bay Area and San Diego.
Arivale’s offices were empty this week after the company’s abrupt closure. (GeekWire Photo) Founded in 2015, Seattle startup Arivale aspired to pioneer a new sector called scientific wellness, combining genetic testing with personal coaching to improve the health of its members. Arivale raised more than $50 million in funding, employed 120 people, and served about 5,000 members over the life of its program. PREVIOUSLY: So optimistic was the company about this field that it trademarked the term “scientific wellness.” Seattle’s tech community voted Arivale the 2016 GeekWire Startup of the Year. Its co-founder, genomics legend Leroy “Lee” Hood, said when Arivale launched that the company “really stands a chance of being the Google or Microsoft of this whole arena.” It wasn’t to be. Four years later, Arivale , surprising its customers and employees, many of whom were left wondering what happened. Clayton Lewis, Arivale’s CEO, said in an interview that the company faced significant business headwinds, including the high costs of customer acquisition and genetic testing. But bigger picture, he said, the company also grappled with societal challenges, including the reluctance of Americans to invest in their health despite success stories among Arivale’s members. “I do not believe at this point that there is a meaningful market in the United States for a program that’s going to help people do something in the future,” he said. “I think that Americans, related to their health, are so living in the moment that the idea of optimizing your health so you can live this vibrant, joyful life as you age” isn’t appealing to enough people. But some former employees said Arivale also made things more difficult for itself. One former employee, who requested anonymity, told GeekWire that Arivale didn’t spend its marketing dollars effectively, focusing too much on events and parties rather than more effective digital campaigns; hired too many coaches and had many of them sitting idle for significant portions of the day; and had a culture where top executives seemed unwilling to take feedback from rank-and-file employees on ways that they and the company could improve. Arivale launched at a cost of $3,500 per year for its flagship program but had shifted to a model where many of its members were paying a $99/month subscription for ongoing genetic testing and coaching. Lewis said, in hindsight, he would have changed the way the company rolled out and priced its service. The company believed that it would see more adoption when it lowered its pricing and rolled out its service nationally after starting with a small number of states. “The mistake I would tell you I made as a CEO is that I drank my own Kool-Aid,” Lewis said. “For the first few years, we were not trying to rapidly scale the business because we wanted to prove the efficacy of the program. … Instead of launching with lower-cost, simpler programs, we stayed laser-focused on our flagship offering and we clearly did that to our peril.” Genomics pioneer Lee Hood, left, and Clayton Lewis, the CEO of Arivale. (GeekWire File Photo) Earlier this month, Hood about the future of Arivale. “In the future, we’ll be able to manage chronic diseases before they show up,” he said at an event hosted by Town Hall Seattle and the Institute for Systems Biology, which Hood co-founded. “We’re already doing this with Alzheimer’s, and early results look spectacular.” But Hood also admitted that Arivale’s wellness approach was “pretty expensive” at more than a thousand dollars per year. “In principle, most people spend a lot more money than that utter trivia. And if you could get healthy, I’d argue it’s a real bargain,” he said. Of Hood, Lewis said that “I’ve never met a man who’s a more determined optimist.” In the wake of the company’s closure, Lewis was blunter than Hood about the cost issues, calling the company’s research-based approach to wellness “wickedly expensive.” The startup’s resources were strained both by customer acquisition costs and the high price of novel testing services. Lewis said, “We tried an extraordinary number of ways to get people to join Arivale and we could not find a path to actually make that work as a viable business. Getting people into the program, the customer acquisition cost, we couldn’t master that.” Arivale CEO Clayton Lewis and co-founder Lee Hood accept the award for Startup of the Year at the 2016 GeekWire Awards. The company also had problems bringing down the costs of its services, such as tests for a person’s genetic makeup, microbiome and more than 40 blood markers. Arivale had expected the cost of those tests to fall more rapidly than they did. Paula Ladd, an entrepreneur who founded a genetic testing startup called SNPgenomics around the same time Arivale was getting started, said that the science can’t yet provide broad-based wellness advice. “What role does genetics plays in wellness? As a researcher, I don’t understand it well enough. How could the general public understand it?” Ladd said. Lewis agreed that Arivale arrived on the scene before its time. “We were very audacious,” he said. “What I believe is we were probably a decade too early.” Dr. Darren White, CEO of employee health and wellness startup Aduro, said a version of Arivale’s approach to personalized health coaching will inevitably reach consumers. “Health systems are already putting genetic testing inside primary care. It will be part of your annual visit with your doctor,” he said. Aduro does not yet incorporate genetic testing but plans to once costs decline sufficiently. Arivale competed in the wellness space with genetic testing companies like 23andMe, Orig3n and the Mayo Clinic’s GeneGuide. Startups that offered health advice based on microbiome tests include Voime, uBiome and Thryve. But Lewis said he considered Arivale unique in providing a comprehensive approach, with testing and coaching. Assessing rival firms, Lewis said that he thought genetic testing companies like 23andMe have been successful due to their lower, one-time price point and simpler offering, but he said that approach offers “surprise and delight” and “genetic entertainment” rather than improving health. As for those that give health advice based on microbiome tests, he said that some startups have made “false” claims. Last week, the wellness industry suffered a major blow after a looking at nearly 33,000 employees in workplace wellness programs found “no significant effects on clinical measures of health, health care spending and utilization, or employment outcomes after 18 months.” Human Longevity, a genomics startup backed by Celgene and DNA-sequencing company Illumina, late last year as investors lost faith in its ability to sell its services to wealthy individuals and pharmaceutical companies. Yet some data-driven wellness startups continue to draw funding. Viome, a startup that makes nutritional recommendations based on microbiome testing, recently in a round that included backing from Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff. Arivale attempted to win customers directly through a healthcare system to no avail. Working with Michigan-based Spectrum Health, Arivale launched a test program directly in a health clinic. “Despite the fact that, if you walked in, it basically was an Arivale commercial, we saw about a 10% conversion into the program,” Lewis said. Ladd said she thought the general public does not yet crave this sort of service. “I don’t come home from work wishing I had tested my microbiome, but I do wonder whether I have influenza or not,” she said. Despite the startup’s challenges, Lewis said it was able to bring around 20 percent of customers with prediabetic or heart disease indicators to within a normal range in six months. Lewis, who competes in Ironman triathlons, was able to overcome a prediabetic diagnosis by following Arivale’s program. In a statement this week, Hood acknowledged the company’s business challenges but said he’s still a believer in the larger vision. “We started Arivale with the goal of helping people improve wellness and avoid disease through personalized data and actionable health coaching. This approach has positively changed many lives and has shown great scientific merit. While Arivale’s direct-to-consumer model isn’t yet sustainable because of the high cost of the assays, I am proud of and thankful to everyone at Arivale for their dedication and devotion to this mission. They gave real meaning to the term scientific (or quantitative) wellness, which will be a major component of 21st century medicine.”
Praveen Seshadri, left, and Brian Sabino of AppSheet. (AppSheet Photo) Seattle startup has raised $15 million to fuel growth of its platform that helps businesses develop their own data-based apps without requiring a team of developers. Shasta Ventures led the round, with participation from existing investor New Enterprise Associates. Total funding to date is $19.3 million. Founded in 2014, AppSheet sells software that enables nearly 6,000 customers such as Husqvarna Group, Solvay, Tigo Guatemala, American Electric Power, M&O Partners, Boom Technology, and others to build “no-code” apps. More than 200,000 apps have been deployed using AppSheet and more than 18,000 “active app creators” build apps with AppSheet each month. Use cases include inventory management, CRM, and field service, and span across industries such as manufacturing, construction, scientific, and others. Examples of include those designed for requesting and tracking equipment maintenance; generating daily construction reports; or completing a pre-surgery checklist. AppSheet has been and natural language processing technology to further speed the creation of apps. AppSheet CEO launched AppSheet with , a former student in his database systems class at Cornell University. They had been exploring how mobile apps can make businesses more productive and discovered that businesses were hungry for modestly priced custom-built apps. AppSheet is among a number of platforms touting themselves as quick and easy app development platforms. The startup competes against products built by other Seattle-area companies such as Microsoft and K2 Software, as well as Siemens-owned Mendix, OutSystems, Betty Blocks. Asked about AppSheet’s secret sauce and differentiators, here’s what Seshadri shared with GeekWire: We disrupt traditional business software development across three dimensions: 1. Access: Our true no-code model allows every business user to create and innovate with apps without writing any code to build them. 2. Agility: Deployment of apps from the AppSheet intelligent no-code app platform is lightweight and instant. It is an order of magnitude more agile than a low-code solution, significantly more powerful, and comes at a fraction of the cost of using mainstream programming languages that convert a desired program into a sequence of low-level instructions computer hardware can execute. 3. Ambition: The expressive power of the AppSheet intelligent no-code platform is constantly improving. Our current generation of apps includes machine learning, rich integrations, micro-services, and are not limited to mobile/web apps. The fresh investment will be used to increase marketing spend and platform enhancements. AppSheet will also open a “center of machine learning excellence” in Portland, Ore. The company employs 20 people and expects headcount to grow to 50 over the next year. “We believe AppSheet’s demonstrated success with a broad horizontal customer base is a key indicator of its expected impact,” Ravi Mohan, managing director at Shasta Ventures, said in a statement. “There is no doubt that we are at the start of a technology revolution that will allow business users to create their own software solutions, and there is no doubt that AppSheet is the market-leading platform that will drive this transformation.” Other recent Shasta investments in Seattle-area companies include ; ; ; ; ; and . The firm is among a crop of Bay Area investors .
AskNicely CEO Aaron Ward. AskNicely Photo) It’s can be difficult to relocate your startup to a different city, let alone a different country. But the tech talent and affordability of Portland, Ore., made it an easy decision for . The CEO of just moved his company’s headquarters from New Zealand to the Rose City after it raised a $10 million investment round led by Nexus Venture Partners, with participation from Blackbird Ventures and K1W1. AskNicely sells “Net Promoter Score software” that helps companies bolster their customer feedback process. Ward said the access to “customer-facing tech talent” in Portland was part of why he moved his HQ. “Portlanders ‘get’ customer experience more than any other city I’ve seen in the world because the service culture here is so strong,” he said. “This means new recruits come pre-loaded with the customer experience gene which, in turn, helps us build an authentic customer obsessed culture. Another important factor is how the economics of Portland enable us to support a standard of living for our people that we’re proud of.” Founded in Auckland four years ago, AskNicely has more than 1,000 customers and 50 employees. The company competes against the likes of Qualtrics, Promoter, SurveyMonkey, and others. Total funding to date is $15 million. “We’ve been huge believers in customer experience as a major priority for companies globally, yet it’s surprising that most have no scalable way to systematically measure, analyze, and operationalize it.” Abhishek Sharma of Nexus Venture Partners said in a statement. “We were blown away by the ease of use and simplicity of AskNicely.” Earlier this week, wind turbine engineering firm Diamond WTG Engineering & Services moved its headquarters from California to Portland, per .
Chris Young, CEO and co-founder of ChefSteps, demonstrating the Joule sous vide cooking device at the GeekWire Summit in 2016. (GeekWire File Photo / Dan DeLong) , the high-tech cooking startup financed by video game titan Gabe Newell, cut an unspecified number of jobs on Wednesday, significantly scaling back its operations. But the company plans to remain in business, and continue selling and supporting its Joule sous vide cooking device, according to co-founder and CEO Chris Young. , ChefSteps built a community around online videos, vivid photographs and cooking insights from its expert founders, before expanding into hardware with the Joule device. , controlled via smartphone, heats water to precise temperatures to cook immersed food evenly over extended periods of time, using the sous vide cooking technique. A reported Wednesday that ChefSteps had “laid off almost their entire staff and will be shuttering day-to-day operations.” However, Young told GeekWire via text Wednesday evening that ChefSteps remains in business and will continue to sell and support Joule. Further details on the cutbacks weren’t immediately available. People familiar with ChefSteps said the company had employed about 50 people in addition to contractors. The company is currently of the Pacific Northwest’s top privately held companies. ChefSteps co-founders Chris Young, far left, and Grant Crilly, far right, with other early members of the ChefSteps team at their Pike Place Market studio and kitchen in 2012. (GeekWire File Photo / Todd Bishop) Young and co-founder Grant Crilly are known in part for their past roles collaborating with former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold, the Intellectual Ventures chief, on the epic . Young previously was the founding chef of Heston Blumenthal’s influential Fat Duck Experimental Kitchen. Crilly’s experience includes serving as chef de cuisine at Busaba in Mumbai and Mistral in Seattle, and head development chef at Delicious Planet. The company has been funded through a low-interest loan from Newell, head of video game company Valve, the operator of the Steam video game platform. In , the ChefSteps co-founders credited the funding from Newell with giving them the ability to focus on the long-term goals of building and serving a large, high-quality community of users, without the short-term pressures of monetizing that community or generating a quick return. It’s not an easy business: Another Seattle startup that made a sous vide device, Sansaire, .
Genomics pioneer Lee Hood, left, and Clayton Lewis, the CEO of Arivale. (GeekWire File Photo) Arivale, the genetic testing and personal health coaching startup co-founded by genomics pioneer Leroy “Lee” Hood, shut down unexpectedly Wednesday — bringing an abrupt end to its ambitions to transform the lives of Americans through a new field that Hood dubbed “scientific wellness.” All of the Seattle-based company’s approximately 120 employees were let go as of noon today, confirmed Arivale CEO Clayton Lewis in an interview. Arivale raised more than $50 million over its lifetime. The company offered ongoing wellness and nutritional coaching tailored to the results of each person’s genetic, blood and microbiome tests. The decision was a surprise to many Arivale employees and customers. In a message to Arivale customers this afternoon, the Seattle-based company attributed the decision to “the simple fact that the cost of providing the service exceeds what our customers can pay for it.” The message added, “We believe the costs of collecting the genetic, blood and microbiome assays that form the foundation of the program will eventually decline to a point where the program can be delivered to consumers cost-effectively. However, we are unable to continue to operate at a loss until that time arrives.” Lewis told GeekWire that the high cost of acquiring customers also played a role in the decision. “What is tragic on so many levels is that we were not successful in going out and convincing consumers that you could optimize your wellness and avoid disease with a little bit data and some changes in your lifestyle — that there’s not a market for that product that I believe in passionately,” Lewis said. “And that’s what we were trying to do.” About 5,000 people took part in the Arivale program over the lifetime of the company, and Lewis said he is “incredibly proud” of the results. The program launched at a cost of $3,500 per year, but the price had dropped to the point where most customers were paying $99 per month for the flagship Arivale program, Lewis said. CEO Clayton Lewis and members of the Arivale team accept the GeekWire Award for Startup of the Year in 2016. (GeekWire File Photo) The larger personal wellness industry includes heavyweights such as 23andMe, a genetic testing startup valued at more than $1 billion, and smaller players including EverlyWell, which , and Viome, the microbiome company led by Naveen Jain that . Global Wellness Institute that the preventative and personalized medicine and public health industry is worth $575 billion. Some of Arivale’s underlying work will continue at the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB), the not-for-profit biomedical research organization co-founded by Hood, where the ideas that led to Arivale were originally developed. ISB is now part of Providence St. Joseph Health, where Hood is chief science officer. Clayton said ISB is expected to hire some of the employees let go by Arivale as part of its closure. He declined to disclose details of the severance offered to employees, but said the same package was provided to all executives and employees. Investors in Arivale included Arch Venture Partners, Polaris, and Maveron, where Lewis worked full-time before joining Arivale as co-founder and CEO. Its scientific advisory board included George Church, a professor at Harvard and MIT; James Heath, president of Institute of Systems Biology; and Ed Lazowska, computer science professor at the University of Washington. “Lee Hood sees the future with unmatched clarity,” said Lazowska, an early participant in the Arivale program. “A clear view, however, does not always imply a short path. Scientific wellness, as pioneered by Arivale, will be a foundation of 21st century medicine. But not right now. Right now, the cost of providing the service (the tests, the coaching) exceeds what people are willing to pay. Those costs will fall in time, and Arivale’s model and Arivale’s discoveries will see another day.” Lewis said he has come to the believe that Arivale was about a decade too early. Arivale’s executive team included Sean Bell, chief operating officer; Jennifer Lovejoy, chief translational science officer; Mia Nease, head of healthcare and life sciences partnerships; Andrew Magis, director of research; Ashley Wells, chief product officer; and others. Hood, who led the Caltech team that pioneered the automated DNA sequencer, that Arivale was “the opening shot in a whole new industry called scientific wellness, and it really stands a chance of being the Google or Microsoft of this whole arena.” GeekWire chief business officer Daniel Rossi was a longtime customer of the program, and we chronicled his early experience with Arivale Here’s the text of the message sent to Arivale customers earlier today, a version of which was . To Our Customers, We are very sorry to inform you that, effective immediately, Arivale can no longer provide our program to you and our other customers. This letter explains why we are ending the consumer program and answers the questions you are likely to have about the process. Our decision to terminate the program today comes despite the fact that customer engagement and satisfaction with the program is high and the clinical health markers of many customers have improved significantly. Our decision to cease operations is attributable to the simple fact that the cost of providing the program exceeds what our customers can pay for it. We believe the costs of collecting the genetic, blood and microbiome assays that form the foundation of the program will eventually decline to a point where the program can be delivered to consumers cost-effectively. Regrettably, we are unable to continue to operate at a loss until that time arrives; in other words, we have concluded that it is simply too early for a direct-to-consumer scientific wellness offering to be viable. We founded Arivale with the vision of making personalized, data-driven, preventive coaching a new wellness paradigm in the United States. Since its launch in 2015, the results of the Arivale program have been remarkable. To cite but one example, our scientific paper describing the improvements seen in multiple health markers in ~2500 participants was recently accepted for publication in the journal Scientific Reports. While our direct-to-consumer model isn’t yet sustainable, we know that the Arivale program improved the lives of our customers and showed great scientific merit. We are proud of everyone at Arivale for their dedication and devotion to our mission and grateful to you and all of our other customers for joining us on this journey. Together, our efforts have launched a new paradigm—scientific or quantitative wellness—which, we are confident will become a major component of 21st century medicine. Developing story, more to come.
Cyemptive CEO Rob Pike. (Cyemptive Photo) Seattle-area cybersecurity startup today announced the acquisition of (ATG), a 14-year-old IT consulting service company also based in the Seattle region. The ten employees working for ATG will join Cyemptive, whose headcount is now north of 65 people. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Cyemptive came out of stealth mode , announcing a $3.5 million investment round from undisclosed investors. The company describes its cybersecurity software as an “automatic self-repairing reliable platform.” It sells products including an endpoint protection service and advanced perimeter firewalls, among others. Cyemptive’s executive team includes founder , who was previously an executive at Hitachi; , who was formerly chief information officer at Microsoft; and , who spent 30 years at the NSA, most recently as chief computer architect. The company plans to use ATG’s expertise in customer service and support to help serve its growing customer base of businesses and government clients. ATG founder and CEO Bryan Greene will join the Cyemptive management team. “Incorporating ATG’s already-established infrastructure of customer focus, service and support with our groundbreaking failsafe, pre-emptive cyber protection technologies is a natural next step in providing the best in cyber security solutions and support to them,” DuBois said in a statement.
The new blockchain startup incubator will open in Portland’s Pearl District. (Flickr Photo / ) An incubator designed to support startups developing blockchain products for businesses is launching in Portland this summer. The will bring a cohort of startups together to identify business problems that could be addressed by the burgeoning technology. A team of mentors will advise the entrepreneurs as they develop their enterprise blockchain products before presenting them at a demo event in October. Blockchain creates secure, decentralized records of transactions and investors on the technology’s possible applications in finance, retail, healthcare, and any business that requires record keeping. The new Portland incubator is a public-private partnership seeking to identify applications for blockchain that can be scaled by corporate partners. The goal is “to build a blockchain-based ecosystem, and position Oregon’s businesses and institutions to further compete globally,” according to R/GA Ventures, the organization behind the new incubator. R/GA Ventures is the investment arm of , an international advertising and marketing firm under the umbrella. “The intersection of the state’s technology workforce and commercial interests provides an opportunity for Oregon to be one of the first state sponsors of a public-private partnership to embrace blockchain technologies, potentially transforming how we live, work, play, learn, and govern,” R/GA said in a statement. The Oregon Enterprise Blockchain Venture Studio will launch July 29 and run through the October demo event. The incubator is currently accepting applications from startups. Technologists and government officials are already working to make the Pacific Northwest a blockchain hub. In March, the to give blockchain organizations a unified voice around public policy and marketing, as well as to create community and share resources.
Textio’s augmented writing platform analyzes documents to help writers maximize their impact. (Textio Graphic) , a Seattle startup that helps companies write better job listings, today introduced a new feature that uses artificial intelligence to speed up the writing process. allows business users to turn a handful of notes into a fully fleshed out block of text automatically. The new feature is a bit like Google’s Smart Compose, which suggests email responses or phrases as you type. But instead of a few words, Textio Flow thinks up whole paragraphs. It’s starting as a feature of Textio’s flagship tool for writing job postings but is expected to expand to other scenarios such as writing emails in the future. Textio Flow takes the crux of the user’s message and turns it into something more. In a job posting for a graphic designer, for example, the word “originality” might become “Are you an innovator with imagination and ingenuity?” The feature works with Textio’s existing product, which is able to suggest words that are more likely to attract job applicants and improve the diversity of those candidates. The idea is to get more and better responses with less work. Textio CEO Kieran Snyder said that she found it hard to go back to writing normally after using the new feature. “It’s hard to describe how old and broken it feels to write anywhere else,” she said. Textio’s customers tend to be large organizations that do a lot of hiring and want to save time, be consistent and attract the best applicants. “Textio Flow lets us get more intentional about the alignment between our words and our culture. And it’s fast — going from a few rough ideas to the best expression of those ideas takes minutes, not hours.” Terri Coligan, manager of recruiting enablement at Nestlé, said in a statement. Textio co-founders Kieran Snyder and Jensen Harris. (Linda Brooks Photography Photo) “You almost can’t get your head around the billions of words that get written by a company like Nestlé and Expedia every single day,” said Snyder. The suggestions are informed by the startup’s own large datasets, which help to pick words and phrases that statistically lead to better outcomes, as well as a library of the company’s past writing so that the suggestions reflect the brand. Initially, the Flow feature will be limited to Textio’s website. Eventually, it will roll out to Textio’s assistant on Gmail and LinkedIn. While job postings remain the main application for Textio’s product, the company wants to make its writing companion every email user’s best friend. “Email is the other big domain where this is powerful. Any time you write an email you want someone to answer you,” said Snyder.
The Raiin team is made up of current and former students at Western Washington University — including CEO and founder Nancie Weston. Back row, left to right: Clayton Foshaug, graphics (design major); Macall Prengel, actor (kinesiology major); Katie Winkleman, communications (communications major). Front row, left to right: Lucas Van Dyke, videographer (business major); Naia Shedd, graphics (design major); Weston; Michael Nguyen, editor and public relations (public relations major). Not shown: Ian Ferguson, actor (journalism major); Maks Mosses, videographer (public relations major); Dixon Kenley Lamb, website (computer science major). Inspiration can come from unlikely places. For , it sparked in a Goodwill thrift store. Seven years ago, Weston co-founded a company making water purification devices. The Seattle-based business produces water bottles targeted for the outdoors and travelers that filters out heavy metals, disease-causing bacteria, viruses and protozoa, and other contaminants. The bottles use a NASA-created filter and work like a French-press coffee maker where users force water through a filter-containing cartridge. Grayl scrapped its way to success, crowdsourcing support through and In 2015, Grayl announced that from angel investors. Weston was eager to expand the Grayl line to products for home use. After all, it’s easy to find news headlines warning of lead and other contaminants in the water that flows into houses and apartments, schools and other buildings from to The leadership and the board at Grayl, however, were focused on a different use and audience, Weston said. So she left the company in 2017, retaining shares in the business. Then came Weston’s a-ha moment at Goodwill. She was fiddling with a cup with a plastic top and squishy container when she was struck by an idea. She wondered if the squishy cup could be used to create suction to pull the water through a filter. The idea worked, and Weston quickly moved on to applying the technology to a larger pitcher that could meet home-filtration needs. Last year, Weston launched to create the suction-driven, water-filtering pitcher. “I started Raiin to continue my vision of bringing clean water to households and disaster areas around the world,” Weston said. “If families had these water pitchers in these disaster situations, it would stop palette loads of [bottled] water from going overseas. Bottled water drives me crazy, it’s so wasteful.” Despite her previous success, Weston struggled to find investors. She was running out of money and reached out to, which referred her to an entrepreneurship class at Western Washington University (WWU). Weston made her pitch and connected to a team of students eager to help. The undergraduates offered their public relations-focused services for free, but Weston is granting them stock in the startup. Raiin doesn’t have a specific home, ranging from Seattle to Bellingham, Wash., where WWU is located. A prototype of the Raiin pitcher. (Raiin Photo) There are numerous home water filtration options already on the market, including well-known Brita pitchers and more expensive systems installed into home plumbing. Weston hopes to offer an affordable alternative that removes more pollutants than Brita via smaller filters that create less waste. The Raiin team is , on Earth Day 2019. The 30-day, publicly-funded campaign aims to raise at least $20,000 to fund a final prototype. If the fundraising goes well, $300,000 would cover the production of a first batch of pitchers and $500,000 would pay for full production. A $49 pledge will buy contributors a pitcher, if all goes well. The market price for a pitcher will be $74. “I’ve done so much research about water, and it’s just crazy what’s in our water,” Weston said. “You just can’t see it, and we’re drinking all of that.” We caught up with Weston for this Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for her answers to our questionnaire. Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: I started a company called Raiin and invented a water pitcher that filters and purifies germs and toxins out of water anywhere in the world, fast. Inspiration hit us when: I was in a Goodwill, of all places, and I found a cup that was squishy on the bottom and hard plastic on the top and thought, “Wait a minute, I could add a filter to this and it would suck the water right through!” I added a filter and it worked! That night I slept on the idea and came up with the design for the pitcher. VC, Angel or Bootstrap: Bootstrap. I went to investors and they all said the same thing: “We don’t invest in hard products, only software, wearable tech or apps.” After six months I was out of money and I had to make the switch to Kickstarter. With no money I went to WWU and pitched my idea to a group of students in the entrepreneur program. Nancie Weston, founder and CEO of Raiin. (Raiin Photo) After class a guy walked up to me and said, “We just started a company and I have all the staff you need to help with Kickstarter. Two videographers, a lighting person, a makeup person, actors and actresses, a website person, two graphic artists, a social media and PR person…for free!” They needed the experience and for their resume. I was an alumna from WWU so we all hit it off. One of the kids was recently shocked when he read a WWU newspaper headline: “Lead found in the pipes of the old buildings on campus.” In two months, we’ve put together everything from branding to a video. We . Our ‘secret sauce’ is: Unlike all the other water filter pitchers out on the market that only filter odor, flavor and a few heavy metals, Raiin’s pitcher filters pharmaceuticals and chemicals and purifies things like bacteria, viruses and protozoa. It is faster than other pitchers — and it’s fun. The smartest move we’ve made so far: Finding these great “kids” at WWU. They are super driven, going to school, working jobs, managing social lives and doing with Kickstarter for me. They are amazing! I am learning from them and they are learning from me. Nancie Weston, Raiin founder and CEO, working on her device. (Raiin Photo) The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: For six months I went in front of investors to raise money. I should have gone straight to Kickstarter. Being a woman raising money is hard. Less than 10 percent of women get funded. I even had an investor actually say they wouldn’t give me money unless I had a male partner! Really? Which entrepreneur or executive would you want working in your corner? Richard Branson. He has charisma, is driven, fun, smart and knows how to pivot fast when things are going right. I would love to have him in my corner. Our favorite team-building activity is: We don’t have time for a team building activity. I wish we did! We met two months ago and it’s been crazy getting ready to launch on Kickstarter. The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: People who are passionate about your company, products and vision. People who are driven. They don’t need to be told what to do, they see things that need to get done and they just do it. What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: You and your team have to be passionate about what you are doing or you won’t make it through the tough times. There are so many times I wanted to quit, but knowing that the water filter pitchers that are currently on the market are unregulated and just remove odor, flavor and a little bit of lead, I had to keep going to keep people from potentially getting sick from the water we are all drinking.
CI Security’s Kraken Signal on the wall of its office. (CI Security Photo) A cybersecurity startup that pairs software with analysts who review and investigate attacks raised $9.6 million to continue battling intrusions against companies of all sizes, as well as healthcare and government organizations. CI Security CEO Garrett Silver. (CI Security Photo) In addition to the cash infusion, the company has changed its name from to . CEO Garrett Silver said the new name doesn’t mean a major shift in the business is on the way. It’s more about simplicity and reflecting the company’s core priorities and Critical Insight platform. “It gives customers critical insight into the threats they’re facing so we can help them manage, detect and respond,” Silver said of the company’s offerings. The new Series B round, led by a previous investor in Alan Frazier’s , brings the company to nearly $16 million in lifetime funding. The company has 68 employees, with its home office in Seattle and security operations centers in Bremerton and Ellensburg, Wash. The company is planning to expand the security centers, and the new funding round will help with that. Security and tech giants like ADT and Cisco Systems are in the “Managed detection and response” market that includes CI Security. One place where CI Security stands out, Silver says, is its offerings for healthcare and government organizations. The company’s office in Bremerton, Wash. (CI Security Photo) “Core to our mission is defending organizations that protect the health of our communities,” Silver said. “We’re seeing growth in our healthcare customer base as well as growth in our public sector customer base. We’re honored to be defending hospitals, clinics, cities, ports, and school districts. We want to help those organizations keep patients alive, keep the lights on, and keep our water clean.” Citing predictions from Silver said companies spent $96 billion on cybersecurity technology in 2018, yet attacks continue to impact organizations of all kinds. One big problem is a major shortage of qualified cybersecurity experts in the field, Silver said. CI Security’s technology is meant to amplify its human talent, not solve every problem on its own. Silver claims CI Security experts can spot attacks and help remove them much faster than the competitors: “in hours or minutes instead of months.” “There are threats everyday like phishing, crypto-mining, and malicious intruders,” Silver said. “When those threat actors get into a system, the industry standard is that it often takes months or years to detect them — the average is about 200 days. That’s not acceptable.”
An example of iUNU’s computer vision technology for monitoring cannabis and other indoor agriculture operations. iUNU’s cameras and AI monitors minute movements in plants to increase greenhouse efficiency. The company is based in Seattle. (iUNU Photo) If you happen to be searching for pot sales analytics today, on the annual celebrated by marijuana aficionados, look no further than the Pacific Northwest. Seattle startup , a marijuana retail business data intelligence provider, knows that sales grew by 111 percent on this day last year. , a Kirkland, Wash.-based cryptocurrency company serving the cannabis business, found that dispensaries in Washington, Colorado, and California saw a 91 percent increase in customers during last year’s festivities and a 22 percent increase in average transaction value. Headset and POSaBIT are just two of countless cannabis-related startups based in cities such as Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver B.C. Not only has this region been “the epicenter of cannabis culture in North America,” but it is also a “hub for innovative tech companies,” said , who recently an executive role at Amazon to become CEO at Seattle-based marijuana discovery platform . As a result, Leslie said Seattle is “well positioned” to be a cannabis tech hub. That’s helped along by the Northwest’s granola-crunchy, free-spirited culture, which is also somehow home to a Type-A, finish-it-yesterday tech culture. “People in this area get it,” said , POSaBIT’s co-founder and CEO. “They understand [cannabis] is a true business opportunity. As I travel around the United States … it blows me away on how the social stigmas and everything around cannabis are so much stricter.” Hamlin said he loves being in Washington, an epicenter of technical talent thanks to homegrown companies such as Amazon and Microsoft, for giants including Google, Facebook, Oracle, Uber, and others, and hundreds of smaller startups. Sure, the Bay Area is seeing a similar cannabis tech renaissance thanks to its own blend of expertise and culture. But Washington legalized recreational pot six years before California. That gave Northwest cannabis tech companies a head start in learning the industry’s needs and developing their products and business models. One of POSaBIT’s cryptocurrency point-of-sale units for cannabis retailers. (POSaBIT photo) The cannabis business is growing up — the legal marijuana industry grew to in the U.S. last year — and the tech companies serving pot enterprises are growing right along with it. And where cannabis-tech companies have typically sought to connect a fragmented, cash-only business emerging (more or less) from the black market, many are now talking about even more sophisticated systems — AI, computer vision, cryptocurrency and big data. Cannabis tech is entering a new era, and the Northwest is a key hub. Call it “Northwest Cannabis Tech 2.0.” “You’re seeing a second wave of noise,“ said , the co-founder and CEO of , a Seattle-based company that uses artificial intelligence and computer vision to increase the efficiency of greenhouse operations, including indoor cannabis farms. ”What you’re seeing is a market that’s become much more mature than the other markets around the country, around the world.” In Seattle alone, there’s Leafly, the online cannabis directory, which was bought by Seattle cannabis investing firm in 2011. Just across downtown in Capitol Hill is , another online cannabis directory, acquired in 2016 by Nesta.co, a Canadian pot private equity firm. In March, , a Redmond, Wash., provider of cannabis point-of-sale and tracking software, Seattle pot sales software company Soro, which came out of beta only last year. Together, the companies have set out to build what Soro founder and current Dauntless chief product officer calls “an entire ecosystem around what it means to be a cannabis business.“ There are plenty of British Columbia tech companies as well, and they’re theoretically on steadier ground because Canada legalized recreational pot at the federal level last year. One of the most prominent is , the medical marijuana manufacturer also owned by Privateer Holdings and helmed by Privateer co-founder , who upwards of $31 million in compensation last year — more than Satya Nadella or Jeff Bezos. And to the south, there is, of course, Portland, which has its own celebrating the city’s Bohemian sensibility and is perhaps an even pot-friendlier town than Seattle. There, you’ll find , a point of sale product for dispensary owners, as well as the pot genetic testing company , among others. Phylos Bioscience sells a kit that identifies cannabis plant seedlings seven days after germination. The company is based in Portland. (Phylos Bioscience Photo) Anyone who got a front-row seat for the dot-com boom of the 1990s will surely recall all the hype — big words and jargon that, as it turned out, weren’t backed by actual revenue. By the end of the decade, tech stocks imploded, wiping out a wave of tech 1.0 companies whose shares had once soared. While there hasn’t been a pot-tech implosion (at least not yet) and there is certainly still plenty of hype, Greenberg said cannabis customers are demanding better tech, which is placing more demand on vendors to move beyond talk and develop fast, powerful software. “You have to really perform in Washington,” said the IUNU CEO, adding that pot tech companies in this new phase increasingly face “pressure to put up or get out.” That pressure, and the expertise of startup founders and workers jumping ship from Microsoft and Amazon to work in the cannabis business, means Northwest tech companies typically build very solid pot software, Greenberg said. POSaBIT CEO Ryan Hamlin. (POSaBIT Photo) “I’d definitely put the companies in the Northwest in a favorable position,” said Greenberg, whose company $7.5 million in February in a round led by Bootstrap Labs and NCT Ventures. Total funding in IUNU is more than $13 million. “You’re going to have a lot of winners and successful companies in the Northwest around that tech,” he added. POSaBIT began trading April 8 on the Canadian Securities Exchange under the ticker symbol PBIT. It opened at $0.28 per share and closed Friday at $0.37 cents per share. U.S. pot companies such as POSaBIT have been flocking to the CSE because it’s far more liberal than other exchanges when it comes to cannabis stocks. POSaBIT makes it possible for customers to walk into a cannabis store and convert their cash to Bitcoin, which they can then use to buy pot. Because of federal prohibition, legal cannabis is still a cash-only industry, which has produced any number of headaches, from difficulty banking cannabis revenues to the security concerns that come with any cash enterprise. Hamlin, POSaBIT’s CEO, said a lot of those problems can be solved with cryptocurrency. POSaBIT was born during a campfire chat with friends about about the technology needs of the emerging marijuana business. “It was the combination of, OK — cash-only problem, massive industry, cryptocurrency. How could they all come together?” said Hamlin, a former Microsoft general manager. “And that’s when the ‘aha!’ moment was. Well, you can use a debit and credit card to purchase cryptocurrency. And you can use cryptocurrency to buy cannabis.” Leafly co-founder Cy Scott and his colleagues celebrate the App of the Year award at the 2014 GeekWire Awards. (GeekWire File Photo) POSaBIT launched in 22 Washington cannabis stores in 2017. In 2018, it had expanded into Colorado, California, Oklahoma and Nevada. By the end of the year, POSaBIT had processed nearly $22 million in sales through its payment system. Like Greenberg, Hamlin said his cannabis industry customers are demanding a new level of sophistication from his software. One of the ways he’s trying to meet that need is to leverage bitcoin transactions to gather anonymous customer spending data and provide his clients with market research, a much-coveted service in an industry that has been cash-only since, well, at least the Monterey Pop Festival. “I can tell you precisely who a manufacturer is,” Hamlin said. “I can tell you (the ages and genders of those) buying. Males from 45 to 55 tend to buy edibles and they tend to buy them on Thursday night and they also live in these zip codes … that’s a gold mine.” Headset, the Seattle pot analytics and market data company started by Leafly co-founder , is providing similar metrics. Last month, Nielsen, best known for its TV ratings, and Deloitte forged a with Headset to provide U.S. and Canadian pot manufacturers with one of their first looks into how their customers think about cannabis, how often they use it and which brands they buy, among other data. Headset is an example of a Pacific Northwest pot tech ecosystem that’s already maturing. Scott originally founded Leafly in Irvine, Calif., but the company relocated its headquarters to Seattle after Privateer Holdings — the Seattle-based marijuana investment firm — acquired Leafly. Scott has stuck around town and is building another fast-growing cannabis tech company. Hamlin, POSaBIT’s CEO, noted that “you come to Washington and you don’t think twice.” “It’s part of doing business, so to speak,” he said.
— When he invented the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee had a specific vision for how it would evolve, and things haven’t gone exactly as he planned. At its inception, the web was supposed to be a place to create as much as receive information. But web browsers quickly eliminated the ability to edit pages, essentially cutting out half of Berners-Lee’s vision. While things have been moving in the right direction, Berners-Lee, working with MIT, is looking to continue the trend with a new open-source technology called Solid. The Solid community is hosting a May 2 where developers and anyone interested in the new technology can learn what it’s all about. — For most entrepreneurs, figuring out exactly what you want to do with your business can be the easy part. But bringing that business into reality often takes outside investment. And that’s where it gets tricky. Perfecting your pitch and getting your idea in front of the right people at the right time can be not only a challenge but a frustrating process of trial and error. Odds are, you’re going to need some help along the journey. Volition Events is hosting the inaugural on April 26. Part of the Women in Tech Regatta, the event offers a place where you can practice your 3-minute pitch and get valuable feedback on how to improve it. Here are more highlights from the GeekWire Calendar: : A conference to discuss technology’s future in various life science fields at the Washington State Conference Center in Seattle; Wednesday, April 24 – Thursday, April 25. : An event where five startups pitch their companies to the audience at The Collective in Seattle; 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, April 25. : A shark-tank style event where local entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to earn capital at New Holly Gathering Hall in Seattle; 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, April 25. : An event focused on the preservation of physical as well as digital properties in the event of a disaster at the Living Computers: Museum and Lab in Seattle; Friday, April 26 – Saturday, April 27. : A talk about technology as it applies to air travel at the Sheraton Seattle; 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, April 26. : A presentation for startups about how to cope with business challenges at CoMotion Labs at the University of Washington in Seattle; 12 to 1 p.m. Friday, April 26. A presentation about tactics to have a successful interview for engineering careers at Code Fellows in Seattle; 12:15 to 1 p.m. Friday, April 26. For more upcoming events, check out the , where you can find meetups, conferences, startup events, and geeky gatherings in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Organizing an event? .
(Convoy Image) After years of development and testing, today launched a new marketplace that helps small trucking companies get access to potential business traditionally available to only large carriers. The Seattle startup, valued at more than $1 billion with investors such as Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates, develops technology to match truck drivers with shippers looking to move freight. It aims to disrupt a $800 billion U.S. trucking industry. Today the company officially Convoy Go, a “drop and hook” marketplace that lets any carrier haul pre-loaded trailers which represent the majority of Fortune 500 company shipments. About 90 percent of U.S. trucking companies operate six or fewer trucks, according to Convoy, but they typically don’t have enough capital to invest in a trailer pool network across the country to access the pre-loaded trailers. As a result, only large carriers are able to handle those orders. Here’s how Convoy CEO Dan Lewis explained Convoy Go to today: “If a company is shipping a truckload of shampoo, they have two options. The first is, they can hire a truck that rolls in with its own trailer. The trailer is empty, so the truck has to wait for an appointment time. It then pulls up to the dock and gets loaded. It might be 2-to-3 hours before that truck can leave. With Convoy Go, they can pre-load the trailer with the shampoo. So the trucks rolls in, hooks into that trailer and drives away. It’s super efficient. That wasn’t ever available to these small trucking companies ever. Before, you had to have the capital to buy and position all these large trailer pools at different facilities around the country. With Convoy Go, we actually have a universal trailer pool and we’re making it available to any trucking company, even a one-truck owner-operator, so they can get all the same benefits, and more shippers and more trucking companies can participate in this super efficient model. It actually saves a lot of time, waste, and energy.” Convoy said Convoy Go can increase carrier productivity by up to 50 percent. In its blog post, Convoy said that “up to a third of the cost of truck freight in the U.S. is attributable to time spent either waiting for appointments, or waiting at the dock to load and unload. This massive amount of waste has a direct impact on increased transportation costs, decreased drivers’ earnings and reduced overall trucking capacity for shippers.” Convoy launched just three years ago and has already raised $265 million, including a giant this past September led by Google’s VC arm that propelled the startup to unicorn status. The investment is a finalist in the at the . The Seattle startup has competition in the form of traditional brokers such as publicly-traded giant , while freight operators themselves are to keep up with demand. There are also newer direct competitors including ; ; ; ; and others. Uber called out Convoy as a competitor to Uber Freight . Other Convoy investors Expedia Chairman Barry Diller, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Code.org founders Hadi and Ali Partovi, and former Starbucks president Howard Behar.
Winners of the 2018 EY Entrepreneur of the Year Awards. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) EY on Thursday the Pacific Northwest region finalists for its annual Entrepreneur of the Year program that recognizes top business leaders. The nominees lead companies across various industries such as healthcare, marketing, logistics, and more. This year’s regional winners will be announced at a special June 14 at the King Street Ballroom & Perch and go on to compete in the national competition, which is now in its 33rd year. Several of the nominees and their companies are also among the finalists at the , including folks such as Rajeev Singh, Jessie Woolley-Wilson, Ty Collins, and Mike Radenbaugh, as well as startups such as Flexe, Highspot, and Zipwhip. Last year’s included Auth0 CEO Eugenio Pace; iSpot.tv CEO Sean Muller; Snap! Raise CEO Cole Morgan; and others. Here are the 2019 finalists, which were picked by a panel of independent judges. Rajeev Singh, CEO | Accolade, Inc. (Seattle, Washington) Aaron James, COO & David Steinberg, CEO | Adpearance (Portland, Oregon) Kabir Shahani, CEO & Derek Slager, CTO | Amperity (Seattle, Washington) Chris Moore, CEO | Concord Technologies (Seattle, Washington) Jessie Woolley-Wilson, President and CEO | DreamBox Learning, LLC (Bellevue, Washington) Bobby Balachandran, CEO | Exterro (Beaverton, Oregon) Karl Siebrecht, Co-founder and CEO | FLEXE, Inc. (Seattle, Washington) Derrick Morton, Co-founder and CEO & Douglas Pearson, Co-founder and CTO| FlowPlay Seattle, Washington) Jason Greer, President | General UI LLC (Seattle, Washington) Alissa Leinonen, Founder and CEO | Gourmondo Catering & Cafe Co (Seattle, Washington) Madeline Haydon, CEO | nutpods (Bellevue, Washington) Robert Wahbe, Co-Founder and CEO | Highspot (Seattle, Washington) Michael K Lester, CEO | LifeStance Health (Bellevue, Washington) Henry Albrecht, CEO | Limeade (Bellevue, Washington) Rajeev Agarwal, Founder and CEO | MAQ Software (Redmond, Washington) Kyle Stavig, CEO | Myers Container LLC (Portland, Oregon) Peggy Jarvis Miller, CEO | Pacific Star Communications, Inc. (“PacStar”) (Portland, Oregon) Ty Collins, CMO & Mike Radenbaugh, CEO | Rad Power Bikes (Seattle, Washington) Jacob Weatherly, Co-founder and CEO | SheerID (Portland, Oregon) Jordan Allen, CEO | Stay Alfred (Spokane, Washington) John Lauer, Co-founder and CEO | Zipwhip (Seattle, Washington)