At home on the road: Stay Alfred loaded a party bus to bring its Spokane startup energy to Seattle

At home on the road: Stay Alfred loaded a party bus to bring its Spokane startup energy to Seattle

1:57pm, 3rd May, 2019
The Stay Alfred team didn’t win in the Next Tech Titan category at the GeekWire Awards, but they were happy to take the stage afterward at Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) Twenty-six people loaded onto a party bus that left Spokane, Wash., at 10 a.m. on Wednesday with three cases of beer and a professional driver. The destination? Seattle, and the . The team from , a Spokane-based startup transforming the hospitality business, wasn’t just hard to miss Thursday night because they were all wearing matching and quintessentially Northwest flannel shirts. They were also wearing ear-to-ear grins as if they were crashing a big-city party. “This is a big deal for us,” said Jordan Allen, founder and CEO of the 8-year-old company. “For some of the other folks here, maybe they’ve done this before, but for a Spokane company to be invited to this, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to join the likes of some of the companies that are here. So we are thrilled.” Stay Alfred, No. 48 on the index of Pacific Northwest startups, certainly earned its place at the event and as a nominee in the Next Tech Titan category, which was ultimately won by pet-sitting juggernaut Rover. The company, which operates upscale apartments for travelers in prime downtown locations, has been “growing like wildfire,” according to Allen, raising $62 million to date and expanding to 32 cities across the U.S. They have their sights set on Europe, next. On the bus ride over to Seattle, the day before the Awards, Allen shared a selfie of his team, beers in hand, as they made the 5-hour trek west across Washington. Stay Alfred CEO Jordan Allen and his team on a bus traveling from Spokane, Wash., to Seattle this week for the GeekWire Awards. (Photo courtesy of Jordan Allen) The bus journey fell on Steve Helmbrecht’s first day on the job, as Stay Alfred’s new president. After joining from a private investment company, he knew the trip would be part of his initial experience with the startup, and he was looking forward to it. “During [the drive] Jordan and I made two investment banking calls and then I had a couple of beers before noon with the crew,” Helmbrecht told GeekWire at the Museum of Pop Culture, site of Thursday’s Awards. “It was great. I already love it.” Helmbrecht said that Stay Alfred had a board meeting in Seattle during the day and then geared up for the big event later on. “What I really like about it is not only did Jordan bring over the executive team, he brought the five longest serving members of the company to come over, including employee No. 1,” Helmbrecht said. “They get to share this tonight. We’re honored to just be even nominated. We feel really good about it.” Stay Alfred employees arrive at MoPOP and walk the pink carpet. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) Stay Alfred leases hundreds of apartments and condos to short-term travelers in its bid to get ahead of the likes of Airbnb. Allen believes tourists and business travelers have outgrown that 10-year-old company and now, with families in tow, are looking for a consistent guest experience that still comes with a unique, boutique-hotel-style setting. Part of its plan is to take over entire floors or buildings so as to control guest amenities. “We’re really forming an army of people that are excited about changing what the future of hospitality looks like and multifamily real estate,” Allen said. In Seattle, Stay Alfred and the team took advantage of that this week, which Allen said illustrates just what their mission is. “We had a pre-funk in one of the buildings,” he said. “That’s why our model exists — 10 people in the living room having a great time, we’re able to hang out versus being scattered across 10 hotel rooms. And it was just super cool, to have beer in the fridge and have appetizers out for all the employees and stuff. It was awesome.” A Stay Alfred property on First Avenue in downtown Seattle offers guests access to this swimming pool. (Stay Alfred Photo) With 1,000 people in attendance at the Awards, from some of the most successful, innovative and fastest growing companies in the Seattle area, the flannel-clad Stay Alfred team mixed and mingled and perhaps tried to do a little recruiting for anyone who might want to jump ship and head to the other side of the state. Allen’s pitch was pretty impressive. “We’re a big deal in Spokane, we’re a big fish in a small pond,” he said. “If we were in Seattle maybe we’d be the 20th coolest company. But it has a lot of advantages because we can get to recruit the best of the best in Spokane. There’s close to a million people in the overall metropolitan area, so there’s a lot of really talented people there. “Spokane is the greatest place to live, especially once you have a family and kids,” Allen added. “You can buy a really, really nice house for what you can buy a parking space in Seattle for. It’s a 37-minute flight back and forth, and it’s really cheap to do. If you’re into the outdoors, there’s 10 ski mountains and 75 lakes within an hour, so it’s a pretty attractive place to live.” As good as he made Spokane sound for the business he has been building, and for the team he bused over with, Allen was clearly feeding off the Seattle energy Thursday night as he made his way around MoPOP. “I really can’t say enough, for our team to be able to come over here … we don’t have events like this in Spokane for the startup community,” he said. “Everybody’s so damn excited they can’t even see straight.”
This startup wants to bring commercial real estate investing to the masses

This startup wants to bring commercial real estate investing to the masses

2:23pm, 15th April, 2019
Sean Hsieh. (Flowroute Photo) Less than a year after selling his telecommunications startup, Flowroute founder has embarked on a new venture that aims to open up the world of commercial real estate investing. (Concreit Photo) Seattle startup is a soon-to-be-launched startup that will give investors the ability to invest in private buildings for as little as one dollar. “When I talk to my friends about owning a building, they just stop and go, ‘I don’t even know what to think about that, because I can’t connect with that thought,'” Hsieh said. “We’re trying to bring deals that only millionaires have access to and give them to an everyday investor for very small dollar minimum.” Concreit has raised nearly $1 million in funding from , a new Seattle-based firm co-led by longtime angel investor Andy Liu. Other Unlock portfolio companies include Crowd Cow, Make.TV and Possible Finance. Hsieh started Concreit with Flowroute co-founder and , who was formerly CTO at blockchain startups LifeID and StormX. The company hopes to launch later this year. The idea for Concreit was inspired by Hsieh’s own finances. “After selling Flowroute, I started to figure out how to diversify my portfolio,” said Hsieh. “And private commercial real estate became really interesting to me.” Hsieh to West Corporation last year for an undisclosed sum. Hsieh plans to use blockchain technology for certain aspects of Concreit, which could enable the startup to tokenize its position in certain investments. Concreit will be a mobile-first application with game-like elements in order to appeal to millennial investors. Concreit will initially give access to Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), an asset class in which real estate is bundled into easily tradable securities. , a popular online real estate investing platform, uses the REIT structure for many of its assets. Federal regulations limit the access that ordinary investors have to commercial real estate, especially smaller scale projects. Concreit is exploring how different regulatory structures might be used to open up commercial real estate investing to more people. Hsieh said he believes that allowing non-accredited investors to participate “is really how we’re going to change this landscape.” A man of many talents, Hsieh was a hip-hop dancer in the first generation of — a group that was featured on MTV’s “Best Dance Crew” — and he also danced with professional teams Funkanometry LA and Mavyn.
Tonal raises $45 million to bring strength training to more living rooms

Tonal raises $45 million to bring strength training to more living rooms

10:34am, 4th April, 2019
is today announcing its series C financing that it hopes will allow the company to bring its at-home gym to even more homes. The funding round shows investors’ excitement around the new generation of personal exercise equipment that combines on-demand training with smart features. like Peloton, offer features previously unavailable outside of gyms and with this injection of capital, the company expects to build new personal features and invest in marketing and retail experiences. L Catterton’s Growth Fund led the $45 million series C round and included investments from Shasta Ventures, Mayfield, Sapphire Sport, and others also participated. This financing round brings the total amount raised to $90 million. Tonal is based out of San Francisco, CA and was founded by Aly Orady in 2015. The company . The wall-mounted Tonal uses electromagnetism to simulate and control weight, allowing the slender device to replicate (and replace) a lot of weight-lifting machines. The Tonal machine costs $2,995, and for $49 a month, Tonal offers members access to personal training sessions, recommended programs and workouts. Since launching, CEO Orady tells TechCrunch there have been virtually no returns. He says their customer care teams proactively work with members to ensure a good experience. Orady is excited to have L Catterton participating in this financing round, saying their deep network and unparalleled experience building premium fitness brands globally is an incredibly exciting new resource for the company. The Connecticut-based investment firm helped fund in ThirdLove, ClassPass, and The Honest Company. “As the fitness landscape continues to evolve, we have seen a clear shift toward personalized, content-driven, at-home workout experiences,” said Scott Dahnke, Global Co-CEO of L Catterton said in a released statement. “Tonal is the first connected fitness brand focused on strength training and represents an opportunity to invest behind an innovative concept with tremendous growth potential. We look forward to leveraging our deep knowledge of consumer behavior and significant experience in the connected fitness space to bring Tonal’s dynamic technology and content platform to more homes across the country.” Tonal shares a market with Peloton, and Orady says a significant amount of Tonal owners also own Peloton equipment. Yet, feature-by-feature, Peloton, and Tonal are different. While they’re both in-home devices that offer on-demand instructors, Peloton targets cardiovascular exercises while Tonal is a strength-training machine. Orady states his customers find the two companies offer complementary experiences. “The common thread with our members is that they understand the value of investing in their fitness and overall health,” said Aly Orady, “All of our members are looking to take their fitness to the next level with strength training. Tonal offers the ability to strength train at home by providing a comprehensive, challenging full body workout without having to sacrifice quality for convenience.” This is an enormous market he says the company can rely on for years to come. The majority of Tonal’s customers are between 30 and 55 years old and live in, or adjacent to, the top 10 major metro US markets. There’s an even split, he says, between male and female members. Tonal is similar to , another at-home, wall-mounted exercise device that costs $1,495. While Tonal focuses on strength training through resistance, Mirror offers yoga, boxing, Pilates and other exercises and activities with on-demand instruction and real-time stats. Mirror also launched in 2018 and the company has raised $40 million. Going forward Tonal expects to expand its software to provide new personalization features to its members. The hope is to build experiences that motivate users while serving up real-time feedback. This includes building new workout categories and additional fitness experiences even when users traveling and do not have access to their Tonal machine. The company sees it expanding its retail and marketing presence. Right now, just eight months after the product’s debut, customers have very limited access to try the Tonal machine. It’s only on display at Tonal’s flagship San Francisco store and is coming to a pop-up store in Newport Beach, California. Orady tells TechCrunch the company needs new talent to help the company achieve its mission. Tonal is hiring and looking to hire in hardware, software, design, video production, and marketing. At-home exercise equipment is a massive market and Tonal offers a unique set of features and advantages that should allow it to stand apart from competitors. This isn’t just another treadmill. Tonal is a strength-training super machine the size of a thick HDTV. Challenges abound but the company seemingly has a solid plan to utilize its latest round of financing that should allow it to reach more customers and show them why the Tonal machine is worth the cost.
Seahawks star Russell Wilson launches Limitless Minds to bring competitive edge to corporate world

Seahawks star Russell Wilson launches Limitless Minds to bring competitive edge to corporate world

2:26pm, 2nd April, 2019
Russell Wilson on the homepage of the Limitless Minds website. (ThinkBig-GoFar.com Image) We already know Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has “no time to sleep.” It looks like his latest company will shed some light on that mindset. Wilson, a busy entrepreneur when he’s not on the football field, launched another venture on Tuesday in the form of , a business coaching consultancy that looks to tap the Super Bowl champ’s competitive thinking and mental conditioning and bring it all into the corporate world. GeekWire about the plans for the business last summer. The startup was founded by Wilson, mental-conditioning coach and Trevor Moawad, business partner DJ Eidson, and Wilson’s brother, Harry Wilson. The goal is to help organizations develop the skills to handle adversity under pressure, in competitive environments. “Mental conditioning and mindset training have been a critical part of my performance on the field throughout my career,” Wilson said in a news release. “Trevor is the best in the world at developing these skills for athletes and coaches. Throughout our relationship, we realized that the skills we work on can benefit many more people. I’m thrilled to pair Trevor’s expertise with Harry and DJ’s business acumen to help more people identify and develop these skills within themselves.” The Limitless Minds founders, from left: Harry Wilson, president; DJ Eidson, chief marketing officer; Russell Wilson, chairman; and Trevor Moawad, CEO. (Limitless Minds Photo) Wilson has worked with Moawad since meeting him just before the NFL Draft in 2012. Moawad’s centers around themes including visualization (psychologically experiencing a situation), understanding the power of your voice, focusing on one thought, and , or the idea that overly positive or negative thoughts aren’t beneficial to an optimal mindset. “The ability to develop a consistent mentality is universal. Period. It will remain a core tenant to success in any field, whether it happens by accident or with intentionality,” Moawad said. The startup is another in a list of attempts by Wilson to establish himself as a force among NFL entrepreneurs. His previous Seattle-based celebrity media company TraceMe pivoted to become , a sports prediction app. His resume also includes , his production company, and , a high-end fashion retailer.
Seattle startup ioCurrents raises $5M to bring big data to the high seas

Seattle startup ioCurrents raises $5M to bring big data to the high seas

1:16pm, 26th March, 2019
(Bernard Spragg Photo via Flickr) For , maritime data is both personal and professional. King grew up sailing in New England and is now the owner of “Northern Lights,” a vintage Coronado 41 sloop that he restored. ioCurrents CEO Cosmo King. (ioCurrents Photo) He’s also the CEO and co-founder of Seattle startup , which today announced a $5 million investment to grow its platform for collecting and analyzing real-time data for the maritime industry. The company’s platform, MarineInsight, collects reams of data from various pieces of ship machinery and analyzes it in the cloud whenever a connection is available. The software then suggests actions based on any problems it finds or anticipates; it can help reduce fuel costs or prevent engine failures, for example. The startup has customers in commercial shipping, fishing and passenger industries. King was formerly an engineer at Isilon Systems, a Seattle startup that was acquired by EMC in 2010 for $2.25 billion. He launched ioCurrents in 2015 with co-founder and CTO. “This additional investment will allow ioCurrents to build on our existing success, and provide even more value to the maritime industry as a whole,” King said . The Series A round, which brings the company’s total amount raised to $6.4 million, was led by . Imagen, a Seattle-based venture capital firm focused on data and software startups, has also invested in Seattle-area companies such as and outdoors app maker BaseMap. “ioCurrents is defining itself as the market leader in the development of real-time, predictive analytics to the maritime industry,” John Polchin, managing director of Imagen, said in a statement. “Imagen’s investment will help ioCurrents capitalize on the global demand for their solutions and accelerate the company’s pace of product innovation.”
Qualcomm’s new 4G, 5G platforms to bring improved telecommunication to vehicles

Qualcomm’s new 4G, 5G platforms to bring improved telecommunication to vehicles

4:55am, 25th February, 2019
today announced new 4g and 5g chipsets for connected vehicles. The chip maker sees the advanced communication platforms powering the next wave of in-vehicle experiences and telematics features including advanced automotive safety features and self-driving cars. Qualcomm says vehicles equipped with these chipsets are planned for production in 2021. The Qualcomm Snapdragon Automotive 4G and Qualcomm Snapdragon Automotive 5G Platform feature C-V2X direct communications, high-precision multi-frequency global navigation satellite system (HP-GNSS) and RF Front-End (RFFE) functionalities — basically, the chipsets will give vehicles next level positioning capabilities.Along with improved positioning, vehicles equipped with these Snapdragon platforms gain vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications. The Snapdragon Automotive 5G chipset is the first in the industry announced with support for dual SIM dual active — or DSDA, for short. Qualcomm says it intends to give automakers the ability to test the platforms with a reference design kit in the second half of 2019. It’s through chipsets like these that vehicles will gain autonomous driving capabilities. Without advanced, reliable connectivity, vehicles will not have access to the data needed to navigate across the ever-evolving urban landscape. While current systems are being used to some level of success, improved connectivity is ultimately needed to make good on the promise of self-driving cars.
How the Internet of Things could bring hackers into your kitchen (or bedroom)

How the Internet of Things could bring hackers into your kitchen (or bedroom)

9:39am, 19th February, 2019
(Pixabay Photo) WASHINGTON, D.C. — Tens of billions of devices, ranging from coffee makers to cars to spacecraft, could someday be connected to global networks thanks to what’s known as the Internet of Things, or IoT, and cybersecurity experts say that could open up a whole new universe for hackers and eavesdroppers. Consider the humble coffee maker, for example: University of North Carolina techno-sociologist suggested that if Chinese authorities wanted to, say, root out Muslim activists in the country’s far western Xinjiang region, they could watch for the telltale sign of coffee or tea being brewed before morning prayers. “Your coffee maker has an IP [address], and it might be at risk of identifying these people, because if I wanted one piece of data from the region, that would be my thing. … It’s a very synchronized hour, that’s the whole point of it,” Tufekci said here last weekend during the annual meeting of the . “Holy crap, we were just talking about coffee making, right? And now we’re talking about taking people to send to internment camps,” she said. “These lines are not as far apart from one another as one would think.” The Internet of Things makes it possible to take action at a distance: It’s great to be able to turn on a coffee maker from your bedroom, using a smartphone app. Or turn off the bedroom lights using an Amazon Echo. That’s why analysts expect . All those devices make the IoT a juicier target for computer attacks like the one that . “We basically forgot to build security into the Internet of Things,” said , a computer science and engineering professor at the University of Michigan. Fu and his colleagues already have demonstrated how hackers could use sound waves to … use ringtones to turn on stove burners … or . To address such threats, he co-founded a . It’s even possible to , using a phenomenon known as intermodulation distortion. “You hear about the kid with the braces who can pick up AM radio stations?” Fu said. “This is the same concept, except we’re inducing it on things that didn’t want to hear us.” Fu’s lab has even come up with an acoustic technique that turns a hard drive into a weird kind of eavesdropping microphone. “What we do is we pull off those errors from the hard drive, upload it to Shazam, and it tells us what music we’re playing in the room, which is kind of a fun parlor trick,” Fu said, The Internet of Things could turn such parlor tricks into a serious matter. Previously: “Computers have always been vulnerable to these kinds of physical problems since the dawn of computing,” Fu said. “The big thing that’s changing is the degree of connectedness and dependence. … We’re actually automating things with smart thermostats and smart locks to automatically open or close, or turn on heat and things of that nature. We are removing the human from the loop before solving a lot of the security challenges.” Tufekci said there needs to be a high-level discussion about the “security of things,” ranging from baby monitors to voice-controlled devices. “I just find it weirdly appalling that we do not have ‘off’ switches for microphones that are physical,” she said. “I just don’t trust any software to be foolproof. … We need to go back to some quite physical solutions.” Fu said security-conscious consumers — and device manufacturers — might have to be more discriminating about things of the internet. “Maybe it’s just not a good idea to put a computer in everything unless there’s a good reason,” he said.