The tenth Techstars Seattle cohort gathers after Demo Day on Tuesday at Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry. (GeekWire Photos / Taylor Soper) From Seattle to Miami, from blockchain to augmented reality — it was another round of polished pitches at the annual Techstars Demo Day in the Emerald City. Techstars Seattle held its 10th annual Demo Day Tuesday night as founders walked on stage and pitched to an audience of fellow entrepreneurs, investors, family, friends, and community members at the Museum of History and Industry. This cohort marked a milestone as the 10th class for Techstars Seattle, which has now graduated 110 companies to date. Alumni of the accelerator — companies such as Remitly, Outreach, Skilljar, Bizible, Leanplum and Zipline — have collectively raised more than $700 million in investment capital. Most have built their startups in the Pacific Northwest, helping expand the entrepreneurial clout in the region. Techstars Seattle Managing Directors Aviel Ginzburg and Chris DeVore give opening remarks on Tuesday. Techstars provides $120,000 in funding in exchange for 6 percent common stock as part of the three-month accelerator, which is part of a larger Techstars network that spans across the globe and also features a Techstars venture capital fund and a . Techstars Seattle is based at Startup Hall at the University of Washington and shares space with the , a separate program co-led by Techstars and Amazon focused around voice technologies. Amy Nelson, CEO of Seattle-based startup The Riveter — which just won Startup of the Year at the — gave the keynote address before Tuesday’s pitches. She recounted her own startup journey, one that started when Nelson was a corporate lawyer and became pregnant. That’s when she learned how 43 percent of women with college degrees “offramp” after having kids. “To me, that meant the system was broken,” Nelson said. “We all knew it and yet we weren’t doing anything about it.” The Riveter CEO Amy Nelson. Nelson, now pregnant with her fourth child, decided to do something and helped launch The Riveter two years ago. The women-focused co-working space operator a $15 million investment round last year and recently opened its sixth location in Austin, with plans to reach 100 locations by 2022. “Starting a company is, as many of you know, incredibly hard and nearly impossible,” Nelson told the crowd on Tuesday. “There will be many days when it is easier to quit than to keep going. There will be many days when you feel like you can’t keep going. But the thing is, you have to believe in the biggest ideas and believe that you can pull it off — and you likely can, if you truly believe that and dig into it.” Read on to learn more about and see our favorite pitches of the evening. , who reflected on the longevity of Techstars Seattle and on how the Seattle tech scene has changed over the past decade. Tagline: “Growing machine learning teams from hiring to productivity” AdaptiLab co-founder James Wu. Why we liked the pitch: Hiring engineers is hard, and AdaptiLab wants to help. James Wu, co-founder, didn’t miss a beat with his pitch on Tuesday, showing how his startup helps reduce the amount of time and money hiring managers spend interviewing candidates for machine learning-related roles. Wu said companies can spend as much as $180,000 hiring a single machine learning engineer. AdaptiLab has built a technical screening platform that customers use to screen and interview potential new employees. The company applies its own machine learning technology to rank candidates and provide technical report cards. It has already racked up customers such as Pinterest, Zillow, and Remitly. AdaptiLab is similar to fellow Seattle startup Karat, , though AdaptiLab is focused on one specific type of role with machine learning jobs. That specialization could limit how quickly the company can grow, but Wu teased its vision for scale. “Our plan is to use our screening product to build a wedge into the machine learning talent market by solving for the biggest pain points and building industry trust and customer relationships along the way,” he said. ” “As machine learning demand continues to skyrocket, we will leverage relationships to expand to a technical diagnostic marketplace, where we will source, evaluate, and place candidates,” he said. “…We will use this flow of candidate and company data to begin to own the machine learning hiring pipeline and to expand into the even larger talent development market for machine learning with strategic partnerships and SaaS products.” Tagline: “Building your personal electronic memory bank” Kristalic co-founder Jos van der Westhuizen. Why we liked the pitch: Kristalic has a big vision. The San Francisco-based startup is building an AI-powered assistant designed to record your work-related conversations throughout a day and capture all the data in an easy-to-digest searchable format. The idea is to help workers remember important information they might have otherwise forgotten — for example, who agreed to what in last week’s meeting, or what changes did the customer request? Kristalic does not require additional software, using already available hardware such as AirPods or your smartphone to record voice conversations. “We’re giving our customers memory superpowers not available to ordinary humans,” said Kristalic co-founder Jos van der Westhuizen. Both he and his co-founder Filip Kozera earned a master’s degree and PhD in machine learning at Cambridge University — a validation for their expertise that van der Westhuizen called out at this beginning of his pitch. The entrepreneurs aim to ride a surge in voice-related technology and usage. One investor that voice tech will replace keyboards in five years. Tech giants such as Google are also . Kristalic has a huge idea that could very well fall flat. There are also some privacy implications that the company will need to address. But it was refreshing to hear such an ambitious pitch — these “big swings” are something the Seattle startup scene could probably use more of, albeit from a Bay Area-based startup. Tagline: “Web3 made easy” Nodesmith CEO Brendan Lee. Why we liked the pitch: Even though big companies such as are building blockchain-related services along with a flurry of other , the jury’s still out on how important the technology will actually become. “Some of the skepticism is valid,” said Nodesmith CEO Brendan Lee. “Adoption hasn’t exactly been explosive. One of the core reasons for this is the lack of mature infrastructure and tooling that’s available for developers.” That’s where Nodesmith comes in. The Seattle startup provides access to blockchain networks and a suite of services that allow developers to easily build user-friendly applications. It provides the “picks and shovels” for blockchain developers, bringing a “much-needed professional polish to the wild west world of blockchain,” as Lee described. In his convincing pitch, Lee said building a blockchain app today is like building a traditional web app without the support of tools such as AWS, Auth0, or New Relic. It’s unclear how many customers Nodesmith has, and there’s the larger question of blockchain adoption. But investors oftentimes bet on people, and Lee and his co-founder Samm Desmond certainly have the necessary chops to fulfill their vision as they previously spent four years at Tableau building developer platforms. They’ve also been building on blockchain networks since 2016.
Kids on 45th CEO Elise Worthy. (Kids on 45th Photo) had long been Seattle’s most well-known and oldest children’s consignment store. But in 2017, nearly 30 years after it opened, the tiny Wallingford retail shop was ready to shut down. That’s when stepped in and bought the business. Two years later, the tech entrepreneur has turned an old-school brick-and-mortar concept into an innovative e-commerce service that has shipped 500,000 items of used kids clothing to customers across the country. And now the Seattle startup is raising cash from top-tier investors to help fuel its growth. announced a $3.3 million funding round from YesVC, an early-stage firm co-founded by Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake; Maveron, the Seattle firm that previously backed e-commerce giants such as Zulily and eBay; and other investors including SoGal Ventures, Sesame Street Ventures, Collaborative Fund, Liquid 2 VC, and Brand Foundry Ventures. The company offers a unique solution to a problem that parents with young children often face: buying affordable clothes for their growing kids. The service takes advantage of partnerships with nonprofits and thrift organizations to source a supply of “nearly new” kids clothing that is discounted by 70-to-90 percent off similar products online. Customers select the types and sizes of clothing they need — four pairs of pants, three long-sleeve shirts, two dresses, etc. — and Kids on 45th stylists put together a curated box that is shipped to doorsteps. Items sell for as low as $1.99 each and an average of $3.29. There is no browsing process and the entire shopping experience is designed to take less than two minutes. “All of our competitors and incumbents rely on either a browse or discovery process,” Worthy told GeekWire. “We are specifically anti-browse. If you’re a mom who has a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old and they outgrow their pants, you won’t delightfully browse through clothes. You just want to solve the pants problem.” (Kids on 45th Photo) Worthy previously co-founded Seattle-based , a free nonprofit coding school for women that has graduated 250 students since in 2015. She left the day-to-day work at Ada in 2017 and had the opportunity to purchase Kids on 45th from the original owner. “It seemed like such a treasure trove of data,” said Worthy, who serves as CEO. “I thought it would be so cool to buy the store and figure out how to bring it online to be a web-scaled business.” Worthy not only started analyzing years and years of Kids on 45th purchasing data, but also observed customer experiences inside the store. Moms, especially those who don’t enjoy recreationally shopping, just wanted something to replace the clothes that their kids had outgrown. “It dawned on me that we were investing time in a browse experience that our customers didn’t want,” said Worthy, who has two young sons herself. The company has 15 employees in Seattle and another 15 people at its warehouse in Texas where garments are sorted into 350 categories. It has developed an efficient supply chain and distribution model to help keep handling costs low — it’s how items can be priced at such steep discounts, or as the company notes, “cheaper than Goodwill and Walmart.” Worthy described Kids on 45th as a “StitchFix-like experience without the cost or required subscription,” referencing the popular online clothing box service that also sells kids clothing. “We try to bring the StitchFix experience to 90 percent of Americans where that’s just not possible,” Worthy noted. Jason Stoffer, partner at Maveron who was an early board member at e-commerce giant Zulily, said the “rise in value retail offline has been unable to be replicated online until now, due to the difficulties of making the business model work.” “Elise and the Kids on 45th team have been able to sell clothing at radically low price points by challenging some of the shopping behaviors that have been accepted as a given up until this point,” he said in a statement. “They pass more savings onto their customers by pairing a global sourcing supply chain with taking on the burden of selection from moms, thereby reducing handling costs like photos, mannequins and returns.” Worthy added that “we are really happy with the unit economics of this business.” Kids on 45th also has an eye on sustainability, given the nature of its business, and hopes to help lessen the that are thrown into landfills each year. The company recently launched a new buy-back program that lets customers send in used clothes and receive Kids on 45th credit. Worthy said the startup will prove out its model with kids clothing before exploring other potential verticals. There are no plans to open more brick-and-mortar locations but Worthy said she’s open to the idea.
Icertis CEO Samir Bodas and his team accept the award for Deal of the Year at the 2018 GeekWire Awards. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) Show me the money! Venture capital investment in Washington state last year reached the highest level since 2000, , according to a report from PwC and CB Insights. This year’s GeekWire Deal of the Year nominees for top venture capital investment accounted for nearly a fifth of that sum. We’ve opened voting in 11 categories, and community votes will be factored in with feedback from our more than 30 judges (see ). On May 2 we will announce the winners live on stage at the GeekWire Awards — presented by — in front of more than 800 geeks at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle. Community voting ends April 19. This year’s nominees for VC-related Deal of the Year — Vicis, 98point6, Convoy, JetClosing and Zipwhip — are using technology to solve large scale problems. From protecting the health of football players to organizing the nation’s fragmented trucking industry, they’re looking to make national changes from their Pacific Northwest headquarters. , Icertis, landed a $50 million round to help the startup become the Salesforce of contract management. Icertis has since built out its leadership team, adding and . Read about on the finalists and vote on all the categories while you’re here. And don’t forget to , as the GeekWire Awards sell out every year. Vicis CEO Dave Marver. (Vicis Photo) After a Super Bowl-winning quarterback leads your investment round, where do you go from there? closed a in November, bringing the company’s total funding raised to $84 million since spinning out of the University of Washington in 2014. Aaron Rodgers invested in Vicis through Rx3 Ventures. Vicis makes high-tech helmets for NFL and youth players alike. The secret is its flexible design, which aims to prevent concussions in the high-impact game of football. “We invested in VICIS because its commitment to player safety – specifically at the youth level – is one we wanted to support,” Rodgers said in a statement at the time. Convoy co-founder Grant Goodale accepts the award for Next Tech Titan at the 2018 GeekWire Awards. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) Talk about fuel in the tank: ‘s in September propelled the trucking startup to unicorn status with a valuation that topped $1 billion. The round was led by the late-stage venture capital arm of Google parent Alphabet, . It was the fourth-largest funding round ever for a Washington-based company, according to data from PitchBook. Convoy connects thousands of drivers and shippers together on a single platform. “We have a big vision and we’re in an ideal position to go after it and see it through,” Convoy co-founder and CEO Dan Lewis said when the funding round was announced. Convoy won the Next Tech Titan honor at the GeekWire Awards and also won Startup of the Year. 98point6 co-founder and CEO Robbie Cape. (98point6 Photo) Virtual primary care startup looked like a healthy investment to Goldman Sachs, which in the company this past October. The fresh cash brought the company’s total amount raised to $86.3 million in just over three years. 98point6 CEO Robbie Cape has said the startup is “focused on solving the primary care crisis in America.” The company makes the most of a doctor’s most precious resource by using technology such as to reduce the time a physician needs to spend with each patient. The JetClosing team. (JetClosing Photo) is revamping the outdated home closing process by getting rid of the paperwork and bringing the process to the cloud. The startup last summer, landing a $20 million Series A round last summer with investments from T. Rowe Price as well as PSL Ventures, Imagen Capital Partners, Trilogy Equity Partners and Maveron. The startup was founded in 2016 after spinning out of Pioneer Square Labs in Seattle. The Zipwhip team. (Zipwhip Photo) The next time a company sends you an emoji, it could be because of . The Seattle startup is helping companies communicate with their customers over text messages, and it earlier this year in a deal that brought its total funding to $92.5 million. The Series D round was led by Goldman Sachs Private Capital Investing group, with participation from existing investors including OpenView, M12, and Voyager Capital. The company is more than a decade old, but it never wavered from its faith in SMS. “We always believed text messaging would be the future,” Zipwhip CEO John Lauer said at the time of the fundraising. Zipwhip last month a new space in Seattle with room for 500 people. Join us at the 2019 GeekWire Awards on May 2!
Make.TV CEO Andreas Jacobi. (Make.TV Photos) continues to bolster its live streaming resume. The Seattle-based startup has expanded its partnership with , the world’s largest esports organization that runs competitions across the world and produces more than 1,500 hours of content annually. Later this month, Make.TV will stream action from the ESL One Mumbai, India’s first-ever major Dota 2 tournament with a $300,000 top prize. Founded in 2016, Make.TV helps customers such as MLBAM, NBC Universal, Al Jazeera, Viacom, Fox Sports Brasil, and others stream live video content in the cloud. The 42-person company, which relocated from Germany to Seattle two years ago, is backed by some of the top investment firms in the Pacific Northwest including Microsoft’s M12, Vulcan Capital, and Voyager Capital, which a $8.5 million Series A round in June 2017. Bruce Chizen, the former CEO of Adobe, is on the company’s board. Make.TV’s technology acts like a video router of sorts, allowing companies to take live video from a variety of sources and deliver it to any device on any platform, said, the company’s co-founder and CEO. “Simply put, we empower content creators to share their video with production teams working for TV networks, cable companies, esports and sports networks or any other type of video-based media,” he said. “We also simplify the work of the production teams by automating a number of tasks — sifting through lots of data; identifying content libraries to pick a short segment from; routing content to post-production houses, regional broadcasters and social media channels — enabling them to dedicate more time to what they do best: create content we all want to watch.” The company offers a similar service to Portland-based Elemental, which . Other competitors include , , , and smaller startups. Make.TV is ranked No. 165 on the , our index of top Pacific Northwest startups. With more people watching live video online and the growth of platforms such as Twitch, the live streaming industry is to surpass $13 billion this year.
Nanodropper team members Jennifer Steger, Mackenzie Andrews and Allisa Song. (Matt Hagen / UW Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship Photo) What if something as simple as a more precise eyedropper could cut the cost of glaucoma medication by more than half? That’s the idea behind the startup Nanodropper, which won the $15,000 grand prize at the University of Washington Hollomon Health Innovation Challenge on Wednesday night. The team also won a $2,500 medical device consulting award. created an FDA-approved adapter for eyedrop bottles that aims to reduce waste in the delivery of medication, especially for patients with glaucoma, which causes blindness. Here’s how it works: Take any eyedropper medication, screw on Nanodropper’s device, and you’ll get drops that are much smaller — but still large enough to deliver the medication effectively. Eyedroppers often deliver more medication than the eye can physically absorb, and the Nanodropper reduces the size of drops by a quarter or more. The team was inspired by about how larger-than-necessary eyedrops were increasing costs for glaucoma patients, who can spend $500 per month on medication. The issue is , in which patients sued massive drug companies like Allergan, Bausch & Lomb, Merck and Pfizer. “The problem is that the companies have no incentive to reduce the size of their drops, because then they would be selling less medication,” Nanodropper’s Allisa Song, a medical student at the Mayo Clinic, told GeekWire. Nanodropper’s team also includes UW graduate students Jennifer Steger and Mackenzie Andrews, as well as Elias Baker, a mechanical engineer who has worked with SpaceX and Spacelabs. Following its launch a year ago, Nanodropper has raised $60,000 primarily from healthcare providers. The grand prize was sponsored by Seattle-based life science incubator Intuitive X. Nanodropper said five eye care clinics are interested in presales and that it’s in talks with Premera Blue Cross, Kaiser Permanente and Bartell Drugs. The startup will use the cash to start making the product, which is manufactured in Minnesota and will sell for $12.99. The device has received class I FDA approval with a 510(k) exemption. $10,000 2nd Place Prize: Appiture (Washington State University) (Matt Hagen / UW Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship Photo) Appiture is developing a mobile-based hardware and software system to detect autism spectrum disorder in children. The team, which includes students from Washington State University’s chemical engineering, bioengineering and veterinary medicine departments, also won a $2,500 digital health prize. The Herbert B. Jones Foundation sponsored the second-place prize. (GeekWire Photo) $5,000 3rd Place Prize: Pulmora (University of Washington) Pulmora created an autonomous ventilator that can easily be applied to patients who have stopped breathing. The company, comprised of UW bioengineering students, said that it hopes to make ventilators common and easy to use, in the same way that defibrillators are today. The third-place prize was sponsored by WRF Capital, the investment arm of the Washington Research Foundation. $1,000 “Judges Also Really Liked” Award: DopCuff and Insulin Anywhere In addition to the top prizes, the judges gave $1,000 to DopCuff, which is working on a better blood pressure device for patients with end-stage heart failure. Insulin Anywhere also won the “Judges Also Really Liked Award” for its system that is both an insulin-cooling chamber and a compact needle kit, which was designed to get insulin to diabetics in emergency situations such as natural disasters.