Seattle startup Tasso raises $6M for at-home blood draw technology

Seattle startup Tasso raises $6M for at-home blood draw technology

2:00pm, 5th March, 2019
(Tasso Photo) , the maker of a product that lets patients collect their own blood at home, raised $6.1 million in a round led by Vertical Ventures Partners. Startup accelerator Techstars and Los Angeles-based hospital Cedars-Sinai also invested in the round. The Seattle-based startup said the blood sample device, called Tasso OnDemand, should be available by the middle of this year. The idea is that people can take their own blood at home and mail it to a lab directly rather than go to a clinic. This allows for more frequent testing to monitor a drug’s effects on the blood, providing regular feedback for researchers and doctors while making the process easier for patients. The company developed the platform using $13.1 million of from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) and the National Institute of Health (NIH). Tasso was started by and , who both received doctorates in biomedical engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “We are excited to work with VVP on furthering our mission of patient-centric blood collection,” said Casavant, who serves as Tasso’s CEO. “With the additional support of Techstars and Cedars-Sinai, we are well positioned to transform clinical blood testing by making it painless and convenient.” Tasso has pilot programs with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Cedars-Sinai and others. Vertical Ventures invests in early-stage tech companies across a range of industries. The VC firm’s other healthcare investments include health data company Roam and GE Ventures spinout Menlo Micro. Vertical Ventures partner Brad Corona said the company was looking to sell the product to labs and pharmaceutical companies. “Blood collection hasn’t changed in decades, and judging from the strong early interest from commercial partners, it’s time,” he said. Quest and LabCorp dominate the diagnostics industry, which a number of startups have tried to disrupt through at-home or direct-to-consumer testing. EverlyWell, a startup that received funding through “Shark Tank” and offers a menu of health tests based on samples collected at home, has over its accuracy.
DiscoverOrg makes another acquisition, buys email verification service NeverBounce

DiscoverOrg makes another acquisition, buys email verification service NeverBounce

12:58pm, 5th March, 2019
DiscoverOrg CEO Henry Schuck. (DiscoverOrg Photo) Vancouver, Wash.-based marketing and sales intelligence startup made its second acquisition in two months, announcing Tuesday the purchase of email verification and list cleansing service . DiscoverOrg will integrate NeverBounce technology into its own platform to enhance accuracy of emails and verification of other marketing data. Founded in Cleveland five years ago, NeverBounce has more than 100,000 users across the globe. The 15-person company will keep working out of Cleveland and continue selling its products as standalone solutions while partnering with DiscoverOrg. “Together, DiscoverOrg and NeverBounce are committed to ending the curse of bad sales and marketing data,” NeverBounce CEO Brad Owen said in a statement. This is the fourth acquisition for DiscoverOrg, which Boston-area enterprise marketing startup Zoominfo last month, RainKing in 2017, and iProfile in 2015. DiscoverOrg has nearly 15,000 customers and employs more than 500 people. The company’s backers include TA Associates, The Carlyle Group, and 22C Capital.
Air-activated smartphone charger: Seattle startup raises cash for peel-off portable battery

Air-activated smartphone charger: Seattle startup raises cash for peel-off portable battery

11:56am, 5th March, 2019
The Powerit team, from left to right: Chairman David Bluhm, Manufacturing Operations Director Bob Coyne, Research Scientist James Downar, Materials Chemist Dan Shaw, and CEO David Clark. (GeekWire Photos / Taylor Soper) As we’ve become more and more dependent on smartphones, keeping our devices charged up has become increasingly important. “Low-battery anxiety” , and according to some surveys, . It’s spawned the popularity of portable chargers, phone charging cases, and charging stations. That’s why a new innovation from Seattle startup is intriguing. The company has developed a charging device that is powered by air. The idea sounds like a stretch, but GeekWire saw it in action at the company’s new office on the bottom floor of the Old Rainier Brewery in Seattle’s Sodo neighborhood. When the small white circles are exposed to air, this device can start charging your smartphone. The zinc-air chemistry behind the technology, which is activated by simply pulling off an adhesive peel, is not necessarily new. It’s already used in high-end hearing aids and by the military. But Powerit has come up with a way that makes it easy to charge smartphones and other lithium ion-powered devices with a thin portable lightweight card-like product designed for one-time usage. The company is initially targeting adventurers traveling to “off-the-grid” areas and people attending all-day events with little access to power, such as concerts. Powerit CEO said the price for one charging device will be in the “single digit dollar” range and come down as production increases. The company has a larger vision to sell the device at convenience stores and as part of a subscription program. “Its core advantage is that it’s always ready to go,” Clark said. “It never needs to be charged in advance.” In that vein, it’s similar to solar-powered portable chargers. But those require direct sunlight, whereas Powerit’s product just needs air. The device provides one full charge for the newest smartphones and comes with a USB-C, USB-Micro, or Lightning connector. It is built with recyclable plastic, some of which is harvested from the ocean, and a zero-emissions production process. “It’s important to our customer that we fully embrace the environmentally-friendly and sustainable aspects, and really try to be a leader in that regard over time, particularly as it relates to taking plastic out of the ocean,” said Clark, who was previously a marketing executive at Seattle startup Blab. Powerit’s headquarters is located on the basement of the Old Rainier Brewery in Seattle’s Sodo neighborhood. Powerit has raised $4 million, including a recent $2 million round that closed earlier this month. , a serial entrepreneur who previously led companies such as Z2Live and DropForge Games, is helping back Powerit as chairman with other investors such as Varkain. Bluhm said there’s nothing like it in the market. He said the charger will be a “no-brainer” purchasing decision for consumers. “You won’t be forced to buy a $40 battery pack when you’re in a pinch running through the airport or at a concert or at a NASCAR race when you don’t know if your phone is going to make it, given what you’re doing,” he said. With more than 3 billion smartphone users , the total addressable market is massive. Powerit also sees opportunity in selling to specific industries such as medical or military. The company is exploring various revenue models, including selling advertising space on the device itself or partnering with event organizers. The device is “smart” and can collect data when connected to a smartphone. “We have the ability to deliver an engaging experience,” Bluhm said. Powerit has less than 10 employees working out of its HQ in Seattle that doubles as a test production lab. It partners with a larger scale manufacturer in Rochester, New York.
Don’t let your OKRs be TBD: Ally helps companies focus on their most important goals

Don’t let your OKRs be TBD: Ally helps companies focus on their most important goals

6:23pm, 4th March, 2019
Ally founder and CEO Vetri Vellore (left) and Cooper Crosby, head of UX. (Ally Photo) It was a problem that came up at his first startup that led to create his second one. In 2007 Vellore co-founded , a company providing digital tools that allow large businesses to run employee development programs for mentoring and coaching. It was going well, but Vellore found that it was difficult to effectively and efficiently manage his team. The resources that he wanted didn’t seem to be available. So in 2017, two years after Chronus was acquired by a private equity firm, Vellore decided to pursue a new project. “I found myself itching to do something much bigger,” Vellore said. He launched , a Bellevue, Wash.- based company that provides management solutions. OKRs are a framework for running teams and businesses that helps companies track and stay aligned with specific goals. The operations approach became widely popular thanks in large part to its use at Google. Vellore said that his long-term goal is to develop a tool that helps businesses connect their strategies and execution, using AI to successfully pursue their goals. The company, which has six employees, was in private beta mode for many months, working with a few Seattle startups. Ally had a public launch in the spring of 2018. The company has raised $3 million seed round from investors such as Founders’ Co-op, Vulcan Capital, and others. Ally, an OKR tool, helps companies track their performance in meeting specific goals. (Ally Image) Ally’s competition includes 15Five, BetterWorks, Khorus and Workboard. The startup distinguishes itself from the other tools available by integrating with business management systems, Vellore said, including Slack, Salesforce, Jira and Smartsheet. That allows users to avoid switching between apps or program and automatically update progress on projects. Customers include Slack, Remitly, Plaid, National Institutes of Health and UrbanClap, and the product is available to businesses of all sizes. Companies managing up to 10 users pay a $29 monthly fee, while those with 11-to-250 users pay $7 per person per month. Ally offers discounts for businesses with more than 250 users. The product is available as a free, 14-day trial. Before launching startups, Vellore was at Microsoft for 14 years, ultimately running the Visual Studio core and platform team. We caught up with Vellore for this . Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire. Ally CEO Vetri Velllore. (Ally Photo) Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: We help businesses move fast and align their strategy and execution to match the evolving needs of their customers and market conditions. Imagine trying to win a basketball game without knowing the score or where the other players are on the court. So why would you run your business that way? Inspiration hit us when: I was struggling to manage operations at Chronus even though we were only about 20 people. I had managed much larger teams at Microsoft and was surprised that I was struggling with such a small team. Then it dawned on me that to be successful in today’s environment, the way that teams and businesses are managed has to change in a fundamental way. Microsoft went on to realize this themselves years later. Businesses need to operate at higher speeds than even before, but strategy and execution still need to be combined in a very tight, iterative loop. At Chronus we tried to use project management tools, spreadsheets and other software solutions to do this and they just do not work as well as we needed. I knew that there had to be a better way. VC, Angel or Bootstrap: Chronus was bootstrapped and I am familiar with the pros and cons of that model. With Ally we knew that what we were building was really big, so my plan was to bootstrap for a few years and then raise outside funding. But the strong tailwinds and aggressive interest we’ve experienced for our product since launch led us to decide to raise money sooner to build on that momentum. We are fortunate that round was heavily oversubscribed and are thrilled to have an amazing syndicate of investors, led by Founders’ Co-op with participation from Vulcan and others. Our ‘secret sauce’ is: Creating amazingly simple experiences to accomplish very complex workflows that involve multiple systems. The smartest move we’ve made so far: Focusing on a product experience that allows for easy user engagement at all levels of an organization, which has led us to bring features to where users are already doing their work, like in Slack. The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: Not scaling sooner. We are stretched too thin and running really hard to meet the strong customer interest while scaling as fast as we can. PS: We’re hiring sales development reps! Ally’s approach helps businesses track overarching goals and individual achievements. (Ally Image) Which entrepreneur or executive would you want working in your corner?: Sunny Gupta of Apptio would be one. I am huge fan of how he managed to essentially create a new category and scale the company successfully. In many ways, we are also trying to create a new category and can learn a lot from how Sunny did that so well. Our favorite team-building activity is: Playing ping-pong. This was big at Chronus as well. The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: Unstoppable drive with a genuine passion to help teams and individuals achieve their goals. What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: Pick a problem you are genuinely passionate about. The journey is going to have ups and down and your passion for solving the problem will be one of the key determinants of success and help you enjoy the journey.
3 leadership lessons from Adaptive Biotechnologies CEO Chad Robins

3 leadership lessons from Adaptive Biotechnologies CEO Chad Robins

1:50pm, 2nd March, 2019
Adaptive Biotechnologies Co-founder and CEO Chad Robins speaking from the Health Tech stage at the 2018 GeekWire Summit. (GeekWire Photo / Dan DeLong) As the CEO of Adaptive Biotechnologies, has shown a knack for turning really good ideas into a viable business. But even Robins admits that he makes for an unlikely leader of a biotechnology company. Robins revealed his thoughts about what makes an effective CEO during , hosted by Fuel Talent CEO Shauna Swerland.  Adaptive dates back to a phone call Robins received ten years ago from his brother, Harlan Robins, saying he’d made a discovery that he thought could “change the world.” Chad Robins jumped at the chance to start a biotech based on sequencing the immune system. The company is now at the forefront of and has signed massive partnerships with Genentech to and Microsoft to . Here’s what Robins had to say about leadership. Lesson #1: Do the right thing. While in college at Cornell, Robins spent more than three months on a backpacking trek with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). “My whole leadership style to this day is based on those 100 days in the wilderness,” Robins said. “There was a thing called expedition behavior and … at the end of the day it’s just do your sh*t and be a good person. Do the right thing, right?” While hiking in the desert, Robins was part of a group, and each member had a job to do when they got to the campsite. “If one of those people didn’t do their job, you either wouldn’t drink, you wouldn’t eat, or you wouldn’t sleep well,” he said. “If I was mailing it in, someone else was picking it up. And that’s not fair.” His love of the outdoors led Robins to his first attempt at launching a business. Soon after graduating, Robins started an outdoor luxury travel company called American Beauty, named after the Grateful Dead album. Lesson #2: Learn to love fundraising “I love fundraising” isn’t a phrase you hear often, but that’s exactly how Robins feels. As he sees it, his job is to make sure the company has the money it needs. “I try to simplify a CEOs job into really three categories: money, people, strategy. If you don’t have money, you can’t get the right people. And if you don’t have the right people, it doesn’t matter what strategy you set,” he said. Fundraising has also led Robins to Brian Kaufmann from Viking Global Investors, who helped Adaptive find its strategy and set fundraising targets. The biotech industry requires mountains of cash to stay competitive, which has spurred Adaptive to raise more than $400 million to date. Lesson #3: Build culture from the top-down and the bottom-up When companies talk about management strategies, they often discuss either ruling from the “top-down” or encouraging grassroots change from the “bottom-up.” For Robins, building a company culture requires doing both at the same time. “First and foremost, you have to have a cultural leader. And that should be the CEO, who sets a tone of what you want this company to be,” he said. On the flip side, cultivating culture from the bottom-up comes down to smart hiring. “We want to be an innovative company overall and we want to be compared to the disruptive, game-changing companies across the board. To do that, you need to hire for the right mindset and the right type of person.” For Robins, the right type of person is one who has good ideas and is eager to listen and encourage debate within the company.
Off the Record, a startup that helps drivers fight tickets, wins dispute brought by traffic attorneys

Off the Record, a startup that helps drivers fight tickets, wins dispute brought by traffic attorneys

4:39pm, 1st March, 2019
Alex Guirguis, co-founder of Off the Record, holds the app up on his phone as he poses in 2016 with the car that has gotten him a few speeding tickets. (Kurt Schlosser / GeekWire) A Seattle startup that helps drivers fight traffic tickets is celebrating what it calls “a big win” this week in a dispute brought by attorneys who claim the service is unethical. The Washington State Bar Association’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel dismissed a grievance brought against Off the Record, a 3-year-old startup that streamlines the process of fighting traffic tickets in court. The Washington Supreme Court affirmed the decision, which means it cannot be appealed. “This really is a David vs. Goliath story — hot shot, establishment attorneys coming after a local startup because of our quick and unexpected success,” Off The Record co-founder Alex Guirguis said via email. In the complaint, Lisa Donaldson and 11 other Washington state traffic attorneys claimed that Off The Record’s business model raised ethical red flags. The grievance alleged Off The Record controls attorneys fees, which causes them to yield “their professional independence to the company.” Off The Record users provide a photo of their traffic ticket, answer a few questions, and are assigned a lawyer with an established track record fighting tickets. Customers communicate with their attorneys using the app, which Donaldson and co-signing attorneys said could threaten “the privileged nature of such communications.” Other allegations included deceptive advertising and compromising attorneys’ “duty of diligence” by pushing to streamline the process. The Washington State Bar Association regulates legal disputes pertaining to attorneys, known as grievances. Donaldson filed hers against Jacques LeJeune, an attorney who works with Off The Record. The disciplinary board recognized that “there is considerable nationwide discussion of the issues surrounding the use of marketing and matching services like OTR” but chose to dismiss the grievance because there isn’t “specific evidence of client/consumer harm.” Off The Record’s services are available in 30 states and the company fighting tickets. The company is fending off a similar grievance in California. Guirguis sees the friction as par for the course for a disruptive business. “We expect we’ll have to deal with this in each state in which we operate,” he said.
GeekWire Calendar Picks: The GeekWire Bash is a week away; International Women’s Day; and the future of Star Trek

GeekWire Calendar Picks: The GeekWire Bash is a week away; International Women’s Day; and the future of Star Trek

8:04pm, 28th February, 2019
Did you spend years in your parents’ basement playing ping pong? Or foosball? Or Catan? If so, join the GeekWire team and 2,000 Seattle area geeks on March 7th for the annual — the most unique and fun event on the Seattle tech calendar. Presented by First Tech Federal Credit Union, the Bash is now open to geeks of all ages. Grab tickets , and join the GeekWire team for robotics, video games, virtual reality, sumo wrestling and a zipline. A limited number of spots in the ping pong and foosball tournaments are available . The GeekWire Bash is a great team building activity whether strategizing over tabletop games, soaring through the air on the zipline or cheering each other on in other offbeat activities. Group tickets available. Some of this year’s featured activities: —Get a sumo face ready and try to not hit the mat, thanks to sumo sponsor NTT
.—Bring kids to explore the new featuring STEM-oriented activities.—Pop into the open play ping pong area.—DJ Morgan of KEXP will keep the energy high from the First Tech DJ Booth.—Tabletop gaming is back with partners at Meeples Games providing intro Magic lessons and sharing their mobile game library.—Dodgeball meets laser tag in a virtual world: Be one of the first to experience multi-player arena VR at the VRcade by Virtual Sports.—Watch more than 200 kids in 4th to 8th grades compete with their autonomous robots in the first annual ! Here are more highlights from the GeekWire Calendar: : A full-day celebration of the best science fiction and fantasy films of the past year at the SIFF Cinema Egyptian in Seattle; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m Saturday, March 9. Getting women to land and stay in tech jobs continues to be a challenge despite active efforts. is a place where women and men can gather to celebrate women in tech. This year’s theme is “You Can’t Be What You Can’t See” and hopes to bring visibility to women leading successful careers in the technology sector, hopefully leading to more interest among younger women to enter the field. This event is free to the public and takes place from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on March 8. : A presentation from industry leaders in a number of fields at Google in Kirkland; 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday, March 11. : A presentation of techniques about content and even body language in technical interviews at North Seattle College in Seattle; 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, March 11. : A presentation offering advice for entrepreneurs interested in the Life Sciences at the Agora Conference Center in Seattle; 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, March 13. : A presentation by Mark Altman author of the two-volume History of Star Trek, takes a look at where the franchise might be headed in the future at the ACT Theater in Seattle; 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, March 14. 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? .
‘Halo Light’ maker Illumagear lands $2.5M to make construction workers safer and more productive

‘Halo Light’ maker Illumagear lands $2.5M to make construction workers safer and more productive

5:30pm, 28th February, 2019
(GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) , the maker of the workplace safety device Halo Light, , led by an initial investment from . Brick & Mortar invests in a portfolio of construction-oriented companies, including field data platform Rhumbix and productivity software firm PlanGrid. Illumagear’s flagship product is the Halo Light, a cordless safety system that can be mounted to ordinary hard hats. Built for construction sites, the 360-degree light is meant to withstand the accompanying hazards, like falling from a two-story building or being driven over by a truck. Illumagear CEO Max Baker shows off the company’s Halo Light, a ringed light that attaches to hard hats. (Illumagear Photo) The company said it will use the new cash to staff up, increase marketing efforts and develop new products. “Personal illumination does not solely refer to physical lighting,” CEO Max Baker told GeekWire in an email. “Businesses in high-risk industries need more insight into their daily operations to improve individual worker safety and productivity. Software-enabled hardware will allow us to provide this insight.” Baker hinted that the company may have new products launching as early as this year. The company says that its $99 Halo Light can help companies’ bottom lines by reducing injuries and lowering insurance costs. The system has so far been used in the construction, mining, transportation, power, facilities and oil industries. Illumagear’s early financial backers included Peter Küttel and Rodger May of MK Ventures, as well as former Microsoft executive J Allard.
AI2’s Oren Etzioni to entrepreneurs: It’s not too late to ride the machine-learning wave

AI2’s Oren Etzioni to entrepreneurs: It’s not too late to ride the machine-learning wave

2:08pm, 27th February, 2019
Oren Etzioni, CEO of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, answers questions during a chat moderated by Mike Grabham, director of the Seattle chapter of Startup Grind. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle) It may seem as if everyone’s already on the bandwagon for artificial intelligence and machine learning, with players ranging from giants like and to startups like and — but the head of Seattle’s , or AI2, says there’s still plenty of room to climb aboard. “Let me assure you, if you have a machine learning-based startup in mind … you’re not late to the party,” AI2’s CEO, Oren Etzioni, told more than 70 people who gathered Tuesday evening at Create33 in downtown Seattle for a Startup Grind event. Etzioni had a hand in getting the party started back in 2004, with the launch of a startup called Farecast that used artificial intelligence to predict whether airline fares would rise or fall. The company was and has faded into the ether. But Etzioni said the basic approach, which involves analyzing huge amounts of data to identify patterns and solve problems,is just hitting its stride. The potential applications range from spam detection and voice recognition to health care, construction and self-driving cars. “It’s really a versatile technology, and we’re going to see more and more startups based on machine learning,” Etzioni said. He demonstrated one of the applications for the Startup Grind crowd, First, Etzioni played a series of short, narrated video clips advertising vacations, fashions and home loans. Then he asked the audience to guess what innovation was reflected in the clips. Several attendees guessed that the images were assembled by an AI agent, but Etzioni said AI produced the voice rather than the pictures. The videos actually served as a sneak peek at the next-generation text-to-speech conversion program produced by one of the stealthy startups working with AI2. “The goal isn’t to create commercials,” Etzioni said. “But think about somebody who can’t speak. All they can do is type, but they don’t want to sound like ‘Ste-phen Haw-king’ … with apologies to the late Stephen Hawking. This is really quite natural, and all it requires is to type, and you can get a variety of different voices.”
‘Parallel reality’ display technology startup Misapplied Sciences raises more cash

‘Parallel reality’ display technology startup Misapplied Sciences raises more cash

12:35pm, 27th February, 2019
That’s actually just one display, reflected in an array of mirrors. This photo from technology startup Misapplied Sciences Inc. uses mirrors to show how a single “parallel reality” display looks from many different vantage points. The single screen is behind the photographer. (Misapplied Sciences Photo) , the Seattle-area company behind a screen that can show different displays to multiple people at the same time, has raised more cash. A new regulatory filing shows that the startup has reeled in a $7 million investment. The company did not respond when contacted by GeekWire. It previously raised a $3.4 million equity investment, and landed a $900,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Small Business Innovation Research program. Misapplied’s tech is — one that can send different colors of light in tens of thousands of directions. Put those pixels together into a display, and it means that a bunch of people standing in a room, each looking at the same screen, see different images. Combine that with location sensors, and the company says it’s possible for a display to follow a person through space. Misapplied Sciences co-founders: Chairman and CTO Paul Dietz, CEO Albert Ng, and Chief Creative and Operating Officer Dave Thompson. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) The Redmond, Wash.-based company was started in 2014 and is led by CTO Paul Dietz, CEO Albert Ng and chief creative and operating officer Dave Thompson. The team operated in stealth mode for several years before unveiling their technology last year. Misapplied Sciences won the Innovation of the Year award at the this past May. Dietz, the company’s CTO and chairman, is known in the engineering world for pioneering work on multi-touch screens at Microsoft Research. He also spent time at Disney, working on the “Pal Mickey” interactive toy. Ng also worked at Microsoft Research during Dietz’s tenure. Thompson was a show producer at Walt Disney Imagineering while Dietz was working in that division. Other startups have tried to find ways to show different things to people using a single display. is a startup that uses projectors to display different content to multiple people on the same screen. At first, Misapplied’s screen sounds strange, like what would happen if Willy Wonka designed a jumbotron. But its overall vision aligns with the goals of modern advertising. Delivering unique advertising to people based on data is, after all, the magic sauce that built Google and Facebook. Beyond ads, Misapplied says the technology could eventually be used on roadways to show drivers individualized signs. In airports, information screens could display personalized flight information. Misapplied investor and board member Carl Ledbetter of Pelion Venture Partners was among those listed on the filing. So was Mike Edelhart, who is managing partner at startup investor Social Starts, .
Dressed with data: Seattle fashion rental startup Armoire uses curation to change how women buy clothes

Dressed with data: Seattle fashion rental startup Armoire uses curation to change how women buy clothes

1:53pm, 26th February, 2019
The Armoire team has grown from four to 28 in the past two years. (Armoire Photo) If has its way, women can say goodbye to cluttered closets and hundreds of wasted hours shopping for clothes. The Seattle startup is picking up traction with its monthly subscription clothing rental service geared toward professional women. Starting at $149 per month, the 3-year-old company lets customers rent designer clothes and exchange for something new at any time. If they like something enough, members can purchase items at a discounted rate. At an event this past Thursday at Ada’s Technical Books in Seattle, the company lifted the hood on its tech-fueled recommendation engine that powers Armoire’s user experience. “We’re not really like a fashion company,” , co-founder of Armoire who leads engineering, told the crowd on Thursday. “We are more like a data company.” Armoire follows a similar playbook to Rent the Runway, the 10-year-old New York City-based company that was recently at nearly $800 million. Its rental business model is built on buying from brands at wholesale prices, constantly shuffling clothes in and out of its dry cleaning warehouse below The Riveter in Capitol Hill. Armoire aims to be cheaper than hiring a wardrobe consultant and more efficient than browsing through racks at various stores. But what makes the company stand out, according to co-founder and CEO , is technology. “[Rent the Runway] has really not taken advantage of the fact that they can service customers better through curation,” she said. “We call it the hunter-gatherer method — women are still tasked with digging through literally the entire Rent the Runway inventory.” Inside the curation process (Armoire Photo) At a basic level, Armoire aims to match people with clothes they want to wear — a task that sounds simple, but is actually quite complex due to varying individual preferences for style, fit, and other needs. Armoire’s recommendation algorithms are based on vectors that represent both customer preferences and item attributes (brand, color, tightness, occasion, etc.). The technology multiplies those vectors to determine strength of correlation between the two datasets, and ultimately to figure out what to show customers in their virtual closet. Owen called it a “big matrix multiplication problem.” (Armoire Photo) The vectors can be plotted as arrows on an axis. In the example below, since the customer vector is close to the green dress, that would be a good match. The more data Armoire collects from customer feedback, the better its recommendation algorithms work. It also analyzes information such as the temperature in a given zip code to help drive the curation process. “There are a lot of holes we need to fill in to truly understand what your style and fit preferences need, and how that translates into a digital product that you can actually interact with,” said Miriam Subbiah, head of product at Armoire. A sample package of rented clothing from Armoire. (Armoire Photo) Yet despite the push for more automation, Armoire also provides in-house stylists that can help when algorithms can’t complete the job. “There is always a human element to fashion,” Owen said. From buying to renting (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) The traditional way women shop for clothing is broken. That’s been the thesis ever since Singh and Owen first launched Armoire while at MIT’s accelerator program. Ambika Singh got the idea for Armoire when she was working on her MBA at MIT. (Armoire Photo) “We’re trying to change the relationship with clothes from owning to renting,” Singh said. Sustainability, efficiency, and risk are core tenets of Armoire. Singh said that 20 percent of new garments sit in a closet and are never actually worn, instead ending up in a landfill. She also said women spend more than 200 hours shopping every year. “It’s an extraordinary amount of time in terms of the productive hours that could translate to,” Singh said. “We really want to be a one-stop shop for her, and because of the power of curation, we are able to do that.” The CEO added that women can tend to fall into pattern wearing, or using the same clothes over and over because of wardrobe risk aversion. “Renting clothes gives you an opportunity to step outside what is standard for you on an individual consumer basis,” Singh said. “That is a really powerful experience.” Armoire has “thousands” of customers, with 40 percent of members living in Seattle, Singh said. The target market is professional women in the 30 to 50 year old range — a group that Singh said “has largely been ignored by the market yet is so important to the economy.” Amy Nelson, CEO of The Riveter, the Seattle-based women-focused co-working space company where Armoire is based, is a big fan of the service. Nelson said she started using Armoire after welcoming her third daughter, noting it was “perfect for that post-baby period when my size was fluctuating.” Now that Nelson is pregnant again, she’s excited that Armoire recently expanded its inventory to offer maternity clothes. “My time is my scarcest resource and Armoire allows me to change up my wardrobe on the fly — and do away with dry cleaning entirely,” she told GeekWire. Subbiah, the company’s product leader, noted how Armoire looks at fit “not as size but how people like the garment to actually drape on them.” “We know that size is constantly in flux,” she explained. “If a service like Armoire can actually understand that and support that instead of inhibiting it — that’s super liberating to me. It’s a much more positive way of thinking about sizing and interacting with clothing, than trying to fit in a numeric standard. It’s not a fashion-first approach but it’s something we can do because of the data.” From left to right: Armoire Head of Product Miriam Subbiah; Co-founder Zach Owen; and Lili Morton, community development. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) Rent the Runway originally started as a rental service for party wear but now earns a bulk of revenue from its Unlimited program, which launched two years ago and, like Armoire, aims “to solve the problem of what to wear to work, for everyone from new hires to C-suite executives,” according to a story from October. “Unlimited frees mental space for women to think about more important matters: what to say in that big meeting; how to describe their employment history in a crucial job interview; how to, in the grand scheme of their professional lives, get ahead,” wrote Times reporter Sheila Marikar. Other startups trying to disrupt how we buy clothes include Stitch Fix, which went public in 2017 and is valued at $2.7 billion. And just down the road from Armoire’s office sits Amazon, a tech giant that recent rolled out a try-before-you-buy service . “Our differentiation from Stitch Fix is that we offer variety to our customers through the rental model,” Singh noted. “We’re also high end contemporary from an inventory perspective — average MSRP is $250-plus — and we strive to work with women owned and ethical fashion brands.” Armoire has raised $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. They include Sheila Gulati of Tola Capital, former Drugstore.com CEO Dawn Lepore, and Angela Taylor of Efeste. The company is currently raising more investment.
Agriculture startup iUNU raises $7.5M to turn greenhouses into high-tech manufacturing plants

Agriculture startup iUNU raises $7.5M to turn greenhouses into high-tech manufacturing plants

12:51pm, 26th February, 2019
(iUNU Photo) Seattle startup has raised more cash to expand its platform that uses technologies such as artificial intelligence and computer vision to change the way commercial greenhouse operators monitor their crops. The 6-year-old company just reeled in a $7.5 million round led by Bootstrap Labs and NCT Ventures. It previously a $6 million round in August 2017 from backers such as Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian’s Initialized Capital; NFL legend Joe Montana’s Liquid 2 Ventures; Seattle’s 2nd Avenue Partners; Fuel Capital and others. The startup, called iUNU (pronounced “you knew”), has developed an AI system called LUNA that uses autonomous rail-mounted cameras and canopy level sensors to monitor plants, detect small changes, flag potential problems and recommend specific actions. (iUNU Photo) LUNA runs on computers and mobile devices, allowing greenhouse operators to access their analytics remotely, giving them more control over the production of food crops and other plants. iUNU CEO Adam Greenberg. (iUNU Photo) The idea is to modernize a historically manual process and make growing plants more like manufacturing products, using industrial computer vision. “With the greenhouse industry growing at a rate of 20 percent year over year, owners are scrambling to find solutions to manage and maintain their growing operations effectively,” iUNU CEO Adam Greenberg said in a statement. “iUNU’s solution turns growing operations into data-driven manufacturing facilities.” iUNU sells LUNA as a “system as a service,” installing and maintaining the system on behalf of the customer. The 35-person company has clients across nine U.S. states and two provinces in Canada. iUNU got its start for use in greenhouses. It began to work on LUNA by building the artificial intelligence system into those lights, before realizing that customers wanted the AI on its own. The company spent three years developing and testing the LUNA system in large-scale commercial greenhouses. Greenberg, the son of a botanist, attended the University of Washington and was co-founder of a clean water startup called Pure Blue Technologies, . He grew up in San Francisco and worked at Amazon from 2011 to 2013. iUNU, which has additional offices in San Francisco and San Diego, is among a group of up-and-coming startups developing technology for farmers. Another Seattle company, , is using drones, sensors, and swaths of data that helps winemakers quickly assess vineyards. More companies are also starting to use indoor farming as a way to grow crops, reported last week.
How scorpion venom helps improve brain cancer surgery in children by making tumors glow

How scorpion venom helps improve brain cancer surgery in children by making tumors glow

10:16am, 26th February, 2019
Blaze Bioscience’s “Tumor Paint” is a synthetic version of a peptide originally found in the Israeli deathstalker scorpion. (Alastair Rae Photo via Flickr) Seattle biotech company has raised $5 million in funding as it pursues a pivotal trial for its “Tumor Paint,” a molecule that binds to cancer cells and lights them up to help brain surgeons remove tumors. The money is the first tranche of a larger round that could reach $20 million. Heather Franklin, co-founder and CEO of Blaze Bioscience. (Blaze Photo) Blaze is on children with central nervous system tumors at Seattle Children’s Hospital, where it enrolled its first patient last fall. The company decided to concentrate on pediatric neurosurgery because it filled an unmet need, said Blaze co-founder and CEO Heather Franklin. “Brain cancer is the number one killer of kids with cancer,” Franklin said. “[Tumor Paint] allows the surgeon to cut out all of the tumor, but it also allows them to not cut out normal tissue. And you can imagine, in a child’s brain that’s really critical.” More than 4,000 children are diagnosed with brain or central nervous system tumors , making them the second most common cancers in children after leukemia. Brain cancer in children was also a natural fit for Franklin’s co-founder, Dr. Jim Olson, a brain cancer researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Tumor Paint was created using a peptide, basically a small protein, from the Israeli deathstalker scorpion. But Franklin is quick to point out that the formula is entirely synthetic. “No scorpions are harmed in the making of our products,” she joked. The company’s Tumor Paint, also called tozuleristide or BLZ-100, is being evaluated in a phase 2/3 clinical trial. In the phase 1 study of Tumor Paint, 80 percent tumors “lit up” safely. Tumor Paint “lights up” cancerous growths to help brain surgeons cut out tumors. (Blaze Photo) The company, which launched in 2011, hasn’t made major changes to its core technology in recent years. Franklin said the difficult part has been creating hardware that works with existing surgical microscopes. “We’ve got the right drug with right properties,” Franklin said. “We need to make sure surgeons have the right devices to see them.” To accomplish that, Blaze acquired medical device company Teal Light Surgical and its Canvas Imaging System. The company aims to expand its trial to treat 114 patients across up to 14 other sites this year. Blaze has 17 employees, 14 of them women, and has raised $40 million to date. Below is an account from a Danica Taylor, one of the children who participated in the trial. Danica entered the hospital this morning at 9 am, and the Phase 2 nationally available clinical trial for tumor paint… Posted by on
Seattle startup Small Run removes the mystery and hassle out of shopping for original art

Seattle startup Small Run removes the mystery and hassle out of shopping for original art

5:45pm, 25th February, 2019
Small Run co-founders Sarah Ward, left, and Libby L. Gerber. (Small Run Photo) If you’ve graduated from tacking up posters — including the faux-fancy kind that are shrink wrapped on cardboard — and you find that the offerings from West Elm and Pottery Barn evoke a mass produced, screwed-to-a-hotel-wall vibe, it’s time to consider . The Seattle startup offers an online, curated selection of original artworks or limited edition prints by local artists. Most of the pieces are in the $250-$1,000 range, with a handful costing more than $2,000. The company launched last year, founded by , a visual artist whose work is available on the site, and a former Microsoft attorney who seriously considered majoring in art. The two saw an unmet need for people who wanted authentic art, but found massive, online marketplaces overwhelming and shopping at art galleries inconvenient or too lacking in transparency. “A lot of galleries don’t publish the price of artwork and there are some other barriers for the market we’re trying to sell to,” Gerber said. “We want to make it really easy to buy local art.” Small Run has a pilot in Seattle and currently features seven local artists. The team plans to expand to other cities and is considering a B2B model, selling to interior designers or building managers. The art includes landscapes, images of animals and bold abstracts. The Small Run site features a limited number of art works and displays them in simulated rooms. (Small Run website) “We are still exploring how much variety in terms of style and medium we should feature. We’re trying to show art that is appealing to a lot of different people, but there’s a lot of variety,” Ward said. Customers tell them that they want art that ads interest to a room, but isn’t overpowering. Small Run is following the pricing model used by galleries, which is a 50-50 split between artist and dealer, though they’re considering shifting the percentages to favor the artists. Launching their own startup provides “the opportunity to re-envision the way things can be,” Gerber said. “That there can be a better way to do it is really exciting.” We caught up with Gerber and Ward for this . Continue reading for their answers to our questionnaire. Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: Small Run lists both original, one-of-a kind artwork and high-quality, limited edition, archival prints of artwork, by established local artists. Inspiration hit us when: We both noticed that it seemed unnecessarily difficult for people who appreciate art, but aren’t traditional art collectors, to find and buy locally made art for their homes. Each artist gets a bio and Q&A. (Small Run website) VC, Angel or Bootstrap: Bootstrap. We want to prove our business model works before seeking funding. We have have done a lot of customer research, but see great value and actually testing out our model. We want to see if what our customers have told us about their preferences translates to actual sales. Once we feel confident that we have a product that our customers love, we will fundraise to expand to markets outside of Seattle. Our ‘secret sauce’ is: Being nimble and responsive as we grow and learn from our customers. It’s really easy to fall in love with your own ideas, but we have found that pivoting quickly when one of our “brilliant” ideas isn’t working has been invaluable. The smartest move we’ve made so far: Partnering with other local businesses. All of the artists whose work we sell operate as small, local businesses. Each of them has spent years honing their craft, and they create stunning artwork that reflects their dedication to art making. Rock’s Studio, the local print shop who produces our SR Prints (limited-edition archival prints), has the same commitment to quality and customer service that we do. They only approve prints that are nearly indistinguishable from the original artwork. The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: Overlooking the possibility of developing a B2B product early on. Initially, we only focused on selling art directly to consumers. As we got further into the business, we discovered there was a pain point we could solve for other businesses like interior designers, office managers and building managers. We wish we would have been more open to that idea at the outset and built our business with that in mind. Easy-to-browse thumbnails of the artwork. (Small Run website) Which entrepreneur or executive would you want working in your corner? , CEO and co-founder of . Snyder has a mix of experience that would be valuable to us at this stage: product management, marketing and building a company from scratch. We’d love her input on product development, marketing and building a diverse team. Our favorite team-building activity is: Visiting artists’ studios. The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: We haven’t done any hiring yet. When we do, we’ll be looking for people who can do things better than we can, and who bring diverse viewpoints to the table to help us improve and grow faster. What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: Find an awesome co-founder with complementary skills.
Seattle startup’s path to greatness could be this captivating walk through physical and virtual worlds

Seattle startup’s path to greatness could be this captivating walk through physical and virtual worlds

11:20am, 24th February, 2019
GeekWire’s Kurt Schlosser and his son find their way through “Wonderfall: Tale of Two Realms,” a Hyperspace virtual reality experience at Pacific Science Center in Seattle. (Jeff Ludwyck Photo for GeekWire) I tried to reach down and pet a cat that wasn’t real. And with that, 15 seconds into a 15-minute walk through the virtual reality world of “Wonderfall: Tale of Two Realms,” I was sold on what has built and continues to build at Seattle’s Pacific Science Center. In a 3,000-square-foot corner of the longtime facility, Hyperspace’s interactive exhibit is part of the broader in which the Science Center is offering space to startups as a way to show off local creativity and innovation to guests. Hyperspace is also looking to show off for and attract a broader investor audience as it has turned to the to raise as much as $1 million. Hyperspace CEO Jeff Ludwyck — who shared his vision on last year — and a team that has grown to more than 20 have been creating both the real-world physical walls and pathways and the in-game experience of “Wonderfall” for a year and a half. Plywood marked with neon tape disappears in game to become the buildings and rooms in a small village. Haptic touches including fans, heaters and vibrating floors are sprinkled throughout, along with touchable props such as books, a spinning globe and a bench to sit on. Jeff Ludwyck, CEO of Hyperspace XR, stands along what turns into the main cobblestone street inside “Wonderfall.” (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) “You can’t have this at home,” Ludwyck said during a visit this week. “You’re standing on real cobblestone. Every little trick cements that immersion, without even really noticing. People come in all the time and go, ‘I felt like I was actually there,’ compared to sitting in your home where you know your coffee table is right there.” Hyperspace relies on inside-out tracking and has partnered with Microsoft on its Windows mixed reality platform. “Wonderfall” follows the story of a young girl named Elena inside the fantasy-magical experience. An experiment goes wrong for the would-be inventor and users get to help her fix it as she looks to re-establish contact with her parents in another world. Fifteen minutes of the 30-minute story arc are complete right now. Users do not have fully formed avatars — just virtual hands and a floating head — and there is no dual-player capability yet, so the interaction with the story is yours alone. Wearing a Samsung Odyssey headset and a high-powered HP Z VR backpack, I walked through with my 11-year-old son, Henry, to get a better feel for how the experience might appeal to the many schoolchildren who visit Pacific Science Center. Hyperspace has partnered with with Samsung and Microsoft on “Wonderfall.” Participants carry the computing power on their backs. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) Throughout the 15 minutes (which costs $15), I listened as Henry reacted and exclaimed over different aspects of the virtual world, shouting repeatedly over the dialog in the headset for me to “come here and check this out!” as we explored parts of the set at a different pace. Some of the more captivating touches involved the ability to catch virtual elements in our hands, such as firefly-like bursts of light or a small rotating planet or a little darting purple creature. Reaching toward certain stacks of books also released 3D illusions such as a dragon, a demon and a clipper ship — all swirling past our heads. A split view shows how the village in “Wonderfall” looks in actual reality, left, alongside virtual reality. (Hyperspace Image) “We tried to put sounds in different locations so you’re constantly trying to find things and look around the environment, and I noticed you guys basically got everything,” Ludwyck said after he watched our walk-through while not wearing a headset of his own. After following Elena out onto a virtual dock, where it looked like we were suspended high in the clouds, the experience came to a close and pronounced that the adventure was “to be continued.” It is here that Hyperspace will extend the physical set and the virtual game another 15 minutes in the months ahead. “So coooool,” Henry said as he removed his headset. “I wish it didn’t end!” As a normal kid who already struggles with disengaging from traditional video games, he clearly wasn’t ready to step back out of Hyperspace’s virtual reality. Hyperspace’s goal is to provide the platform for developers to create their content on and to get other venues to build out similar spaces. But the plug-and-play nature of it all could evolve greatly — and keep Ludwyck from expressing his carpentry skills late into the night. “We’re working with an outside manufacturer to build modular pieces so that a venue could have a kit, basically, of parts that could shape together for a bunch of different experiences,” Ludwyck said. “Walls, flooring, doors, props, all that stuff will be part of an almost LEGOs for VR.” Ludwyck said they have three venues lined up and three projects with outside development teams. He said Hyperspace has the team, the technology, the location and new locations and just needs to “hit the gas,” which is why the formerly bootstrapped company is keen on raising a round right now. According to the Wefunder page, the company projects being in more than 50 venues in five years. Hyperspace has placed props throughout “Wonderfall” which line up with what’s visible in VR. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) “We want to create an open platform that allows everybody to jump in,” Ludwyck said. “I mean, you should see the list of people … theaters, aquariums, all kinds of random groups are saying, ‘I want to build something like this, do you have the know-how and technology and everything to to do that?’ We’re excited to enable those.” Hyperspace’s Science Center experience has attracted more than 5,000 “travelers” so far. Other startups showing off their entrepreneurial process include , which brings children’s books to life in VR, and , which spent about a year at the Science Center, and will continue to use the space to demo its interpretive exhibits and educational products. “It’s cool because it matches really well with the Science Center,” Ludwyck said of his company’s work. “The whole mission of the Science Center is igniting curiosity and we do it all the time here. Whether a kid is interested in technology or maybe art side or creative, they get to go into this other world in their brain and go, ‘Man, I could really do this someday. I could build out fully virtual and physical worlds. So I think that’s what’s been so exciting about this.”
The secret to Seattle’s success in tech, and what needs to happen to spark the next wave of growth

The secret to Seattle’s success in tech, and what needs to happen to spark the next wave of growth

8:32am, 23rd February, 2019
Seattle’s tech scene has been built based on nitty-gritty infrastructure. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) Despite all its success, Seattle’s tech community needs an unprecedented win to take it to the next level — a fast-growing, world-changing startup that creates a huge return for its backers and sparks a new wave of angel investing. The challenge: this isn’t what has historically fueled the region’s tech sector. But all of the work so far might have laid the foundation for this next generation. Those are some of the takeaways from a conversation with GeekWire co-founder John Cook on an episode of a new podcast from the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, hosted by Seattle Metro Chamber CEO Marilyn Strickland. “In past because Seattle is isolated in the Northwest and doesn’t sit in a big media hub, a lot of the innovations and creations that you’ve seen come out of Seattle are what you would maybe call a bit more boring,” Cook said on the show. “There’s a reason why enterprise software and cloud computing have grown up here.” It’s “the nitty-gritty infrastructure,” the technology that “makes everything work,” he said. GeekWire co-founder John Cook “It’s extremely important. There’s a ton of money in it,” he said. “There are some amazingly valuable companies that are growing up in this area. And so I think Seattle historically has been able to develop technologies in hard and complex areas — and that’s a real benefit.” Historically, that has translated into long company life cycles, not the breakout successes more common in Silicon Valley. Examples from Seattle include Tableau Software, the data visualization company that went public in 2013, a decade after it was founded; and travel and expense management company Concur Technologies, which sold to SAP in 2014 for $8.3 billion, more than a decade after it was founded. “What Seattle needs in order to spark this next generation of capital and investing is a home run that hits really quickly, like an Instagram … where twenty or thirty angels are invested in it and they make a crap-ton of money really quickly,” Cook said. Seattle Metro Chamber CEO Marilyn Strickland hosts the Chamber’s new “Under Construction” podcast. While it might not lend itself to such rapid growth, health technology is one promising area, he said. Much of the breakthroughs in that space would be impossible without the cloud infrastructure coming out of Seattle. Innovative health technology is “an area that I think is just going to accelerate and I think Seattle is really interestingly positioned for that with Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure,” Cook said. “Cloud computing is going to power the intelligence behind the ability for these researchers to … make the medicines or the cures that they want to go after.” “I see that transformation really happening in a big way and Seattle being positioned very well for that with the scientific health research, with UW, Fred Hutch and then the computing horsepower from Amazon, Microsoft and others.” Listen to the “Under Construction” podcast above, which includes more of Cook’s comments on Seattle and tech. Listen more episodes of the Seattle Chamber’s Under Construction podcast and (We’re featuring the discussion as part of a new GeekWire series spotlighting some some of our favorite podcasts about startups, leadership, technology, science and more from the Seattle region and beyond. Email suggestions for future guest podcasts to tips@geekwire.com.)
Amazon’s Alexa Fund joins $28M round for CTRL-labs, makers of neural interface technology

Amazon’s Alexa Fund joins $28M round for CTRL-labs, makers of neural interface technology

4:03pm, 22nd February, 2019
CTRL-labs connects the human brain to a machine via a wrist-worn device. (CTRL-labs Photo) , the New York-based startup that is reimagining how the human brain can connect with machines, has closed another big funding round, with Amazon’s Alexa Fund pitching in on the $28 million haul. The round was led by GV, according to a news release on Friday, and Amazon was joined by Lux Capital, Spark Capital, Matrix Partners, Breyer Capital, and Fuel Capital. A also raised $28 million and included the late Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital among investors. The company was co-founded by Thomas Reardon, who helped develop Microsoft’s Internet Explorer web browser, and Patrick Kaifosh, a theoretical neuroscientist. CTRL-labs has raised $67 million to date and the latest round will help with, among other things, the building and distribution of its developer kit, , currently in preview for select partners. With a wristband that picks up signals from the brain and allows users to control a digital device without moving a finger, CTRL-labs’ long-term vision is to pave the way for mass consumer adoption of non-invasive neural interface technology. The new kind of universal controller is meant to “empower humans to harness their machines as natural extensions of thought and movement,” according to the company. “Like the developers and creators we hear from, we feel fundamentally dissatisfied with the pervading technologies of the last century,” Reardon said in a statement. “Our objective with CTRL-kit is to give the industry’s most ambitious minds the tools they need to reimagine the relationship between humans and machines.” Check out some of these videos, demonstrating CTRL-labs technology in action: And here’s Reardon introducing CTRL-kit at the startup event Slush 2018 in December:
‘Circle with Disney’ device maker raises $20M to help parents set screen time limits, block content

‘Circle with Disney’ device maker raises $20M to help parents set screen time limits, block content

12:58pm, 22nd February, 2019
Circle with Disney parental control device. (Circle Photo) , maker of the Circle with Disney parental control device, has raised $20 million in new investment. The Portland-based startup makes products that allow parents to set screen time limits and block certain content. Its technology pairs to a home router and lets parents manage online access for every device on a network. Circle also sells a subscription service for devices on 4G LTE or other WiFi networks. Its flagship product, , currently sells for $40 on Amazon. Circle CEO Lance Charlish. (Circle Photo) The company will use the fresh cash for research and development, marketing and strategic partnerships, Circle CEO and co-founder told GeekWire. Circle is also developing new consumer products as well as services delivered through the cloud and routers made by its partners. “The news is full of reports of parents struggling to support their children in a connected world,” Charlish said in an email. “We recognize that parents are looking for help in their crucial role guiding their children as they progress through developmental milestones of digital literacy.” Investors in the Series B round included Circle partners NETGEAR and T-Mobile US, who were joined by Third Kind Venture Capital, Relay Ventures and others. Circle developed a service called FamilyMode for T-Mobile and sells its parental control services through NETGEAR’s routers. The funding round brings Circle’s total money raised to $30 million. The startup employs more than 60 people in its offices in Portland, Ore. and Cypress, Calif. Charlish said the company was excited about its expansion plans for 2019 but declined to share specifics. There are countless apps and smart routers that come with built-in parental controls. Circle aims to distinguish itself by providing a holistic solution that manages time and content across devices both in and out of the house — a goal that it has mainly pursued through partnerships. Researchers are . A recent found that screen time for children under 2 years old has more than doubled since 1997. In addition to Charlish, the company’s leadership also includes Chief Creative Officer Jelani Memory, who co-founded the startup, and Chief Technology Officer Tiebing Zhang. Circle was founded in 2014.
Marketing tech startup Lytics raises $35M to help companies learn more about individual customers

Marketing tech startup Lytics raises $35M to help companies learn more about individual customers

12:44pm, 21st February, 2019
Lytics CEO James McDermott. (LinkedIn Photo) has raised more funding to help brands such as Nestlé, The Economist, Atlassian and others bolster their 1-to-1 customer marketing outreach. The Portland, Ore.-based startup announced a $35 million Series C round led by late-stage software growth equity firm JMI Equity. Existing investors such as Comcast Ventures, Two Sigma Ventures, Rembrandt Venture Partners, and Voyager Capital also participated. What Lytics does: The 7-year-old company captures customer data across various databases and marketing tools, aggregating information in one place and using machine learning to help consumer-facing companies with their personalized marketing efforts. Traction: Lytics has more than 175 enterprise brands paying for its software. It saw revenue increase by nearly 3X last year. The company its Series B round this past April and total funding to date is north of $50 million. Competition: There are various competitors tackling the same problem. Many companies use their own software to analyze internal marketing data; external consultancies offer something similar; and several early-stage startups — , , and are three from the Pacific Northwest — have a similar pitch. Investor insight: Backers describe Lytics as the leader among customer data platforms. “As marketers seek to coordinate more of their campaigns across channels, Lytics is perfectly positioned to make this possible,” Suken Vakil, general partner at JMI Equity, said in a statement. “Starting with our initial investment, we recognized the disruptive role Lytics’ vision for customer data platforms could play within the world’s largest brands,” added Erik Benson, partner a Voyager Capital.
Seattle biotech startup Good Therapeutics raises $11M to make smart cancer therapies

Seattle biotech startup Good Therapeutics raises $11M to make smart cancer therapies

3:19pm, 19th February, 2019
, a new Seattle biotech startup that aims to develop protein drugs that act only when needed, raised $11 million in an equity round seeking twice that amount, . The secretive startup is trying to “make safer, more effective drugs that act only when and where they are needed, limiting systemic toxicity without reducing therapeutic efficacy,” according to its website. Good said it is developing an algorithm that will design proteins for cancer therapies. Good Therapeutics CEO John Mulligan. (Good Therapeutics Photo) Founder and CEO confirmed the $11 million round but declined to comment on what it means for the company when contacted by GeekWire. Mulligan, who earned his doctorate in biology from Stanford University, previously worked as a consultant for Microsoft on , according to his LinkedIn. He also founded Glycostasis, a company that designed a protein to regulate insulin levels, and co-founded Cambrian Genomics, which created a way to laser print DNA. Good’s offices are in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, according to the filing. The company listed the following directors: , managing director of life science venture capital firm RiverVest Venture Partners. , an investment director at Roche Venture Fund, the investment arm of pharmaceutical giant Roche. , an investment director at Roche Venture Fund. , managing director of Portland-based VC firm 3×5 Partners.