Vikram Jandhyala, UW innovation leader and key figure in Seattle tech, dies at age 47

Vikram Jandhyala, UW innovation leader and key figure in Seattle tech, dies at age 47

4:15pm, 13th March, 2019
Vikram Jandhyala. (University of Washington Photo) Vikram Jandhyala, the University of Washington’s vice provost for innovation and a key link between the UW and the Seattle region’s technology community, has died as a result of suicide, by Ana Mari Cauce, the University of Washington president. RESOURCES: 1-800-273-8255741741 Jandhyala, 47, led the UW’s innovation center, CoMotion, for five years. Earlier this year, he announced that . Cauce described him as “, and someone for whom “inclusive innovation” wasn’t just a catchphrase, but a guiding principle.” She wrote, “This was core to his belief in combining innovation with empathy, because as he put it, “Once we understand someone else, compassion is what makes us want to help them.” This advocacy for what Vikram called a “Seattle style of innovation” can be seen in his leadership of CoMotion and in communities not just in the Puget Sound, but around the world.” According to , Jandhyala was the son of two physics professors. He graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology in 1993 and attended graduate school at the University of Illinois. Jandhyala was well-known in the Seattle tech community over the past two decades as a respected professor, researcher, founder, speaker, and champion of entrepreneurship. He first joined the UW faculty in 2000 and founded his own startup in 2007 called Nimbic that was later acquired by Mentor Graphics. Jandhyala became chair of the UW’s electrical engineering department in 2011 and was named the university’s vice provost of innovation in June 2014. His title evolved into vice president of innovation strategy as Jandhyala led CoMotion, which helps startups through education and access to experts and funding sources. Under the leadership of Jandhyala, the UW has ranked among the top 10 on Reuters’ list of the world’s most innovative universities for the past several years and cracked the top 10 of the Milken Institute national tech transfer rankings. CoMotion also helped open a makerspace on campus; created an Amazon Catalyst program; and launched the Mobility Innovation Center with Challenge Seattle. He was the co-executive director of the Global Innovation Exchange (GIX), a new U.S.-China joint technology innovation institute run in Bellevue, Wash., by the UW and China’s Tsinghua University, which recently graduated its first class. He planned to dedicate more time to the program after leaving CoMotion. Jandhyala is survived by two sons, ages 5 and 7, according to seeking financial support to cover basic living costs for his children. His wife, Suja Vaidyanathan, writes on that page that she and Jandhyala remained married, but had lived separate lives for a few years. “Vikram was a complex person and our relationship was equally complex,” Vaidyanathan wrote. “The pressures of two high-stress careers, raising young children and some incompatibilities took a toll on our marriage. We could have worked through one or two of these pressure but our relationship couldn’t take all three.” Vaidyanathan also said that the two were “highly supportive of each other’s life goals” and that “his life goal was to make entrepreneurship a part of higher education across all disciplines, not just technology.” The news of Jandhyala’s death has stunned many people in the Seattle tech community. Madrona Venture Group, which provided seed funding in 2006 for his startup Nimbic, released this statement from its managing directors. “Vikram was a close part of the Madrona family for years. He worked with us on the funding of a company thirteen years ago and since then we have worked with him in our business lives as well as had him as a part of our social fabric. He took CoMotion and made it a strong force of innovation for the entire ecosystem, making a real difference in the lives of students and professors. He gave so much to all of us and we are devasted by the news of his death.” Susannah Malarkey, former executive director of the Seattle-based Tech Alliance, called Jandhyala’s passing a “huge loss for the university and a huge loss for the larger community.” “What I loved about Vikram was that he was willing to think in very new ways,” she said. “He partnered with Ana Mari to really bring the innovation of the university out to the community in a way that it never had before. He was just a lovely man — so smart, so committed, so energetic, and really led by example. He was just a fabulous guy.” In , Jandhyala shared his thoughts on life changes, writing that he was “personally going through a challenging one right now.” He said that transitions “whether chosen or forced, are particularly difficult when you are moving on from something you have put all your heart, soul, belief, effort, and time into. It is doubly hard when it is not just you but a dedicated, loving, high-functioning team who believes in a common vision that has put in all that effort. People matter immensely.” He said that his personal take didn’t offer any business or leadership wisdom, but that he believed “self reflection at times of transition can be additionally focused and energized.” “Sometimes, to paraphrase (and misquote!) a great role model and technology leader and friend I would have loved to work for and with, it’s time to “hit reset,” Jandhyala wrote, in an apparent reference to “Hit Refresh,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s 2017 book. “And if that soft reset doesn’t work, to turn the power off and back on and hopefully to see something fresh and different.” In a answering a traditional question at the end of our questionnaire, Jandhyala offered these “final words of advice” for his fellow geeks: “Try to be inclusive, not exclusive. Technology is great. Think about how it can solve real problems for all people. Think about how technology itself can include all people.” GeekWire’s Taylor Soper and Kurt Schlosser contributed to this report.
Ex-NSA, Microsoft execs raise $3.5M for stealthy Seattle-area cybersecurity startup Cyemptive

Ex-NSA, Microsoft execs raise $3.5M for stealthy Seattle-area cybersecurity startup Cyemptive

8:19am, 12th March, 2019
Cyemptive CEO Rob Pike. (Cyemptive Photo) Former executives from the National Security Agency, Microsoft, Hitachi, and other companies are behind a Seattle-area cybersecurity startup that just came out of stealth mode three years after it launched. on Tuesday announced a $3.5 million investment round from undisclosed investors. The company’s executive team includes founder , who was previously an executive at Hitachi; , who was formerly chief information officer at Microsoft; and , who spent 30 years at the NSA, most recently as chief computer architect. Cyemptive describes its cybersecurity software as an “automatic self-repairing reliable platform.” It sells products including an endpoint protection service and advanced perimeter firewalls, among others. “We have invented technology that detects and deals with hackers in seconds, as opposed to existing solutions which can take weeks to months,” Pike told GeekWire. Pike said the technology is “a truly preemptive solution” which disallows actions that would corrupt a system or encrypt a file. It does not rely on API monitoring. “Such an approach is both too late and much too cumbersome as the sheer volume of APIs prevents effective protection after the fact,” he said. Cyemptive has more than 100 business and government customers, but Pike declined to provide details on specific clients. The 60-person company has additional offices in Washington D.C., Nevada, Canada, and India. Other execs include Bryan Greene, a former cybersecurity solution architect at HP and Pat McDermott, a veteran finance executive. Cyemptive recently won a national competition hosted by the Department of Homeland Security’s , beating out more than 60 other companies. “We were successful in convincing a comprehensive panel of senior government officials that our technology solution was the most innovative compared to the other concepts,” Pike said. “Cyemptive’s technology can be applied across a broad range of systems, including multiple border security needs and requirements.” The global cybersecurity market is expected to eclipse $200 billion by 2021, according to .
Toyota invests in $15M round for Airbiquity, a 22-year-old connected car startup in Seattle

Toyota invests in $15M round for Airbiquity, a 22-year-old connected car startup in Seattle

6:54pm, 11th March, 2019
A Toyota concept car at CES 2017. (GeekWire File Photo) Since first launched in 1997, a lot has changed in the automotive world. The Seattle-based company has not only remained relevant but is now attracting investor attention from one of the world’s largest car companies. Airbiquity today announced a $15 million investment round from Toyota Motor Corporation, Toyota Tsusho Corporation (Toyota’s trading arm), and DENSO Corporation (a giant automotive parts manufacturer partly owned by Toyota). Airbiquity has been building automotive telematics technology for more than two decades. Its focus is now on Choreo, a cloud-based connected car delivery platform, and , software that lets car manufacturers continuously update in-car software technology. (Airbiquity Photo) The company supports more than eight million vehicles across more than 60 countries and 30 languages. “We are delighted to receive investment from three of the most successful corporations in the automotive industry,” , the Airbiquity CEO who joined the company in 2002, said in a statement. “This is an exciting time for our company, and we look forward to working with our new strategic partners to optimize and leverage OTAmatic for the next generation of connected vehicle.” Investment in self-driving cars and related technology could help boost Airbiquity’s value proposition. Toyota itself has been over the past several years. The market for advanced driver-assistance systems technology could reach $35 billion by 2021, according to .
Two Seattle cannabis software companies merging to build bigger stake in a growing market

Two Seattle cannabis software companies merging to build bigger stake in a growing market

9:38am, 11th March, 2019
Dauntless co-founder and CEO Clark Musser and Soro CEO Jerry Tindall at this year’s CannaCon. (Dauntless photo.) , a Seattle-area software developer providing point-of-sale and tracking software to the cannabis industry, has acquired pot sales software company . The combined companies aim to create an all-encompassing platform serving growers, packagers, and retailers across the U.S., said Soro CEO Jerry Tindall. “The vision is to build an entire ecosystem around what it means to be a cannabis business,” Tindall said. “By putting our softwares together we now have a full stack, a fully integrated offering, and that doesn’t really exist yet — not from the grower all the way to the retail plant sale … there isn’t anyone who is doing the end-to-end product suite at this point.” Soro brings to Dauntless its analytics and customer relationship management sales software, which connects growers and packagers. Soro will keep its brand name for now, Tindall said. Dauntless, which launched in 2013, provides traceability and compliance for growers, as well as point-of-sale, compliance and inventory management software to retailers. Dauntless co-founder and CEO Clark Musser, who left Microsoft to launch the startup, said between 30 and 40 percent of all the state’s retail pot transactions go through his company’s retail software. Executives at both Soro and Dauntless, both private companies, declined to disclose the terms of the all-stock deal. All four of Soro’s employees will join Dauntless, making for a total of 33 employees. Soro will bring about a dozen customers to Dauntless, which has roughly 120 customers. The Dauntless executive team includes vets from Microsoft, Amazon, and Starbucks. The combined company plans to pursue between $5 million and $10 million in a Series A funding round, Musser said. The acquisition comes especially fast for Soro, which only a year ago. Tindall said the company bootstrapped itself, foregoing a formal investment round and taking a $25,000 investment from Tindall’s dad to cover the bills. “Yeah, we worked hard,” Tindall said of the breakneck timeline from launch to acquisition. With today’s acquisition, Soro and Dauntless are trying to capitalize on what is seen as sky’s-the-limit opportunity in a young and burgeoning legal cannabis industry that is hungry for customized software solutions. There are 87,000 cannabis business in the U.S., Musser said. , which tracks the legal pot market, said U.S. consumers spent more than $10.5 billion on cannabis for both recreational and medical uses in 2018. Recreational pot spending more than doubled from $2.7 billion in 2017 to $6 billion last year as more states legalized cannabis, BDS said. The company said recreational pot is likely to be a $14.3 billion market by 2022, with the medical pot market growing from its current $4.5. billion to $7.9 billion. Patrick Rea, CEO and co-founder of , a venture fund that invests in the pot industry, said that leaves plenty of opportunities for companies like Dauntless to grow, especially if it can improve on the existing models. “The growth opportunity for these seed-to-sale software tracking companies is probably larger than the growth of the industry overall because so many new businesses are coming online,” he said. In a , New Cannabis Ventures said that, of the 44 point-of-sale software vendors it counted in the cannabis industry, only five make up 80 percent of the sector’s market share. The biggest is BioTrack, with Green Bits a close second followed by Flowhhub, MJ Freeway, and Adilas. “If you can do better, there’s reason for you to play in the space,” Rea said. “The need for better solutions is greater than any market share that any of the top (cannabis software) companies has. The industry is hungry for better.” And there’s plenty of room for improvement. Last year, Washington state enlisted a new cannabis traceability system called Leaf Data Systems, which has been , including businesses being unable to log in, scrambled orders and missing shipping manifests. The system has also, compromising data and creating even more havoc across the state’s pot businesses. Executives from both Soro and Dauntless, who did not know each other well at the time, said they found themselves exchanging pained glances during a 2017 Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Control Board meeting about implementing Leaf’s system, which wasn’t yet ready and still lacks key features promised by Leaf, Tindall said. Tindall said he and the Dauntless executives began talking about merging as they discussed their “shared misery” caused by the state tracking system at industry events. The merger made sense, they said, because the cannabis business is still fragmented, and software platforms for large-scale agriculture operations are often ill-suited to fit the unique needs of pot operations. “The different people in the supply chain, they all get stuck in their little silos,” Tindall said. To solve that problem, Dauntless has developed a platform called GIANT, which stands for “Global Interoperable Application Network Technology.” Musser said GIANT has a universal API that can connect every cannabis business — grower, packagers and retailers — as well as regulators, regardless of different state tracking systems. Instead of modifying software for each state regulatory environment, only one adjustment is needed in GIANT, Musser said. This month, Dauntless was showing off GIANT at Seattle’s , the country’s largest cannabis industry event. Late last month, Dauntless that , the Seattle company that publishes a directory of where to buy pot and gets more than 16 million visitors to its site each month, will begin using GIANT to update retailers’ menus of cannabis products. Tindall said the combined companies, quite ambitiously, want to “create the most transparent and connected industry on earth.” “The goal is to create a better industry,” he said, adding later, “this is us responding to a need that exists globally.”
RealSelf CTO and product leader to depart, following earlier layoffs in January

RealSelf CTO and product leader to depart, following earlier layoffs in January

6:18pm, 8th March, 2019
More changes are going down at , the Seattle-based cosmetic treatment review platform. RealSelf CTO and vice president of product will leave the company within the next month, GeekWire has learned. Both are longtime RealSelf employees — Woodward joined the company in 2014; Brooks came on a year earlier. RealSelf confirmed the departures and provided this statement, attributed to CEO Tom Seery: Matt and Scott have made a huge impact at RealSelf and were instrumental to getting us to a place where we’ve attracted both world class technical talent and investors. Their transitions from the company over the next month is mutually understood as a healthy and appropriate change for the business and their teams. I am grateful to both and know they will continue to make a difference at their next role. For RealSelf this means we’re actively recruiting for a chief technology officer and VP of product, which represent rare opportunities to be part of a company that is transforming an industry and helping people make smart, confident self-improvement decisions. Before landing at RealSelf, Woodward spent six years at Microsoft and another seven years at Expedia. He co-founded a startup called Shutterous.com in 2011. Brooks is also an Expedia veteran, having spent more than 11 years at the travel giant. He was also a product leader at Zillow. We’ve reached out to Woodward and Brooks and will update this story when we hear back. This past January, RealSelf 14 percent of its workers, or 36 employees, as part of a company-wide reorganization. Founded in 2006, RealSelf raised its first substantial round of outside capital this past April to fuel growth of its Yelp-like marketplace business that helps people learn more about cosmetic procedures. That led the company to grow headcount by 40 percent last year. “Like many companies, you grow ahead of your growth and that growth just hasn’t been showing up at the rate we thought it would,” Seery told GeekWire in January. RealSelf blamed slowing site traffic on a Google search algorithm change made last year. The company planned to change its marketing strategy and will continue to hire in 2019, albeit at a reduced growth rate compared to 2018. Some executives are in Austin this weekend for SXSW, where RealSelf is the “RealSelf House of Modern Beauty.” RealSelf has more than two million reviews and 20,000 registered doctors on its platform, which helps users learn about procedures like botox, Invisalign, or breast implants. In 2017, 94 million people from 100 countries used RealSelf; it averages 10 million unique visitors per month.
Led by ex-Oculus research scientist, Seattle drone startup Vtrus raises cash for indoor inspection tech

Led by ex-Oculus research scientist, Seattle drone startup Vtrus raises cash for indoor inspection tech

1:57pm, 7th March, 2019
Vtrus’ ABI Zero drone is designed to conduct indoor inspections autonomously. (Vtrus via YouTube) Seattle startup has raised investment for a different kind of drone — one that’s designed to conduct precision inspections of industrial facilities. A published today shows a $2.9 million cash infusion for Vtrus. , the company’s CEO and co-founder, declined to comment on the new funding when contacted by GeekWire. Salas-Moreno was previously the co-founder of Surreal Vision, a computer vision startup that was , Facebook’s VR subsidiary. He went on to work at Oculus VR for more than a year as a research scientist in Redmond, Wash., then helped lay the groundwork for Vtrus, which he launched in 2017 with chief technology officer and chief design officer . The company, based near Fishermen’s Terminal in Seattle’s Interbay neighborhood, has developed an indoor autonomous drone known as the ABI Zero that can navigate its way around the tricky surroundings of a warehouse environment without the need for a remote operator or GPS waypoints. ABI Zero can conduct an aerial survey for as long as 10 minutes, and then return to its base station for charging. The base also serves as a WiFi-enabled link for receiving streaming data from the drone and relaying it to Vtrus’ cloud service. Because Vtrus’ platform is designed exclusively for indoor use, it doesn’t have to satisfy the Federal Aviation Administration restrictions on outdoor flights of unmanned aerial systems. The company has been demonstrating its technology in a “pilotless” pilot program, and the newly-reported funding round should help Vtrus get further down the path to commercialization. Vtrus takes advantage of a computer vision technique called SLAM (Simultaneous Location and Mapping), which enables drones to build a high-fidelity map of their surroundings. Thirty times a second, the SLAM software keeps track of 300,000 depth points captured by an array of cameras and sensors. The drone market is expected to reach $100 billion by 2020, according to research from . Vtrus showed off its technology and said it was seeking investment. The startup has put together a variety of videos showing how the drone does its work. Check ’em out … and watch the (indoor) skies:
Eyedropper startup Nanodropper wins top prize at Univ. of Washington health innovation challenge

Eyedropper startup Nanodropper wins top prize at Univ. of Washington health innovation challenge

1:26pm, 7th March, 2019
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.
Madrona leads $10M round for Knock, a CRM and communications service for apartment landlords

Madrona leads $10M round for Knock, a CRM and communications service for apartment landlords

12:24pm, 7th March, 2019
The Knock team. (Knock Photos) When it comes to communication with customers, many apartment landlords still rely only on phone and email to connect with potential tenants and existing renters. wants to change that. The Seattle startup today announced a $10 million Series A round led by Madrona Venture Group to help grow its communications and CRM platform used by nearly 200 multifamily property management companies. The 52-person company has seen revenue grow by 11X over the past two years and is operating in nine U.S. cities. Total funding to date is $15.5 million. What Knock does: Knock’s technology facilitates communication between property managers and renters — responding to questions, organizing tours, etc. — and also manages customer relationships, bringing both services in one place. Knock’s product can be used with property management software systems such as Yardi and Realpage, and also provides back-end analytics data to highlight engagement and internal sales statistics. It integrates with communication tools such as Facebook Messenger and productivity apps including Outlook and Slack. Knock will use the fresh funding to invest in data science and analytics that can help property managers predict tenant turnover and reduce vacancy rates. Backstory: Knock, originally called ZipDigs, was co-founded in 2014 by and , two University of Washington grads who previously worked together at UBS Wealth Management. The entrepreneurs were frustrated with the leasing process, specifically with how difficult it was to communicate with landlords. “All these different communication channels in one centralized platform was just not available prior to Knock,” Petry said. , the company’s other co-founder, left in April 2018. More renters: Themelis said that almost every major metropolitan market is seeing a record amount of multi-family development. That’s good news for Knock. “With all that supply, there’s competition to get renters to move into those properties,” Themelis said. Competition: Some companies offer landlords lead management or communication tools, but Petry said none bring them together in the way that Knock does. Knock co-founders Tom Petry and Demetri Themelis. Investor insight: In a blog post, Scott Jacobsen, managing director at Madrona, detailed how Knock “grew from a booking widget for prospective tenants to a comprehensive CRM.” “By listening to customers and deeply understanding the pain points and friction (a behavior we see in all great founding teams), the Knock team has built the best CRM system for multi-family property managers and are just getting started in their ambition to build a comprehensive, modern marketing cloud for the industry,” Jacobsen wrote. Not that Knock: There’s another real estate startup called Knock that a $400 million round two months ago for its “home trade-in program.” Seattle real estate startups: Knock is one of several startups in the region building tech for the real estate industry. Others include , , , , , MoxiWorks, IMPREV, and Faira — not to mention industry giants such as Zillow Group and Redfin.
Seattle startup Tasso raises $6M for at-home blood draw technology

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

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

DiscoverOrg makes another acquisition, buys email verification service NeverBounce

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

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

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

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

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

3 leadership lessons from Adaptive Biotechnologies CEO Chad Robins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1:53pm, 26th February, 2019
The Armoire team has grown from four to 28 in the past two years. (Armoire Photo) If has its way, women can say goodbye to cluttered closets and hundreds of wasted hours shopping for clothes. The Seattle startup is picking up traction with its monthly subscription clothing rental service geared toward professional women. Starting at $149 per month, the 3-year-old company lets customers rent designer clothes and exchange for something new at any time. If they like something enough, members can purchase items at a discounted rate. At an event this past Thursday at Ada’s Technical Books in Seattle, the company lifted the hood on its tech-fueled recommendation engine that powers Armoire’s user experience. “We’re not really like a fashion company,” , co-founder of Armoire who leads engineering, told the crowd on Thursday. “We are more like a data company.” Armoire follows a similar playbook to Rent the Runway, the 10-year-old New York City-based company that was recently at nearly $800 million. Its rental business model is built on buying from brands at wholesale prices, constantly shuffling clothes in and out of its dry cleaning warehouse below The Riveter in Capitol Hill. Armoire aims to be cheaper than hiring a wardrobe consultant and more efficient than browsing through racks at various stores. But what makes the company stand out, according to co-founder and CEO , is technology. “[Rent the Runway] has really not taken advantage of the fact that they can service customers better through curation,” she said. “We call it the hunter-gatherer method — women are still tasked with digging through literally the entire Rent the Runway inventory.” Inside the curation process (Armoire Photo) At a basic level, Armoire aims to match people with clothes they want to wear — a task that sounds simple, but is actually quite complex due to varying individual preferences for style, fit, and other needs. Armoire’s recommendation algorithms are based on vectors that represent both customer preferences and item attributes (brand, color, tightness, occasion, etc.). The technology multiplies those vectors to determine strength of correlation between the two datasets, and ultimately to figure out what to show customers in their virtual closet. Owen called it a “big matrix multiplication problem.” (Armoire Photo) The vectors can be plotted as arrows on an axis. In the example below, since the customer vector is close to the green dress, that would be a good match. The more data Armoire collects from customer feedback, the better its recommendation algorithms work. It also analyzes information such as the temperature in a given zip code to help drive the curation process. “There are a lot of holes we need to fill in to truly understand what your style and fit preferences need, and how that translates into a digital product that you can actually interact with,” said Miriam Subbiah, head of product at Armoire. A sample package of rented clothing from Armoire. (Armoire Photo) Yet despite the push for more automation, Armoire also provides in-house stylists that can help when algorithms can’t complete the job. “There is always a human element to fashion,” Owen said. From buying to renting (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) The traditional way women shop for clothing is broken. That’s been the thesis ever since Singh and Owen first launched Armoire while at MIT’s accelerator program. Ambika Singh got the idea for Armoire when she was working on her MBA at MIT. (Armoire Photo) “We’re trying to change the relationship with clothes from owning to renting,” Singh said. Sustainability, efficiency, and risk are core tenets of Armoire. Singh said that 20 percent of new garments sit in a closet and are never actually worn, instead ending up in a landfill. She also said women spend more than 200 hours shopping every year. “It’s an extraordinary amount of time in terms of the productive hours that could translate to,” Singh said. “We really want to be a one-stop shop for her, and because of the power of curation, we are able to do that.” The CEO added that women can tend to fall into pattern wearing, or using the same clothes over and over because of wardrobe risk aversion. “Renting clothes gives you an opportunity to step outside what is standard for you on an individual consumer basis,” Singh said. “That is a really powerful experience.” Armoire has “thousands” of customers, with 40 percent of members living in Seattle, Singh said. The target market is professional women in the 30 to 50 year old range — a group that Singh said “has largely been ignored by the market yet is so important to the economy.” Amy Nelson, CEO of The Riveter, the Seattle-based women-focused co-working space company where Armoire is based, is a big fan of the service. Nelson said she started using Armoire after welcoming her third daughter, noting it was “perfect for that post-baby period when my size was fluctuating.” Now that Nelson is pregnant again, she’s excited that Armoire recently expanded its inventory to offer maternity clothes. “My time is my scarcest resource and Armoire allows me to change up my wardrobe on the fly — and do away with dry cleaning entirely,” she told GeekWire. Subbiah, the company’s product leader, noted how Armoire looks at fit “not as size but how people like the garment to actually drape on them.” “We know that size is constantly in flux,” she explained. “If a service like Armoire can actually understand that and support that instead of inhibiting it — that’s super liberating to me. It’s a much more positive way of thinking about sizing and interacting with clothing, than trying to fit in a numeric standard. It’s not a fashion-first approach but it’s something we can do because of the data.” From left to right: Armoire Head of Product Miriam Subbiah; Co-founder Zach Owen; and Lili Morton, community development. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) Rent the Runway originally started as a rental service for party wear but now earns a bulk of revenue from its Unlimited program, which launched two years ago and, like Armoire, aims “to solve the problem of what to wear to work, for everyone from new hires to C-suite executives,” according to a story from October. “Unlimited frees mental space for women to think about more important matters: what to say in that big meeting; how to describe their employment history in a crucial job interview; how to, in the grand scheme of their professional lives, get ahead,” wrote Times reporter Sheila Marikar. Other startups trying to disrupt how we buy clothes include Stitch Fix, which went public in 2017 and is valued at $2.7 billion. And just down the road from Armoire’s office sits Amazon, a tech giant that recent rolled out a try-before-you-buy service . “Our differentiation from Stitch Fix is that we offer variety to our customers through the rental model,” Singh noted. “We’re also high end contemporary from an inventory perspective — average MSRP is $250-plus — and we strive to work with women owned and ethical fashion brands.” Armoire has raised $4.2 million from investors such as Zulily co-founder Darrell Cavens; Foot Locker exec Vijay Talwar; and a number of female backers who decided to invest after first becoming customers. They include Sheila Gulati of Tola Capital, former Drugstore.com CEO Dawn Lepore, and Angela Taylor of Efeste. The company is currently raising more investment.
Agriculture startup iUNU raises $7.5M to turn greenhouses into high-tech manufacturing plants

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

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