(Techstars Seattle Photo) Validate the market. Sell before you build. Seek failure. And go all in. Those are some of the tips shared by founders participating in the latest class. GeekWire caught up with the entrepreneurs who are apart of the tenth Techstars Seattle cohort, a milestone for the 3-month accelerator that has graduated 100 companies to date over the past decade. Alumni of the organization — companies such as Remitly, Outreach, Skilljar, Bizible, Leanplum and Zipline — have collectively raised more than $700 million in investment capital. Most have built their startups in the Pacific Northwest, helping expand the entrepreneurial clout in the region. Here are the ten startups in the newest class (Demo Day is set for May 7 in Seattle), with descriptions from Techstars, which provides $120,000 in funding in exchange for 6 percent common stock as part of the three-month accelerator. , who reflected on the longevity of Techstars Seattle and dishes on how the Seattle tech scene has changed. AdaptiLab founders James Wu and Allen Lu. Founders: James Wu and Allen Lu Headquarters: Seattle, Wash. Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: AdaptiLab helps companies build machine learning teams with our automated and robust technical screening platform for candidates’ coding and analytics skills. What makes you different from the competition? What’s your secret sauce? AdaptiLab has built the first-ever coding platform for assessing data analysis, feature engineering, and model training tasks. We automatically grade candidates’ code and models for quality and performance and provide in-depth technical scoring to the hiring managers distributing the interviews. We also handle question generation and anti-cheating measures. Overall, we add robustness to the recruiting process and drastically reduce the amount of time hiring managers and engineers spend interviewing candidates. What’s one piece of advice you’d give other entrepreneurs who are just starting out? Conduct significant customer discovery before building a product. Automaton founders MH Lines and Julia Funderburk. Founders: MH Lines, Julia Funderburk, and Andrew Graves Headquarters: Kirkland, Wash. Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: We provide quality and test automation for the millions of business users managing SaaS technology stacks, to keep lead flow and configurations working as expected. What makes you different from the competition? What’s your secret sauce? Our competitors are built for SDETs or require software development skills. We provide a simplified UI so that marketers and sales ops pros can do recurring testing, regression testing or smoke testing at the click of a button. What’s one piece of advice you’d give other entrepreneurs who are just starting out? Know your stuff — your TAM, your moat, your customer — and then go with it. The high-growth approach doesn’t make sense for every business, but if it does, find a tribe and some leaders — we chose Techstars — and just go with it. DataChain founders Arjun Pillai and Prasanna Venkatesan. Founders: Arjun Pillai and Prasanna Venkatesan Headquarters: Denver, Colo. Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: DataChain is a B2B sales and marketing insights platform — an artificial intelligence platform that proactively keeps track of companies and lets salespeople know the right time and context to sell. What makes you different from the competition? What’s your secret sauce? The way we unify the first party (company-owned) data with the publicly-available data about a company is pretty unique. We bring in huge amounts of public data about the company from more than 200 sources and tie it intelligently with the company-owned data. This enables us to do effective intelligence that will help the companies to better market and sell to their customers. What’s one piece of advice you’d give other entrepreneurs who are just starting out? Before writing a single line of code, go out and talk to your potential customers and ask them how much they’d pay for it (don’t ask if they need it). Don’t build because you feel that the world needs it; make sure it really does. Kristalic founders Filip Kozera and Jos van der Westhuizen. Founders: Filip Kozera and Jos van der Westhuizen Headquarters: San Francisco, Calif. Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: We crystallise your memories by extracting information from what you hear and say and make that content rapidly searchable. What makes you different from the competition? What’s your secret sauce? We’ve finished a masters and PhD in machine learning at Cambridge University. We leverage powerful deep learning models, developed during our research, in order to extract rich latent representations from spoken dialogues. These representations constitute our secret sauce for information extraction and rapid search. What’s one piece of advice you’d give other entrepreneurs who are just starting out? Actively push yourself to have the widest possible perspective on everything. Whether it be through reading books and articles, or speaking to the wisest people you know, try to develop a habit that makes you take a step back. With our heads in developer mode, we thought we could simply publish a different app each week to test customer interest. After two brutal weeks and two mediocre apps, a meeting with one experienced mentor shed light upon the much better technique of landing pages. Now we know of even better techniques, and we could have saved a lot of work by forcing ourselves to take a step back from the start. Level founder David Edelstein. Founder: David Edelstein Headquarters: Seattle, Wash. Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: Level delivers affordable and appropriate credit and savings through employers to enable hard-working Americans to break out of the payday-to-payday cycle. What makes you different from the competition? What’s your secret sauce? Inspired by innovations in the design and delivery of financial services in “developing” countries, Level employs strategies which are proven outside of the U.S. but are considered novel here. What’s one piece of advice you’d give other entrepreneurs who are just starting out? Identify a problem you are passionate about solving and make the leap! Logixboard founders Julian Alvarez (left) and Juan Alvarez (center), with Daniel O., head o operations. Founders: Julian Alvarez and Juan Alvarez Headquarters: Miami, Fla. Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: Our software is built to help companies all over the world better manage and control their freight operations in an easy and intuitive way. What makes you different from the competition? What’s your secret sauce? From first-hand industry experience, we understand that the freight industry has low quality and decentralized data. Our solutions are built to tackle this data problem head-on, as opposed to shying away from it. What’s one piece of advice you’d give other entrepreneurs who are just starting out? Start selling before you start building. We pivoted three times before we wrote a line of code. Grind your way to customer meetings, pitch your idea, iterate, validate, validate again, and then build. Nodesmith founders Samm Desmond and Brendan Lee. Founders: Samm Desmond and Brendan Lee Headquarters: Seattle, Wash. Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: We manage complicated and unreliable blockchain infrastructure so that you can focus solely on your blockchain based application. What makes you different from the competition? What’s your secret sauce? We focus on the holistic experience of building a blockchain based application. Not only do we provide basic access to blockchain networks, but we provide a suite of services that allow developers to easily build user friendly applications that don’t feel limited by the underlying blockchain infrastructure. What’s one piece of advice you’d give other entrepreneurs who are just starting out? There is no substitute for getting connected with folks in your local startup scene. In our experience, there is a ton of variance in how startups are built in the various tech hubs across the world — what you read on popular startup blogs is not necessarily reflective of the ecosystem where you’re trying to start a company. Rammer.ai founders Surbhi Rathore and Toshish Jawale. Founders: Surbhi Rathore and Toshish Jawale Headquarters: San Jose, Calif. Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: Rammer.ai automates notetaking in meetings. What makes you different from the competition? What’s your secret sauce? Our APIs enable communication platforms to add actionable insights on their platforms without any human intervention. What’s one piece of advice you’d give other entrepreneurs who are just starting out? Validate the market but trust your instinct. Tribl founders Ikechi Nwabuisi and Jordan Sterling. Founders: Ikechi Nwabuisi and Jordan Sterling Headquarters: Austin, Tex./Oakland, Calif. Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: Tribl is a P2P platform connecting immigrants to the cultural conversations, communities and experiences happening. What makes you different from the competition? What’s your secret sauce? We leverage people’s cultural identity/affiliations to connect multinational people no matter where they are instantly. What’s one piece of advice you’d give other entrepreneurs who are just starting out? Seek failure! Toggl founders Amr Adawi and Siamak Freydoonnejad. Founders: Siamak Freydoonnejad and Amr Adawi Headquarters: Seattle, Wash. Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: Toggl is a mobile app that lets users browse interactive, entertaining AR experiences. It’s YouTube for AR content. What makes you different from the competition? What’s your secret sauce? We’ve figured out what users actually like to do in AR, and what they find engaging. Also, no one else is doing aggregation of AR content as a platform. What’s one piece of advice you’d give other entrepreneurs who are just starting out? Go all-in, full-time as fast as you can! Then, quickly build a team of advisors from your network to keep you accountable and give you ongoing feedback.
Gaia co-founders Mehtap Ozkan, David Vaskevitch and Hal Berenson. (Gaia Photo) As a former longtime Microsoft chief technology officer, has seen most of the major computer revolutions. He’s ready for the next wave, autonomous machines, and is building a platform to get in on the ground floor. Vaskevitch is one of three co-founders behind Gaia, a new Seattle-area startup aims to be a kind of app store for robots. “Autonomous apps are not going to be like any kind of preceding apps,” Vaskevitch said. “We’re going to build a platform that makes it easier and even practical to write them.” Gaia, which has raised $10 million, is looking for partners who are building autonomous machines. The startup does not yet have a website. Vaskevitch said that solving the autonomous software problem will spread the adoption of these independent robots. “Imagine if Steve Jobs had introduced iPhone but not Xcode or the App Store,” Vaskevitch said. “Apple would be a much smaller platform.” Gaia plans to build a kind of app store for autonomous machines, such as delivery drones and robotic chefs. Above, a test model from Amazon’s delivery drone program. (Amazon Photo) In recent years, Vaskevitch has been working on Mylio, which is known for a photo management app that . Two years ago, Mylio from Chinese investors to build a private cloud. The Gaia team has borrowed Mylio’s hybrid mesh network to make its vision possible. “Gaia is designed from the ground up for tomorrow’s yin and yang distributed world,” Gaia co-founder wrote in a in 2017. “Applications can be written just once and still run on a phone, a tablet, in a car or robotic surgeon, in a server or in the cloud.” Ozkan comes from a venture capital background as the founder of Istanbul-based Golden Horn Ventures. The third member of Gaia’s founding team, , first met Vaskevitch at Microsoft and also worked on relational databases at Amazon. One problem the team foresees is that today’s infrastructure — billions of devices connected through the cloud — won’t work with tomorrow’s autonomous machines. Instead, much of the computing power will have to be done locally. “Nobody’s really worked in that problem for the last 20 years,” Vaskevitch said. In his blog post, Ozkan added: “The good news is that hardware to create the new world is either here or clearly on the way. The challenge is that the software to enable a world like this is almost entirely missing in action.” At least for now, the startup isn’t diving into the rat race for self-driving cars, focusing instead on an application platform for everything else. Among your future companions: autonomous chefs, security robots and delivery drones. “Ten or 15 years from now, we’re going to see autonomous machines in our homes, at work, everywhere we go,” Vaskevitch said.
The Thaw team, from left to right: Miles Ranisavljevic, Nate Rankin and Cooper Crosby. (Thaw Photo) For years, people have lamented the “Seattle Freeze” — the chilly reception that sometimes greets those looking to make friends in this area. Now a Seattle startup called offers an icebreaker for adults looking for new connections in the Northwest and nationwide. The business follows the standard dating app model of building profiles and making matches but with Thaw’s own twist, most notably the option of choosing more nuanced answers to questions about your interests that have the added bonus of being somewhat funny and clever. The goal was to make it “actually fun to build out a profile, which is something that is usually pretty tedious and unappealing,” said co-founder and CEO . Thaw also lets people to look for friends of the opposite sex. Other friend-matching sites such as Bumble BFF only allows you search for friends of the same gender and Hey! Vina, an app affiliated with Tinder, is only for women. The connecting site Shapr has more of a networking focus. Rankin officially launched Thaw near the end of 2018, but has been working on the project for a couple of years. Before Thaw, Rankin co-founded Wanderled, a digital marketplace for artisan goods from Guatemala. Nate Rankin, co-founder and CEO of Thaw. (Thaw Photo) Other Thaw co-founders include designer , who previously worked at and did design work for startups including and (which has also been ) and engineer , the iOS developer at , an online moving and delivery company. Rankin wouldn’t share their number of active users, but said there are a few hundred downloads a day. Thaw recently began running ads promoting the app. It’s currently only available for Apple devices, with plans to build an Android version. For revenue generation, Rankin said they’ll likely offer a basic service for free and eventually provide premium services as a subscription. They could also offer targeted advertising or partner with restaurants and event organizations to provide deals to users based on their profile interests. Social networking and the misuse of personal data are hot topics in the news these days as Facebook and Google, in particular, are facing serious criticism for some of their business practices. While these are early days for Thaw, what will the business do to avoid these sorts of missteps? “It’s something we’re going to need to think really hard about, and we’ve talked about already,” Rankin said. “I don’t exactly know what we’re going to do, but it’s something that is certainly very top of mind.” Rankin’s first startup shuttered in 2014 after two years. From the experience, he learned that while people might like your business idea, that doesn’t mean they’ll actually buy it. With Thaw, Rankin started with something people explicitly said that they wanted — a better tool for making friends — and then developed a product to meet that need. “If you ask someone, ‘What do you think of this idea?’ that’s not very helpful,” he said, “It’s a lot more effective to ask people very straightforwardly, ‘Would you use this, would you spend money on this, would you spend your time and energy on it?’” Rankin hopes that increasing numbers of people will continue to answer “yes.” We caught up with Rankin for this Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire. Thaw matches potential friends according to interests. (Thaw website) Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: Thaw is an app that connects people looking to meet and make friends nearby. Making new friends as an adult is hard. Thaw makes it easier. Inspiration hit us when: I moved to San Francisco after graduating from college and had a really hard time making friends. Aside from my co-workers, I didn’t have the common connectors I had previously relied on to meet people: dorms, classes and sports teams. The more I talked to other people, the more I realized this was a problem I wasn’t experiencing in isolation, and Cooper and I got to work! VC, Angel or Bootstrap: Staying bootstrapped has allowed us to launch and transition into working on Thaw full-time on our own terms, but we’ll be looking to raise a seed round in the not-too-distant future. Our ‘secret sauce’ is: Constantly talking to our users to better understand what’s hard about making friends, which features would help, and building them quickly. Other apps do a fine job of matching potential friends based on age and proximity, but it turns out there’s a lot more to making friends than that. For example, it can be tricky to initiate conversations and transition from chat-in-app friends to hang-out-IRL friends. Getting that feedback has allowed us to build features that directly address problems people face throughout the friend-making process. You say you like camping, but how much really do you like it? Thaw let’s users get precise in their preferences. (Thaw Image) The smartest move we’ve made so far: Turning some particularly “honest” feedback into the feature that really differentiates us from other apps in our space. We had planned on matching people using interests on a binary yes/no scale (for example, you either like snowboarding or you don’t), and the feedback we received showed us that approach was too limiting. Now you can indicate whether you hate snowboarding, snowboard a few times a year, or basically live in the mountains during the winter. Not only does this help us match potential friends better, but it takes something boring — setting up a profile — and makes it fun. The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: Initially we only launched in Seattle and users who downloaded Thaw outside of Seattle were put on a waitlist. We did consider that users who downloaded the app and had nobody nearby to match with would get frustrated and delete the app. And as it turns out, that’s exactly what happened. We opened Thaw to the whole U.S. and retention has gone up considerably. Which entrepreneur or executive would you want working in your corner? Between his time as a founder and investor, it’s hard to imagine someone being able to add more value than Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. There’s a fair amount of overlap between Thaw and Reddit, where he built a strong community and helped connect people who didn’t previously know each other. It would be awesome to pick his brain about what he’s learned from the companies he’s invested in, and he’d be an invaluable resource as we start the fundraising process. Our favorite team-building activity is: Team dinners with our partners. The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: Communication and initiative. We often work out of our respective homes, so it’s important for us to be in contact throughout the day and take care of what needs to be done without much oversight. We’ve only hired one person so far, but the bar has been set high! What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: Don’t ask people if they think your idea is good. Ask people if they would use it themselves, and why. Also, talk to users constantly, iterate quickly and be willing to admit when you’re wrong.
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. Foreign nationals seeking legal status in the U.S. received more marriage-based green cards through Boundless than any other entity or law firm, according to the startup’s CEO Xiao Wang. Boundless CEO Xiao Wang. (GeekWire Photo) That early traction has helped the Seattle startup secure a $7.8 million funding round this month, led by Foundry Group. Previous investors, including Trilogy and Pioneer Square Labs, also participated in the Series A round. Wang said the fresh cash will help Boundless develop new products and grow its 28-person team in a bid to become “the one-stop shop for all family-based immigration.” Boundless currently offers two products. Immigrants seeking a marriage-based green card or U.S. citizenship can use the service to connect with attorneys, file applications online, and receive support throughout the process. The company also publishes and resources on its website to help immigrants navigate an increasingly complex system. “Legal immigration is important and critical for the future of the success of America and with technology and data, you can make immigration far more simple,” Wang said. Boundless charges $750 for its marriage green card service and $395 for its naturalization service. The flat rates cover legal and customer support until an application is approved. The service has been used by nearly 1,500 customers and has a 100 percent approval rate, according to Wang. Of course, Boundless can only expedite and simplify so much. Recent policy changes have led to delays and uncertainty for many seeking legal status in the U.S. The wait time for immigrants who apply for U.S. citizenship in the past two years. A could make it more difficult for immigrants to qualify for green cards and visas. Meanwhile, the U.S. government is and requesting follow-up evidence on applications more frequently than in years past. “We can’t speed up the government processing time but we can make meaningful improvements, helping families get their complete and accurate application faster than through any other source,” Wang said. Boundless has raised $11.3 million to date. It was one of the first spinouts from Pioneer Square Labs, a Seattle startup studio that has helped produce more than 15 companies .
Google is building a new campus in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, just across the street from Amazon’s headquarters. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) Back in 2005, when tech veteran joined Google to build its fledgling Seattle-area outpost, recruiting was straightforward. As the first in a new wave of Silicon Valley tech giants to establish an engineering center in the region, Google set up shop in Kirkland, Wash., just down the road from Microsoft, which was suffering at the time from a stagnant stock price and sagging employee morale. Google capitalized on Microsoft’s struggles and its own status as an emerging tech icon to expand its office to 400 people over the course of four years. Microsoft veteran Peter Wilson was instrumental in building the Google and Facebook engineering offices in Seattle. (File Photo) “For a lot of the people we hired, they basically came to us and said, ‘Hey, I think what you’re doing is right, and I’d like to come work with you,’ ” Wilson recalled in an interview with GeekWire this week. Tech recruiters today can only dream of having it so easy. Fifteen years after Google arrived, it’s not a stretch to see Seattle as Silicon Valley North. Nearly 120 out-of-town tech companies , many of them from the San Francisco Bay Area. Apple, Salesforce, Oracle, Uber and Twitter are just a few of the tech powerhouses building large teams in the region. Facebook employs more than 3,000 people here, . In the meantime, many homegrown tech companies are also surging. Microsoft is experiencing a renaissance as the world’s most valuable company. Amazon employs nearly 50,000 people in the Seattle region. Tableau, Zillow, Avalara, Smartsheet, T-Mobile, and F5 Networks recruit engineers aggressively. And Google, with 3,000 employees of its own in the area, is preparing to expand to a new South Lake Union campus — this time within poaching distance of Amazon’s headquarters. RELATED CONTENTCheck out GeekWire's established by out-of-town companies. Data from Seattle-based recruiting agency Fuel Talent shows more than 65,000 software engineers now in the Seattle area. But even with all that engineering horsepower close at hand, the growth of the major tech brands can make it more difficult for startups to land the talent they need to grow their businesses. “Every year since 2008, it has become more competitive, more challenging, and requires more creativity to attract senior engineering talent,” said , director of Fuel Talent’s technology practice. “Is it easier to identify engineers now than 10 years ago? Yes. Is it more difficult and expensive to hire engineers in Seattle? 100 percent.” So what does this mean for Seattle’s startup scene? From the beginning, the concern has been that the Silicon Valley influx keep talent away from promising upstarts. That still happens, and it’s still a big risk. But the long-term impact of these engineering centers is now becoming clear, and it’s more nuanced than it might have seemed. “They are really good for the Seattle startup ecosystem, but it’s not direct,” said , vice president of engineering at trucking logistics startup Convoy. “It takes a little time to play out.” Startup stepping stone Convoy’s leadership team now includes Viraj Mody (far left), who previously led the Dropbox Seattle office; Divya Mahalingam, who worked at Palantir’s Seattle office; Vishnu Challam, who led Twitter’s Seattle office; and Tim Prouty, who helped build Uber’s Seattle office. (Convoy Photo) Prouty’s own career tells the story. He graduated from the University of Washington in 2006 and joined Isilon, a fast-growing Seattle startup that had launched five years prior. He spent nine years there as Isilon went public and was later acquired by EMC, the data storage giant San Francisco-based Uber then recruited Prouty to establish a Seattle engineering office that grew from a few people to nearly 200 employees under his leadership. But after two years, he wanted to be at a company based in Seattle that “had all the benefits of being at the center where the energy is happening, where decisions are getting made, and where the core business is operating,” Prouty said. He landed at Convoy, an up-and-coming company backed by the biggest names in tech that has become . Other leaders from remote offices in Seattle followed Prouty, including , who previously led Twitter’s Seattle office; , who led Dropbox Seattle; and , who was development team lead at Palantir Technologies in Seattle. Prouty said the engineering centers offer a new “risk profile” or stepping stone that lets workers go from a big tech company such as Microsoft or Amazon to something smaller, but not as extreme as joining an early-stage startup. “The great thing about that is it sets the stage for them to go to a startup next,” Prouty said. The high-paying salaries might also benefit the Seattle startup scene in the long run, providing enough capital for future founders to chase their business ideas. In that vein, the engineering centers could be a key part of laying the groundwork for Seattle’s next billion-dollar startups. And more startup success stories may help encourage people at companies such as Amazon, Microsoft, Google, or Facebook to build on their experience and make the entrepreneurial leap. That’s what happened to , co-founder of Seattle startup , and his business partner . The pair spent years at larger enterprises such as Microsoft and the Gates Foundation. “At some level you ask yourself, how do I make sure I’m building something as opposed to executing someone else’s vision?” Spector said. “Then you can find real problems that you’ve experienced and you want to go build that thing. We had a desire to build something meaningful and mission-driven that had a big impact. It was just a matter of time and phase of life that allowed us to do that.” Options, options, options Google’s campus in Kirkland, Wash. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) It’s a lucrative time to be an engineer in Seattle. Spector said most top engineers looking for a job in the region will have six or seven offers on the table. “They are basically getting to dictate what type of company they work at,” Spector said. “They can optimize for whatever they want to optimize for — upside, security, career growth, etc. They can pick and choose what they want to do.” Employer demand for technology roles in the Seattle metro area has grown by 23 percent over the past year, according to Indeed data. A search on for “software engineer” shows nearly 15,000 open positions. Seattle has become a battleground of sorts, with big companies and small startups competing for the same highly-skilled engineers, a crucial key to success for any tech operation. It can be tough to turn down a $200,000 salary with stock options at a deep-pocketed well-known company developing cutting-edge technologies. And Seattle is also developing a reputation where big tech companies thrive, with many employees at bigger orgs content to ride out their careers in comfort. “Trying to woo people away from those big names is extraordinarily difficult, if not all out impossible,” said , CEO of IT intelligence startup Movere. But there’s still something attractive about joining a nascent startup, even though it may not be the logical or rational financial choice. , CEO and co-founder at Seattle startup , said large companies are at a disadvantage when recruiting people who want more ownership of their work, want to have a bigger impact on the product and customer, and want more opportunities to grow into upper management positions. “It’s really all about the individual you’re recruiting and what they value,” said Nakhuda. , co-founder and CEO of , likes having giant companies down the street that help make Seattle a world-class hub for engineering talent. He said his pitch to candidates often comes down to offering “fulfillment.” “If you’ve got a worthwhile mission, top talent will be attracted to you,” Huang said. “Then, you’ll welcome having those large soul-sucking corporations in your backyard.” Middle ground Facebook’s Seattle engineering center. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) The wide array of engineering centers offer something in the middle. “At Dropbox Seattle, we have a special advantage in that we have the intimate feel of a smaller office that many candidates are looking for, while also having the resources and impact of a global company with more than 500 million users,” said , director of engineering for Dropbox. , who leads a 400-person office in Seattle for Uber, said remote sites “often round out the gaps between big and small companies, offering new missions and hard problems to solve.” helped open Facebook’s first office here nearly a decade ago. He left to launch a startup, sold it to Airbnb, and is now in charge of growing a Seattle hub for the travel giant. “I have really enjoyed being a part of the smaller community of Seattle offices that is a little more startup-like,” Steinberg . “I am really proud of the team culture in Airbnb’s Seattle office right now. Employees play much more active roles in making this a fun place to work than they tend to at larger companies and offices where employees tend to be more passive.” There can be downsides to joining these offices, given the separation from a company’s headquarters. “One of the most important parts of managing a ‘remote’ office is making sure it doesn’t feel like a remote office,” said , vice president of gaming and the Facebook Seattle site lead. “To do that, we work really hard to make sure we’re scaling Facebook’s culture. It’s a big challenge.” But there are also other benefits to being remote. For example, it provides an opportunity to craft a space to fit the culture of a local community. To that point, Raji said the impact of remote engineering centers goes beyond simply adding more talented coders to the Seattle ecosystem. Facebook’s Seattle employees have started “Resource Groups” around issues that matter to them and work with similar groups at other local companies. They participate in the South Lake Union Chamber of Commerce; the Washington Tech Alliance; and other civic engagement programs. Facebook Seattle also hosts community events and partnered with the University of Washington to create a virtual reality lab. “All of these touch points make us a better company, and, we believe, make the local tech scene stronger and more robust,” Raji said. But while companies such as Facebook reap the benefits of operating a remote office in a talent-rich region, startups could suffer, especially given salary demands. The average annual paycheck for a senior software engineer in Seattle is $144,000, according to ZipRecruiter, but that number can swell for positions within the larger giants. “Having all that great talent isn’t worth anything if you can’t afford it,” said Wilson, the Microsoft veteran who led Google’s early growth in the region. Wilson went on to play a similar role for Facebook Seattle before returning for another stint at Google. In 2016, he joined mobile marketplace company OfferUp as vice president of engineering. And by then, the recruiting scene had completely changed. With engineers enjoying an abundance of job opportunities, OfferUp was forced to sink a significant amount of time and money into recruiting, with no guarantee of success. If he were starting a company today, Wilson said he’d think twice about doing so in Seattle because of the costs. That’s in line with a recent trend of founders for their headquarters. Wilson, who has since returned to London to serve as ’s vice president of engineering, said he hopes companies in Seattle can do more to help each other out rather than wasting valuable resources trying to poach one another’s top employees. “They’ve created this zero-sum game of recruiting,” Wilson said of the engineering outposts. “It’s fabulous all these companies have moved in and created opportunities for engineers, but it would be very cool if they could work out between them how to make it more of a win-win.”
Ameesh Paleja. (OfferUp Photo) Bellevue, Wash.-based mobile marketplace startup has hired as its new chief technology officer. Paleja was previously the CTO of premium cable network Starz and the CEO of movie ticket service Atom Tickets. Paleja also worked at Amazon for more than a decade, where he managed teams focused on products including Amazon Prime Instant Video and the Amazon Appstore. “To disrupt an entire industry, you need a simple idea that’s brilliantly executed,” Paleja said in a statement. “OfferUp is a marketplace leader because of their passionate focus on the customer.” Paleja is the latest addition to OfferUp’s leadership team. Last month it former Microsoft exec and Buddy co-founder Jeff MacDuff as director of engineering; Amazon veteran Bill Carr was COO in October; and former eBay exec Rodrigo Brumana CFO in September. OfferUp is . The 8-year-old company has raised $221 million to date from investors such as Andreessen Horowitz, Warburg Pincus, T. Rowe Price, Tiger Global Management and Jackson Square Ventures, among others. This past August the 240-person company as it aims for profitability and competes with Craigslist, eBay and Facebook Marketplace. OfferUp said it has 44 million active users and that its app has been downloaded 75 million times. The company last year, extending its reach beyond local commerce. Sarah Bilton. (OfferUp Photo) OfferUp also announced today that it hired as vice president of employee experience. Bilton was previously vice president of people practices at marijuana review and discovery platform Leafly. She also held senior human resources roles at e-commerce companies Julep Beauty and real estate tech company Zillow. “As a top five shopping app on iOS and Android, we’re rapidly entering our next stage of growth by investing in maturing business lines, and continuing to build our executive roster with strong leaders who have proven experience scaling companies,” said OfferUp co-founder and CEO Nick Huzar. Bellevue, Wash.-based OfferUp is ranked No. 13 on the list of the top Pacific Northwest privately-held companies.
Ameesh Paleja. (OfferUp Photo) Bellevue, Wash.-based mobile marketplace startup has hired as its first-ever chief technology officer. Paleja was previously the CTO of premium cable network Starz and the CEO of movie ticket service Atom Tickets. Paleja also worked at Amazon for more than a decade, where he managed teams focused on products including Amazon Prime Instant Video and the Amazon Appstore. “To disrupt an entire industry, you need a simple idea that’s brilliantly executed,” Paleja said in a statement. “OfferUp is a marketplace leader because of their passionate focus on the customer.” Paleja is the latest addition to OfferUp’s leadership team. Last month it former Microsoft exec and Buddy co-founder Jeff MacDuff as director of engineering; Amazon veteran Bill Carr was COO in October; and former eBay exec Rodrigo Brumana CFO in September. OfferUp is . The 8-year-old company has raised $221 million to date from investors such as Andreessen Horowitz, Warburg Pincus, T. Rowe Price, Tiger Global Management and Jackson Square Ventures, among others. This past August the 240-person company as it aims for profitability and competes with Craigslist, eBay and Facebook Marketplace. OfferUp said it has 44 million active users and that its app has been downloaded 75 million times. The company last year, extending its reach beyond local commerce. Sarah Bilton. (OfferUp Photo) OfferUp also announced today that it hired as vice president of employee experience. Bilton was previously vice president of people practices at marijuana review and discovery platform Leafly. She also held senior human resources roles at e-commerce companies Julep Beauty and real estate tech company Zillow. “As a top five shopping app on iOS and Android, we’re rapidly entering our next stage of growth by investing in maturing business lines, and continuing to build our executive roster with strong leaders who have proven experience scaling companies,” said OfferUp co-founder and CEO Nick Huzar. Bellevue, Wash.-based OfferUp is ranked No. 13 on the list of the top Pacific Northwest privately-held companies.
Rainway CEO Andrew Sampson at TechStars Seattle Demo Day in 2018. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) Google today jumpstarted the ninth generation of gaming hardware with at the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco. Big on hype and , Stadia promises to use to let players jump straight into high-end, fast-paced games from existing devices without any need for additional hardware; if you can run a YouTube video at 4K, you’re already set up for Stadia. In Seattle, however, there’s already a startup doing what Google pitched on Tuesday. allows users to stream video games from personal devices to any other machine in their possession, as long as it has a browser and can comfortably run video at 60 frames per second. for its beta last year, the 2-year-old company that graduated from Techstars Seattle in 2018 made its official launch on the Windows platform at the end of January. “We did get there first,” Sampson told GeekWire over the phone from GDC. “It’s always good to beat the big guys to the punch.” Sampson fired off a set of tweets after Tuesday’s announcement, noting how Google “misrepresented” the performance of its beta tests for the new streaming service and said the search giant “goes on to pretend as if they are the first to get high-quality games playing in the browser.” Google then goes on to pretend as if they are the first to get high-quality games playing in the browser. They aren't. We launched two years ago with low-latency game steaming in Chrome, Firefox, and even Safari. — Andrew Sampson @ GDC (@Andrewmd5) If you want to maintain your freedom and begin playing your game library anywhere today, check out — we're building an extension to your games, not a replacement. — Andrew Sampson @ GDC (@Andrewmd5) Sampson told GeekWire that “Google doesn’t understand that openness is a big reason why people love playing video games.” “Some of the games that we love, like [Defense of the Ancients], are the result of people having access and control over the games that they’re playing,” he said. “By taking away the box, and taking away the ability to actually modify the game, what market are you serving, other than the publishers directly? People want to be able to configure and tinker. Being able to upgrade your console and PC is part of that experience. Getting rid of it is almost baffling.” Rainway has an announcement coming later this week regarding its availability on the Xbox. Since its launch, the company has racked up more than one million regular users. And remember, Rainway is coming to Xbox
It was Pi Day last week, so naturally, PIE held a Demo Day. The , or PIE, hosted its first Demo Day in five years on Thursday as 13 Portland-area startups pitched their ideas on stage. PIE launched a decade ago as a startup accelerator inside advertising company Wieden+Kennedy, following in the footsteps of organizations like Y Combinator and Techstars. But it that model in 2015 as PIE co-founder looked to help the Portland startup scene in other ways. Last year, though, with a reimagined model as a nonprofit funded in part by Prosper Portland and the Inclusive Business Resource Network. PIE no longer invests capital in participating companies and offers participation and office space for free, with a focus on attracting underrepresented founders. It also moved away from the traditional three-month format, allowing companies to stay in the new space as short or long as they need. After spending several months grooming pitches and tweaking business models, founders from the fifth PIE cohort showed off their ideas last week to a group of investors and other community members. Several folks called out the diversity among CEOs and founders who pitched. “The startups presenting didn’t fit the ‘traditional’ pattern matching of the Silicon Valley startup narrative, which is to say there weren’t any 20-something, white, male coders in hoodies pitching,” noted reporter Malia Spencer. 1/9 I got to see my first demo day Thursday and it was a huge personal reminder for me on how important diversity in background and thought are in the people you surround yourself with — Jesse Reichenstein (@JReichenstein) Here’s a quick rundown of the companies that pitched, in order of when they appeared. You can watch the full pitches at the video above. delivers groceries from local farmers, butchers, bakers, and makers. empowers Latinas to live healthier lives. makes a back support integrated postural alignment system. helps companies create resilient cultures that scale. is a social network connecting student athletes to community. helps support black entrepreneurs with funding. enables commercial architects, designers, owners and contractors to find materials and solutions for their projects. develops high-efficiency vertical farming. produces newsletters in Spanish to help inform voters. creates tools that make shopping according to one’s values convenient. develops cannabis vaporizer technology. hosts the largest database of workspaces for remote professionals provides insights on the comfort and accessibility of public places for plus-size people.
Igneous Systems CEO Kiran Bhageshpur (Igneous Photo) Seattle startup has reeled in a $25 million investment round to fuel growth of its software that helps companies manage their unstructured data. WestRiver Group led the Series C round, which pushes total funding to date to $70 million. Existing investors including Madrona Venture Group, NEA, Vulcan Capital, and Redpoint Ventures also participated. by veterans of Isilon Systems and NetApp, Igneous’ platform provides visibility and storage for unstructured data, or information that isn’t easily categorized, both in the cloud or on-premise. The company’s clients span across various industries and include The Allen Institute of Brain Science, OpSec, PAIGE, Tippet Studios, Altius Institute, and Bardell. Igneous has customers in the “mid-double digits,” said CEO and co-founder . “They use Igneous to see, organize, mobilize and protect their unstructured data — and for our customers this is petabytes of mission critical, often machine generated data typically living across disparate systems onsite, offsite and in public cloud,” Bhageshpur said in an email. “Igneous helps data-centric enterprises tap into their valuable unstructured data, optimize their storage and IT resources and reduce their data risk posture.” (Igneous Photo) Bhageshpur said Igneous differentiates from competitors with its focus on enabling efficiency at scale and the ability to support any file or object protocol. “Our customers are able to quickly (in days) get up and running, see all of their data, improve their backup SLAs and modernize their data protection services, surgically archive and migrate data to control tier 1 storage costs, organize their datasets for use in HPC/ML/EDA/RPA workflows … all without the need for a full-time system administrator,” he explained. The startup employs 70 people and expects to grow headcount by more than 50 percent in 2019. Bhageshpur said new sales growth has increased by 10X over the past year. Igneous originally sold a hardware data appliance for companies to help manage on-premises storage systems but has since expanded to develop services geared toward cloud computing. The global big data market size is expected to reach $70 billion by 2022, according to . Bhageshpur is the former vice president of engineering in the Isilon Storage Division at EMC, having spent five years in senior engineering roles at the company. Another Isilon engineering vet, co-founder , is CTO at Igneous. The company’s third co-founder, , was the first employee at NetApp. Madrona was also an early investor in Isilon, which sold to . Anthony Bontrager, WestRiver Group managing director, will join the company’s board as a result of the funding. “Igneous is uniquely positioned to enable enterprises to unlock the value of their datasets and simultaneously reduce their risk profile,” he said in a statement. “This is a complex problem that Igneous has tackled with impressive technology services.” Other recent Seattle-area investments by Kirkland, Wash-based WestRiver Group include , , , and .
(Hello Alfred Photo) is ready to do Seattle’s laundry. And groceries. And cleaning. The hospitality startup this week expanded its on-demand home help service to seven apartment buildings in the Seattle area. Hello Alfred also opened a local office and hired an area manager and operations specialists. Seattle seems a natural fit for the company, given the city’s abundance of wealthy young professionals in luxury high-rises. As the name implies, the service acts like a virtual butler to take care of all the daily tasks you’d rather not do — taking care of your home, your pet, your travel plans. It can even help you throw a party. The startup partners with property owners, who offer the service to their residents as a perk. Two of the inaugural Seattle-area buildings are Alley24, in Amazon’s South Lake Union backyard, and Velo, which is near Google’s offices in Fremont. One-bedroom apartments in the two buildings go for around $2,000. New York-based Hello Alfred said it’s not merely another gig economy app that connects consumers with freelance contractors. The startup’s home managers are full-time employees, which the company says is important to building long-term relationships with customers. The expansion comes on the heels of a last year. Hello Alfred currently operates in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Dallas, Austin, Denver, Houston, and Washington, D.C. The company recently hired Chris Haseman, former director of engineering at Uber, as its chief technology officer and launched an updated mobile app. Hello Alfred is not to be confused with , a Spokane, Wash. startup that rents out downtown apartments and turns them into short-term rentals.
From left to right: Madrona’s S. “Soma” Somasegar, Ted Kummert and Chris Picardo; Ovation’s Barry Wark (seated) and Winston Brasor (standing). (Madrona Photo) , which makes cloud-based software for medical testing labs, has raised a $5 million round led by Seattle-based Madrona Venture Group. Fellow Seattle firm also participated, along with Borealis Ventures, Nat Turner, Zach Weinberg, and David Shaw. Ovation, based in Boston, is focused on helping labs — in particular, those that do genomics and molecular testing — manage their data and run their business. The startup’s platform helps with things like tracking samples, integrating with health records systems and managing client relationships and revenue cycles. Ovation was founded by Barry Wark and Winston Brasor with the idea that existing laboratory software needed a cloud-era makeover. Wark launched the company shortly after receiving his doctorate in neurobiology and behavior from the University of Washington. “Genomics and molecular testing labs have complex workflows that require new functionality that can only come from a modern SaaS and cloud-based solution,” S. “Soma” Somasegar, managing director at Madrona Venture Group, said in a statement. “At the same time, these labs have clinical and genomic data that is being under-utilized to provide improved patient outcomes.” “Barry, Winston, and the team have built an easy to use and rapidly deployable system for one of the most vibrant areas of precision medicine diagnostics and we are excited to help them grow their team and presence in the market,” he added. Madrona has shown a growing appetite for health tech with three recent investments in the arena, including: , which makes AI assistant for physicians; , a personalized population health company led by Concur co-founder Rajeev Singh; Envisagenics, a startup that’s developing RNA therapeutics. While Madrona doesn’t plan to greatly expand investments in this area, the VC firm said it sees room for innovation when combining the cloud, data analytics, and the large amount of data being produced by life sciences companies.
Vikram Jandhyala. (University of Washington Photo) Vikram Jandhyala, the University of Washington’s vice provost for innovation and a key link between the UW and the Seattle region’s technology community, has died as a result of suicide, by Ana Mari Cauce, the University of Washington president. RESOURCES: 1-800-273-8255741741 Jandhyala, 47, led the UW’s innovation center, CoMotion, for five years. Earlier this year, he announced that . Cauce described him as “, and someone for whom “inclusive innovation” wasn’t just a catchphrase, but a guiding principle.” She wrote, “This was core to his belief in combining innovation with empathy, because as he put it, “Once we understand someone else, compassion is what makes us want to help them.” This advocacy for what Vikram called a “Seattle style of innovation” can be seen in his leadership of CoMotion and in communities not just in the Puget Sound, but around the world.” According to , Jandhyala was the son of two physics professors. He graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology in 1993 and attended graduate school at the University of Illinois. Jandhyala was well-known in the Seattle tech community over the past two decades as a respected professor, researcher, founder, speaker, and champion of entrepreneurship. He first joined the UW faculty in 2000 and founded his own startup in 2007 called Nimbic that was later acquired by Mentor Graphics. Jandhyala became chair of the UW’s electrical engineering department in 2011 and was named the university’s vice provost of innovation in June 2014. His title evolved into vice president of innovation strategy as Jandhyala led CoMotion, which helps startups through education and access to experts and funding sources. Under the leadership of Jandhyala, the UW has ranked among the top 10 on Reuters’ list of the world’s most innovative universities for the past several years and cracked the top 10 of the Milken Institute national tech transfer rankings. CoMotion also helped open a makerspace on campus; created an Amazon Catalyst program; and launched the Mobility Innovation Center with Challenge Seattle. He was the co-executive director of the Global Innovation Exchange (GIX), a new U.S.-China joint technology innovation institute run in Bellevue, Wash., by the UW and China’s Tsinghua University, which recently graduated its first class. He planned to dedicate more time to the program after leaving CoMotion. Jandhyala is survived by two sons, ages 5 and 7, according to seeking financial support to cover basic living costs for his children. His wife, Suja Vaidyanathan, writes on that page that she and Jandhyala remained married, but had lived separate lives for a few years. “Vikram was a complex person and our relationship was equally complex,” Vaidyanathan wrote. “The pressures of two high-stress careers, raising young children and some incompatibilities took a toll on our marriage. We could have worked through one or two of these pressure but our relationship couldn’t take all three.” Vaidyanathan also said that the two were “highly supportive of each other’s life goals” and that “his life goal was to make entrepreneurship a part of higher education across all disciplines, not just technology.” The news of Jandhyala’s death has stunned many people in the Seattle tech community. Madrona Venture Group, which provided seed funding in 2006 for his startup Nimbic, released this statement from its managing directors. “Vikram was a close part of the Madrona family for years. He worked with us on the funding of a company thirteen years ago and since then we have worked with him in our business lives as well as had him as a part of our social fabric. He took CoMotion and made it a strong force of innovation for the entire ecosystem, making a real difference in the lives of students and professors. He gave so much to all of us and we are devasted by the news of his death.” Susannah Malarkey, former executive director of the Seattle-based Tech Alliance, called Jandhyala’s passing a “huge loss for the university and a huge loss for the larger community.” “What I loved about Vikram was that he was willing to think in very new ways,” she said. “He partnered with Ana Mari to really bring the innovation of the university out to the community in a way that it never had before. He was just a lovely man — so smart, so committed, so energetic, and really led by example. He was just a fabulous guy.” In , Jandhyala shared his thoughts on life changes, writing that he was “personally going through a challenging one right now.” He said that transitions “whether chosen or forced, are particularly difficult when you are moving on from something you have put all your heart, soul, belief, effort, and time into. It is doubly hard when it is not just you but a dedicated, loving, high-functioning team who believes in a common vision that has put in all that effort. People matter immensely.” He said that his personal take didn’t offer any business or leadership wisdom, but that he believed “self reflection at times of transition can be additionally focused and energized.” “Sometimes, to paraphrase (and misquote!) a great role model and technology leader and friend I would have loved to work for and with, it’s time to “hit reset,” Jandhyala wrote, in an apparent reference to “Hit Refresh,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s 2017 book. “And if that soft reset doesn’t work, to turn the power off and back on and hopefully to see something fresh and different.” In a answering a traditional question at the end of our questionnaire, Jandhyala offered these “final words of advice” for his fellow geeks: “Try to be inclusive, not exclusive. Technology is great. Think about how it can solve real problems for all people. Think about how technology itself can include all people.” GeekWire’s Taylor Soper and Kurt Schlosser contributed to this report.
Cyemptive CEO Rob Pike. (Cyemptive Photo) Former executives from the National Security Agency, Microsoft, Hitachi, and other companies are behind a Seattle-area cybersecurity startup that just came out of stealth mode three years after it launched. on Tuesday announced a $3.5 million investment round from undisclosed investors. The company’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. Cyemptive 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. “We have invented technology that detects and deals with hackers in seconds, as opposed to existing solutions which can take weeks to months,” Pike told GeekWire. Pike said the technology is “a truly preemptive solution” which disallows actions that would corrupt a system or encrypt a file. It does not rely on API monitoring. “Such an approach is both too late and much too cumbersome as the sheer volume of APIs prevents effective protection after the fact,” he said. Cyemptive has more than 100 business and government customers, but Pike declined to provide details on specific clients. The 60-person company has additional offices in Washington D.C., Nevada, Canada, and India. Other execs include Bryan Greene, a former cybersecurity solution architect at HP and Pat McDermott, a veteran finance executive. Cyemptive recently won a national competition hosted by the Department of Homeland Security’s , beating out more than 60 other companies. “We were successful in convincing a comprehensive panel of senior government officials that our technology solution was the most innovative compared to the other concepts,” Pike said. “Cyemptive’s technology can be applied across a broad range of systems, including multiple border security needs and requirements.” The global cybersecurity market is expected to eclipse $200 billion by 2021, according to .
A Toyota concept car at CES 2017. (GeekWire File Photo) Since first launched in 1997, a lot has changed in the automotive world. The Seattle-based company has not only remained relevant but is now attracting investor attention from one of the world’s largest car companies. Airbiquity today announced a $15 million investment round from Toyota Motor Corporation, Toyota Tsusho Corporation (Toyota’s trading arm), and DENSO Corporation (a giant automotive parts manufacturer partly owned by Toyota). Airbiquity has been building automotive telematics technology for more than two decades. Its focus is now on Choreo, a cloud-based connected car delivery platform, and , software that lets car manufacturers continuously update in-car software technology. (Airbiquity Photo) The company supports more than eight million vehicles across more than 60 countries and 30 languages. “We are delighted to receive investment from three of the most successful corporations in the automotive industry,” , the Airbiquity CEO who joined the company in 2002, said in a statement. “This is an exciting time for our company, and we look forward to working with our new strategic partners to optimize and leverage OTAmatic for the next generation of connected vehicle.” Investment in self-driving cars and related technology could help boost Airbiquity’s value proposition. Toyota itself has been over the past several years. The market for advanced driver-assistance systems technology could reach $35 billion by 2021, according to .
Dauntless co-founder and CEO Clark Musser and Soro CEO Jerry Tindall at this year’s CannaCon. (Dauntless photo.) , a Seattle-area software developer providing point-of-sale and tracking software to the cannabis industry, has acquired pot sales software company . The combined companies aim to create an all-encompassing platform serving growers, packagers, and retailers across the U.S., said Soro CEO Jerry Tindall. “The vision is to build an entire ecosystem around what it means to be a cannabis business,” Tindall said. “By putting our softwares together we now have a full stack, a fully integrated offering, and that doesn’t really exist yet — not from the grower all the way to the retail plant sale … there isn’t anyone who is doing the end-to-end product suite at this point.” Soro brings to Dauntless its analytics and customer relationship management sales software, which connects growers and packagers. Soro will keep its brand name for now, Tindall said. Dauntless, which launched in 2013, provides traceability and compliance for growers, as well as point-of-sale, compliance and inventory management software to retailers. Dauntless co-founder and CEO Clark Musser, who left Microsoft to launch the startup, said between 30 and 40 percent of all the state’s retail pot transactions go through his company’s retail software. Executives at both Soro and Dauntless, both private companies, declined to disclose the terms of the all-stock deal. All four of Soro’s employees will join Dauntless, making for a total of 33 employees. Soro will bring about a dozen customers to Dauntless, which has roughly 120 customers. The Dauntless executive team includes vets from Microsoft, Amazon, and Starbucks. The combined company plans to pursue between $5 million and $10 million in a Series A funding round, Musser said. The acquisition comes especially fast for Soro, which only a year ago. Tindall said the company bootstrapped itself, foregoing a formal investment round and taking a $25,000 investment from Tindall’s dad to cover the bills. “Yeah, we worked hard,” Tindall said of the breakneck timeline from launch to acquisition. With today’s acquisition, Soro and Dauntless are trying to capitalize on what is seen as sky’s-the-limit opportunity in a young and burgeoning legal cannabis industry that is hungry for customized software solutions. There are 87,000 cannabis business in the U.S., Musser said. , which tracks the legal pot market, said U.S. consumers spent more than $10.5 billion on cannabis for both recreational and medical uses in 2018. Recreational pot spending more than doubled from $2.7 billion in 2017 to $6 billion last year as more states legalized cannabis, BDS said. The company said recreational pot is likely to be a $14.3 billion market by 2022, with the medical pot market growing from its current $4.5. billion to $7.9 billion. Patrick Rea, CEO and co-founder of , a venture fund that invests in the pot industry, said that leaves plenty of opportunities for companies like Dauntless to grow, especially if it can improve on the existing models. “The growth opportunity for these seed-to-sale software tracking companies is probably larger than the growth of the industry overall because so many new businesses are coming online,” he said. In a , New Cannabis Ventures said that, of the 44 point-of-sale software vendors it counted in the cannabis industry, only five make up 80 percent of the sector’s market share. The biggest is BioTrack, with Green Bits a close second followed by Flowhhub, MJ Freeway, and Adilas. “If you can do better, there’s reason for you to play in the space,” Rea said. “The need for better solutions is greater than any market share that any of the top (cannabis software) companies has. The industry is hungry for better.” And there’s plenty of room for improvement. Last year, Washington state enlisted a new cannabis traceability system called Leaf Data Systems, which has been , including businesses being unable to log in, scrambled orders and missing shipping manifests. The system has also, compromising data and creating even more havoc across the state’s pot businesses. Executives from both Soro and Dauntless, who did not know each other well at the time, said they found themselves exchanging pained glances during a 2017 Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Control Board meeting about implementing Leaf’s system, which wasn’t yet ready and still lacks key features promised by Leaf, Tindall said. Tindall said he and the Dauntless executives began talking about merging as they discussed their “shared misery” caused by the state tracking system at industry events. The merger made sense, they said, because the cannabis business is still fragmented, and software platforms for large-scale agriculture operations are often ill-suited to fit the unique needs of pot operations. “The different people in the supply chain, they all get stuck in their little silos,” Tindall said. To solve that problem, Dauntless has developed a platform called GIANT, which stands for “Global Interoperable Application Network Technology.” Musser said GIANT has a universal API that can connect every cannabis business — grower, packagers and retailers — as well as regulators, regardless of different state tracking systems. Instead of modifying software for each state regulatory environment, only one adjustment is needed in GIANT, Musser said. This month, Dauntless was showing off GIANT at Seattle’s , the country’s largest cannabis industry event. Late last month, Dauntless that , the Seattle company that publishes a directory of where to buy pot and gets more than 16 million visitors to its site each month, will begin using GIANT to update retailers’ menus of cannabis products. Tindall said the combined companies, quite ambitiously, want to “create the most transparent and connected industry on earth.” “The goal is to create a better industry,” he said, adding later, “this is us responding to a need that exists globally.”
More changes are going down at , the Seattle-based cosmetic treatment review platform. RealSelf CTO and vice president of product will leave the company within the next month, GeekWire has learned. Both are longtime RealSelf employees — Woodward joined the company in 2014; Brooks came on a year earlier. RealSelf confirmed the departures and provided this statement, attributed to CEO Tom Seery: Matt and Scott have made a huge impact at RealSelf and were instrumental to getting us to a place where we’ve attracted both world class technical talent and investors. Their transitions from the company over the next month is mutually understood as a healthy and appropriate change for the business and their teams. I am grateful to both and know they will continue to make a difference at their next role. For RealSelf this means we’re actively recruiting for a chief technology officer and VP of product, which represent rare opportunities to be part of a company that is transforming an industry and helping people make smart, confident self-improvement decisions. Before landing at RealSelf, Woodward spent six years at Microsoft and another seven years at Expedia. He co-founded a startup called Shutterous.com in 2011. Brooks is also an Expedia veteran, having spent more than 11 years at the travel giant. He was also a product leader at Zillow. We’ve reached out to Woodward and Brooks and will update this story when we hear back. This past January, RealSelf 14 percent of its workers, or 36 employees, as part of a company-wide reorganization. Founded in 2006, RealSelf raised its first substantial round of outside capital this past April to fuel growth of its Yelp-like marketplace business that helps people learn more about cosmetic procedures. That led the company to grow headcount by 40 percent last year. “Like many companies, you grow ahead of your growth and that growth just hasn’t been showing up at the rate we thought it would,” Seery told GeekWire in January. RealSelf blamed slowing site traffic on a Google search algorithm change made last year. The company planned to change its marketing strategy and will continue to hire in 2019, albeit at a reduced growth rate compared to 2018. Some executives are in Austin this weekend for SXSW, where RealSelf is the “RealSelf House of Modern Beauty.” RealSelf has more than two million reviews and 20,000 registered doctors on its platform, which helps users learn about procedures like botox, Invisalign, or breast implants. In 2017, 94 million people from 100 countries used RealSelf; it averages 10 million unique visitors per month.
Vtrus’ ABI Zero drone is designed to conduct indoor inspections autonomously. (Vtrus via YouTube) Seattle startup has raised investment for a different kind of drone — one that’s designed to conduct precision inspections of industrial facilities. A published today shows a $2.9 million cash infusion for Vtrus. , the company’s CEO and co-founder, declined to comment on the new funding when contacted by GeekWire. Salas-Moreno was previously the co-founder of Surreal Vision, a computer vision startup that was , 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 . The company, based near 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. 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. Because Vtrus’ platform is designed exclusively for indoor use, it doesn’t have to satisfy the Federal Aviation Administration restrictions on outdoor flights of unmanned aerial systems. The company has been demonstrating its technology in a “pilotless” pilot program, and the newly-reported funding round should help Vtrus get further down the path to commercialization. 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. The drone market is expected to reach $100 billion by 2020, according to research from . Vtrus showed off its technology and said it was seeking investment. The startup has put together a variety of videos showing how the drone does its work. Check ’em out … and watch the (indoor) skies:
Nanodropper team members Jennifer Steger, Mackenzie Andrews and Allisa Song. (Matt Hagen / UW Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship Photo) What if something as simple as a more precise eyedropper could cut the cost of glaucoma medication by more than half? That’s the idea behind the startup Nanodropper, which won the $15,000 grand prize at the University of Washington Hollomon Health Innovation Challenge on Wednesday night. The team also won a $2,500 medical device consulting award. created an FDA-approved adapter for eyedrop bottles that aims to reduce waste in the delivery of medication, especially for patients with glaucoma, which causes blindness. Here’s how it works: Take any eyedropper medication, screw on Nanodropper’s device, and you’ll get drops that are much smaller — but still large enough to deliver the medication effectively. Eyedroppers often deliver more medication than the eye can physically absorb, and the Nanodropper reduces the size of drops by a quarter or more. The team was inspired by about how larger-than-necessary eyedrops were increasing costs for glaucoma patients, who can spend $500 per month on medication. The issue is , in which patients sued massive drug companies like Allergan, Bausch & Lomb, Merck and Pfizer. “The problem is that the companies have no incentive to reduce the size of their drops, because then they would be selling less medication,” Nanodropper’s Allisa Song, a medical student at the Mayo Clinic, told GeekWire. Nanodropper’s team also includes UW graduate students Jennifer Steger and Mackenzie Andrews, as well as Elias Baker, a mechanical engineer who has worked with SpaceX and Spacelabs. Following its launch a year ago, Nanodropper has raised $60,000 primarily from healthcare providers. The grand prize was sponsored by Seattle-based life science incubator Intuitive X. Nanodropper said five eye care clinics are interested in presales and that it’s in talks with Premera Blue Cross, Kaiser Permanente and Bartell Drugs. The startup will use the cash to start making the product, which is manufactured in Minnesota and will sell for $12.99. The device has received class I FDA approval with a 510(k) exemption. $10,000 2nd Place Prize: Appiture (Washington State University) (Matt Hagen / UW Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship Photo) Appiture is developing a mobile-based hardware and software system to detect autism spectrum disorder in children. The team, which includes students from Washington State University’s chemical engineering, bioengineering and veterinary medicine departments, also won a $2,500 digital health prize. The Herbert B. Jones Foundation sponsored the second-place prize. (GeekWire Photo) $5,000 3rd Place Prize: Pulmora (University of Washington) Pulmora created an autonomous ventilator that can easily be applied to patients who have stopped breathing. The company, comprised of UW bioengineering students, said that it hopes to make ventilators common and easy to use, in the same way that defibrillators are today. The third-place prize was sponsored by WRF Capital, the investment arm of the Washington Research Foundation. $1,000 “Judges Also Really Liked” Award: DopCuff and Insulin Anywhere In addition to the top prizes, the judges gave $1,000 to DopCuff, which is working on a better blood pressure device for patients with end-stage heart failure. Insulin Anywhere also won the “Judges Also Really Liked Award” for its system that is both an insulin-cooling chamber and a compact needle kit, which was designed to get insulin to diabetics in emergency situations such as natural disasters.
The Knock team. (Knock Photos) When it comes to communication with customers, many apartment landlords still rely only on phone and email to connect with potential tenants and existing renters. wants to change that. The Seattle startup today announced a $10 million Series A round led by Madrona Venture Group to help grow its communications and CRM platform used by nearly 200 multifamily property management companies. The 52-person company has seen revenue grow by 11X over the past two years and is operating in nine U.S. cities. Total funding to date is $15.5 million. What Knock does: Knock’s technology facilitates communication between property managers and renters — responding to questions, organizing tours, etc. — and also manages customer relationships, bringing both services in one place. Knock’s product can be used with property management software systems such as Yardi and Realpage, and also provides back-end analytics data to highlight engagement and internal sales statistics. It integrates with communication tools such as Facebook Messenger and productivity apps including Outlook and Slack. Knock will use the fresh funding to invest in data science and analytics that can help property managers predict tenant turnover and reduce vacancy rates. Backstory: Knock, originally called ZipDigs, was co-founded in 2014 by and , two University of Washington grads who previously worked together at UBS Wealth Management. The entrepreneurs were frustrated with the leasing process, specifically with how difficult it was to communicate with landlords. “All these different communication channels in one centralized platform was just not available prior to Knock,” Petry said. , the company’s other co-founder, left in April 2018. More renters: Themelis said that almost every major metropolitan market is seeing a record amount of multi-family development. That’s good news for Knock. “With all that supply, there’s competition to get renters to move into those properties,” Themelis said. Competition: Some companies offer landlords lead management or communication tools, but Petry said none bring them together in the way that Knock does. Knock co-founders Tom Petry and Demetri Themelis. Investor insight: In a blog post, Scott Jacobsen, managing director at Madrona, detailed how Knock “grew from a booking widget for prospective tenants to a comprehensive CRM.” “By listening to customers and deeply understanding the pain points and friction (a behavior we see in all great founding teams), the Knock team has built the best CRM system for multi-family property managers and are just getting started in their ambition to build a comprehensive, modern marketing cloud for the industry,” Jacobsen wrote. Not that Knock: There’s another real estate startup called Knock that a $400 million round two months ago for its “home trade-in program.” Seattle real estate startups: Knock is one of several startups in the region building tech for the real estate industry. Others include , , , , , MoxiWorks, IMPREV, and Faira — not to mention industry giants such as Zillow Group and Redfin.