Hardware can be a , but the Pacific Northwest is replete with ambitious gadget makers looking for creative solutions to problems of all sorts. Private email servers, heart monitors, smart home gadgets and a drone well-versed in operating in tight spaces — this year’s crop of finalists for Hardware/Gadget of the Year at the 2019 GeekWire Awards has it all. Led by serial entrepreneurs and alums of some of the world’s biggest companies, the finalists — Bardy Diagnostics, Helm, Lubn, Vtrus and Wyze Labs — are aiming to upend their markets. We’ve opened voting in 11 GeekWire Awards categories, and community votes will be factored in with feedback from our more than 30 judges (see ). On May 2 we will announce the winners live on stage at the GeekWire Awards — presented by — in front of more than 800 geeks at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle. Community voting ends April 19. Last year, the high tech manufactured housing startup Blokable took. Other past winners include , , and . Read about the finalists and vote on all the categories while you’re here. And don’t forget to , as the GeekWire Awards sell out every year. The Carnation Ambulatory Monitor, or CAM for short, is designed to be worn comfortably for approximately a week, with the goal of improving patient compliance. (Bardy Diagnostics Photo) Bardy Diagnostics wants to change the way medical professionals monitor heart conditions. The Seattle company makes a non-invasive cardiac monitor patch that helps detect arrhythmia. The Carnation Ambulatory Monitor, or CAM for short, is designed to be worn comfortably for approximately a week, with the goal of improving patient compliance. Last summer, Bardy of undisclosed size to grow its sales team and monitoring services, advance research and development programs and accelerate development of artificial intelligence diagnostic capabilities. The company recently through an alliance with JNC Medical, a medical technologies distributor based in Ottawa, Ontario. News of the expansion came just a few weeks after Bardy said it reached a for the CAM patch in January. Bardy is led by Gust Bardy, a long-time cardiac electrophysiologist who also serves as a clinical professor of medicine, cardiology, at the University of Washington and is the director of the Seattle Institute for Cardiac Research. Bardy sold his previous company, Cameron Health, to Boston Scientific in 2012. The Helm. (Helm Photo) This Seattle-area startup wants to redefine email at a time when privacy and security issues related to hosted by big tech companies in the cloud . Helm, formerly known as Privacy Labs, last year that lets consumers send and receive email from their own domain, in addition to saving contacts and calendar events. The company’s personal physical email server puts it squarely in the crosshairs of tech giants such as Google. The device is about the size of a router and looks like an upside-down book placed on a table. It connects to a home network and pairs with a mobile app that lets users create their own domain name, passwords, and recovery keys. Helm supports standard protocols and works with regular email clients such as Outlook or the Mail app, with encryption protecting connection between the device and the apps. According to the , the device is sold out right now, but Helm promises to make more. Buyers can reserve their spot in line for $99. The idea comes from and , two entrepreneurs who previously sold a security startup. The co-founders, based in Bellevue, Wash., raised from top venture capital firms in 2017. The LTE smart key box by Seattle startup Lubn won a 2019 CES Innovation Award in the smart home category. (Photo: Lubn) Lubn is part of a movement toward a smarter lock-and-key solutions. The Bellevue-based startup is developing hardware and software products designed for property managers, retail store owners and others to remotely manage who comes and goes at their properties. Its main product is a smart key box with visual authentication that connects to the cloud via 4G LTE. The LubnBox was a at the giant electronics show in Las Vegas this past January and last year the company show. Lubn also offers an app and dashboard to let users remotely control who can enter their properties and at what times. As a father who was juggling a career at Microsoft while also managing multiple rental properties scattered internationally, Lubn co-founder and CEO Yuan-Chou “YC” Chung got the idea for the product from his own experience. He wanted a simple solution for controlling and coordinating access to the properties to give him more time for family. He teamed up with fellow co-founders Autumn Li, who is the company’s CTO, and Charles Chang, adviser, to create Lubn. Smart locks are a hot technology, with Amazon’s in-home package delivery program garnering global attention. Bellevue, Wash. startup Drones are everywhere these days, but it’s still unclear what their best use will be. A Seattle startup is seizing on the technology to conduct precision inspections of industrial facilities. Vtrus, based near the Fishermen’s Terminal in Seattle’s Interbay neighborhood, has developed an indoor autonomous drone known as the ABI Zero that can navigate its way around the tricky surroundings of a warehouse environment without the need for a remote operator or GPS waypoints. The company, which has skirted Federal Aviation Administration restrictions on outdoor drone flights because it works exclusively indoors, is to continue refining its offerings. ABI Zero can conduct an aerial survey for as long as 10 minutes, and then return to its base station for charging. The base also serves as a WiFi-enabled link for receiving streaming data from the drone and relaying it to Vtrus’ cloud service. Vtrus takes advantage of a computer vision technique called SLAM (Simultaneous Location and Mapping), which enables drones to build a high-fidelity map of their surroundings. Thirty times a second, the SLAM software keeps track of 300,000 depth points captured by an array of cameras and sensors. , CEO, previously co-founded Surreal Vision, a computer vision startup that , Facebook’s VR subsidiary. He went on to work at Oculus VR for more than a year as a research scientist in Redmond, Wash., then helped lay the groundwork for Vtrus, which he launched in 2017 with chief technology officer and chief design officer . Fresh off earlier this year, Kirkland, Wash.-based Wyze Labs is making waves in the smart home security market with its low-cost camera. Wyze was founded by Amazon veterans Yun Zhang, Dave Crosby, Elana Fishman and Dongsheng Song in 2017. Later that year, the startup launched its camera with 1080p HD video and 14 days of free cloud storage. At $19.99, the price severely undercut the group’s former employer, as Amazon for $119.99 around the same time. Fishman of GeekWire’s Elevator Pitch this past summer and said at the time that the company had sold over a quarter-million units in less than six months. The company launched another piece of hardware, the $29.99 , in May 2018. Join us at the 2019 GeekWire Awards on May 2!
Icertis CEO Samir Bodas and his team accept the award for Deal of the Year at the 2018 GeekWire Awards. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) Show me the money! Venture capital investment in Washington state last year reached the highest level since 2000, , according to a report from PwC and CB Insights. This year’s GeekWire Deal of the Year nominees for top venture capital investment accounted for nearly a fifth of that sum. We’ve opened voting in 11 categories, and community votes will be factored in with feedback from our more than 30 judges (see ). On May 2 we will announce the winners live on stage at the GeekWire Awards — presented by — in front of more than 800 geeks at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle. Community voting ends April 19. This year’s nominees for VC-related Deal of the Year — Vicis, 98point6, Convoy, JetClosing and Zipwhip — are using technology to solve large scale problems. From protecting the health of football players to organizing the nation’s fragmented trucking industry, they’re looking to make national changes from their Pacific Northwest headquarters. , Icertis, landed a $50 million round to help the startup become the Salesforce of contract management. Icertis has since built out its leadership team, adding and . Read about on the finalists and vote on all the categories while you’re here. And don’t forget to , as the GeekWire Awards sell out every year. Vicis CEO Dave Marver. (Vicis Photo) After a Super Bowl-winning quarterback leads your investment round, where do you go from there? closed a in November, bringing the company’s total funding raised to $84 million since spinning out of the University of Washington in 2014. Aaron Rodgers invested in Vicis through Rx3 Ventures. Vicis makes high-tech helmets for NFL and youth players alike. The secret is its flexible design, which aims to prevent concussions in the high-impact game of football. “We invested in VICIS because its commitment to player safety – specifically at the youth level – is one we wanted to support,” Rodgers said in a statement at the time. Convoy co-founder Grant Goodale accepts the award for Next Tech Titan at the 2018 GeekWire Awards. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) Talk about fuel in the tank: ‘s in September propelled the trucking startup to unicorn status with a valuation that topped $1 billion. The round was led by the late-stage venture capital arm of Google parent Alphabet, . It was the fourth-largest funding round ever for a Washington-based company, according to data from PitchBook. Convoy connects thousands of drivers and shippers together on a single platform. “We have a big vision and we’re in an ideal position to go after it and see it through,” Convoy co-founder and CEO Dan Lewis said when the funding round was announced. Convoy won the Next Tech Titan honor at the GeekWire Awards and also won Startup of the Year. 98point6 co-founder and CEO Robbie Cape. (98point6 Photo) Virtual primary care startup looked like a healthy investment to Goldman Sachs, which in the company this past October. The fresh cash brought the company’s total amount raised to $86.3 million in just over three years. 98point6 CEO Robbie Cape has said the startup is “focused on solving the primary care crisis in America.” The company makes the most of a doctor’s most precious resource by using technology such as to reduce the time a physician needs to spend with each patient. The JetClosing team. (JetClosing Photo) is revamping the outdated home closing process by getting rid of the paperwork and bringing the process to the cloud. The startup last summer, landing a $20 million Series A round last summer with investments from T. Rowe Price as well as PSL Ventures, Imagen Capital Partners, Trilogy Equity Partners and Maveron. The startup was founded in 2016 after spinning out of Pioneer Square Labs in Seattle. The Zipwhip team. (Zipwhip Photo) The next time a company sends you an emoji, it could be because of . The Seattle startup is helping companies communicate with their customers over text messages, and it earlier this year in a deal that brought its total funding to $92.5 million. The Series D round was led by Goldman Sachs Private Capital Investing group, with participation from existing investors including OpenView, M12, and Voyager Capital. The company is more than a decade old, but it never wavered from its faith in SMS. “We always believed text messaging would be the future,” Zipwhip CEO John Lauer said at the time of the fundraising. Zipwhip last month a new space in Seattle with room for 500 people. Join us at the 2019 GeekWire Awards on May 2!
Seattle startup Crowd Cow accepts the Startup of the Year award at the 2018 GeekWire Awards. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) A quick gander at the , our index of Pacific Northwest startups, shows the density of up-and-coming tech companies based in this region. That’s what makes the five nominees for this year’s Startup of the Year category at the all the more impressive. Amperity, Boundless, The Riveter, Rubica, and Sana Biotechnology beat out a bevy of other early-stage startups as nominees for a category that has honored fast-growing companies such as Crowd Cow, Convoy, Arivale, Rover, and others in the past. We’ve opened voting in 11 categories, and community votes will be factored in with feedback from more than 30 judges. On May 2 we will announce the winners live on stage at the GeekWire Awards — presented by — in front of more than 800 geeks at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle. Community voting ends April 19. This year’s nominees are using technology to disrupt everything from gene editing to cybersecurity — read more about them below and vote on all the categories while you’re here. And don’t forget to grab your tickets , as the GeekWire Awards sell out every year. Amperity Amperity co-founders Kabir Shahani (left) and Derek Slager. (Amperity Photo) launched a year-and-a-half ago and already has clients such as GAP, Nordstrom, Alaska Airlines, Wynn Hotels, and others who use its customer data technology platform. The company made headlines in October 2017 when it from Tiger Global Management, a New York-based firm known globally for making long-term investments in companies including Spotify, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flipkart, and other tech giants. The Seattle startup is led by co-founders and . The entrepreneurs previously started Appature and in 2013. What’s your secret sauce? Amberity CEO Kabir Shahani: “It’s still early days for us, but it will come as no surprise that our secret sauce is absolutely our people. We are fortunate to have attracted a world-class team, that beyond having skills, experience, and ambition that is unrivaled, are just wonderful to spend time with. This has been foundational to our ability to attract and maintain world-class customers like Gap, Nordstrom, Wynn Hotels, Alaska Airlines, and several other iconic consumer brands. The support of these organizations and the forward thinking leaders in these companies that took a chance on us early in our journey, have allowed us the opportunity to be an iconic company ourselves one day. We’re fortunate that all of this started with unwavering support from our investors and a strong board of directors that continually push us to be bold and ambitious in the pursuit of our mission to enable the world’s most loved brands to use data to unleash the full potential of their teams, and in turn create meaningful customer experiences.” What are one or two pieces of advice for other entrepreneurs? Shahani: “Every entrepreneur starts their journey with clarity of vision to make something better. I find that it’s important to be bold in your ambition when trying to solve that problem, and reduce the noise at each step of the way, including your own self-talk. I’ve found that every time I focus on the opportunity at-hand, in its largest, most audacious form, and work to enable those around me to achieve their goals against that vision, all the right things happen.” Boundless The Boundless team has grown to 28 employees in the company’s first two years. (Boundless Photo) In the two years since it launched, has become the top destination for immigrants applying for marriage-based green cards in the United States. The company, a spinout of Seattle startup studio Pioneer Square Labs, helps customers connect with attorneys, file applications online, and receive support throughout the immigration process. It also publishes and resources on its website to help immigrants navigate an increasingly complex system. Boundless, which was also nominated for this category last year, just an additional $7.8 million last month to fuel growth. Its co-founders— , , and — previously worked at Amazon, Microsoft, and the White House. What’s your secret sauce? Boundless CEO Xiao Wang: “Creating an environment and culture where people can thrive. One of the huge advantages of being an early-stage startup is to be able to deliberately craft the type of place you have always wanted to work at. I think that everyone is capable of doing incredible work, but often organizations put into place structures, policies, and processes that deliberately hamper the motivation and effectiveness of its employees. What we take seriously is to continuously evaluate how we operate — establishing the right levels of ownership, autonomy, and trust — that makes Boundless a place people want to build at. Are we perfect? Not even close. But as with everything else at Boundless, we will never stop experimenting and working at making it better.” What are one or two pieces of advice for other entrepreneurs? Wang: “First, it’s to focus. When you are building something new, there are an infinite number of opportunities that have potential or should be pursued. It is so easy (and usually it’s the entrepreneur’s fault) to fall into the trap of ‘let’s just add one more thing to this project’ or ‘what if we just tried that?’ In nearly all cases, you’re better off pursuing fewer initiatives at a deeper level than to scatter your precious time and resources. Spreading too thin often results to lots of inconclusive results that barely move the needle. Focus on the few things that matter. Second, it’s to hire people who are better than you. Looking across my team, each one of my reports is much, much better at their areas than I am, which is exactly how it should be. Your job is to find and convince these people to leave well-paying, stable jobs to join your crazy idea, and then to clear as many obstacles as possible so that they can do their best work.” The Riveter Inside The Riveter’s West L.A. space. (The Riveter Photo) Founded in 2017, The Riveter differentiates itself from other co-working spaces by providing amenities, programming, and other membership perks geared toward female professionals. The company, which is open to all genders, a $15 million investment round last year that is helping it expand across the nation. Last month it opened its sixth location in Austin, Texas, and has plans to launch in Dallas, Denver, Portland, Ore., Minneapolis – St. Paul, and Atlanta. The plan is to reach 100 locations by 2022. The Riveter, which won the Newcomer of the Year category at the , was co-founded by , a former Wall Street lawyer who helped launch the company after continuously running into “bro-working” spaces. What’s your secret sauce? The Riveter CEO Amy Nelson: “We (and I do mean ‘we’ – this is an enormous collective effort) are building something we believe the world needs and we are emboldened by the fact that we need it, too. We live in a world where we welcome A.I. into our homes and yet current trends show that men and women will continue to be compensated — and, valued — differently for 100 years, until the year 2119. We know we can do better and we’re building a movement and a company around that fact. Our need for a different tomorrow drives us when it’s hard — and it’s often hard. In less than two years, we’ve accomplished a lot but we know there is so much more work to be done.” What are one or two pieces of advice for other entrepreneurs? “The first is simple, hire a team of colleagues who you believe are smarter than you and who bring experience to the table that you don’t have. We have an incredible team of 51 people and every person brings something unique to what we’re building — and something we very much need. Second, lean into and highlight the differences that make you strong. I’m pregnant with my fourth daughter in four years. In a world where less than 3 percent of VC dollars go to all-female founding teams (and I believe The Riveter is the only all-female founding team in this category), I’ve been visibly pregnant or breastfeeding while raising every cent of the $21 million we’ve secured to grow The Riveter. Rather than hiding this or downplaying it, I talk a lot with investors, partners and teammates about how motherhood has made me a better leader. We can reframe the things society sees as weaknesses into the absolute strengths that they are.” Rubica (Rubica Photo) began as a research-and-design project focused on advanced cybersecurity within Concentric Advisors, a company the provides physical and digital security to prominent and high-net-worth families. In 2016, Concentric spun out its cyber division to become Rubica. The Seattle startup aims to protect both individuals and their families from cyberattacks. , previously an exec at Concentric, co-founded Rubica with , a cybersecurity expert and former colleague at Concentric. The company has raised more than $13 million from both angel investors and venture capital firms. What’s your secret sauce? Rubica CEO Frances Dewing: “Our people, and our inclusive culture. We’ve created an environment where people can trust each other and take risks and challenge the status quo. Rubica is a place of comradery where people are empowered to bring their multifaceted talents. We have cyber analysts who are also talented artists, software engineers with law degrees, and security professionals with creative writing skills. This collective creativity and diverse intelligence is the engine of our scrappy, innovative, mission-driven team.” What are one or two pieces of advice for other entrepreneurs? Dewing: “Be genuine. Be honest and transparent with your team. It builds trust – and trust is crucial on the rollercoaster ride of startups! The Rubica team knows that we are in this together, and that I will not abandon them or leave them in the dark. I’m honest about what’s working and what’s not, and we take the wins and losses together. When people know you mean it, and you’re all in, then they are too. Hire people that aren’t like you. Surround yourself with smart people that fill in your weaknesses. Intentionally look for people that are different or better than you in some way. This requires putting ego aside, but that’s what will allow you to build a winning team.” Sana Biotechnology Sana Biotechnology CEO Steve Harr. (Sana Photo) Former Juno Therapeutics executives and are behind , a stealthy startup focused on cell therapy, gene therapy and gene editing. Backed by ARCH Venture Partners, Flagship Pioneering and F-Prime Capital Partners, the company has an experienced leadership team that previously co-founded Juno, another Seattle biotech startup that was . Sana is reportedly working on a Series A funding round with the goal of raising between $800 million and $1 billion, . What’s your secret sauce? Sana CEO Steve Harr: “Sana focuses on the most challenging issues in understanding how to engineer biology to make important medicines. This vision and willingness to tackle big problems has attracted a unique and talented group of people, who are Sana’s secret sauce.” What are one or two pieces of advice for other entrepreneurs? Harr: “Companies are a combination of people, technology/opportunity, and capital. Great people attract great people. Great people attract and develop great technologies. Great people find great capital. Surround yourself with great people!”
A technician places a full-size test fuel pin bundle in TerraPower’s pin duct interaction test apparatus. TerraPower, founded by Bill Gates, is working on traveling-wave reactor technology. (TerraPower Photo) If dollars were votes, newly reintroduced legislation aimed at boosting nuclear energy innovation and advanced reactors would be a winner, thanks to Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates’ strong endorsement today. The world’s is the founder of Bellevue, Wash.-based , a startup that’s working on next-generation nuclear fission reactors. Back in December, Gates listed nuclear energy research as , and he by promising lawmakers he’d invest $1 billion of his own money and line up another $1 billion in private capital if federal funds were approved for a TerraPower pilot project in the United States. TerraPower had planned a pilot in China, but trade tensions upset the plan. During the waning days of the previous congressional session, a bipartisan group in the Senate introduced a measure called the , which would promote next-generation nuclear power by boosting research and setting up long-term agreements for federal power purchases from newly licensed reactors. The bill would require the Department of Energy to demonstrate two advanced reactor concepts by 2025, followed by another two to five concepts by 2035. That would brighten the outlook for TerraPower as well as other next-gen nuclear power companies such as Oregon-based NuScale Power, which is at the Idaho National Laboratory by 2026. There wasn’t enough time to move the bill out of committee last year — but on Wednesday, the by 15 senators, including Republicans such as Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and South Carolina’s Lindsay Graham as well as Democrats such as New Jersey’s Cory Booker and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin. That came as music to Gates’ ears, and today he let the world know on Twitter: Yesterday, a bipartisan group of leaders in the U.S. Senate introduced the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act, which establishes an ambitious plan to accelerate the development of advanced nuclear reactor technologies. I can’t overstate how important this is. — Bill Gates (@BillGates) To prevent the worst effects of climate change, we need to reach near-zero emissions on all the things that drive it—agriculture, electricity, manufacturing, transportation, and buildings—by investing in innovation across all sectors while deploying low cost renewables. — Bill Gates (@BillGates) Nuclear energy is one of these critical technologies. It’s ideal for dealing with climate change, because it is the only carbon-free, scalable energy source that’s available 24 hours a day. — Bill Gates (@BillGates) I’m thrilled that senators from both sides of the aisle have come together to support advanced nuclear. This is exactly the kind of leadership our country needs to both solve the climate challenge and reassert our leadership in this important industry. — Bill Gates (@BillGates) Some experts — such as Gregory Jaczko, former head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission — and argue that funding should go instead toward developing renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, and boosting battery technologies. Even if Gates’ view is true, some analysts question whether the advanced nuclear projects that are currently in the works could hit the 2025 demonstration timetable specified in the legislation. The promise of further federal support would certainly motivate companies like TerraPower and NuScale to try, however. Jessica Lovering, director of energy at the California-based Breakthrough Institute, said the measure would provide a “shot in the arm for entrepreneurs working on advanced nuclear technologies.” “With luck, it will be become law,” . “But while the bill is a big step toward commercializing advanced reactors, it’s not enough. More legislation will likely be needed to stimulate the market demand necessary to deploy significant nuclear to replace fossil fuels.”