When LinkedIn isn’t enough: Ex-Microsoft leaders raise $6M for recruiting startup SeekOut

When LinkedIn isn’t enough: Ex-Microsoft leaders raise $6M for recruiting startup SeekOut

10:22am, 14th May, 2019
The SeekOut team. (SeekOut Photos) LinkedIn can be a valuable resource for hiring managers sourcing potential candidates. But oftentimes it isn’t enough — and that’s where is stepping in. The Seattle-area startup today announced a $6 million investment round led by Madrona Venture Group, with participation from Mayfield. The company helps HR departments by using swaths of data to provide an AI-powered “360-degree profile” of potential candidates — particularly those that have sparse or no LinkedIn profiles, but may be qualified based on harder-to-find accolades. SeekOut is led by CEO and co-founder , a former technical assistant to Bill Gates who previously led Microsoft’s Unified Communications Group; and CTO , a former Microsoft partner engineering manager who worked on products including Bing and Office. Anoop Gupta with Aravind Bala, co-founders of SeekOut. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop) Their company is an evolution of , a professional messaging service formerly known as that Gupta and Bala founded. The premise of Nextio was to give recipients of promotional LinkedIn messages money paid by marketers, recruiters and others seeking to reach them. Microsoft acquired LinkedIn for $26.2 billion in 2016 — one year after Gupta and Bala left the company. While Nextio never took off, there was a “career insights” feature that analyzed millions of resumes to give users a birds-eye view of potential career paths and the necessary steps to achieve certain jobs. That garnered interest from recruiters who wanted to understand requirements for various roles at companies; how people moved from different jobs; and so forth. About 18 months ago, Nextio pivoted to SeekOut. “Since then the growth and traction has been phenomenal, and we are truly humbled and energized about serving this critical need for companies,” Gupta said. SeekOut’s thesis is that developers and engineers often don’t promote their experience or work on a LinkedIn profile, but may do so in a place such as GitHub or in research papers and patents. But sourcing potential hires based on public data is only one part of the company’s business. SeekOut also provides built-in diversity filters to help reduce unconscious bias; a machine learning-driven search engine that understands past hiring patterns and needs based on job descriptions; and the ability for recruiters to “hyper-personalize” messages when engaging with candidates. SeekOut has more than 75 enterprise customers from various industries including tech, defense, pharma, consumer-packaged goods, and more. “Our secret sauce is that we are engineering leaders who have tons of experience hiring tech talent for our teams and with challenges our recruiters faced,” Gupta said. “We also know of data available and how to apply machine learning, natural language processing and other technologies to the problem that we and our customers face every day: finding qualified candidates.” SeekOut competes against a flurry of existing hiring-related tools, from giants such as LinkedIn itself and Workday, to smaller startups including fellow Seattle company . Gupta said that most competing HR tech tools are spread over a wide range of tasks, such as chatbots or candidate scheduling. “The companies in the sourcing space where SeekOut focuses are fewer, and less mature,” he said. Gupta and Bala both left Microsoft in November 2015 and came up with the Nextio idea in early 2016. SeekOut has raised $8.2 million to date. The company employs 12 people and expects to double headcount this year. As a result of the funding, Madrona Managing Director S. “Soma” Somasegar will join the board. “As every company goes through the digital transformation, the need for technical talent is growing leaps and bounds,” he said. “The SeekOut team deeply understands these challenges and has the expertise and drive to address them.”
Full findings from NASA ‘Twins Study’ raise more questions about long stints in space

Full findings from NASA ‘Twins Study’ raise more questions about long stints in space

7:00am, 12th April, 2019
The genetic and health profiles of Mark Kelly and Scott Kelly were compared during a “Twins Study” focusing on the effects of long-term spaceflight. (NASA Photo) Ten research teams today shared comprehensive scientific results from an unprecedented experiment to gauge the health differences that developed between an astronaut who spent nearly a year in space and his identical twin down on Earth. The study, , traces the results of DNA tests and analyses of biological samples from Scott Kelly, who took on the 340-day mission on the International Space Station in 2015-2016; and from his brother Mark Kelly, a former astronaut who underwent parallel tests on Earth. Many of the findings have been , but today’s open-access research paper and supporting materials provided broader context for the — and pointed to concerns that are likely to be addressed in future space experiments. Previous reports have noted that Scott Kelly experienced changes in his medical condition during his long stint in space, but that most of those changes were reversed after his return. For example, the makeup of Scott’s gut microbiome shifted, perhaps due to a change in diet, and then shifted back after his flight. Patterns of gene expression also changed, particularly in genetic regions associated with the immune system and DNA repair. More than 90 percent of those changes reversed themselves, but some of the changes persisted six months after Scott’s landing. (, only the patterns of which genes were switched on or off.) The detailed findings highlight some concerns about long-lasting effects of long-term spaceflight. Scott’s exposure to radiation in space, for example, led to minor mutations in his chromosomes. “Some of the chromosome rearrangements that we saw, particularly inversions, were persistent,” Susan Bailey, a radiation biologist at Colorado State University, acknowledged during a teleconference. Another genetic change had to do with the length of Scott’s telomeres — that is, the molecular end caps on his chromosomes. They’ve been compared to the protective ends on shoelaces, and they tend to get shorter as a person ages. Geneticists were intrigued to find that Scott’s telomeres actually lengthened during his spaceflight, but became shorter when he was back on Earth. “When we looked at individual telomere length and distributions, he did have many more short telomeres after flight than he did before,” Bailey said. “So in that sense, or from the perspective of aging and health risks, that could be where he might be at increased risk for … cardiovascular disease, for example, or some types of cancer.” The shape of Scott’s eyeballs changed in weightlessness, leading to the types of vision problems that have been found among male astronauts (but not so much among female astronauts). Scott also registered a slight loss in cognitive abilities when he returned to Earth, although it’s not clear whether that’s related to long-term spaceflight. The researchers suspected that it’s more likely the result of the added stress he experienced as he readjusted to earthly routines. The now-retired astronaut has acknowledged that it took at least six months for him to readjust fully. The researchers cautioned against reading too much into their study. “We’re only studying an n of one — in other words, there’s just one twin pair here — and we’re not corroborating the results in this study by looking at other astronauts,” said Andy Feinberg, director of the Center for Epigenetics at Johns Hopkins University and one of the lead investigators on the Twins Study. Nevertheless, the findings point to issues that will have to be resolved as NASA plans for trips beyond Earth orbit, to the moon, Mars and beyond. “We’re looking forward to these results serving as a guide and foundation for future studies and things we need to be aware of and look at in astronauts in upcoming longer-duration missions [going] deeper and deeper in space,” Bailey said. In a , the University of Darmstadt’s Markus Löbrich and the University of Sussex’s Penny Jeggo said studying the health impacts of long-term spaceflight, particularly exposure to space radiation, should be a high priority. The newly published study “represents more than one small step for mankind in this endeavor,” they wrote. Francine Garrett-Bakelman of the University of Virginia School of Medicine is the lead author of the study published in Science, More than 80 other researchers are co-authors.
Pebblebee, makers of Finder smart tracking device, find a big investor as part of effort to raise $10M

Pebblebee, makers of Finder smart tracking device, find a big investor as part of effort to raise $10M

12:54pm, 2nd April, 2019
The PebbleBee BlackCard is a new credit-card-thin tracking device that can help locate a lost wallet or anything else. (Pebblebee Photo) , the Bellevue, Wash.-based startup that makes a smart tracker to help people find missing keys and more, has found an investor. The company, founded by engineers Daniel Daoura and Nick Pearson-Franks, has landed a “substantial investment” from , a division of the massive Japanese wireless carrier KDDI Corp. The amount, which was not disclosed on Tuesday, contributes to what Daoura called an “ongoing $10 million funding round.” Soracom is a global provider of smart IoT connectivity, offering cloud-native wireless service designed specifically for the needs of connected devices. The company previously invested $5 million in Seattle-based balena.io (). Pebblebee has been making moves toward growing its brand and reach since last fall when it landed the Finder tracking device across the U.S. Daoura told GeekWire that the product sold really well and “proved the market” and they have expanded to Canada and other countries. He said they started entertaining the idea of looking into acquiring capital because growing the consumer brand requires hefty investment. “We got quite a bit of interest from the Bay Area as well as international VCs. Not so much local just because the nature of us being hardware and not software focused,” said Daoura, the startup’s CEO. Where’s the kid?! Pebblebee’s new BlackCard shown being tucked into a child’s jacket. (Pebblebee Photo) In the meantime, as Pebblebee aims to attract even more investors, the company isn’t slowing on development, and is releasing a new product this week called BlackCard. “It’s essentially a wallet tracker; it’s very thin — as thin as two credit cards — and it’s rechargeable,” Daoura said. The BlackCard has a range up to 500 feet — “definitely more than any other tracker out there today” — and will hold a single charge up to five months, and it emits a very loud buzzing sound. The price will be $29.99. BlackCard will launch along with a new and improved Pebblebee website on Wednesday. With eight employees, Daoura credits Pebblebee’s small team for bringing a Kickstarter vision to reality. “Their level of commitment and perseverance has been integral to our success,” he said. Soracom Americas CEO Eugene Kawamoto said in a news release that his company is passionate about identifying and supporting companies like Pebblebee. “Pebblebee’s hardware expertise and impressive patent library are already advancing the state of the art in the crucial asset tracking category,” said Kawamoto, who will take a seat on the Pebblebee board of directors. “By providing both smart connectivity and strategic investments, Soracom helps to accelerate IoT development and create a more connected world.”
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 .