Sidonie Kiner reads a poem alongside her mother, Reverb CEO Mikaela Kiner, at the Champion Awards in Seattle on Thursday at the Pacific Science Center. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) Our world says women can’t break through … All women should be born with a sledgehammer to smash through that glass wall … All we want is gender equality … Women’s rights are human rights … The crowd fell silent as Sidonie Kiner read a poem written by her friend that echoed core themes of the , an event held Thursday night in Seattle that celebrated local women founders, investors, entrepreneurs, and others. By the time Sidonie finished the poem, called Pantoum of a Glass Ceiling, the tears were flowing for some of the 300 people in attendance. At her side was Sidonie’s mother, Reverb co-founder and CEO Mikaela Kiner, who helped co-host the second annual event with the Female Founders Alliance (FFA), a Seattle-based startup aiming to help close the gender gap in angel and venture financing. The event’s purpose is to put a spotlight on champions for gender equity across categories such as “The Advocate,” “The Founder,” and “Unsung Heroes.” Kiner, who heads up Seattle-based HR consulting firm Reverb, and Leslie Feinzaig, CEO of FFA, were joined by leaders from organizations such as WTIA, Bank of America, the Seattle Office of Economic Development, and many more on Thursday at the Pacific Science Center. “We bonded over our hopes that the world and workplace would be better and more inclusive for our daughters,” Kiner said of her partnership with Feinzaig. “We want women to have equal opportunities. We want women to have equal pay. Primarily, we want women to have a voice. We want for women to be seen for our values and recognized for our contributions.” (Female Founders Alliance Photo) Female Founders Alliance was born from Feinzaig and her members’ experiences seeking to raise investment capital. Less than 3 percent of venture capital dollars , a number that hasn’t moved much in recent years despite more attention on the gaps. Women-founded companies accounted for just 16 percent of first venture capital financings between 2005-2017, according to a . This year, researchers found 63 percent of startups have no women on their board of directors and 47 percent have no women in leadership. Men outnumber women three to one in the tech industry, according to stats shared last month at the . Across all industries, women earn around 79 cents for each dollar a man makes, according to , based on an “uncontrolled” gender pay gap calculation. The gap has narrowed by 1 percent over the past year. Leslie Feinzaig, founder of the Female Founders Alliance, speaks at Thursday’s event. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) Feinzaig, who is 37 weeks pregnant with her second child, gave an impassioned speech to close out the event that recounted how her own life experiences growing up in Costa Rica and immigrating to the U.S. have helped shape her views on equality and unity today. “Allyship, championship — they are not binaries,” Feinzaig said. “The world, as much as you might not believe it, is not made up of allies and assholes. All of us are in the imperfect, messy middle.” The FFA founder said she wants her daughter to live in a world not divided but rather “where we can all be each other’s allies.” “To those with the dreams, those who are unseen, those that have been hearing the us vs. them language for so long, that have been told we don’t have the power, that we are less than — I just want to say that you do have power,” Feinzaig told the crowd. “You have power and you can use it. There’s power in being beaten down. There’s power in not having anything. There’s power in not being seen, because when you’re beaten down, you learn how to get back up and when you have nothing, you have nothing to lose. And when you’re on unseen, then nobody sees you coming.” Here are the other winners from the Champion Awards, with category descriptions from FFA and Reverb. The Role Model: The role demonstrates what is possible for ambitious women. She is someone with a long trajectory, demonstrated integrity and leadership in her field, who inspires other women to strive for greatness. Winner: Jill Angelo, CEO and co-founder, genneve Jill Angelo, CEO and co-founder of Seattle startup genneve. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) The Sponsor: The sponsor leverages their network and resources to help the women that they mentor advance and succeed in their career. Winner: Shellie Willis, founder, Redefining You Foundation Shellie Willis, founder, Redefining You Foundation. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) The Investor: The investor has literally put “their money where their mouth is” when it comes to investing in women- and non-binary-led businesses and helping founders succeed. Winner: Yoko Okano, angel investor and founding member, Grubstakes Yoko Okano, angel investor and founding member, Grubstakes. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) The Advocate: The advocate is an individual or organization who uses their public platform to promote and advance women’s causes. Winner: Julie Pham, PhD, vice president, community engagement and marketing, WTIA Julie Pham (left), PhD, vice president, community engagement and marketing, WTIA. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) The Company: This organization has created a work culture that supports and advances women, forging meaningful outcomes for its employees that run counter to what’s typical in its industry as a whole. Winner: Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream Molly Moon’s founder Molly Moon Neitzel. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) Unsung Heroes: Often working behind the scenes, these are the champions who uplift women entrepreneurs every day. They provide opportunities, support, and mentoring. They excel in delivering others into the spotlight. The seven recipients announced at the Champion Awards are: – Jennifer Arlem Molina, Lead Consultant, j.a.Molina Creative – Michaela Ayers, Founder, Nourish – Mar Brettmann, PhD, Founding Executive Director, Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST) – Chelsea Cooper, Co-chair, Starbucks Women’s Impact Network – Laura Espriu, Founder & Principal Consultant at Laura Espriu Coaching & Consulting – Judy Loehr, Enterprise SaaS Advisor, Bayla Ventures – Amy Pak, Founder, Executive Director, Families of Color Seattle From left to right: Amy Pak, Founder, Executive Director, Families of Color Seattle; Judy Loehr, Enterprise SaaS Advisor, Bayla Ventures; Laura Espriu, Founder & Principal Consultant at Laura Espriu Coaching & Consulting; Michaela Ayers, Founder, Nourish; Jennifer Arlem Molina, Lead Consultant, j.a.Molina Creative; Chelsea Cooper, Co-chair, Starbucks Women’s Impact Network; and Mar Brettmann, PhD, Founding Executive Director, Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST). (Female Founders Alliance Photo) The Founder: The founder has persevered in the face of adversity to launch and grow a business. This is a peer award that was voted on by the members of the Female Founders Alliance. Winner: Karen Okonkwo, co-founder, TONL (award accepted by colleague)
Elliott Bay Office Park, Zipwhip’s future home. (Geekwire Photo / Nat Levy) Zipwhip has leased space for a new Seattle headquarters that will give the fast-growing business text messaging startup room to nearly double its headcount. The company has leased the top floor and a half at Martin Selig’s five-story , a 75,000-square-foot space with room for approximately 500 people. It will move into the new offices toward the end of 2019, said John Lauer, Zipwhip CEO. Zipwhip CEO John Lauer. (Zipwhip Photo) Zipwhip is “busting at the seams” in its current space, Lauer said. Today, it subleases a 50,000-square-foot space from Real Networks at a building called Home Plate Center, across the street from the Zipwhip has 270 employees today. Though the new space isn’t a whole lot bigger, the ability to design it from scratch, rather than taking over someone else’s offices, will allow for a better layout that can accommodate more employees, Lauer said. The new office is north of downtown Seattle at the intersection of the Lower Queen Anne and Interbay neighborhoods. The neighborhood is becoming a bit of a startup hotspot, with just across the street from the future Zipwhip space. Zipwhip is coming to the neighborhood around the same time just down the street. The area has popped recently because smaller companies are having a hard time finding office space in competitive neighborhoods in and around downtown. Zipwhip looked all over for a new HQ, but found this building to be the best fit for its culture. “Real estate in Seattle is a pretty tough market,” Lauer said. “This city has grown so wildly in the last five years that there’s not a lot of real estate. So we looked at as much as we could, and this turned out to be our best option.” Zipwhip’s current HQ is in this office building, across from T-Mobile Park. (Zipwhip Photo) Zipwhip factored in where its employees live when looking for space. The company found that many of its workers lived in neighborhoods north of downtown, making the new location ideal for a variety of commutes. Zipwhip sells software that lets businesses across various industries — from pro sports teams to large enterprise companies to small insurance shops — send and receive text messages with their customers using an existing business phone number. The company is coming off a $51.5 million Series D investment round . The round, which was one of the largest in the Seattle area in the last year, was led by Goldman Sachs Private Capital investing group, with participation from existing investors including OpenView, M12, and Voyager Capital. The Zipwhip team. (Zipwhip Photo) Founded in 2007, Zipwhip and set out to be the “Facebook of text messaging.” But it pivoted around 2013, taking a different approach by working with wireless carriers to enable hundreds of millions of business landlines to receive and send text messages. This allowed companies to text with their customers from landline phones, VoIP services, and toll-free numbers. Zipwhip has more than 30,000 businesses using its software and saw revenue increase 86 percent year-over-year in 2018. It has text-enabled 3.3 million landlines. Lauer sees a huge market for business texting, with more than 200 million business phone numbers in the U.S. alone. “We have a long way to go in solving this industry,” Lauer said. It’s this huge market that has the company planning for future growth. Today, Zipwhip has , and the new space will give the company capacity to grow even more.
LeoStella technicians work on the first of 20 satellites to be produced by the Tukwila, Wash.-based startup. (GeekWire Photo) When you hear the words “satellite factory,” ‘s operations in a nondescript office park south of Seattle probably isn’t the image that comes to mind. But that’s exactly what it is. By the middle of summer, the Tukwila, Wash.-based startup aims to pop out the first of a run of 20 small satellites. That initial production will go to in Seattle, which operates a constellation of Earth-imaging satellites and sells the insights to business clients. LeoStella CEO said the Tukwila location fulfilled three main criteria: it was close to BlackSky, affordable, and easy to get a building permit. Chris Chautard will step down as LeoStella CEO next month when Mike Hettich will take over. (GeekWire Photo) The startup, which launched less than a year ago, will manufacture small, low-cost satellites for Earth observation and telecommunications. Chautard said the satellites were designed to be simple and flexible. Chautard will step down as CEO next month, when , a vice president at Kirkland, Wash.-based aerospace firm Astronics, will take over. LeoStella’s structure is a 50-50 transatlantic joint venture between two entities: Seattle-based , which owns BlackSky. , an aerospace venture between France’s and Italy’s . Thales in Spaceflight last year as part of a $150 million fundraising round. The companies said a “big chunk” went to forming LeoStella. The basic pitch around small satellites is that they’ll let more companies get to space cheaper. With its purchase of LeoStella’s satellites, BlackSky is betting that what’s most important isn’t the size of your satellites that counts. It’s how you use them. “The economics of a high performing small satellite constellation are going to unlock a whole world of new data and information services for a much broader global market,” said BlackSky CEO . “Satellites are a great enabler. But ultimately, this is about delivering timely information so people can make relevant decisions that are going to impact their business,” he added. A satellite developed by BlackSky sits on the floor of LeoStella’s manufacturing room. (GeekWire Photo) LeoStella is actively looking for customers outside of BlackSky. The company has 34 employees and lots of empty desks, though it did not elaborate on hiring plans. LeoStella is already working on the design of its third-generation satellite. Once it is at full capacity, the startup will produce 30 small satellites per year and will add telecom satellites to its offerings. LeoStella uses parts from 20 different suppliers, including L3 GCS, Aitech Defense Systems and Seattle’s Jemco. When it comes to satellites, small is a relative term. LeoStella’s initial satellites will weigh between 50 to 150 kilograms (110 to 330 pounds). Other satellite makers are investigating tough scientific questions with . LeoStella’s Earth-imaging satellites were created to revisit heavily populated mid-latitude regions frequently, taking in 4×6 kilometer images. They have a 36-month service life. LeoStella’s first satellite should launch in late 2019. BlackSky said it will have 16 satellites in its constellation by early 2021 and hopes to eventually grow that number to 60.