Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden and Nordstrom’s chief digital officer, Ken Worzel, share a laugh during the 2019 State of Technology Luncheon, presented by the Technology Alliance. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle) There was a heavy aerospace spin to this year’s presented today by the Technology Alliance at the Seattle Sheraton. Alaska Airlines CEO was the keynote speaker for what’s been billed as “the premier annual event of Washington’s innovation community.” Three other aerospace executives had their time in the spotlight as well, and hundreds of representatives from the tech industry, academia and government were in attendance. Here are a few highlights from the event: We’re all tech companies now: During an onstage fireside chat, Nordstrom chief digital officer Ken Worzel asked Tilden whether he classified Alaska Airlines as a technology company. “Absolutely,” Tilden replied. “I bet every single person in this room thinks of where they work as a technology company. It’s hugely, hugely important to us.” What about my Wi-Fi? One of the biggest applause lines came when Tilden responded to a question about the slowness of in-flight Wi-Fi. he said. “We have 225 airplanes with Wi-Fi, 25 of them have satellite [connectivity]. Satellite is 20 times faster than ground-based Wi-Fi. All the airplanes will be done 12 months from now. … It’s not going to be as fast as your 1-gigabit home computer, but it will be as fast as your mobile phone, and you’ll be able to download and stream.” A vote of support for Boeing: Tilden said Alaska Airlines is remaining “hugely loyal to Boeing” as the airplane manufacturer works through issues that have arisen in the wake of two catastrophic crashes. Software updates are soon expected to address problems with an automated flight control system on the 737 MAX. “Our team has looked at them,” Tilden said of the updates, “and we’re satisfied that they’re the right changes.” Debut for Digital Winglets: CEO Tom Gibbons showed off his company’s app, which monitors and analyzes an airplane’s vital statistics and crowdsourced situational data in real time to optimize the plane’s fuel usage and route during a flight. “It’s Waze for your airplane,” Gibbons said, referring to the . Today the company that it was partnering with Alaska Airlines to develop NASA’s technology and deploy it across Alaska’s entire fleet. also makes sure airplanes are serviced in a timely manner during on-the-ground turnarounds, and keeps track of an airplane’s operational health. Electric aviation on the horizon: CEO Roei Ganzarski recapped his electric propulsion company’s recent deals to with electric motors, and . Ganzarski said that Harbour Air’s first converted all-electric plane would make its first test flight in November, and that Eviation’s Alice airplane would have its first flight by the end of the year. “The one thing I would love to see this state do is take the lead in the United States,” he said. Ganzarski suggested that Washington state could encourage short-haul airlines to go all-electric by, say, 2050. The space gold rush: CEO Curt Blake talked up his company’s logistical role in , this year’s launch that , and other satellite missions. “I was downtown in Pioneer Square not long ago, and I went by that ,” Blake said. “And I thought, that’s not really unlike what we’re doing. The people in Seattle were selling tickets to get up to Alaska, they were selling picks and shovels. … We’re basically doing the same thing: We’re providing the means for people to get to outer space and really fulfill their dreams, commercializing what’s up there — hopefully to make what’s down here a little better.”
The Xealth team — and office dogs — inside the company’s office in Seattle’s Smith Tower. (GeekWire Photo / James Thorne) Is there big market for prescriptions beyond drugs? Several investors with deep experience in health are betting on it — joining in a new $11 million funding round for Xealth, a digital health startup building a platform that lets doctors prescribe everything from wheelchairs and insulin monitors to articles and Lyft rides. Xealth CEO Mike McSherry. (Xealth Photo) Founded by two Seattle startup veterans and spun out of Providence Health & Services, Xealth uses patient data to recommend services from a variety of vendors for possible prescription. The company wants to make its marketplace available to hundreds of thousands of doctors and nurses, letting them issue digital prescriptions, such as apps and digital media, or anything else they want to prescribe beyond a traditional drug. If a patient is overweight and doesn’t have a history of eating disorders, for example, Xealth might recommend that a doctor prescribe a service from Weight Watchers. Xealth’s Series A funding round drew new investors McKesson Ventures, Novartis, Philips and ResMed. Those names are notable in that they represent many of the medical supplies, digital therapeutics and devices that can be prescribed over Xealth’s platform. “I’m a huge fan of strategic investments,” said Mike McSherry, Xealth’s CEO and co-founder, in an interview at the company’s headquarters at Seattle’s Smith Tower, explaining why he likes to seek out investors from inside the industry, not just traditional venture capital. McSherry has followed this approach before, with success. He was previously CEO of Swype, maker of a popular swipe texting keyboard, and , key players in the world of mobile devices. Following , Xealth’s total cash raised now stands at $19.5 million, and the new round brought back prior investors Threshold Ventures, Providence Ventures, Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin Health Network, and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. McSherry and Xealth co-founder Aaron Sheedy make for unlikely healthcare innovators. The pair have been working together for more than two decades, tracing their roots back to a shared office at Microsoft in the 90s. They worked together at Swype, which sold to Nuance Communications in 2011. McSherry became Nuance’s VP of advertising and content and Sheedy its VP of mobile product. They took the plunge into healthcare after McSherry was invited by Providence CEO Rod Hochman to be an entrepreneur-in-residence at Providence Ventures in 2015. Founded two years later, Xealth now has 40 employees, up from 12 in 2017. Xealth’s marketplace lives inside of hospitals’ electronic health records systems. (Xealth Screenshot) The company reflects a broader surge in interest in health by people and companies from the tech industry. The frenzy around digital health has been stoked by significant entries into the space from the likes of Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft. Venture investment in digital health grew 42 percent last year to $8.1 billion, according to . Xealth was founded with a mission to be the ultimate marketplace for doctors to prescribe anything and everything digital. But the company says its platform is more than a marketplace: It also routes the flow of data from services back into the hospital’s electronic health record system. Xealth is currently tracking data from 40,000 sleep apnea patients who are using CPAP devices for Providence St. Joseph Health. “If you can more seamlessly engage with the patients digitally, like they’re used to in their consumer lives, you’re providing a better patient experience,” McSherry said. “But that also gives the hospital system a 360-degree view of the patient’s health.” Last year, Xealth for products that could be prescribed through its marketplace. What seemed like a simple integration — a surgeon could send a patient a link to buy a product for recovery, for example — was practically revolutionary in a world where doctors often hand their patients a photocopy of the product they recommend. Not surprisingly, navigating tech-style disruption in healthcare is complicated. Amazon’s service on Xealth doesn’t use the e-commerce giant’s recommendation engine; instead, doctors manually curate the products they want. And to avoid conflicts of interest, Xealth doesn’t get affiliate payments from Amazon. McSherry said that other e-commerce sellers would soon join the platform. The startup currently offers services from 30 digital health vendors. One recent addition to Xealth’s platform is Proteus, which sells pills with sensors that monitor a patient’s drug adherence. Xealth also recently added Duke Health and Baylor Scott & White Health as customers. The startup makes money by licensing its platform to healthcare providers. Competitors include Redox and Sansoro Health, both of which integrate third-party applications into electronic health records systems. McSherry made it clear that using data to make recommendations is central to realizing Xealth’s ambitions. It just has to make sure that healthcare providers are on board. Over time, McSherry said, the company should know what works best for patients down to an individualized level. “We didn’t get into this to play small ball,” he said. “We’re going to have a huge data set that works to optimize the best patient care and clinical recommendations for patients.”
David Leeds, Tango Card CEO. (Tango Card Photo) startup journey is making a return to Seattle. Founded back in 1997, GiftCertificates.com was one of the earliest gift card resellers in the market. The company relocated its headquarters from Seattle to Omaha . But now it has a new owner: Seattle-based , which announced the acquisition of GiftCertificates.com on Tuesday. Tango Card, which helps companies provide digital rewards, will establish a third office in Omaha and add 30 employees from GiftCertificates.com, which has more than 1,000 customers. The combined company will have 130 employees and more than 3,000 customers. GiftCertificates.com was previously in 2010 by Marlin Equity Partners. Tango Card also announced an additional $10 million investment from FTV Capital, which this past May. “As we got to know the team at GiftCertificates.com, we recognized the same commercial and customer focus,” Tango Card CEO David Leeds said in a statement. “We believe that together and with the backing of FTV we’ll be able to continue creating value for our customers while also being able to grow and influence the incentive industry.” Tango Card’s platform consists of three main ways to deliver rewards. Its “” API allows companies to integrate digital rewards directly into their apps and platforms. allow users to fund a gift card account, build an email template and send out digital gift cards. lets the customer send out a link for the recipient to pick a gift card or donation of his or her choice. Tango Card, which ranks No. 71 on the index of privately held Pacific Northwest tech startups, partners with more than 200 retailers, such as Amazon and Best Buy, in addition to restaurants, movie theaters and others. Tango Card also supports donations to 30 nonprofits, such as Habitat for Humanity, American Cancer Society and Girls Who Code. Editor’s note: This post was updated to reflect that Tango Card raised an additional $10 million from FTV Capital.
David Leeds, Tango Card CEO. (Tango Card Photo) startup journey is making a return to Seattle. Founded back in 1997, GiftCertificates.com was one of the earliest gift card resellers in the market. The company relocated its headquarters from Seattle to Omaha . But now it has a new owner: Seattle-based , which announced the acquisition of GiftCertificates.com on Tuesday. Tango Card, which helps companies provide digital rewards, will establish a third office in Omaha and add 30 employees from GiftCertificates.com, which has more than 1,000 customers. The combined company will have 130 employees and more than 3,000 customers. GiftCertificates.com was previously in 2010 by Marlin Equity Partners. Tango Card also announced an additional $15 million investment from FTV Capital, which this past May. “As we got to know the team at GiftCertificates.com, we recognized the same commercial and customer focus,” Tango Card CEO David Leeds said in a statement. “We believe that together and with the backing of FTV we’ll be able to continue creating value for our customers while also being able to grow and influence the incentive industry.” Tango Card’s platform consists of three main ways to deliver rewards. Its “” API allows companies to integrate digital rewards directly into their apps and platforms. allow users to fund a gift card account, build an email template and send out digital gift cards. lets the customer send out a link for the recipient to pick a gift card or donation of his or her choice. Tango Card, which ranks No. 71 on the index of privately held Pacific Northwest tech startups, partners with more than 200 retailers, such as Amazon and Best Buy, in addition to restaurants, movie theaters and others. Tango Card also supports donations to 30 nonprofits, such as Habitat for Humanity, American Cancer Society and Girls Who Code.
Team Tenta Browser. (Tenta Browser Photo) The founders of Seattle startup want to help banish your digital doppelganger. Or least take control of it. People’s behavior online these days “is not just about sharing your cat videos and family photos. You’re having this long digital shadow,” said Tenta co-founder and CEO . “People are starting to realize this is my own digital clone, and it’s betraying me and it’s following me.” Tech companies and retailers are collecting vast amounts of information about what you view, buy and post online. They can use that data to target ads and news content and if their systems are breached, that personal data falls into criminal hands. Governments in numerous countries such as China, Russia, Turkey and many others that’s available online. So in 2016, Adams and co-founders , chief operating officer, and chief technology officer, launched Tenta, a secure browser that protects privacy and can skirt censorship controls. The company has 100,000 active users, 16 employees and recently raised seed funding (they’re not disclosing the amount). A decade ago, the trio co-founded the popular adult-content app store MiKandi, which is billed as the first and largest app store of its kind — and an enterprise in which privacy protections are paramount to most users. Tenta Browser CEO and co-founder Jesse Adams. (Tenta Browser Photo) Tenta Browser prevents internet service providers (ISPs) and others from seeing which websites a user visits, but is just as easy to use and as fast loading as other browsers, Adams said. Tenta, which is currently available as an app for Android users, encrypts everything: browsing history, downloaded and local files, bookmarks, videos, documents and other media. And for people who like to keep their browsing sessions separate, say for work, personal use and depending on where they’re currently located, Tenta has a “zone” function to organize different uses. Tenta doesn’t store users’ data, and all of the information is decentralized. Competition includes browsers that are basically “Chrome reskinned” with limited privacy blockers, Tor Browser for more “hardcore” users, and tools from Norton and McAffee, said Adams. Opera used to utilize a VPN-based tool like Tenta’s, but removed it. Over the next year, the Tenta team is working to expand to other devices and keep improving their speed. With Tenta, the core browsing function is free, and the company offers subscriptions of $1 to $5 per month for added protection of your devices. Adams said they’re aiming for subscriptions that are as cheap as possible, but people still need to pay something. That’s because Tenta doesn’t follow the more standard approach where handing over personal data is the price for using “free” services. “You are not the product,” he said. We caught up with Adams — who co-founded the MiKandi app store for adults — for this . Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: Today’s browsers need your data to survive, resulting in constant privacy violations and browser spying. Tenta is a crypto browser that takes the complete opposite approach and protects your personal data instead of exploiting it. The Tenta Broswer interface. (Tenta Browser Photo) Inspiration hit us when: Previous to Tenta, we built the world’s first and largest app store for adults. From this experience, we learned three major trends from our customers. First, internet freedom around the world declined for the past eight years, and censorship and network interference were becoming mainstream. Second, cyber security was no longer solvable for the average internet user who craves a simple and trustworthy product to protect them and their families. Finally, constant data collection and surveillance and the resulting massive data breaches revealed that privacy violations have become the norm. In response, we began building browser tools to help our customers alleviate these issues, but soon realized we were just creating more browser Band-Aids. Then the inspiration came when one of us posed the question: “Why not build a better browser instead?” We know that sounds crazy, but we’ve always been driven by big ideas, so that was the spark that got us going. VC, Angel or Bootstrap: For the first two years, we were self-funded. This past month we announced our strategic partner and investor, , for our first significant seed round. We decided to start raising money once we gained real user traction and growth. We especially wanted to work with ConsenSys, which is focused on blockchain businesses. The decentralized future is coming, so if you’re building the browser of the future, you must partner with the best in the industry. We share the same values and vision. Tenta is the secure gateway to the new internet that will help drive adoption of many blockchain services, so we’re looking forward to deep collaborations with them. Our ‘secret sauce’ is: Our team is awesome. Most of us have been working together for many years on complex, large-scale software, so that gives us an advantage. Having a great team also leads to smarter product decisions. For example, we offer built-in VPN and encrypt all your browsing data by default. That includes your bookmarks, downloaded files, open tab data, domain name system (DNS), online traffic, etc. No other browser in the world does this. Our team figured out early on that this was going to be a real differentiator and the team knew how to execute that strategy. The smartest move we’ve made so far: Deciding to build a strong cryptographic foundation to power the browser. There are many private browsers in the market today, but most are glorified incognito browsers with an ad blocker attached. These do nothing to keep you invisible or protect your data. We decided early to go all-in on building a private browser and that meant redesigning many components that our competitors ignored. It also meant that it took us longer to get off the ground, so there were times we thought “maybe we’re going too hardcore with this privacy thing and no one cares.” Now that early decision is the reason why we’re gaining momentum with amazing customer reviews, which in turn helped secure our funding. The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: Drastically changing the browser user interface (UI) when we first launched. You might be lucky to create an app design that is totally new and that people love right away, but that’s extremely rare. With software, it’s often better to iterate and improve on existing experiences. We got too excited with the idea of building a new type of browser and went overboard. We re-learned that lesson the hard way, wasting precious time simplifying the UI. Tenta co-founders Chris O’Connell, Jesse Adams, and Jen McEwen. (Tenta Browser Photo) Which entrepreneur or executive would you want working in your corner? Elon Musk. He’s actually trying to do something grand for humanity. He’s awe-inspiring. If he can land rockets and take us to Mars, then helping us build the browser of the future should be a piece of cake :) Our favorite team-building activity is: Eating together and sharing a toast. Our team is distributed around the world, so we really enjoy getting together and sharing a meal. Most of us love to cook. I think it’s one of the best ways to build bonds and spark conversation and creativity. The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: We look for people who are passionate about what they do for a living and love learning. We often prefer to just look at a candidate’s personal GitHub repository instead of a resume. If you have no personal projects to share, then I’d argue you’re only coding for the money, not because you enjoy it. That difference matters in a startup. What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: My advice is to take this quote from Calvin Coolidge to heart: “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”