(Viome Photo) , a wellness startup from entrepreneur , has raised $25 million in funding from a crop of investors that includes Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff. Jain said the new cash, which brings the Seattle-area startup’s total funding to $45 million, would be used to fund research into the link between the human microbiome and chronic diseases including diabetes, autoimmune disorders and Parkinson’s, as well as cancers. Naveen Jain. (Viome Photo) “We are now doing a bunch of clinical studies with 15 or so separate diseases,” said Jain. The aim of the studies, which are looking at diseases as wide-ranging as insomnia and pancreatic cancer, is to “understand exactly what’s happening inside the human body so that we can predict, prevent and reverse chronic diseases,” he said. Viome analyzes its customers’ microbiomes through stool samples in order to make food recommendations for health or weight loss. The idea is to foster health through microbes, which make up more than half of the cells in the human body. The funding round included return investor Bold Capital as well as Physician Partners, Hambrecht Healthcare Growth Venture Fund, and Matthew Harris of Global Infrastructure Partners. Viome said the financing was part of a series B round in which the company aims to raise $100 million. “People are investing because we’re solving a massive problem,” Jain said. “[Benioff] is a very happy customer and he said, ‘I want to be part of it.'” The Salesforce CEO has shown an interest in mental health and wellness, adding meditation rooms to the Salesforce offices and investing in Thrive Global, a wellness startup founded by Arianna Huffington. A spokesperson for Benioff declined to comment when contacted by GeekWire. Jain says the company’s competitive edge lies in its RNA sequencing technology, which emerged from defense work at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Viome uses machine learning algorithms with the aim of predicting the body’s response to certain foods based on the composition of an individual’s microbiome. Researchers cast doubt These claims have drawn criticism. Jonathan Eisen, a professor at UC Davis, the “Theranos of the microbiome world” on Twitter last year, referencing Elizabeth Holmes’ blood testing startup that became infamous for false claims about its technology. “My issue with Viome was overstating the state of the science,” Eisen told GeekWire. “There’s no scientific support for any of their tools.” The Viome material on Amazon is filled with completely misleading overselling snake oil – e.g. they claim they can tell you "exactly which foods to eat and which to avoid in order to support your wellness" — Jonathan Eisen (@phylogenomics) In the early 2000s, Jain for claims he made about InfoSpace, a high-flying internet business that fell to earth during the dot-com bust. Jain later went on to co-found public records firm Intelius as well as Moon Express, which aims to . (Viome Screenshot) Jain responded to the criticism by saying that Viome’s underlying technology is superior to the microbiome sequencing technology used by other companies. Eisen once served as an advisor to Viome competitor uBiome. Several startups have set out to give health insights based on an analysis of gut bacteria, including and . And the promise of the microbiome has caught the attention of investors. Cowboy Ventures founder Aileen Lee, famous for coining the term “Unicorn” to describe billion-dollar startups, recently about the brain-gut connection and her own dietary experiments. “Changes in diet can modulate the microbiome and have an effect on health,” said Sean Gibbons, an assistant professor at the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle. But Gibbons said it’s too early to draw conclusions about the specific effect of individual foods on a person’s health. “For anyone to claim that there’s a general purpose algorithm that can predict health from the microbiome is sort of a sci-fi, weird claim to make this point,” he said. Prominent endorsements for Viome That’s not to say that tinkering with the microbiome doesn’t have potential. Fecal transplants, which insert gut bacteria from healthy people into sick patients, have proven to be , a bacteria that infects nearly 500,000 Americans each year. Viome has received endorsements from health and wellness celebrities like , as well as . The startup recently partnered with Helomics, a precision medicine company, to study the link between the gut microbiome and ovarian cancer. Viome from Campbell Soup earlier this year for an undisclosed sum. The company has nearly 150 employees across six locations, including its headquarters in Bellevue, Wash. and offices in San Diego, Santa Clara, Calif., New York, Bangalore and Los Alamos, N.M. Viome is Jain’s seventh venture and the first to come out of his Bellevue-based innovation factory. BlueDot looks for market opportunities for technology developed at leading research labs, with a focus on the health and energy sectors.
Kids on 45th CEO Elise Worthy. (Kids on 45th Photo) had long been Seattle’s most well-known and oldest children’s consignment store. But in 2017, nearly 30 years after it opened, the tiny Wallingford retail shop was ready to shut down. That’s when stepped in and bought the business. Two years later, the tech entrepreneur has turned an old-school brick-and-mortar concept into an innovative e-commerce service that has shipped 500,000 items of used kids clothing to customers across the country. And now the Seattle startup is raising cash from top-tier investors to help fuel its growth. announced a $3.3 million funding round from YesVC, an early-stage firm co-founded by Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake; Maveron, the Seattle firm that previously backed e-commerce giants such as Zulily and eBay; and other investors including SoGal Ventures, Sesame Street Ventures, Collaborative Fund, Liquid 2 VC, and Brand Foundry Ventures. The company offers a unique solution to a problem that parents with young children often face: buying affordable clothes for their growing kids. The service takes advantage of partnerships with nonprofits and thrift organizations to source a supply of “nearly new” kids clothing that is discounted by 70-to-90 percent off similar products online. Customers select the types and sizes of clothing they need — four pairs of pants, three long-sleeve shirts, two dresses, etc. — and Kids on 45th stylists put together a curated box that is shipped to doorsteps. Items sell for as low as $1.99 each and an average of $3.29. There is no browsing process and the entire shopping experience is designed to take less than two minutes. “All of our competitors and incumbents rely on either a browse or discovery process,” Worthy told GeekWire. “We are specifically anti-browse. If you’re a mom who has a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old and they outgrow their pants, you won’t delightfully browse through clothes. You just want to solve the pants problem.” (Kids on 45th Photo) Worthy previously co-founded Seattle-based , a free nonprofit coding school for women that has graduated 250 students since in 2015. She left the day-to-day work at Ada in 2017 and had the opportunity to purchase Kids on 45th from the original owner. “It seemed like such a treasure trove of data,” said Worthy, who serves as CEO. “I thought it would be so cool to buy the store and figure out how to bring it online to be a web-scaled business.” Worthy not only started analyzing years and years of Kids on 45th purchasing data, but also observed customer experiences inside the store. Moms, especially those who don’t enjoy recreationally shopping, just wanted something to replace the clothes that their kids had outgrown. “It dawned on me that we were investing time in a browse experience that our customers didn’t want,” said Worthy, who has two young sons herself. The company has 15 employees in Seattle and another 15 people at its warehouse in Texas where garments are sorted into 350 categories. It has developed an efficient supply chain and distribution model to help keep handling costs low — it’s how items can be priced at such steep discounts, or as the company notes, “cheaper than Goodwill and Walmart.” Worthy described Kids on 45th as a “StitchFix-like experience without the cost or required subscription,” referencing the popular online clothing box service that also sells kids clothing. “We try to bring the StitchFix experience to 90 percent of Americans where that’s just not possible,” Worthy noted. Jason Stoffer, partner at Maveron who was an early board member at e-commerce giant Zulily, said the “rise in value retail offline has been unable to be replicated online until now, due to the difficulties of making the business model work.” “Elise and the Kids on 45th team have been able to sell clothing at radically low price points by challenging some of the shopping behaviors that have been accepted as a given up until this point,” he said in a statement. “They pass more savings onto their customers by pairing a global sourcing supply chain with taking on the burden of selection from moms, thereby reducing handling costs like photos, mannequins and returns.” Worthy added that “we are really happy with the unit economics of this business.” Kids on 45th also has an eye on sustainability, given the nature of its business, and hopes to help lessen the that are thrown into landfills each year. The company recently launched a new buy-back program that lets customers send in used clothes and receive Kids on 45th credit. Worthy said the startup will prove out its model with kids clothing before exploring other potential verticals. There are no plans to open more brick-and-mortar locations but Worthy said she’s open to the idea.
(DogSpot Photo) The nation’s fanciest dog houses are coming to the most dog-friendly city in the U.S. , the maker of shared dog houses that you can rent by the minute, is launching in Seattle as part of a national expansion. The startup has partnered with grocery chain QFC for an initial roll-out of eight houses that are set to launch by early June. Just how fancy are the houses? They come with air conditioning and ultraviolet lights to disinfect the interior between uses. Pet parents can even check in on their pups during their stay through a “puppy cam” on the DogSpot app. Dog owners can book a house up to 15 minutes in advance or on arrival. The company’s cloud-based platform operates on Microsoft Azure. “[DogSpot] is good for local business, and it’s good for dog owners to have one of their problems solved. And it’s great for dogs because they get more walks and more quality time with the people they love,” said Rebecca Eyre, director of communications at DogSpot. DogSpot launched in New York City in 2016, but abruptly removed all 50 of their dog houses last year following conflicts with the city. Eyre said that new legislation, which will enable the company to return to its hometown, should pass in the next few months. The startup has raised $5.8 million to date. DogSpot is avoiding zoning problems by leasing the houses to local businesses, which will keep them on private property. For pet owners, the rental rate is $0.30 per minute, but QFC will offer the houses for free to shoppers. DogSpot is actively looking for additional partners who want to put the dog houses outside of their buildings. The company has 60 houses across 14 states, with many located at rest stops along freeways in New York and Connecticut. “Grocery stores and rest areas are huge pain points for dog owners who need to stop but have their pets and have no safe alternative,” said Eyre. For the time being, DogSpot doesn’t have any obvious competition. “We’re kind of the only dog in the fight, so to speak, for this specific piece of technology,” said Eyre, who grew up in Redmond, Wash., near Seattle. Seattle was recently ranked the by Rover and Redfin, which looked at factors including the number of dog walkers, the walk score of apartment buildings and share of property listings that included the word “dog.” When asked if DogSpot would ever partner with Rover, the Seattle-based tech platform for dog sitters and walkers, Eyre said the startup would be happy to. “We have some existing relationships with some key folks there, looking for the right opportunity,” she said. In addition to Seattle, DogSpot is also making a push into Washington, D.C. The startup initially launched as Dog Parker, but rebranded last year as it geared up for the national expansion. “I was wanting to change the name for so long because we never use the language of parking your dog,” Eyre said. “The national expansion with our last chance to do a rebrand.” DogSpot doesn’t have any Seattle-based employees but eventually plans to hire a local community manager.
(Outreach Photo) Seattle has a new unicorn. Outreach CEO Manny Medina. (Outreach Photo) Sales automation startup has reeled in a huge $114 million investment round that pushes its valuation to $1.1 billion, joining an elite club of other fast-growing companies also valued above $1 billion. “That’s right: Outreach is officially a ‘unicorn’ and the only one in the rapidly growing sales engagement space,” Outreach CEO wrote in a . Outreach has been on a roll for the past few years with its software that uses machine learning to help customers such as Cloudera, Adobe, Microsoft, Docusign, and others automate and streamline communication with sales prospects. The technology offers one system to track all touch points, from phone calls to emails to LinkedIn messages, and integrates with existing tools including Salesforce and Gmail. Outreach more than doubled its revenue in 2018 and met all goals and metrics, Medina told GeekWire earlier this year. The company now has more than 3,300 customer accounts and 50,000-plus users. It employs 315 people and plans to reach 450 by the end of 2019. Medina said the company will continue to invest in its hometown, with a goal of becoming “the next enterprise beacon of Seattle.” Lone Pine Capital, a Greenwich, Conn.-based hedge fund manager, led the Series E round. Meritech Capital Partners and Lemonade Capital joined the round, as did existing investors DFJ Growth, Four Rivers Group, Mayfield, Microsoft Ventures, Sapphire Ventures, Spark Capital and Trinity Ventures. Lone Pine Capital previously invested in Convoy, another Seattle startup that . Other companies with valuations north of $1 billion in the Seattle region include Rover and OfferUp. (Outreach Photo) The $114 million round for Outreach follows a $65 million round that came in this past May. Total funding to date is $239 million. “This financing will enable us to infuse every aspect of the customer journey with the power of machine learning so organizations can identify the actions that move the needle in order to make better, faster decisions,” Medina wrote in the blog post. “We will also expand in the coming months by doubling our machine learning team, increasing our international footprint, and investing in our partner ecosystem, Galaxy, as well as our recently announced integration with Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 for Sales.” Medina told GeekWire in February that “this upcoming year we will make more investments in scaling the business efficiently and prepare for an IPO a few years out.” Medina, a former director at Microsoft, originally launched a recruiting software startup called GroupTalent in 2011 with his co-founders Andrew Kinzer, Gordon Hempton, and Wes Hather. But the entrepreneurs in 2014 to focus on building tools for salespeople. “Outreach is one of my favorite stories,” Founders Co-op’ Managing Partner Chris DeVore, an early Outreach investor, . “The business they set out to build wasn’t working, but because they stuck together as a founding team and kept adapting and learning, they figured out how to find a productive thing. But that wasn’t because of where they started or the early metrics. It was because as humans, they were so committed and resilient and so gritty that they figured it out.” Outreach is ranked No. 23 on the , our index of top Pacific Northwest startups. Outreach is also a finalist for Next Tech Titan, a category at the upcoming that highlights future dominant forces in the Pacific Northwest tech scene. Last year, Outreach to upgrade its headquarters and made its It was the only Seattle company to crack the top 25 in list for 2018. and previously predicted that Outreach would reach unicorn status. There are 341 unicorn companies worldwide, according to , with nearly 30 startups reaching that milestone in 2019. reported that 57 companies became unicorns in 2017.
Sean Hsieh. (Flowroute Photo) Less than a year after selling his telecommunications startup, Flowroute founder has embarked on a new venture that aims to open up the world of commercial real estate investing. (Concreit Photo) Seattle startup is a soon-to-be-launched startup that will give investors the ability to invest in private buildings for as little as one dollar. “When I talk to my friends about owning a building, they just stop and go, ‘I don’t even know what to think about that, because I can’t connect with that thought,'” Hsieh said. “We’re trying to bring deals that only millionaires have access to and give them to an everyday investor for very small dollar minimum.” Concreit has raised nearly $1 million in funding from , a new Seattle-based firm co-led by longtime angel investor Andy Liu. Other Unlock portfolio companies include Crowd Cow, Make.TV and Possible Finance. Hsieh started Concreit with Flowroute co-founder and , who was formerly CTO at blockchain startups LifeID and StormX. The company hopes to launch later this year. The idea for Concreit was inspired by Hsieh’s own finances. “After selling Flowroute, I started to figure out how to diversify my portfolio,” said Hsieh. “And private commercial real estate became really interesting to me.” Hsieh to West Corporation last year for an undisclosed sum. Hsieh plans to use blockchain technology for certain aspects of Concreit, which could enable the startup to tokenize its position in certain investments. Concreit will be a mobile-first application with game-like elements in order to appeal to millennial investors. Concreit will initially give access to Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), an asset class in which real estate is bundled into easily tradable securities. , a popular online real estate investing platform, uses the REIT structure for many of its assets. Federal regulations limit the access that ordinary investors have to commercial real estate, especially smaller scale projects. Concreit is exploring how different regulatory structures might be used to open up commercial real estate investing to more people. Hsieh said he believes that allowing non-accredited investors to participate “is really how we’re going to change this landscape.” A man of many talents, Hsieh was a hip-hop dancer in the first generation of — a group that was featured on MTV’s “Best Dance Crew” — and he also danced with professional teams Funkanometry LA and Mavyn.
The Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalists, clockwise from left to right: Rad Power Bikes co-founders Ty Collins and Mike Radenbaugh; Loftium co-founder Yifan Zhang; Slope co-founder Brian Bosché; Buttermilk founder Mitra Raman; and Possible Finance co-founder Tony Huang. (Photos via the companies and GeekWire) The six nominees for the Young Entrepreneur of the Year category at this year’s prove that you can accomplish a lot by the time you’re 30 if you catch the startup bug. As part of our annual GeekWire Awards event, we recognize rising stars under the age of 30 who are building startups in the Pacific Northwest. We’re soliciting votes for seven promising young entrepreneurs to choose a winner, with input from more than 30 judges in the tech community. On May 2 we will announce the winners live on stage at the GeekWire Awards — presented by — in front of more than 800 geeks at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle. Community voting ends April 19. The 2019 nominees are Slope co-founder ; Rad Power Bikes co-founders and ; Loftium co-founder ; Buttermilk founder ; and Possible Finance co-founder . Last year, the Young Entrepreneur of the Year award , co-founder of the peer-to-peer petsitting startup Rover. This year, we wanted to learn more about our nominees so we went straight to the source. GeekWire contacted their close family members to get the inside scoop on what makes them tick as entrepreneurs. Learn more about each nominee below, cast your vote, , and we’ll see you at the GeekWire Awards! Ty Collins and Mike Radenbaugh, Rad Power Bikes Ty Collins, left, and Mike Radenbaugh, founders of Rad Power Bikes. (Rad Power Bikes Photo) Ty Collins and Mike Radenbaugh are childhood friends turned startup co-founders. Together they launched , a direct-to-consumer electric bicycle company that from e-commerce heavy-hitters Darrell Cavens and Mark Vadon. Mike started building e-bikes when he was in high school, taking over his parents’ woodshop. “I think If we let him, he would have stayed home from high school every day putting e-bikes together and filling orders,” said his father, John Radenbaugh. “Big boxes of parts started showing up every day until our garage was overrun and it looked like a mad scientist’s lab for the remainder of his high school years,” added his mother, Patty Radenbaugh. In college, Ty teamed up with Mike, focusing on marketing and events for their fledgling e-bike business. His father, Bruce Collins, said that his son has always had the kind of unshakable optimism that entrepreneurs need to get through startup life. “When he was a small boy, he developed the idea that all possibilities are 50/50 in likelihood of happening, something would either happen or it wouldn’t,” Bruce said. “So, even in the face of long odds, Ty is able to make things happen because he feels it’s just as likely to happen as not.” Mitra Raman, Buttermilk Mitra Rasan, founder of Seattle-based Buttermilk Co. (The Buttermilk Co. Photo) After three years at Amazon, Mitra Raman caught the entrepreneur bug. Inspiration struck when her mother bagged up all of the ingredients needed to cook rasam, one of her favorite dishes growing up. All she had to do was add hot water. “An idea was born,” last year. She quit her gig at Amazon and struck out on her own, launching ., a meal delivery kit startup that charges $6 for meals such as the vegetable wheat porridge dish Khichdi and the lentil dish daal. Mitra’s husband, Amar Rao, said her entrepreneurial plunge was in-character. “She is always working hard and never settles or gets complacent,” he said. “Whenever she finds herself getting comfortable, she starts looking for the next and biggest challenge and, for the most part, succeeds in all her undertakings,” he added. Tony Huang, Possible Finance Possible Finance CEO Tony Huang. (Photo by Sam Cook) After his first startup exactly one year ago, Tony Huang has helped micro-lending startup originate 24,000 small loans and grown revenue by 50 percent month-over-month. Possible Finance offers a service similar to payday loans but the company allows borrowers to pay back the funds in smaller installments over time. The company a $30 million credit facility earlier this month. Tony has always had a streak of entrepreneurial creativity, according to his father, JK Huang. As a child, Tony came up with a unique solution to a pesky problem for kids of his generation. He didn’t have any Pokémon cards to show his friends because they were the “least priority in our spending budget,” JK said. “He put on a big smile claiming he had the most popular Pokémon cards,” JK said. “He then took out his collection. They were the most popular ones, but they were printouts on a regular piece of paper from our home printer trimmed to the standard size!” Brian Bosché, Slope Brian Bosche and Dan Bloom of Slope win GeekWire Startup Day 2016. (GeekWire Photo) Brian Bosché co-founded Slope five years ago as a creative agency in Detroit. He and his co-founder Dan Bloom quickly became frustrated by inefficiencies in creative marketing collaboration. That gave them the idea for Slope, a software service that helps companies manage the creative project production process. Brian moved Slope to Seattle to join the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator in 2016 after a frantic application process, according to his wife, Marissa Smith. “Moments before the deadline, they submitted their application to take part in the program,” she said. “They were accepted and everything starting happening fast — Brian had to move to Seattle from Detroit with two weeks notice. It takes someone who’s willing to risk it all to pack up their life on a notice and move across the country, with the hope and dream of making their vision a reality.” It paid off. Three years later, Seattle-based to grow the public company’s work collaboration software suite. Yifan Zhang, Loftium Loftium CEO Yifan Zhang. (GeekWire Photo / Monica Nickelsburg) In 2017, Yifan Zhang to shake up home-buying by leveraging Airbnb. promised to help house hunters with their down payments if they agreed to Airbnb a portion of their home and share the profits with the startup. The novel approach to real estate isn’t the only thing to catch people off guard. “I surprise a lot of people,” Zhang last year. “Most people expect me to be a 40-year-old male — my name is androgynous. Expectations and reality. There is always that gap, and you’re compensating for that and it’s tiring after a while.” Startup life can be fatiguing, even when entrepreneurs aren’t battling stereotypes. But Zhang is keeping her head down and growing her company. In 2018, Loftium and the startup is hiring for a variety of engineering and operational roles. Zhang and her relatives could not be reached to comment. Join us at the 2019 GeekWire Awards on May 2!
Founders’ Co-op Managing Partners Chris DeVore and Aviel Ginzburg. (Founders’ Co-op Photo) More investment dollars are flowing into the Pacific Northwest startup ecosystem thanks to a new fund from . The Seattle-based early-stage venture capital firm just closed a $25 million fund, its fourth and largest ever since launching in 2008. Founders’ Co-op will follow the same playbook it has used in years past: being the first institutional check and anchor tenant in the seed round for companies it bankrolls. The firm focuses on writing checks in the $250,000-to-$750,000 range for budding startups across the Pacific Northwest. It has backed more than 90 startups, including companies such as Remitly, Outreach, Auth0, Crowd Cow, Apptentive, and others. Those companies have collectively gone on to raise more than $1.5 billion in follow-on capital. “We aren’t thematic investors but are focused on technical founding teams solving hard problems into which they have unique insights, which tends to lead us to enterprise software, from developer tools up through workflow automation and systems of intelligence,” DeVore told GeekWire last week. GeekWire previously reported on this fund , when Founders’ Co-op raised the initial dollars. The last clocked in at $20 million four years ago, which followed a $7.7 million fund in 2012 and a $2.7 million original fund. DeVore and Andy Sack started the firm in 2008, along with partner Rudy Gadre, a former Facebook and Amazon.com executive. Sack stepped away from day-to-day duties several years ago, leaving the Seattle firm in the hands of DeVore, who recruited Seattle entrepreneur , co-founder of Simply Measured, to the team as a venture partner. Ginzburg was promoted to general partner last year. Sack and Gadre are still involved as venture partners. Many in the Seattle tech economy have the lack of homegrown capital available in the Pacific Northwest over the years. DeVore is one of the biggest advocates looking to change that imbalance. “Somehow, all of a sudden, it’s ten years later,” DeVore wrote in a blog post. “We’re still doing the same thing we’ve always done, but the world has changed around us.” In his blog post, DeVore noted the growth of Seattle as a tech hub, with Amazon, Microsoft, and a flurry of remote engineering outposts helping increase the talent pool exponentially: “We’ve spent the last ten years honing our craft and building a community of founders, investors and mentors dedicated to our shared mission of making the Pacific Northwest the best place in the world to start a software company. Over the same period, our regional startup ecosystem has grown and changed in ways we never imagined, offering a more diverse and talented pool of potential founders than we’ve ever seen. As with our first fund back in 2008, it looks like we’re heading into another cycle of uncertainty in the global economy. We expect markets to slow, or even contract, over the next few years. We expect the last several years’ run of easy money for startups to end along with it. Putting that all together, we know for sure that the founders we back in this next cycle will be some of the best we’ve ever seen.” in Founders’ Co-op mostly come from the Pacific Northwest and are a mix of founders and tech executives, plus family offices and foundations. The State of Oregon, via its Oregon Growth Board, invested again in the fourth fund. DeVore also runs Techstars Seattle, which its 10th class in February. Ginzburg, meanwhile, leads the Alexa Accelerator, another Techstars program that Amazon helps operate in Seattle. Founders’ Co-op, Techstars Seattle, and the Alexa Accelerator are all run out of the University of Washington’s Startup Hall.
Knack co-founders Mariah Lincoln and Catherine Bye. (Knack Photo) Competition is heating up among co-working spaces geared toward women. The Riveter pioneered the model, in Seattle in 2017 and the business quickly took off. The Riveter a $15 million investment round last year that is helping it expand across the nation. Last month it opened its sixth location in Austin, Texas. Now newcomers are entering the space, seeking to put a new twist on inclusive co-working. In Seattle, two such operations have cropped up this year. Marketing entrepreneurs Catherine Bye and Mariah Lincoln are opening in Seattle this spring. They met when they were both working for a Seattle marketing agency and decided to take the entrepreneurial plunge together. They launched Knack, a marketing agency that generated $3.4 million in revenue in its first year. The Knack Collective co-working space is a new branch of that business. “We understand that there is a significant gap for underrepresented communities when it comes to access — whether that’s access to funding, mentorship, supportive professional communities, and operational resources,” said Bye, Knack’s CEO. “We determined that filling this gap would be best served by reimagining co-working to include business-critical resources and advisors in legal, finance, recruiting, IT, and marketing, to name a few.” Knack’s co-founders insist they are offering something that The Riveter isn’t. Knack memberships are geared toward women, members of the LGBTQ community, and their allies. Pricing runs from $35 for a day pass to more than $1,850 for a private office or suite. “Much of our hope for the future of work is shared by many, but we differentiate in that we are heavily focused on providing access to business-critical resources and support that goes beyond a safe space,” Bye said. “You can’t just create a space — you have to help people along.” Tag Spaces is another new female-focused co-working space. It is attempting to serve entrepreneurs with smaller budgets and irregular hours. Eileen Carpenter managed 10 apartment buildings in Seattle’s University District before launching Tag Spaces. She opened the facility in January with her business partner, Craig Smith. Tag offers floating desks and flex spaces 24 hours a day to accommodate different schedules. Over time, Tag plans to add community events and workshops. “Although, monthly events may be female-focused, Tag wants to appeal to all locals that are simply passionate about what they do, whether it be entrepreneurship, education, a product or service,” Carpenter said. Jennifer Carpenter founded Tag Spaces to bring co-working to a broader range of customers. (Tag Photo) Tag’s day passes cost $25 and dedicate desk rentals go for $600. Like Knack’s co-founders, Carpenter believes Tag has something different to offer in the increasingly competitive co-working world. “Nestled inside a community like University District, Tag intends to be a spark to reignite the area’s small business,” she said. “Larger co-working ventures, like Riveter are placed in areas of established business, buzzing with activity. Tag intends to start this trend where ever the next location happens to be.” Female-friendly co-working spaces across the country, from Minneapolis to Brooklyn. This offshoot of the growing co-working movement seeks to provide resources, community, and safety at a time when women are confronting mistreatment in the workplace like never before.
Vouched CEO John Baird. (Vouched Photo) , a Seattle startup using AI to verify people’s identities online, has joined the accelerator. The 3-month accelerator program in a bid by VC firm Madrona Venture Group to lure talent from tech giants. It is focused on established teams and offers startups coaching and connections to investors. Vouched uses AI to review documents in order to help companies verify the identity of its customers, clients and contractors. Those documents could be anything from passports and driver’s licenses to proofs of address and insurance. The idea is to turn a manual process requiring lots of time and staff into an automated one. “We’re working behind the scenes to verify people on sites you might use every day. You might have already used Vouched and don’t even know it,” Vouched CEO said in an email. Vouched has raised $700,000 to date. In addition to a $100,000 investment Madrona Venture Labs, Vouched’s other investors include Zulily co-founder , New Engen CEO , investor , Bulletproof 360 VP , Revolve CFO , and , CEO of EMEA at Footlocker. Baird said Vouched aims to do for ID verification what services like Stripe have done for online payments, with a focus on ease of use, affordability, accuracy and scale. Vouched is incorporated under the name Woolly Labs. Baird founded the company with , who serves as chief product and technology officer. is the startup’s head of AI research. “Increasingly, companies never meet their customers, clients, or even employees,” Baird said. “How do you know, for example, that a gig economy worker has the legally required credentials to work in their industry?” Baird declined to share the names of customers, but said that Vouched works with “companies in sectors such as the gig and sharing economy, telemedicine, transportation, and enterprise software.” This is the second company to join Madrona’s accelerator. The first was , a software startup that helps speed up clinical trials, which graduated in January and was a . The Madrona Venture Labs accelerator is currently . The program is run by managing directors and out of , the “founder center” that opened beneath Madrona Venture Group last year.
The Startup CEO of the Year finalists, from left to right, clockwise: Leen Kawas, Athria Pharma; Scott Moore, Ad Lightning; Ambika Singh, Armoire; Milkana Brace, Jargon; and Forest Key, Pixvana. (Photos courtesy Athria; Ad Lightning; Timothy Anaya; Jargon; and Pixvana) Managing a fast-growing startup is not easy. But the GeekWire Awards finalists for Startup CEO of the Year have figured out a way to not only lead early stage companies but also inspire others to join them on their mission. We’ve opened voting in 11 categories, and community votes will be factored in with feedback from more than 30 judges. On May 2 we will announce the winners live on stage at the GeekWire Awards — presented by — in front of more than 800 geeks at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle. Community voting ends April 19. This year’s nominees for Startup CEO of the Year — Jargon CEO Milkana Brace; Athria Pharma CEO Leen Kawas; Pixvana CEO Forest Key; Ad Lightning CEO Scott Moore; and Armoire CEO Ambika Singh — run companies that operate in various industries, from virtual reality to fashion to biotech. To qualify for this category, eligible CEOs must have 200 employees or fewer. You can see the nominees for the other CEO of the Year category, for big tech companies, here. Learn more below about what makes the finalists for Startup CEO of the Year special, and vote on all the categories while you’re here. And don’t forget to , as the GeekWire Awards sell out every year. Jargon CEO Milkana Brace Jargon CEO and co-founder Milkana Brace. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) In her short time as CEO of , has demonstrated a crucial skill for any entrepreneur: the ability to adapt. Brace, a former senior director at Expedia and Groupon, originally helped start Jargon in late 2017 as an on-demand interpretation service. But after joining the Alexa Accelerator in Seattle last year and getting feedback from mentors, the company switched gears and started building a localization product for voice apps. Jargon made another slight pivot in recent months and is now focusing on developing a voice content management service. The company’s latest iteration helped attract last month from investors including Amazon’s Alexa Fund. Here’s a comment from one of our GeekWire Awards judges about Brace: “Milkana Brace is both brilliant and humble, and this combination, combined with her unwavering commitment to delivering value to her customer, enabled her to lead and execute a massive pivot during the Techstars program that has positioned Jargon for success today. As a multilingual founder, her vision and leadership is helping drive culturally-competent global communication through multi-sense technology.” Athria Pharma CEO Leen Kawas Clinical pharmacist and founder of Athria Pharma Leen Kawas speaks at the 2018 GeekWire Summit. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) Based on her years of work both inside the lab and in the boardroom, is wholly committed to developing therapies that can help slow and stop the course of neurological diseases. The foundation of, previously known as M3 Biotechnology, began while Kawas was earning her Ph.D. in molecular pharmacology at Washington State University nearly a decade ago. The Seattle company, which its name change today, uses technology that Kawas developed at WSU and has raised more than $20 million. Athira is developing its lead therapeutic candidate, NDX-1017, a drug that could halt or reverse the nerve damage that causes Alzheimer’s disease and other illnesses including Parkinson’s and ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. It uses regenerative technology, rebuilding connections between neurons and increasing the mass of the brain and brain health. NDX-1017 is currently in Phase 1 clinical trials, with Phase 2 set to begin later this year. Kawas serves on multiple science and Alzheimer’s-related boards and holds a doctor of pharmacy degree from the University of Jordan. Here’s a comment from one of our GeekWire Awards judges about Kawas: “Leen Kawas is a dedicated CEO who takes finding a therapy for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s very seriously. She is a champion for patient advocacy, promoting biotech in our region, and creating a work culture full of collaboration and innovation.” Pixvana CEO Forest Key Pixvana CEO Forest Key. (Pixvana Photo) is a quintessential early-stage company builder. The CEO of Seattle-based virtual reality startup likes to “build things that don’t yet have antecedents.” “I’m particularly good at 1.0 stuff: creating the vision, getting other people on board, pivoting aggressively and often… and always driving to outcomes,” Key writes on his . The entrepreneur already had one big startup success. After stints at Lucasfilm, Adobe, and Microsoft, in 2009 he launched buuteeq, a software startup for the hotel industry. The company raised $17 million in capital and grew to 150 employees and 10,000 customers before it was by travel giant Priceline in 2014. Now Key is back on the startup horse as the leader of Pixvana, which launched in 2015 and has raised $20 million from investors including Vulcan Capital, Raine Ventures, Microsoft Ventures, Cisco Investments, Hearst Ventures, and Madrona Venture Group. The company sells end-to-end cloud-based VR storytelling software and now also . Here’s a comment from one of our GeekWire Awards judges about Key: “Forest Key embraces a steady and smart ‘get-things-done” leadership style, compassionately guiding his loyal team through startup challenges.” Ad Lightning CEO Scott Moore Ad Lightning CEO Scott Moore. (Photo via Ad Lightning) Whether it’s building an online humor website or scaling an advertising exchange platform, is a proven leader. Moore is founder and CEO of , a Seattle startup that helps online publishers and advertising exchanges . Ad Lightning spun out of Seattle-based startup studio Pioneer Square Labs in 2017 and has raised nearly $5 million from investors such as Sinclair Digital Ventures, an investment division of Sinclair Broadcast Group; Seattle Angel Fund, Flying Fish Partners; Curious Capital; and The Alliance of Angels. Total funding in the company is $4.8 million. The startup was also part of the inaugural class of Verizon Ventures’ “Media Tech Venture Studio.” Prior to Ad Lightning and Cheezburger, Moore was general manager of Microsoft’s MSN consumer portal and head of media at Yahoo. Here’s a comment from one of our GeekWire Awards judges about Moore: “Scott Moore is someone you just want to be around. His good nature, coupled with fierce tenacity, pair tremendously to make him an outstanding CEO. He leads with integrity and fairness, no matter the situation — and he’s seen quite the spectrum over the years.” Armoire CEO Ambika Singh Ambika Singh, CEO and co-founder of Seattle-based Armoire. (Timothy Anaya Photo) Functionally, is a women’s clothing rental service. But a conversation with may convince you that her startup is really about girl power (or more precisely, busy professional woman power, but that’s less catchy). Singh is CEO and co-founder of Armoire, a Seattle startup that uses data-driven curation . Starting at $149 per month, the 3-year-old company ships designer clothes to customers who can swap out the items at any time or purchase them at a discounted rate. Singh helped launch the company while at MIT’s Delta V accelerator program and has since grown Armoire to more than 30 employees while raising $4.2 million from investors such as Zulily co-founder Darrell Cavens; Foot Locker exec Vijay Talwar; and a number of female backers who decided to invest after first becoming customers. Here’s a comment from one of our GeekWire Awards judges about Singh: “Ambika Singh’s entrepreneurial journey is a source of constant inspiration … Most inspiring is that she lives her values, creating the sizeless, endless, closet-of-the-future for women, while hiring a team of primarily women (engineers, designers, stylists and machine learning experts), and exuding the very confidence she inspires in her clientele.” Join us at the 2019 GeekWire Awards on May 2!
Showdigs interfaces for property managers, users and brokers. (Showdigs Photo) Another new Seattle startup has raised cash to fix problems in the complicated world of real estate. raised a $3 million seed round to make life easier for property managers who are inundated with requests for showings of rental homes and apartments. The company operates an Uber-like marketplace model, connecting property managers in need of people to show houses and apartments with real estate brokers looking to make some extra cash. “They get bombarded with hundreds of inquiries every time they have a vacancy,” Showdigs CEO said in an interview with GeekWire. “The problem is they have to start following up with everyone and scheduling meetings and times for people to see the unit, and this is where they get swamped and need help.” Showdigs CEO Kobi Bensimon. (Showdigs Photo) Showdigs plugs into property managers’ systems, and when they get a request for a showing from a site like Zillow or Apartments.com, the company sends back a link to set up an appointment. Visits can be scheduled with as little as 30 minutes notice, and Showdigs then pings brokers on the platform in the neighborhood to do a showing, the same way Uber finds nearby drivers for ride requests. Brokers make $25 per showing, paid by property managers, with Showdigs taking a cut. The company is still tinkering with how it brings in revenue, testing options like taking a percentage off each showing, offering subscriptions for property managers, flat fees per vacant unit and more. Showdigs just launched its service in November, starting small in the West Seattle neighborhood. A month later, the company expanded to all of Seattle and Portland. In 2019, Showdigs plans to expand to more major markets. Showdigs is one of a number of Seattle startups tackling problems in the real estate industry. Some are dealing with the sales process (FlyHomes), while others aim to solve construction (Blokable) and title and escrow (JetClosing). FlyHomes is testing a similar service — “a role where rideshare drivers who were also real estate agents could show homes on demand,” as this notes — but for those looking to buy properties, not rent. Today, Showdigs has about 150 brokers on the platform and is working with 10 large property managers. The company just showed its 1000th unit. The nine-person company is split between Seattle and Tel Aviv, Israel. Bensimon and a lot of the business team are in Seattle, while the product team, led by Waze veteran Ohad Ron, is in Israel. The seed round was led by Bellevue, Wash.-based venture capital firm . Bensimon said the cash infusion will be used to beef up the company’s software and platform, so that when the time comes to expand, scaling up the business will go smoothly. Bensimon is a veteran of the real estate tech business. He co-founded and led a startup called ActiveBuilding that helped large apartment complexes communicate with tenants. He in 2013. The experience at ActiveBuilding gave Bensimon a window into the issues property managers deal with and inspired the idea that became Showdigs. Brokers rarely show apartments anymore thanks to technological innovations from sites like Zillow. But they possess unmatched local knowledge, the training to show units and flexible schedules to take some load off overbooked property managers. Brokers are primarily reliant on sales commissions, so Showdigs gives them an opportunity to earn extra money in between sales or keep cash coming in during a dry spell. “It’s a way for them to complement their income,” Bensimon said of the platform for brokers. “They get a commission every time they make a sale, and sometimes they could go for months without having an income.”
Hardware can be a , but the Pacific Northwest is replete with ambitious gadget makers looking for creative solutions to problems of all sorts. Private email servers, heart monitors, smart home gadgets and a drone well-versed in operating in tight spaces — this year’s crop of finalists for Hardware/Gadget of the Year at the 2019 GeekWire Awards has it all. Led by serial entrepreneurs and alums of some of the world’s biggest companies, the finalists — Bardy Diagnostics, Helm, Lubn, Vtrus and Wyze Labs — are aiming to upend their markets. We’ve opened voting in 11 GeekWire Awards categories, and community votes will be factored in with feedback from our more than 30 judges (see ). On May 2 we will announce the winners live on stage at the GeekWire Awards — presented by — in front of more than 800 geeks at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle. Community voting ends April 19. Last year, the high tech manufactured housing startup Blokable took. Other past winners include , , and . Read about the finalists and vote on all the categories while you’re here. And don’t forget to , as the GeekWire Awards sell out every year. The Carnation Ambulatory Monitor, or CAM for short, is designed to be worn comfortably for approximately a week, with the goal of improving patient compliance. (Bardy Diagnostics Photo) Bardy Diagnostics wants to change the way medical professionals monitor heart conditions. The Seattle company makes a non-invasive cardiac monitor patch that helps detect arrhythmia. The Carnation Ambulatory Monitor, or CAM for short, is designed to be worn comfortably for approximately a week, with the goal of improving patient compliance. Last summer, Bardy of undisclosed size to grow its sales team and monitoring services, advance research and development programs and accelerate development of artificial intelligence diagnostic capabilities. The company recently through an alliance with JNC Medical, a medical technologies distributor based in Ottawa, Ontario. News of the expansion came just a few weeks after Bardy said it reached a for the CAM patch in January. Bardy is led by Gust Bardy, a long-time cardiac electrophysiologist who also serves as a clinical professor of medicine, cardiology, at the University of Washington and is the director of the Seattle Institute for Cardiac Research. Bardy sold his previous company, Cameron Health, to Boston Scientific in 2012. The Helm. (Helm Photo) This Seattle-area startup wants to redefine email at a time when privacy and security issues related to hosted by big tech companies in the cloud . Helm, formerly known as Privacy Labs, last year that lets consumers send and receive email from their own domain, in addition to saving contacts and calendar events. The company’s personal physical email server puts it squarely in the crosshairs of tech giants such as Google. The device is about the size of a router and looks like an upside-down book placed on a table. It connects to a home network and pairs with a mobile app that lets users create their own domain name, passwords, and recovery keys. Helm supports standard protocols and works with regular email clients such as Outlook or the Mail app, with encryption protecting connection between the device and the apps. According to the , the device is sold out right now, but Helm promises to make more. Buyers can reserve their spot in line for $99. The idea comes from and , two entrepreneurs who previously sold a security startup. The co-founders, based in Bellevue, Wash., raised from top venture capital firms in 2017. The LTE smart key box by Seattle startup Lubn won a 2019 CES Innovation Award in the smart home category. (Photo: Lubn) Lubn is part of a movement toward a smarter lock-and-key solutions. The Bellevue-based startup is developing hardware and software products designed for property managers, retail store owners and others to remotely manage who comes and goes at their properties. Its main product is a smart key box with visual authentication that connects to the cloud via 4G LTE. The LubnBox was a at the giant electronics show in Las Vegas this past January and last year the company show. Lubn also offers an app and dashboard to let users remotely control who can enter their properties and at what times. As a father who was juggling a career at Microsoft while also managing multiple rental properties scattered internationally, Lubn co-founder and CEO Yuan-Chou “YC” Chung got the idea for the product from his own experience. He wanted a simple solution for controlling and coordinating access to the properties to give him more time for family. He teamed up with fellow co-founders Autumn Li, who is the company’s CTO, and Charles Chang, adviser, to create Lubn. Smart locks are a hot technology, with Amazon’s in-home package delivery program garnering global attention. Bellevue, Wash. startup Drones are everywhere these days, but it’s still unclear what their best use will be. A Seattle startup is seizing on the technology to conduct precision inspections of industrial facilities. Vtrus, based near the Fishermen’s Terminal in Seattle’s Interbay neighborhood, has developed an indoor autonomous drone known as the ABI Zero that can navigate its way around the tricky surroundings of a warehouse environment without the need for a remote operator or GPS waypoints. The company, which has skirted Federal Aviation Administration restrictions on outdoor drone flights because it works exclusively indoors, is to continue refining its offerings. ABI Zero can conduct an aerial survey for as long as 10 minutes, and then return to its base station for charging. The base also serves as a WiFi-enabled link for receiving streaming data from the drone and relaying it to Vtrus’ cloud service. Vtrus takes advantage of a computer vision technique called SLAM (Simultaneous Location and Mapping), which enables drones to build a high-fidelity map of their surroundings. Thirty times a second, the SLAM software keeps track of 300,000 depth points captured by an array of cameras and sensors. , CEO, previously co-founded Surreal Vision, a computer vision startup that , Facebook’s VR subsidiary. He went on to work at Oculus VR for more than a year as a research scientist in Redmond, Wash., then helped lay the groundwork for Vtrus, which he launched in 2017 with chief technology officer and chief design officer . Fresh off earlier this year, Kirkland, Wash.-based Wyze Labs is making waves in the smart home security market with its low-cost camera. Wyze was founded by Amazon veterans Yun Zhang, Dave Crosby, Elana Fishman and Dongsheng Song in 2017. Later that year, the startup launched its camera with 1080p HD video and 14 days of free cloud storage. At $19.99, the price severely undercut the group’s former employer, as Amazon for $119.99 around the same time. Fishman of GeekWire’s Elevator Pitch this past summer and said at the time that the company had sold over a quarter-million units in less than six months. The company launched another piece of hardware, the $29.99 , in May 2018. Join us at the 2019 GeekWire Awards on May 2!
Icertis CEO Samir Bodas and his team accept the award for Deal of the Year at the 2018 GeekWire Awards. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) Show me the money! Venture capital investment in Washington state last year reached the highest level since 2000, , according to a report from PwC and CB Insights. This year’s GeekWire Deal of the Year nominees for top venture capital investment accounted for nearly a fifth of that sum. We’ve opened voting in 11 categories, and community votes will be factored in with feedback from our more than 30 judges (see ). On May 2 we will announce the winners live on stage at the GeekWire Awards — presented by — in front of more than 800 geeks at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle. Community voting ends April 19. This year’s nominees for VC-related Deal of the Year — Vicis, 98point6, Convoy, JetClosing and Zipwhip — are using technology to solve large scale problems. From protecting the health of football players to organizing the nation’s fragmented trucking industry, they’re looking to make national changes from their Pacific Northwest headquarters. , Icertis, landed a $50 million round to help the startup become the Salesforce of contract management. Icertis has since built out its leadership team, adding and . Read about on the finalists and vote on all the categories while you’re here. And don’t forget to , as the GeekWire Awards sell out every year. Vicis CEO Dave Marver. (Vicis Photo) After a Super Bowl-winning quarterback leads your investment round, where do you go from there? closed a in November, bringing the company’s total funding raised to $84 million since spinning out of the University of Washington in 2014. Aaron Rodgers invested in Vicis through Rx3 Ventures. Vicis makes high-tech helmets for NFL and youth players alike. The secret is its flexible design, which aims to prevent concussions in the high-impact game of football. “We invested in VICIS because its commitment to player safety – specifically at the youth level – is one we wanted to support,” Rodgers said in a statement at the time. Convoy co-founder Grant Goodale accepts the award for Next Tech Titan at the 2018 GeekWire Awards. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) Talk about fuel in the tank: ‘s in September propelled the trucking startup to unicorn status with a valuation that topped $1 billion. The round was led by the late-stage venture capital arm of Google parent Alphabet, . It was the fourth-largest funding round ever for a Washington-based company, according to data from PitchBook. Convoy connects thousands of drivers and shippers together on a single platform. “We have a big vision and we’re in an ideal position to go after it and see it through,” Convoy co-founder and CEO Dan Lewis said when the funding round was announced. Convoy won the Next Tech Titan honor at the GeekWire Awards and also won Startup of the Year. 98point6 co-founder and CEO Robbie Cape. (98point6 Photo) Virtual primary care startup looked like a healthy investment to Goldman Sachs, which in the company this past October. The fresh cash brought the company’s total amount raised to $86.3 million in just over three years. 98point6 CEO Robbie Cape has said the startup is “focused on solving the primary care crisis in America.” The company makes the most of a doctor’s most precious resource by using technology such as to reduce the time a physician needs to spend with each patient. The JetClosing team. (JetClosing Photo) is revamping the outdated home closing process by getting rid of the paperwork and bringing the process to the cloud. The startup last summer, landing a $20 million Series A round last summer with investments from T. Rowe Price as well as PSL Ventures, Imagen Capital Partners, Trilogy Equity Partners and Maveron. The startup was founded in 2016 after spinning out of Pioneer Square Labs in Seattle. The Zipwhip team. (Zipwhip Photo) The next time a company sends you an emoji, it could be because of . The Seattle startup is helping companies communicate with their customers over text messages, and it earlier this year in a deal that brought its total funding to $92.5 million. The Series D round was led by Goldman Sachs Private Capital Investing group, with participation from existing investors including OpenView, M12, and Voyager Capital. The company is more than a decade old, but it never wavered from its faith in SMS. “We always believed text messaging would be the future,” Zipwhip CEO John Lauer said at the time of the fundraising. Zipwhip last month a new space in Seattle with room for 500 people. Join us at the 2019 GeekWire Awards on May 2!
Apana CEO Matt Rose. Many building operators assume that losses from water mismanagement are just a cost of doing business. thinks otherwise. Rose is the CEO and co-founder of , a Bellingham, Wash.-based startup located north of Seattle that helps Fortune 500 brands and other customers manage their water use. The startup today announced a $11 million funding round led by existing investor , a Tokyo-based company, as well as others that previously invested including Cowles Company, E8 Fund, and Urban Innovation Fund. Rose, a former Navy pilot who has a software development background in healthcare and defense industries, founded Apana in 2014 with , who has more than two decades of experience building and maintaining wastewater treatment plants. Apana helps companies manage their water usage. (Apana Photo) They’ve helped build a product that combines IoT devices with cloud-based analytics software to measure and analyze building-wide water use. It alerts users to potential problems and helps address areas of optimization. Rose said that customers typically see between a 15 and 30 percent reduction in water use, which is more valuable given in big cities. He said the system pays for itself in 18 to 24 months. Apana has customers such as Costco and MGM Resorts International in more than 600 cities globally, but Rose said the opportunity remains large. He noted that less than 1 percent of commercial, industrial, and institutional buildings in the U.S. have any kind of water management system. “This type of solution has not readily been available, because without some sort of IoT solution connected to analytics and reporting, it’s nearly impossible to do,” he noted. Total funding to date for Apana is $15.5 million. The company, which its seed round more than two years ago, employs 16 employees.
Make.TV CEO Andreas Jacobi. (Make.TV Photos) continues to bolster its live streaming resume. The Seattle-based startup has expanded its partnership with , the world’s largest esports organization that runs competitions across the world and produces more than 1,500 hours of content annually. Later this month, Make.TV will stream action from the ESL One Mumbai, India’s first-ever major Dota 2 tournament with a $300,000 top prize. Founded in 2016, Make.TV helps customers such as MLBAM, NBC Universal, Al Jazeera, Viacom, Fox Sports Brasil, and others stream live video content in the cloud. The 42-person company, which relocated from Germany to Seattle two years ago, is backed by some of the top investment firms in the Pacific Northwest including Microsoft’s M12, Vulcan Capital, and Voyager Capital, which a $8.5 million Series A round in June 2017. Bruce Chizen, the former CEO of Adobe, is on the company’s board. Make.TV’s technology acts like a video router of sorts, allowing companies to take live video from a variety of sources and deliver it to any device on any platform, said, the company’s co-founder and CEO. “Simply put, we empower content creators to share their video with production teams working for TV networks, cable companies, esports and sports networks or any other type of video-based media,” he said. “We also simplify the work of the production teams by automating a number of tasks — sifting through lots of data; identifying content libraries to pick a short segment from; routing content to post-production houses, regional broadcasters and social media channels — enabling them to dedicate more time to what they do best: create content we all want to watch.” The company offers a similar service to Portland-based Elemental, which . Other competitors include , , , and smaller startups. Make.TV is ranked No. 165 on the , our index of top Pacific Northwest startups. With more people watching live video online and the growth of platforms such as Twitch, the live streaming industry is to surpass $13 billion this year.
Seattle startup Crowd Cow accepts the Startup of the Year award at the 2018 GeekWire Awards. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) A quick gander at the , our index of Pacific Northwest startups, shows the density of up-and-coming tech companies based in this region. That’s what makes the five nominees for this year’s Startup of the Year category at the all the more impressive. Amperity, Boundless, The Riveter, Rubica, and Sana Biotechnology beat out a bevy of other early-stage startups as nominees for a category that has honored fast-growing companies such as Crowd Cow, Convoy, Arivale, Rover, and others in the past. We’ve opened voting in 11 categories, and community votes will be factored in with feedback from more than 30 judges. On May 2 we will announce the winners live on stage at the GeekWire Awards — presented by — in front of more than 800 geeks at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle. Community voting ends April 19. This year’s nominees are using technology to disrupt everything from gene editing to cybersecurity — read more about them below and vote on all the categories while you’re here. And don’t forget to grab your tickets , as the GeekWire Awards sell out every year. Amperity Amperity co-founders Kabir Shahani (left) and Derek Slager. (Amperity Photo) launched a year-and-a-half ago and already has clients such as GAP, Nordstrom, Alaska Airlines, Wynn Hotels, and others who use its customer data technology platform. The company made headlines in October 2017 when it from Tiger Global Management, a New York-based firm known globally for making long-term investments in companies including Spotify, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flipkart, and other tech giants. The Seattle startup is led by co-founders and . The entrepreneurs previously started Appature and in 2013. What’s your secret sauce? Amberity CEO Kabir Shahani: “It’s still early days for us, but it will come as no surprise that our secret sauce is absolutely our people. We are fortunate to have attracted a world-class team, that beyond having skills, experience, and ambition that is unrivaled, are just wonderful to spend time with. This has been foundational to our ability to attract and maintain world-class customers like Gap, Nordstrom, Wynn Hotels, Alaska Airlines, and several other iconic consumer brands. The support of these organizations and the forward thinking leaders in these companies that took a chance on us early in our journey, have allowed us the opportunity to be an iconic company ourselves one day. We’re fortunate that all of this started with unwavering support from our investors and a strong board of directors that continually push us to be bold and ambitious in the pursuit of our mission to enable the world’s most loved brands to use data to unleash the full potential of their teams, and in turn create meaningful customer experiences.” What are one or two pieces of advice for other entrepreneurs? Shahani: “Every entrepreneur starts their journey with clarity of vision to make something better. I find that it’s important to be bold in your ambition when trying to solve that problem, and reduce the noise at each step of the way, including your own self-talk. I’ve found that every time I focus on the opportunity at-hand, in its largest, most audacious form, and work to enable those around me to achieve their goals against that vision, all the right things happen.” Boundless The Boundless team has grown to 28 employees in the company’s first two years. (Boundless Photo) In the two years since it launched, has become the top destination for immigrants applying for marriage-based green cards in the United States. The company, a spinout of Seattle startup studio Pioneer Square Labs, helps customers connect with attorneys, file applications online, and receive support throughout the immigration process. It also publishes and resources on its website to help immigrants navigate an increasingly complex system. Boundless, which was also nominated for this category last year, just an additional $7.8 million last month to fuel growth. Its co-founders— , , and — previously worked at Amazon, Microsoft, and the White House. What’s your secret sauce? Boundless CEO Xiao Wang: “Creating an environment and culture where people can thrive. One of the huge advantages of being an early-stage startup is to be able to deliberately craft the type of place you have always wanted to work at. I think that everyone is capable of doing incredible work, but often organizations put into place structures, policies, and processes that deliberately hamper the motivation and effectiveness of its employees. What we take seriously is to continuously evaluate how we operate — establishing the right levels of ownership, autonomy, and trust — that makes Boundless a place people want to build at. Are we perfect? Not even close. But as with everything else at Boundless, we will never stop experimenting and working at making it better.” What are one or two pieces of advice for other entrepreneurs? Wang: “First, it’s to focus. When you are building something new, there are an infinite number of opportunities that have potential or should be pursued. It is so easy (and usually it’s the entrepreneur’s fault) to fall into the trap of ‘let’s just add one more thing to this project’ or ‘what if we just tried that?’ In nearly all cases, you’re better off pursuing fewer initiatives at a deeper level than to scatter your precious time and resources. Spreading too thin often results to lots of inconclusive results that barely move the needle. Focus on the few things that matter. Second, it’s to hire people who are better than you. Looking across my team, each one of my reports is much, much better at their areas than I am, which is exactly how it should be. Your job is to find and convince these people to leave well-paying, stable jobs to join your crazy idea, and then to clear as many obstacles as possible so that they can do their best work.” The Riveter Inside The Riveter’s West L.A. space. (The Riveter Photo) Founded in 2017, The Riveter differentiates itself from other co-working spaces by providing amenities, programming, and other membership perks geared toward female professionals. The company, which is open to all genders, a $15 million investment round last year that is helping it expand across the nation. Last month it opened its sixth location in Austin, Texas, and has plans to launch in Dallas, Denver, Portland, Ore., Minneapolis – St. Paul, and Atlanta. The plan is to reach 100 locations by 2022. The Riveter, which won the Newcomer of the Year category at the , was co-founded by , a former Wall Street lawyer who helped launch the company after continuously running into “bro-working” spaces. What’s your secret sauce? The Riveter CEO Amy Nelson: “We (and I do mean ‘we’ – this is an enormous collective effort) are building something we believe the world needs and we are emboldened by the fact that we need it, too. We live in a world where we welcome A.I. into our homes and yet current trends show that men and women will continue to be compensated — and, valued — differently for 100 years, until the year 2119. We know we can do better and we’re building a movement and a company around that fact. Our need for a different tomorrow drives us when it’s hard — and it’s often hard. In less than two years, we’ve accomplished a lot but we know there is so much more work to be done.” What are one or two pieces of advice for other entrepreneurs? “The first is simple, hire a team of colleagues who you believe are smarter than you and who bring experience to the table that you don’t have. We have an incredible team of 51 people and every person brings something unique to what we’re building — and something we very much need. Second, lean into and highlight the differences that make you strong. I’m pregnant with my fourth daughter in four years. In a world where less than 3 percent of VC dollars go to all-female founding teams (and I believe The Riveter is the only all-female founding team in this category), I’ve been visibly pregnant or breastfeeding while raising every cent of the $21 million we’ve secured to grow The Riveter. Rather than hiding this or downplaying it, I talk a lot with investors, partners and teammates about how motherhood has made me a better leader. We can reframe the things society sees as weaknesses into the absolute strengths that they are.” Rubica (Rubica Photo) began as a research-and-design project focused on advanced cybersecurity within Concentric Advisors, a company the provides physical and digital security to prominent and high-net-worth families. In 2016, Concentric spun out its cyber division to become Rubica. The Seattle startup aims to protect both individuals and their families from cyberattacks. , previously an exec at Concentric, co-founded Rubica with , a cybersecurity expert and former colleague at Concentric. The company has raised more than $13 million from both angel investors and venture capital firms. What’s your secret sauce? Rubica CEO Frances Dewing: “Our people, and our inclusive culture. We’ve created an environment where people can trust each other and take risks and challenge the status quo. Rubica is a place of comradery where people are empowered to bring their multifaceted talents. We have cyber analysts who are also talented artists, software engineers with law degrees, and security professionals with creative writing skills. This collective creativity and diverse intelligence is the engine of our scrappy, innovative, mission-driven team.” What are one or two pieces of advice for other entrepreneurs? Dewing: “Be genuine. Be honest and transparent with your team. It builds trust – and trust is crucial on the rollercoaster ride of startups! The Rubica team knows that we are in this together, and that I will not abandon them or leave them in the dark. I’m honest about what’s working and what’s not, and we take the wins and losses together. When people know you mean it, and you’re all in, then they are too. Hire people that aren’t like you. Surround yourself with smart people that fill in your weaknesses. Intentionally look for people that are different or better than you in some way. This requires putting ego aside, but that’s what will allow you to build a winning team.” Sana Biotechnology Sana Biotechnology CEO Steve Harr. (Sana Photo) Former Juno Therapeutics executives and are behind , a stealthy startup focused on cell therapy, gene therapy and gene editing. Backed by ARCH Venture Partners, Flagship Pioneering and F-Prime Capital Partners, the company has an experienced leadership team that previously co-founded Juno, another Seattle biotech startup that was . Sana is reportedly working on a Series A funding round with the goal of raising between $800 million and $1 billion, . What’s your secret sauce? Sana CEO Steve Harr: “Sana focuses on the most challenging issues in understanding how to engineer biology to make important medicines. This vision and willingness to tackle big problems has attracted a unique and talented group of people, who are Sana’s secret sauce.” What are one or two pieces of advice for other entrepreneurs? Harr: “Companies are a combination of people, technology/opportunity, and capital. Great people attract great people. Great people attract and develop great technologies. Great people find great capital. Surround yourself with great people!”
(Museum of Flight Image) More than 60 years ago, the world got serious about exploring space. The global fascination with the great beyond led to a massive race between the United States and the Soviet Union to be the first to hit space travel milestones. In 1961, the Soviet Union became the first country to launch a person into space, and that person was Yuri Gagarin. The Museum of Flight is celebrating the 58th anniversary of this momentous occasion with a party called on April 12. The event will feature space-themed music, dancing, virtual reality and other activities celebrating mankind’s first trip to outer space. The Pacific Science Center will be celebrating history as well, but in the opposite direction from space. Taking place April 16, is a presentation from global underwater explorers. These experts will share their adventures with the help of modern photogrammetry of some crashed planes, ships and other underwater artifacts that are resting at the bottom of the ocean around our area. Here are more highlights from the GeekWire Calendar: : A talk about how to maximize your results in making sure your product fits into current market conditions at CoMotion Labs in Seattle; 12 to 1 p.m. Friday, April 12. : A talk about the history of agile technology, including Scrum, and how to use it to predict expectations at Code Fellows in Seattle; 12:15 to 1 p.m. Friday, April 12. : A 24-hour hackathon aimed at students with a focus on FinTech at Microsoft in Redmond; Sunday, April 14 through Monday, April 15. : A full-day event for those using Datadog technology at the Loews Hotel in Seattle; Tuesday, April 16. A full-day event bringing together angel investors, venture capitalists, and entrepreneurs at The Stanley Civic Center in Wenatchee; Thursday, April 18. : An event focusing on helping women business owners excel in all aspects of their business at the Westin Bellevue; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, April 18. A place to meet with potential Japanese business partners at the Columbia Center in Seattle; 1 to 6 p.m. Thursday, April 18. 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? .
Rad Power Bikes’ RadBurro model. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) , the Seattle e-bike startup, alleges in a new lawsuit that Phoenix-based competitor ripped off its website layout and e-bike designs. Rad calls Bam a “copycat company” and alleges it could not “succeed in the e-bike marketplace on its own merits,” so it had to mimic Rad’s look. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle this week, alleges that Bam launched a “knockoff” website in March that confused customers because it was so similar to Rad’s, making them think the two companies were related in some way. From the court documents: Bam apparently cannot succeed in the e-bike marketplace on its own merits. Bam instead hoodwinks an unwitting populace into the false impression that Bam has already achieved Rad Power Bikes’ prominence and reputational stature in the e-bike industry. Bam thoroughly mimicked Rad Power Bikes’ website content and e-bike designs in order to give the copycat company an unwarranted head start in the e-bike marketplace. Rather than compete fairly, Bam cuts marketing and design corners through siphoning Rad Power Bikes’ excellent reputation and goodwill in the burgeoning world of e-bike commerce. In addition to claims of copyright infringement and false advertising, Rad alleges that claims of patented technology made by Bam and its parent company, JHR Electric Transport, are misleading because the patents could not be found in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office databases. Throughout the filing, Rad shows images of the two companies’ websites side-by-side to emphasize the similarity in layout and product offerings. One image shows the tagline “Built for Everything. Priced for Everyone,” displayed prominently on both sites. Rad Power Bikes included this side by side comparison of the two companies’ home pages in its filing. (Photo Via court documents) When GeekWire visited the sites this week, taglines on both homepages had been changed. Bam also appeared to make tweaks to other areas of its website that previously looked similar to Rad in court documents. Rad alleges it got complaints from customers who thought its products were generic, since nearly identical models could be found on Bam’s website. Rad is asking for the court to put a stop to any elements of Bam that infringe on copyrights “in order to correct and end the misimpressions being foisted upon an unsuspecting public through Bam’s deliberate replication of Rad Power Bikes’ website design and business persona.” We’ve reached out to Bam and will update this post if we hear back. Rad declined to comment. Ty Collins, left, and Mike Radenbaugh, founders of Rad Power Bikes. (Rad Power Bikes Photo) has become one of the best-known e-bike brands in North America over the past four years, with revenues expected to double to $100 million this year, GeekWire previously reported. Last month, the company in Zulily co-founders and . The startup now sells its e-bikes in the U.S., Canada, and 30 European countries to both consumers and commercial in industries such as logistics, law enforcement, deliveries, and more. It has taken advantage of the direct-to-consumer model to shorten its supply chain, bypass traditional bike shops and create a tight feedback loop with customers to constantly improve its limited line of e-bikes that sell for around $1,500. On Bam’s website, parent company JHR calls itself “the leader in developing and manufacturing electric power vehicles in America.” It has been building electric vehicles since 2004, and according to the website is the company behind the “most popular mobility products in the world – EWheels.” Bam says it has been building e-bikes since 2009, and it offers four different models, all priced at $1,599. The company also builds several different types of e-scooters, ranging in price from $349 for a small folding scooter to $2,345 for the more powerful “Chopper Trike.” Here is the full lawsuit from Rad: by on Scribd
Sidonie Kiner reads a poem alongside her mother, Reverb CEO Mikaela Kiner, at the Champion Awards in Seattle on Thursday at the Pacific Science Center. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) Our world says women can’t break through … All women should be born with a sledgehammer to smash through that glass wall … All we want is gender equality … Women’s rights are human rights … The crowd fell silent as Sidonie Kiner read a poem written by her friend that echoed core themes of the , an event held Thursday night in Seattle that celebrated local women founders, investors, entrepreneurs, and others. By the time Sidonie finished the poem, called Pantoum of a Glass Ceiling, the tears were flowing for some of the 300 people in attendance. At her side was Sidonie’s mother, Reverb co-founder and CEO Mikaela Kiner, who helped co-host the second annual event with the Female Founders Alliance (FFA), a Seattle-based startup aiming to help close the gender gap in angel and venture financing. The event’s purpose is to put a spotlight on champions for gender equity across categories such as “The Advocate,” “The Founder,” and “Unsung Heroes.” Kiner, who heads up Seattle-based HR consulting firm Reverb, and Leslie Feinzaig, CEO of FFA, were joined by leaders from organizations such as WTIA, Bank of America, the Seattle Office of Economic Development, and many more on Thursday at the Pacific Science Center. “We bonded over our hopes that the world and workplace would be better and more inclusive for our daughters,” Kiner said of her partnership with Feinzaig. “We want women to have equal opportunities. We want women to have equal pay. Primarily, we want women to have a voice. We want for women to be seen for our values and recognized for our contributions.” (Female Founders Alliance Photo) Female Founders Alliance was born from Feinzaig and her members’ experiences seeking to raise investment capital. Less than 3 percent of venture capital dollars , a number that hasn’t moved much in recent years despite more attention on the gaps. Women-founded companies accounted for just 16 percent of first venture capital financings between 2005-2017, according to a . This year, researchers found 63 percent of startups have no women on their board of directors and 47 percent have no women in leadership. Men outnumber women three to one in the tech industry, according to stats shared last month at the . Across all industries, women earn around 79 cents for each dollar a man makes, according to , based on an “uncontrolled” gender pay gap calculation. The gap has narrowed by 1 percent over the past year. Leslie Feinzaig, founder of the Female Founders Alliance, speaks at Thursday’s event. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) Feinzaig, who is 37 weeks pregnant with her second child, gave an impassioned speech to close out the event that recounted how her own life experiences growing up in Costa Rica and immigrating to the U.S. have helped shape her views on equality and unity today. “Allyship, championship — they are not binaries,” Feinzaig said. “The world, as much as you might not believe it, is not made up of allies and assholes. All of us are in the imperfect, messy middle.” The FFA founder said she wants her daughter to live in a world not divided but rather “where we can all be each other’s allies.” “To those with the dreams, those who are unseen, those that have been hearing the us vs. them language for so long, that have been told we don’t have the power, that we are less than — I just want to say that you do have power,” Feinzaig told the crowd. “You have power and you can use it. There’s power in being beaten down. There’s power in not having anything. There’s power in not being seen, because when you’re beaten down, you learn how to get back up and when you have nothing, you have nothing to lose. And when you’re on unseen, then nobody sees you coming.” Here are the other winners from the Champion Awards, with category descriptions from FFA and Reverb. The Role Model: The role demonstrates what is possible for ambitious women. She is someone with a long trajectory, demonstrated integrity and leadership in her field, who inspires other women to strive for greatness. Winner: Jill Angelo, CEO and co-founder, genneve Jill Angelo, CEO and co-founder of Seattle startup genneve. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) The Sponsor: The sponsor leverages their network and resources to help the women that they mentor advance and succeed in their career. Winner: Shellie Willis, founder, Redefining You Foundation Shellie Willis, founder, Redefining You Foundation. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) The Investor: The investor has literally put “their money where their mouth is” when it comes to investing in women- and non-binary-led businesses and helping founders succeed. Winner: Yoko Okano, angel investor and founding member, Grubstakes Yoko Okano, angel investor and founding member, Grubstakes. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) The Advocate: The advocate is an individual or organization who uses their public platform to promote and advance women’s causes. Winner: Julie Pham, PhD, vice president, community engagement and marketing, WTIA Julie Pham (left), PhD, vice president, community engagement and marketing, WTIA. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) The Company: This organization has created a work culture that supports and advances women, forging meaningful outcomes for its employees that run counter to what’s typical in its industry as a whole. Winner: Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream Molly Moon’s founder Molly Moon Neitzel. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) Unsung Heroes: Often working behind the scenes, these are the champions who uplift women entrepreneurs every day. They provide opportunities, support, and mentoring. They excel in delivering others into the spotlight. The seven recipients announced at the Champion Awards are: – Jennifer Arlem Molina, Lead Consultant, j.a.Molina Creative – Michaela Ayers, Founder, Nourish – Mar Brettmann, PhD, Founding Executive Director, Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST) – Chelsea Cooper, Co-chair, Starbucks Women’s Impact Network – Laura Espriu, Founder & Principal Consultant at Laura Espriu Coaching & Consulting – Judy Loehr, Enterprise SaaS Advisor, Bayla Ventures – Amy Pak, Founder, Executive Director, Families of Color Seattle From left to right: Amy Pak, Founder, Executive Director, Families of Color Seattle; Judy Loehr, Enterprise SaaS Advisor, Bayla Ventures; Laura Espriu, Founder & Principal Consultant at Laura Espriu Coaching & Consulting; Michaela Ayers, Founder, Nourish; Jennifer Arlem Molina, Lead Consultant, j.a.Molina Creative; Chelsea Cooper, Co-chair, Starbucks Women’s Impact Network; and Mar Brettmann, PhD, Founding Executive Director, Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST). (Female Founders Alliance Photo) The Founder: The founder has persevered in the face of adversity to launch and grow a business. This is a peer award that was voted on by the members of the Female Founders Alliance. Winner: Karen Okonkwo, co-founder, TONL (award accepted by colleague)
(Matt Hagen Photo / UW Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship) A team that wants to make batteries more environmentally friendly won $15,000 at a competition for environmental innovation at the University of Washington. MOtiF Materials invented a way to making batteries degrade less quickly over time. “If you can fix batteries, it has an impact on so many other clean energy technologies,” said , who founded MOtiF. Rasmussen, a doctoral student of mechanical engineering at the University of Washington, said the broader aim of the project is to make next-generation materials and manufacture them in a way that is scalable, cost-effective and environmentally friendly. She was drawn to the project as a way to use her mechanical engineering knowledge to create a process that helps the environment. “It’s something that everyone can get behind,” Rasmussen said. Specifically, she wants to find ways to synthesize a class of materials called metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) at scale without damaging the planet. A recent Scientific American article , saying they “are poised to be the defining material of the 21st century.” Rasmussen is securing intellectual property for the technology and working on a paper manuscript based on her work. She’s received grant funding from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and financial support through a fellowship with the Clean Energy Institute. MOtiF does not have a website yet. The team also includes graduate students of mechanical engineering Stuart Moore and Courtney Otani, as well as undergraduate student Molly Foley. The winners for the were selected by more than 150 entrepreneurs, investors and environmental advocates. $10,000 2nd Place Prize: Atomo Coffee (Matt Hagen Photo / UW Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship) What’s coffee without the beans? For , it’s a better cup o’ joe. The startup, which is rethinking how coffee is made from molecular level using naturally sustainable ingredients. Atomo launched a in February and has raised more than $25,000 so far. and are the co-founders of Atomo. Kleitsch is a tech vet who once worked at Amazon and currently leads entrepreneur workshops at the University of Washington. The second-place prize was sponsored by Herbert B. Jones Foundation. $5,000 3rd Place Prize: Chibage Chip (Matt Hagen Photo / UW Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship) Biochemistry doctoral student Tamuka Chidyausiku invented a device called the Chibage Chip to help farmers detect when plants are thirsty. Chidyausiku is from Zimbabwe and wants farmers in developing nations to benefit from the device. In addition to winning the $5,000 third-place prize, which was sponsored by the Port of Seattle, Chibage Chip also won the $5,000 community impact prize. AeroSpec, which developed a way to monitor air pollution on a large scale, and NanoPrint, which is creating a zero-waste manufacturing process, both won $1,000 for the “Judges Also Really Liked” awards.