Donuts founder leads $1.2M investment in Seattle startup that makes ‘price-stable cryptocurrency’

Donuts founder leads $1.2M investment in Seattle startup that makes ‘price-stable cryptocurrency’

9:34am, 7th February, 2019
Paul Stahura. (Donuts Photo) Cryptocurrency has yet to catch on with mainstream consumers, in large part due to its volatility. Bitcoin, for example, went from $900 in December 2016 to nearly $20,000 one year later, before dropping back down to less than $4,000 this past December. Now some entrepreneurs have come up with a potential solution: stablecoin, a newer form of cryptocurrency that is pegged to a fiat currency such as the U.S. dollar and allows prices to remain more stable. The idea has caught the attention of , co-founder of domain registrar companies such as Donuts and eNom. He’s leading a $1.2 million round in Seattle startup , which today announced the Series A investment. Stably has developed its own stablecoin called StableUSD (USDS). When a user gives Stably $1 to buy its cryptocurrency, it mints one of its digital tokens. If someone gives Stably back that 1 USDS, it removes the coin from circulation and returns $1 from its cash reserve. The idea is to provide benefits of cryptocurrency — fast transaction speed; anonymity; etc. — with less fluctuation in value. Stably CEO Kory Hoang. (Stably Photo) “We’re simply turning dollars into digital dollars,” said CEO . Stahura, who co-founded Donuts in 2010 and remains chairman at the Seattle area company, said he sees many parallels between cryptocurrency — specifically dollar-backed tokens — and domain names. He said there was room for many companies such as eNom or GoDaddy who were selling the exact same product (.com names). “Same with dollar-backed tokens,” Stahura told GeekWire. “How hard can it be to sell a dollar for $1, especially if that dollar has more utility and lower fees, say, than a credit-card dollar?” Stahura pointed to , a startup backed by big-name investors such as Andreessen Horowitz and Founders Fund that recently passed $200 million in market capitalization for its stablecoin TrueUSD. “I invested because of the sort of familiar opportunity I see, plus I like the energetic and experienced team,” Stahura said. Hoang said that the most immediate use case of stablecoins is as a medium of exchange and a store of value for cryptocurrency traders. “Many exchanges don’t let you easily convert between cryptocurrency and traditional fiat currency,” he said in an email. “A cryptocurrency that has the same value as fiat (i.e. a stablecoin) fixes that, and gives traders more control over their investments, especially in times of volatility.” Hoang, who was previously an analyst at PitchBook, added that the long-term vision is to “enable fast and borderless payments, an efficient and cheaper solution for remittance, and a reliable alternative to money in developing or hyper-inflationary economies.” “The world that stablecoins can enable is one where you can buy a cup of coffee with cryptocurrency,” he said. Stably makes “flat income” on the cash reserve it holds that backs the USDS coins. The company employs nine people and expects to grow as a result of the funding. Other backers include 500 Startups, Beenext, and angel investors. Total funding to date is $1.7 million.
Startup Spotlight: Mom starts education company with sons to spark next-generation of entrepreneurs

Startup Spotlight: Mom starts education company with sons to spark next-generation of entrepreneurs

9:45am, 13th May, 2018
The Smith family takes a break from their entrepreneurial ventures to go on vacation. (Photo courtesy of the Smith family) Soojung Smith thought entrepreneurship was a grownup pursuit. Then her sons schooled her. The up-and-coming Generation Z-cohort that includes her two boys, “tend to be more independent minded and have seen the success of starting a business from social media and their icons,” Smith said. “And they have less fear. They’re like, ‘Hey, I want to try this.’” And that’s just what they’re doing. Soojung and her 17-year-old son Douglas are co-CEO of , a Bellevue-based education startup. Her 12-year-old Jonathan works on technology for the company. All three are co-founders, and the boys’ dad, Doug, is their advisor as well as a business development executive at Microsoft. They launched KuriousMinds last year. Their first effort is a program called Young Sharks that’s focused on teaching kids the fundamentals of starting a business, including building a business plan and pitching it in front of a simulated panel of investors. “There is no shortage of ideas,” Smith said. “But whittling them down to something meaningful that will really bring value to their intended audience, that is something that they really struggle with.” The program targets kids in later elementary years and middle school — a sweet spot where there are few options for young entrepreneurs, Smith said. Her sons have additional ventures already under their belts. Douglas launched a tutoring business in eighth grade, and Jonathan has created two aquarium products: a filter diffuser showcased at the 2016 and an automatic fish feeder with AI integration that he’ll debut at this year’s fair. Soojung Smith has worked as a product and marketing executive at Dr Pepper/7 Up, Anheuser-Busch, AT&T and Microsoft where she helped incubate new products and businesses. Smith said that Douglas plays a key role in developing curriculum for Young Sharks and figuring out which digital tools are best suited to the students. Soojung and Douglas co-teach the program. They collaborate well, she said — at least most of the time. “We’re family. We are very passionate individuals. He gets passionate and I get passionate and sometimes we need a time out,” Smith said. “And sometimes my husband jumps in and serves as a referee.” We caught up with Smith for this Mother’s Day edition of Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for her answers to our questionnaire. Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “We are on a mission to help enable Generation Z to become a generation of confident future entrepreneurs.” Inspiration hit us when: “I’ve always had a dream of building something impactful and long lasting as a family.” Soojung and Douglas Smith, the mother-son co-CEOs of KuriousMinds. (Kurious Minds Photo) VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “We are an entirely self-funded, bootstrapped business. Client work in education coaching is funding our work for the design and delivery of the Young Sharks program. This is our second startup, and we are determined to build a solid foundation by growing at a measured pace.” Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “The deep involvement of our kids provides us with a unique view into effective learning styles for this generation. In addition, we are building an active local community of mentors and coaches with domain expertise who can guide and support young student entrepreneurs.” The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Working with partners in the community is integral to our success. We deliver our project-based experiential entrepreneurship program in partnership with city governments, educational institutions, homeschool co-ops and camp organizers with the programs tailored to the student profiles for their communities.” The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Building a business as a family comes with both opportunities and challenges. Trust, loyalty and shared values are the ones that glue us together. Of course, there are challenges when stress and pressure from the business side sometimes spill over into family relationships. We have learned to leverage each other’s strengths to get the benefit of operating as a family while minimizing the stress.” Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Bill Gates because he is such an inspiration to everyone not only for his business success, but, more importantly, his philanthropic work to provide opportunities through education. His work in this area speaks to us most in terms of who we’d most want to back our endeavors. We admire Bill and Melinda’s commitment to impacting the lives of others and investing in a better world.” Our favorite team-building activity is: “Cooking as a family. We try to improvise and create our favorite dishes including crossovers between Korean and Mexican food.” The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “We look for curiosity, creativity, passion for entrepreneurship, empathy and strong success in working and connecting with kids.” What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Ideas on a piece of paper without sufficient experimentation won’t help you to build a business. Planning is critical, but implementation is king. Be proactive about learning from your customers, partners, competitors and everyone around you. Be gracious about receiving feedback from them.”
LIVE: 2018 GeekWire Awards

LIVE: 2018 GeekWire Awards

8:45pm, 10th May, 2018
We’re on the scene at MoPOP in Seattle for the 10th anniversary of the presented by Wave Business, where we’ll recognize Pacific Northwest innovators in 13 categories — including Deal of the Year, Startup of the Year, Innovation of the Year, CEO of the Year, and many more. If you’re one of the more than 900 people attending the event this year, . For everyone else, we’ll be live-streaming highlights from the red carpet starting around 6:45 p.m. Pacific time, in the video player above. Then join us starting around 8:10 p.m. for the festivities on the main stage, in the player below, as we reveal the winners and deliver a few surprises along the way. Check out all the finalists via the links below, follow along on social media at , and check back on GeekWire later tonight for a full rundown of the winners.
Univ. of Washington spinout takes on $5.2B scheduling problem with custom AI analytics

Univ. of Washington spinout takes on $5.2B scheduling problem with custom AI analytics

12:00pm, 9th May, 2018
(Bigstock Photo)stock Hospitals have to solve a thousand logistical challenges every day, but perhaps none are more difficult than operating room schedules. Surgeries can be difficult to predict — in fact, less than half of surgeries in the U.S. start and end on time. That can create chaos for patients and doctors, and costs hospitals $5.2 billion every year, according to University of Washington . The startup, which develops a variety of technologies for hospitals, is taking aim at the operating room problem with a new AI technology that uses data on patients and surgeons to more accurately predict how long each surgery will take. The startup recently deployed the technology at a large academic medical institution in Seattle. So far, it has cut the number of surgeries that run over their scheduled time by 20 percent, a result that could save a hospital $1 million a year in staff overtime alone. Perimatics Co-Founder and CEO Kalyani Velagapudi. (Perimatics Photo) The startup is still studying how its technology affects underage, or the number of surgeries that end before the predicted time, and other elements including patient and employee satisfaction. Perimatics’ algorithm begins by looking at a patient’s data and seeking out information that will affect how long the surgery takes, like the patient’s prior surgeries and their age. , Perimatics co-founder and CEO, told GeekWire that the surgeons themselves also have a big impact on how long a surgery takes. Each surgeon approaches an operation differently and will bring in various factors that affect the length of the operation. “That was a surprise,” said , Perimatics’ chief solutions architect and co-founder. “We had to build machine learning models customized for each surgeon.” The algorithm also takes into account the staff that will work on the procedure, like anesthesiologists. It can also suggest last-minute scheduling adjustments when operating rooms are needed for emergency procedures. Bala Nair, Perimatics’ co-Founder and chief solutions architect. (Perimatics Photo) The end goal is to help hospitals cut down the $5.2 billion a year that results from overage and underage in surgeries. In addition to staff overtime costs, operation rooms cost an estimated to run, so any variation from the set schedule can quickly become extortionate. That’s not to mention factors like patient and employee dissatisfaction, which is also a common side effect of scheduling challenges. Although this is the first time the technology has been deployed in a hospital system, Nair said it is easily scalable. Now that Perimatics has worked out which factors impact surgery length, the basic framework can be applied to almost any hospital, he said. Velagapudi said the startup is continuing work on its other AI technologies, including its Smart Anaesthesia Manager. That program, invented by Bala, analyzes a patient’s health metrics in real-time during surgery and helps doctors make decisions that have a big impact on a patient’s health when they are recovering. She also said the company is working on new solutions for post-surgery problems and surgical supplies. “It is quite different from the data science that is being done on the market today because it is real time,” Velagapudi said of the startup’s work. Perimatics spun out from the University of Washington last year and currently employs 7 at its headquarters in Bellevue, Wash. It is also a partner of , the tech giant’s startup assistance program.
ModCloth co-founder aims to create ‘world’s most-used cryptocurrency’ with new startup Merit

ModCloth co-founder aims to create ‘world’s most-used cryptocurrency’ with new startup Merit

12:00pm, 9th May, 2018
Merit CEO and co-founder Adil Wali. (Photo via Merit) You’ve probably read or heard about cryptocurrency in the news. Maybe your techie friend owns some Bitcoin. But you likely don’t own any digital currencies or let alone know how to obtain them in the first place. is on a mission to change that. Led by , a veteran entrepreneur who previously co-founded ModCloth (acquired by Walmart last year), the Seattle startup today unveiled its invite-only cryptocurrency called MRT. Wali helped come up with the idea for Merit after he and his co-founder wondered why so few people — even those within the tech industry — actually own cryptocurrency. They concluded that it was a problem around usability and accessibility. “If you want to create the world’s most-used cryptocurrency, what do you do? You have to make it simpler, you have to make it safer, and you have to make it a community,” Wali told GeekWire. Simplicity, safety, and community are the pillars of Merit — the third of which is perhaps most important, Wali said. Part of what makes Merit different from other cryptocurrencies, and what helps build community, is the invite-only requirement to obtain and own MRT. Wali explained that the anonymity associated with many existing cryptocurrencies enables hacking and theft too easily. He said Merit enables an “active stewardship model” and can track, across its blockchain, who is bringing in who to the community. Merit also changes the fundamentals of mining, or the process by which cryptocurrency is made via powerful computers. The company has created what Wali calls “proof of growth mining.” Since the service is invite-only, Merit can better assess and control who is rewarded with MRT. “What that enables is folks can actually mine merit without a computer,” Wali said. Another differentiator is how Merit allows its currency to be exchanged between owners. Rather than exchanging long 34-character public key strings, Merit built its own protocol. “We created an escrow on the blockchain that can hold money for you to claim it,” he said. MRT can be created and sent via SMS, Twitter, or various other communication tools. Merit also features decentralized vaults, password-protected transactions, and cancelable transactions. It is launching today without an ICO, as Wali said the company wants the community to determine price. Wali, who sold his most recent startup Fox Commerce to a blockchain commerce company, said his 10-person team is focused on making Merit accessible to just about anyone, regardless of technical knowledge. That feeds into the company’s vision of getting more people owning and using cryptocurrency. “Any currency is only as useful as the number of people who use it. If you can’t transact with it, what’s the point?” he said. “If we have dramatically less than a percent of the world’s population using crypto, it’s a really big problem when you think about the viability of the space at large.” Merit is bootstrapped, with the founders investing an initial $1 million in the company. The business model is split between Merit Labs and a non-profit called the Merit Foundation. A percentage of all MRT distributed goes into a genesis block, which is allocated across the foundation. “The idea of Merit is that with a decentralized launch and a longer-term approach, we are incentivized to make Merit valuable everyday,” Wali said. “With both the non-profit and for-profit, we’ll sell a little bit of Merit over time to continue operations in the organization. As the value of the currency goes up, then we’re able to do that more.” Cryptocurrency remains a hot — yet still relatively misunderstood — area of the startup world. According to PitchBook, 179 venture capital investors in the U.S. in at least one crypto startup deal in the past two years. noted this week that top VC firms Andreessen Horowitz and Union Square Ventures “are increasingly investing in public blockchains and cryptoassets broadly.” this week reported that the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange is working on an online trading platform for Bitcoin. That followed news of Goldman Sachs’ plan to open a Bitcoin trading unit. Some are still skeptical. Speaking on CBS this week, Bill Gates called Bitcoin and ICOs “one of the crazier speculative things.” “As an asset class, you’re not producing anything and so you shouldn’t expect it to go up. It’s kind of a pure ‘greater fool theory’ type investment,” Gates said. “I agree I would short it if there was an easy way to do it.” Gates previously weighed in on the subject during a in which he called cryptocurrencies “super risky.” Merit is one of several cryptocurrency/blockchain-related companies and organizations sprouting up in the Seattle area. There are startups like and a blockchain consulting group called ; and an investment group called that with blockchain company RChain Cooperative to invest a cryptocurrency equivalent of more than $190 million in blockchain apps and startups. “There is just phenomenally great talent here,” said Wali, who re-located to Seattle in 2016. “We have the ability to be one of the epicenters of cryptocurrency.”
Startup founder unleashes new venture: SniffSpot looks to connect dog owners with safe play spaces

Startup founder unleashes new venture: SniffSpot looks to connect dog owners with safe play spaces

10:15am, 9th May, 2018
David Adams, founder of the Seattle-based startup SniffSpot, with his dog Soba, at a property in the city where they had access to a fenced-in yard. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) When David Adams moved back to Seattle, he settled in an apartment on the seventh floor of a building in the city’s Belltown neighborhood. On Tuesday, Adams and his dog Soba were enjoying a grassy backyard behind a stranger’s house in Ballard, thanks to the company Adams started six months ago. is a marketplace that connects dog owners, who are looking for a safe and convenient space for their pet to get some exercise, with property owners, who have room outside for pups to play — and the desire to make a little easy money on the side courtesy of the sharing economy. Originally from Ohio, Adams, 31, moved to Seattle in 2010 and spent just over three years at Microsoft. He moved to San Francisco to found his first company: , a marketplace that helps users find monthly furnished housing. That company raised more than $12 million in funding, and Adams still maintains a seat on the board and travels to San Francisco regularly. “The trend that I have is that when I start a company, I start it based on my own problem,” Adams said. He used to always live in furnished rentals, until his girlfriend expressed an interest in something different. “I adopted Soba a year and a half ago and I’ve been taking her around to dog parks. She’s super high energy. I just always have had bad experiences there.” David Adams lives in Belltown near downtown Seattle and uses SniffSpot properties to get his dog Soba the proper amount of exercise. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) Integrating pet services and technology is part of a growing trend that appeals to people in larger cities, especially in places like Seattle where so many Amazon employees and others take their dogs to work. Seattle-based has found huge success with its pet-sitting and dog-walking marketplace, and SniffSpot is clearly playing off that demand — with a twist of its own. “Thirty percent of dogs are owned by millennials, and millennials are moving into cities,” Adams said. “So you’re having an all new set of problems with dogs. That’s why you’ve seen Rover be so successful, you’ve seen Wag be so successful, because they’re new services that appeal to urban dog owners. It’s just getting started.” Seattle Parks and Recreation offers for dogs to run free. But after Soba was bit at a dog park and required a vet visit, Adams figured there had to be a better way to get his dog the fresh air and exercise she needed. “I think that dog parks are a really important public service. You’ve got to have them in the city,” Adams said. But SniffSpot caters to people and pets who are looking for a more controlled environment, often because the animal comes from a background that makes it more reactive around other dogs and people. SniffSpot works pretty much like Airbnb, the online hospitality business. Through its website, SniffSpot users can browse a variety of host properties — there are about 70 in the Seattle area right now and Adams is hoping for many more. Hosts provide information and pictures related to the property, including details about fencing. They can set restrictions on times, breeds and numbers of dogs allowed at any given time. It’s possible to reserve a space for solo dog time, or meet up with others. Users choose a date and time to reserve and pay through the site. Soba (and Brobee from “Yo Gabba Gabba”) got a workout on Tuesday in Ballard. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) In Ballard, I met Adams and Soba at a typical house in the neighborhood, advertised on SniffSpot as We let ourselves in through the side gate and found a sizable area in the back for Soba to explore. There were toys scattered about and a bowl full of water on the back deck. “Having off-leash exercise is really important for a dog’s health,” Adams said, as he talked about the full range of exercise that a dog requires, beyond walks on a leash, and how that benefits the animal not just physically, but mentally, too. It’s clear that the young entrepreneur is combining his marketplace and tech experience with a new passion for pets. “I’ll be the first to say I didn’t know anything about dogs when I adopted Soba,” Adams said. “And I’ve been learning a ton.” A totally bootstrapped endeavor, SniffSpot is pretty much a one-person operation right now. Adams has relied on contractors for a little bit of help, but he’s taken no outside funding and is doing no marketing right now. He believes the right way to start a company is to build a product that people want and need, and then the product will take off on its own. In the two full months since the website has been up and functional, SniffSpot has seen 60 percent growth month over month. An app will get built eventually, he said. Soba gets a drink of water on the back deck of a SniffSpot property after running around for 30 minutes. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) There’s no requirement to be a host on SniffSpot, so long as the property doesn’t contain any hazards and is owned by the person posting it. Hosts are vetted through name, email and address checks and generally there is an interview and even a site visit if needed. Hosts can set their own price, with $4 being the minimum per pet, per hour. SniffSpot takes 12 percent of the revenue. “We’ve got hosts on our platform making $60 a day,” Adams said. “You’re not investing in the space. You’re not working. It’s not like Uber where you’re going and driving for hours to make money. You just let someone come use your yard — maybe you’re at work or something else and you’re just making incremental income.” Users are expected to treat the space like it’s their own — clean up the dog poop and toys, be courteous to neighbors, etc. SniffSpot hasn’t officially launched outside of the Seattle area yet, even though some properties are listed around Washington and in other states. A couple listings on the site show the possibilities beyond a backyard romp. David Adam’s dog Soba, right, plays with Adams’ girlfriend’s dog, Toshii, in the Skykomish River at a SniffSpot called PaJo Ranch. (SniffSpot Photo) Just past Monroe, Wash., a includes a wooded area and access to the Skykomish River for $10 an hour. And south of Seattle in Cinebar, Wash., on a mountainside are available. For anyone who is apprehensive about hiking in open areas with their dog off leash, the bigger SniffSpot properties could provide a solution. Adams, who goes to SniffSpots pretty much every day, sometimes multiple times a day, said there are a million examples of people sharing things these days, but that SniffSpot doesn’t really compare. It’s not really invasive because no one enters your house, they’re in a controlled space, they stay for an hour and leave. Sitting behind someone’s house in Ballard, in rapidly growing and housing-crunched Seattle, he admitted how special a place it was. “If everyone had their own yard, there’d be much less demand for something like SniffSpot,” Adams said. “It’s amazing that these yards actually even exist still.”
Food safety monitoring tech startup wins first place at Madrona machine learning hackathon

Food safety monitoring tech startup wins first place at Madrona machine learning hackathon

12:45pm, 8th May, 2018
The HyperAI team, from left to right: Benji Barash, Yves Albers, Dave Matthew, and Elizabeth Nelson, with TiE Seattle board member Shirish Nadkarni and Madrona Venture Labs CTO Jay Bartot. (Not pictured, from the Hyper AI team: Ritesh Desai and Joaquin Zapeda) (Photo via Madrona) Food safety is a pressing issue. The latest example came last month when an elusive strain of E. coli linked to romaine lettuce sickened 121 people across 25 states and killed one, for how food is screened for safety and quality. Now a newly-formed group of entrepreneurs wants to use machine learning technology to help keep food free of harmful bacteria and containments before it reaches the dinner table. Hyper AI took home the first place prize at a hosted by TiE Seattle and Madrona Venture Labs, the startup studio housed inside Seattle-based venture capital firm Madrona Venture Group. The event featured eight teams who came together last month and spent this past weekend creating startup ideas that incorporated the latest machine learning and deep learning technology. Eight teams participated in the Machine Learning Startup Creation Weekend at Madrona Venture Labs. (Photo via Madrona) The winning team, Hyper AI, aims to help the food industry with hyper-spectral imaging tech that can detect everything from foreign objects to deadly bacteria. It plans to deploy edge devices on customer premises and do the heavy lifting for image analysis with machine learning in the cloud. The group, made up of Amazon vets and experienced technologists, explained that existing solutions are either too manual and expensive, or too specialized. It hopes to use machine learning to improve the food scanning technology over time as it learns how to detect more and more contaminants. “They were able to demonstrate why there is increasing awareness of the issue and demand for new, innovative solutions,” said Mike Fridgen, CEO of Madrona Venture Labs who helped judge the pitches. “They had defined their beachhead opportunity, where they would start, through in-depth conversations with potential food processor customers.” As the first place prize winner, the Hyper AI team will now meet with Madrona Venture Labs with a chance to land a $100,000 investment and participate in , which just . Accepted startups in the accelerator will use Madrona Venture Labs resources — expertise in company creation, design, engineering, etc.; access to Madrona’s advisor and investor network; and more. It will be housed in Madrona’s that opens later this summer underneath its existing downtown Seattle office. Madrona Venture Labs held in the past and ended up investing in the winning companies. The studio is focusing on supporting “vertical” machine learning and artificial intelligence startups, as explained . The second place team from last weekend’s event was FireWise, which aims predict wildfires before they happen. The third place team, HealthShop, wants to help guide healthcare patients to surgery centers. (Editor’s note: I was one of the six judges at the event. Others included Madrona Venture Labs CEO Mike Fridgen; Flying Fish Managing Partner Heather Redman; Madrona Ventures Venture Partner and University of Washington professor Dan Weld; Koru CEO Kristen Hamilton; and Microsoft GM Sona Vaish Venkat )
Zembula raises more cash to help marketers capture emails

Zembula raises more cash to help marketers capture emails

10:15am, 8th May, 2018
Zembula CTO Carl-Einar Thorner and CEO Robert Haydock. Photo via Zembula. has raised another round of investment to help marketers acquire more email addresses. The Portland startup just closed a $2.9 million investment round from existing investors, including Portland Seed Fund and veteran angel investor Jason Calacanis. Part of the round included a conversion of $1.6 million in convertible debt. Founded in 2013, Zembula helps 280 customers like Staples and Best Western produce and deploy interactive marketing campaigns across multiple digital channels. Traditionally, many companies will hire brand agencies to develop these campaigns, but Zembula wants to give in-house marketers the ability to come up with their own creations without coding knowledge while also being able to access analytics. The 8-person company will use the fresh funding to launch a new version of its product this September. It is led by CEO , formerly CEO of Scratch-it, the precursor to Zembula. is the company’s co-founder and CTO. Zembula is one of several marketing startups in the Pacific Northwest — , , , and are four others.
10 things I’ve learned in 10 years of entrepreneurship with 10-yr-old twins

10 things I’ve learned in 10 years of entrepreneurship with 10-yr-old twins

6:00am, 8th May, 2018
Peter Chee hiking with his 10-year-old twin sons on a past trip to Zion National Park, Utah. He marked 10 years of entrepreneurship on May 1. (Photo Courtesy Peter Chee) [Editor’s Note: is founder and CEO of Seattle-based .] I’ve been reflecting on my journey over the last 10 years of being an entrepreneur with my boys, Max, Sam and Josh, of which Sam and Josh are 10 years old. I’ve been having them reflect back on their 10-year life journey too. Through this journey, I’ve experienced some amazing highs and crazy lows. I’ve made some good choices and had some fantastic experiences that I lean on which remind myself that I can accomplish things I never thought I could. I also see a string of mistakes that I’ve made which still sting with pain like a cut on my foot while getting hit by a wave of salt water at the beach. It’s uncomfortable, but, in a healthy way. Put your name on your list Back in the first year of running the company, I hired Sonya Stoklosa, an executive coach who was a former Olympic Trials athlete. I resonate with someone who has an athlete mindset and applies that to business. One of the most critical questions she asked me was to make a list of the 10 most important people who I care about. After looking at that list, she said to me, why isn’t my name on it? My response was I have to take care of other people; I don’t have time for myself. Her response was if you don’t take care of yourself, how could you take care of others? It was this one question that spawned off a lot of shifts and changes in my life and business. Don’t be afraid to fail I intentionally make sure my kids see me falling down. They have even said to me, “get back up and try again.” Life of being an entrepreneur isn’t a highlight reel of success. I’ve learned that while it’s important to have a lot of grit and push really hard, it’s much more about resilience from failure. It’s about getting up quickly after falling. The most important part of failure is to keep running at it, not away from it. Eventually, if you spend enough time running towards something, it will get a lot less scary and difficult. Define and defend Keep intact the things you cherish the most. For me, my non-negotiables are: I’m showing up for my three boys Max, Sam, and Josh no matter what. When I asked them, “does Dad show up?” their response isn’t going to allow me to win Dad of the Year Awards, but “yes most of the time” is a pretty solid response. My health. Wake up at 5 a.m. no matter what bad choices I’ve made the night before and start my day with exercise. Push as hard as I possibly can and recharge with the same level of intensity. The hardest part is once you define it, you have to also defend it ferociously. Do this and it will help make decisions simpler. Measure your feelings While measuring feelings sounds subjective or maybe even impossible it can be done. Start by doing this on the first day of each month and come up with one-word summaries for these things and ask yourself how you were feeling over the last 30 days: Mentally Emotionally Relationally Physically Spiritually Then for each of these things assign a number between minus five (-5) worst it has ever been and plus five (+5) best that it has ever been and where zero is your personal normal. Once you begin to track these things you’ll see trends and from there you can make conscious choices to give energy towards the category that you want to see change. It wasn’t until I had amassed a year of data that I threw this information into a spreadsheet and saw these trends. I also started to reflect back at those past months and ask myself what did I do to make some months so much better than others? Why can’t everything be fun? In this framework, everything has to be fun. There are three categories: Type 1 Fun, which is quick. Type 2 Fun, which is moderate. Type 3 Fun, which is big impact. Here are some examples of my Type 1 Fun: checking email, talking with a new customer, having a glass of wine with a friend and having a good conversation. Type 2 Fun: talking with a mentor that is 10x where you’re at, strategic planning, coming up with a go-to-market strategy, going for a 5-mile run, learning to swim. Type 3 Fun: launching a new location, forming a new partnership with a big company, running a marathon, swimming across Lake Washington, hiking Mailbox Peak. So for me, it’s simple, I need to spend more time doing Type 2 and 3 Fun. Just remember to define your own list, some of the things on my list could be total torture to another person. Once you start to schedule in these kinds of things into your day and week, protect your schedule and see the impact on how you feel. Your personal core values My personal core values became clear to me over this last 10 years. They are: Adventure Challenge Relationships. In the darkest times of running your company when everything comes into question as to whether or not you’re doing the right thing, take a look at what you’re working on and ask yourself where you’re spending your time. If you’re spending all of your time on things you don’t enjoy, you don’t have to quit your company, you can hire someone who really enjoys doing those things and focus your time on the things that are in alignment with your personal core values. Be the best version of yourself and let that drive the business. Don’t let the circumstances of the business drive you. Your identity is not your company Yes, you’re spending so much time focused on your company and chances are after 10 years, people will associate you with the brand of your company. Through the successes and failures of your company, those things do not define you and if you get to the point where you successfully exit your company, you’re not exiting yourself. If you’re a parent, you’re not defined by your children either and some could say that you care about your company and your children similarly. Yes, you love them with all your heart, but, they do not define you. Do other things that provide you personal accomplishment. For me, I’m a marathoner and an Ironman in-training. These other activities give me confidence, reduce my stress, provide me focus, and allow me to invest in myself. Pay Yourself Yes, there are sacrifices that you have to make. Sometimes cash flow is so tight that you fear you might miss payroll. This is always the most stressful and scariest thing that can happen. If you’re bootstrapping, the first thing that happens when cash flow is really tight is you pay your employees and don’t pay yourself. If you’ve raised money and cash flow is tight or you are not hitting your goals, your board or investors may ask you to lay off employees. Either way, you’re in a situation where you’re going to have to make hard decisions. The key thing is to pay yourself. You’re putting everything at risk and setting aside 10 percent profit for that level of risk needs to be ferociously defended. Once you set that aside, you won’t have any regrets, and, the company will learn to adjust itself on the expense side. Leaders in charge of profit and cost centers will innovate in order to survive and eventually thrive. Hire a coach The number one reason is accountability. Hire someone who is going to be asking you hard questions, helping you set goals, and holding you accountable. They can provide you an unbiased perspective on what you’re dealing with. If you can’t afford to hire a coach, bring on advisors to your company. These advisors should be people who are 10x where you are at. Set a regular time to meet and ask them to hold you accountable to your goals. These people don’t judge you, they support you, and just want you to succeed. This is a game-changer. Don’t worry about what other people think After reflecting and talking with my boys, the things that they said they learned were to not worry about what others think of them and it is not going to be as bad as you think. The thing that they are most proud of is hiking up Angels Landing in Zion National Park, Utah.
‘Startups are really hard’: GiftStarter founder shares lessons learned after shutting down gifting service

‘Startups are really hard’: GiftStarter founder shares lessons learned after shutting down gifting service

6:00am, 8th May, 2018
Arry Yu. (Photo via ArryinSeattle.com) Find your “AJ.” Watch out for assholes. And know when to call it quits. closed the book last week on GiftStarter, her 4-year-old Seattle startup that aimed to personalize and simplify the process of purchasing gifts as a group. In an email to GeekWire, Yu said the biggest problem for GiftStarter was product-market fit. The company went through two accelerators, and 500 Startups, but struggled to acquire customers and nail down a robust business model. Yu let go of her employees in April 2016 but kept the company alive, even taking a major personal loan to try and fund it further. But she officially closed up shop last week. In a , Yu thanked her investors — local angels like Heather Redman, Gary Rubens, Rebecca Norlander, and Rudy Gadre — and other supporters. The entrepreneur also admitted that she should have shut down GiftStarter in 2016 and listed 10 lessons from her startup journey. “Startups are really hard,” Yu wrote. “Don’t do them light heartedly or just because it’s the trend. Don’t do it because you’re bored at work. Do it because you cannot exist in life without the big idea going big.” Among her other lessons for founders: “Find the ‘AJ,'” which is someone by your side “that’ll turn left and pounce 5 feet into the air when you just jump left” — a tip she learned from OfferUp founder Nick Huzar. She also advises startups to focus on finding a market before building a product; file proper documentation; and watch out for “assholes posing as advisors just for the vanity of it.” You can read the full post . Yu is now COO at , a Seattle startup formerly known as CakeCodes that lets people earn cryptocurrency by performing micro-tasks.
U2’s Bono and The Edge revealed as investors in Convoy on-demand trucking tech startup

U2’s Bono and The Edge revealed as investors in Convoy on-demand trucking tech startup

6:00am, 8th May, 2018
U2’s Bono and The Edge in concert Friday night on the 2018 Experience + Innocence Tourin St. Louis. (Photo by Remy, via , ) Seattle-based on-demand trucking technology startup Convoy already counts several rock stars of the tech world among its investors — including Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Turns out some actual rock stars have invested, as well. Convoy that U2’s Bono and The Edge quietly invested in the company last year. Convoy declined to disclose the amount of the investment. The U2 frontman and guitarist were introduced to the company by Hadi Partovi, a Convoy board member, investor and CEO of Code.org. The news coincides with the recent start of U2’s “Bono and The Edge know more about trucking than you might think. They’ve spent most of their adult lives touring the world with U2, and trucks are an essential part of moving the show from city to city,” said Convoy CEO and co-founder Dan Lewis in . “When they heard about Convoy, they loved that we are using technology to empower millions of truckers to grow their businesses while at the same time reducing empty miles and waste.” Convoy co-founders Dan Lewis, CEO, and Grant Goodale, CTO, inside the company’s Seattle headquarters. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) The company has been described as the “Uber for trucking,” using technology to connect truck drivers with excess capacity to shippers looking to move freight — including Fortune 500 companies — automating traditionally a slow and time-intensive process. Convoy works with 15,000 trucking companies and 100,000 truck drivers, and has grown to 225 employees. Bono and The Edge are no strangers to technology investing, from to cloud storage giant Dropbox. Partovi and his brother, Ali, who met Bono and The Edge through their previous startup iLike, also , as well. Convoy raised $62 million in a Series B round last year, led by , the investment arm of Silicon Valley-based accelerator Y Combinator. The investment by Bono and The Edge was not part of that round. Total funding in the company now tops $80 million. Convoy was named and is , set for Thursday night in Seattle.