Google Cloud vets launch Seattle startup Kaskada to bolster machine learning tech with real-time data

Google Cloud vets launch Seattle startup Kaskada to bolster machine learning tech with real-time data

2:28pm, 2nd August, 2019
The Kaskada leadership team, from left to right: Davor Bonaci, Ben Chambers, and Emily Kruger. (Kaskada Photo) After spending several years working at Google Cloud, and saw an opportunity to help companies take better advantage of machine learning technology. Their idea turned into , a Seattle-based startup that is launching out of stealth mode and unveiling its software that uses real-time, event-based data to bolster machine learning features. Davor Bonaci. (Kaskada Photo) More and more companies are implementing machine learning capabilities into their workflows to serve up better recommendations, detect fraud, and other related applications that use the burgeoning technology. But Kaskada contends that these models aren’t using the most up-to-date information, resulting in stale data and poor predictions that don’t accurately reflect the needs of a given user. The startup’s tools let companies implement machine learning features that fully take advantage of up-to-date streaming data. “There is lots of evidence that this is not done as well as it could be done,” Bonaci said of using real-time data. “Companies are leaving money on the table.” Kaskada has raised $1.8 million from investors including Voyager Capital; NextGen Venture Partners; Founders’ Co-op; and Bessemer Venture Partners. The company, founded in January 2018, employs four people and expects to grow. In March it hired , a veteran of Amazon Web Services, as vice president of product. We caught up with Bonaci for this , a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire. What does your company do? Kaskada is a machine learning studio that uses event-based data to compute feature vectors for machine learning in real time. Kaskada empowers data scientists by allowing them to discover, test, and deploy features from event-based data sources in a collaborative, version-controlled environment. By empowering data scientists we help organizations make better predictions and drive more impact from machine learning. Inspiration hit us when: All the time — we’re inspired by progress. Every conversation with data scientists and data leaders helps us refine our vision and make a better, more impactful product. VC, Angel, or Bootstrap: VC. We’ve been incredibly lucky with our investors so far, which include Voyager Capital, NextGen Venture Partners, Founders’ Co-op, and Bessemer Venture Partners. We are also supported by a group of angels that includes directors and senior vice presidents of companies like Google, Twitter and Yelp. Not only have they provided the working capital, but they are also meaningfully helping build the company. Their insight, personal networks, and day-to-day support have been instrumental in getting where we are today. The value we have gotten from our investors is as important — if not more important — than the funding itself. Our ‘secret sauce’ is: Streaming data of course! Our team has deep experience in building distributed systems for data streams and data processing and believe we can fundamentally change how ML is practiced by helping companies harness the power of real-time data. The smartest move we’ve made so far: We came to the startup world with a lot of experience in the data space which also meant we had many existing opinions and biases about it. It can be hard to listen carefully, probe, and ask the right questions if you think you already know the answer. It was important for us to forget what we thought we knew and look at the space with fresh eyes. We also had to be willing to admit when we were wrong and refocus our direction based on what we heard from customers. Putting the customer stories first allowed us to learn and ultimately make much better decisions about product and company direction than we would have made in a vacuum. The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: Gauging time it will take to get to major milestones. Everything takes longer than you expect that it will — particularly if you’re an optimistic person! Sometimes those same delays can end up ultimately being positive, though, as you realize a much better way of achieving the same goal. Which leading entrepreneur would you most want working in your corner? Success doesn’t depend on a single individual. We believe that building a strong team that can work together toward a common vision is more important than any single individual. Our favorite team building activity is: Game night! We have a weekly team game night and (optional) whiskey tasting. We typically play various cooperative board games, which makes it more about winning together. Our current favorite is Hanabi. The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: Culture fit. Building a company is a journey requiring significant growth — both personally and as a group. We’re looking for people who want to be part of that journey and actively participate in that growth. We’re looking for people who would have fun participating in lively discussions as we seek to push each other and the company to be the best we can be. What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: Pick your team and supporters wisely. They will make you or break you. No other early decision is more important than that one. When you start a new company, there are many people seeking to be involved. Regardless of the role, you’ll hear how much they can help you. But, there are no shortcuts; you and your team will have to solve the hard problems. Always focus on the team and the people who are committed to the long-term success of the company.
In pursuit of air mobility, Voom’s Seattle office blazes a trail for working remotely

In pursuit of air mobility, Voom’s Seattle office blazes a trail for working remotely

3:39am, 31st July, 2019
Voom, a subsidiary of Airbus, offers on-demand helicopter booking services in Brazil and Mexico. (Airbus Photo) Add the Airbus subsidiary to the — and to the list of pioneers in co-located and distributed workplaces. Both of those talking points are highlighted in a on working remotely, written last month by Robert Head, a senior software engineer at Voom. The posting was brought to light today by the . The California-based startup has been offering its app-based, on-demand helicopter taxi service in Mexico City and São Paulo, and last month it in league with . In his blog posting, Head, who works remotely from Ashland, Ore., talked about software development rather than flight plans. “When Voom decided to grow our own internal team of developers, we chose to locate the office not in San Francisco or Silicon Valley, but rather in Seattle, which has a similarly booming technology scene and an ecosystem of great talent,” he wrote. Today LinkedIn , and the company’s careers webpage has, including a spot for a vice president of engineering. But the point of Head’s posting wasn’t how Voom conducts its operations in Seattle. Instead, he focused on how the Seattle office serves as a springboard for a far more widely dispersed team. “For the first year, all new hires were local to the Seattle office and the rest of the team was ‘on the big screen,’ as we say,” Head wrote. “After a year, recruiting was getting tougher and we were at a crossroads. We knew we wanted access to a wider, more diverse range of experienced colleagues, but it’s tough to find that within one city.” Voom’s solution was to go to a blended pair programming model, facilitated by screen-sharing and videoconferencing. Co-workers can pop into a virtual shared space and pair up with colleagues. “A good pairing session gets into a rhythm, a give and take,” Head said. “In typical pairing terminology, one person is ‘driving’ (using the mouse and keyboard) and the other is ‘navigating’—holding mental context, noticing opportunities, making suggestions. It’s important to a healthy, egalitarian environment that these roles are switched frequently.” Thanks to pair programming, Voom no longer limits its job pool to local hires, Head said. Additional details about the workplace model are laid out in , and on . Does Voom’s Seattle presence suggest that its helicopter ride-hailing service will be swooping in anytime soon? We didn’t immediately get an answer to that question from Head or from Voom’s HQ in San Francisco when we contacted them, but we’ll update this item with anything substantive we hear back. In the meantime, it’s worth considering that a lot of companies tap the Seattle area’s software engineering talent even though they put their products and services through real-world tests elsewhere. , which is working on ride-hailing services that make use of self-driving cars, serves as a good example. Even though LinkedIn as working in the Seattle area, and has here, the company says it has no immediate plans to test-drive its cars in the Emerald City. For now, you’ll have to travel to San Francisco, Phoenix or Detroit to see Cruise’s cars in action. And unless we hear differently, you’ll have to go to Mexico City, São Paulo or maybe San Francisco to see the results of the paired programming work that Voom is doing in Seattle.
Seattle Children’s spin-out MDMetrix raises $3M to unlock data from medical records

Seattle Children’s spin-out MDMetrix raises $3M to unlock data from medical records

11:24am, 14th May, 2019
(MDMetrix Photo) Imagine knowing that all the data you need to do your job better was locked in a system that you couldn’t access. That’s the frustrating reality for many healthcare workers who aren’t able to extract useful data from their hospital’s electronic medical records systems. Seattle startup just landed $3 million to make medical records more useful with a product that lets caregivers ask data-driven questions about their patients. Warren Ratliff. (Warren Ratliff Photo) The seed round was led by Founders’ Co-op along with investors Arnold Venture Group and WRF Capital. , CEO at MDMetrix, said the company plans to use the money to speed up its plans and apply artificial intelligence to help clinicians filter out “the signal from the noise” of patient data. The idea behind MDMetrix is to give healthcare workers the ability to track improvements over time. “We give clinicians visibility they’ve never had before into what’s going on. They’re able to ask questions on the fly. They’re able to really manage clinical operations in a continuously improving way,” said Ratliff. The company, which has raised more than $4 million to date, was started in 2016 by , an anesthesiologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital. It employs around a dozen full-time and contract staff. Seattle Children’s uses MDMetrix at its main campus hospital and surgery center, but the company declined to talk about its other customers. Dr. Dan Low, an anesthesiologist and co-founder of MDMetrix. (GeekWire Photo / Clare McGrane) Electronic health records are a popular punching bag. They’ve been blamed for everything from among doctors to . “Something’s gone terribly wrong. Doctors are among the most technology-avid people in society; computerization has simplified tasks in many industries. Yet somehow we’ve reached a point where people in the medical profession actively, viscerally, volubly hate their computers,” wrote Haven CEO Atul Gawande last fall. Haven is a healthcare joint venture between Amazon, JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway. Ratliff says the frustration doesn’t just come from the countless hours spent clicking around poorly-designed interfaces. Doctors are also fed up with not being able to use data from the health record to answer questions. Ratliff joined the company last August. He was previously co-founder and COO of Caradigm, a healthcare joint venture between GE Healthcare and Microsoft. MDMetrix essentially tries to make it as easy as possible for a licensed practitioner to find answers to basic questions related to patient care. Ratliff said the interface was designed to be as easy to use as the Airbnb app. The platform also brings together key metrics into a control center for leaders and staff to monitor. The idea is to avoid a situation in which important questions go unasked and unanswered. With more useful data, clinicians can more easily establish best practices. Ratliff contrasts the situation facing medical professionals with that of a chief financial officer, who has tools to easily see high-level profit-and-loss statements as well as granular expenses. “In medicine, we’ve tolerated a system where clinicians don’t have the visibility you would expect in any other kind of industry or business,” Ratliff said. “Imagine trying to run a complex financial organization with a spreadsheet. There are just better ways of doing that.”
Seattle startup TomboyX raises $18M to further develop its underwear brand for all body types

Seattle startup TomboyX raises $18M to further develop its underwear brand for all body types

1:04am, 14th May, 2019
(TomboyX Photo) , the Seattle-based startup bringing gender-neutral underwear to the masses, is apparently a good fit for investors, too, as the company just closed an $18 million Series B funding round. Launched in 2013 by married founders Fran Dunaway and Naomi Gonzalez, TomboyX targets “plus-sized, gender non-conforming and specialized tradespeople” with its apparel products. The company raised $4.3 million in a Series A round last summer, and total funding is $24.3 million to date. This round was led by , which becomes TomboyX’s majority stakeholder, and the capital will be used to invest in product development and brand-related campaigns, according to a news release. “We are very excited to collaborate with the team at The Craftory as we continue in our mission to design inclusive and gender-neutral underwear for our diverse global audience,” Dunaway and Gonzalez said in a statement. “We are confident that their expertise in branding and consumer goods will complement our own creativity and disruption of traditional products.” TomboyX founders Fran Dunaway and Naomi Gonzalez. (TomboyX Photo) TomboyX stresses that its underwear produces comfort across a broad range of silhouettes and sizes, and is fit-tested on hundreds of bodies, from size XS-4X. Elio Leoni Sceti, co-Founder and chief crafter at The Craftory, called TomboyX a “forward-thinking brand” taking on some of society’s biggest issues. “We are extremely proud to be welcomed to join the team as they expand their global reach and continue to design innovative sustainable pieces,” Sceti said. “It is crucial that companies like TomboyX continue to champion self-esteem as we move towards a more open, progressive society.” Craftory directors will join the TomboyX board along with fashion industry veteran Pauline Brown of TAU Investment Management, a New York and Hong Kong-based investment firm with expertise in the global apparel and textile value chain.
Thanks, Doug Baldwin, for being a total geek … and a great catch for the Seahawks and Seattle, too

Thanks, Doug Baldwin, for being a total geek … and a great catch for the Seahawks and Seattle, too

10:05pm, 9th May, 2019
Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin played eight seasons in Seattle and won a Super Bowl championship. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) Plenty of professional athletes fancy themselves as tech geeks in some fashion or another, whether they’re into gadgets or video games or they like launching startups and Twitter tirades. Doug Baldwin is the type of thoughtful, nerdy and genuinely interesting guy that made him — just like he was as a receiver for the Seattle Seahawks — a go-to guy for GeekWire. With the that Baldwin’s playing career with team had come to an end, it was hard not to remember how many times we tossed it to No. 89 ourselves. We sought his perspective on everything from how technology was changing the game he loved to how important it was to give back and serve the greater good of the community. Check out some of Baldwin’s GeekWire highlight reel below: Gamer geek Doug Baldwin plays “Madden” at the Museum of Pop Culture in 2017. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) GeekWire founder John Cook caught up with Baldwin during the first-ever Madden 17 Championship Tournament in March 2017, an event hosted by the Seahawks at Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture. Baldwin discussed his love for video games, his Madden rating, virtual reality, and more. “Games for myself and for a lot of the guys in the locker room, it’s an escape,” Baldwin said. “We spend so much time, so much effort, so much mental space on the game that we love, video games gives us that mental space to kind of check out for a little bit.” Instinct over data At the at what was then Safeco Field, Baldwin joined former Olympic swimmer Ariana Kukors for a discussion about technology and what impact it had on their careers. For all the advances in data collection and augmented and virtual reality being used to try to enhance player performance, Baldwin said he still leaned on the gut instincts that got him to the level he achieved. He said no amount of data or virtual reality or anything else will change the fact that he has to make the decisions on the football field. “Maybe it’ll help me in terms of repetition, but when I’m on the field, I’m not thinking about that,” Baldwin said. “It has to be second nature.” Life after football Last fall when GeekWire traveled down to Renton, Wash., for a weeklong project, we set up shop not far from where the Seahawks have their practice facility. Baldwin was the obvious choice to join us for an , not just because he’d been a friend to the site in previous years, but because he’d shown his commitment to Renton, too. Baldwin’s efforts to help the City of Renton build a new community center showcased how much he appreciated his own upbringing, and how it taught him to serve those around him for the greater good. “When people ask me, ‘Why do you want to do this?,’ well, I’m a part of something,” Baldwin told GeekWire’s Todd Bishop and Taylor Soper. “I’m a part of the human collective and I want to be a part of it that’s going in a progressive manner and doing things in a positive way. That’s why I do it.” While his Seahawks career may be over, we here at GeekWire know we’re not alone in Seattle and across the Pacific Northwest in hoping that Baldwin continues to feel that way about a region he has had such a positive impact on. He wasn’t shy about saying, after he was done playing, that he wanted to get away from his football persona and take on new challenges and opportunities, and find a platform, for social justice reform or something else. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) The Seahawks said Thursday that Baldwin was one of the Seahawks’ best players on the field, but that his “legacy in Seattle, however, will be much bigger than the passes he caught or the games he helped the team win.” “There’s this parable, it’s called the parable of talents. Some of you may know it,” Baldwin said on the GeekWire Podcast. “I think that I’ve been blessed with a number of talents, and I don’t want those to go to waste. I don’t want to bury them and not risk them to create more.” GeekWire and Seattle are ready to see what Baldwin creates next.
The top 3 pitches from Techstars Seattle 2019 Demo Day

The top 3 pitches from Techstars Seattle 2019 Demo Day

1:04pm, 8th May, 2019
The tenth Techstars Seattle cohort gathers after Demo Day on Tuesday at Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry. (GeekWire Photos / Taylor Soper) From Seattle to Miami, from blockchain to augmented reality — it was another round of polished pitches at the annual Techstars Demo Day in the Emerald City. Techstars Seattle held its 10th annual Demo Day Tuesday night as founders walked on stage and pitched to an audience of fellow entrepreneurs, investors, family, friends, and community members at the Museum of History and Industry. This cohort marked a milestone as the 10th class for Techstars Seattle, which has now graduated 110 companies to date. Alumni of the accelerator — companies such as Remitly, Outreach, Skilljar, Bizible, Leanplum and Zipline — have collectively raised more than $700 million in investment capital. Most have built their startups in the Pacific Northwest, helping expand the entrepreneurial clout in the region. Techstars Seattle Managing Directors Aviel Ginzburg and Chris DeVore give opening remarks on Tuesday. Techstars provides $120,000 in funding in exchange for 6 percent common stock as part of the three-month accelerator, which is part of a larger Techstars network that spans across the globe and also features a Techstars venture capital fund and a . Techstars Seattle is based at Startup Hall at the University of Washington and shares space with the , a separate program co-led by Techstars and Amazon focused around voice technologies. Amy Nelson, CEO of Seattle-based startup The Riveter — which just won Startup of the Year at the — gave the keynote address before Tuesday’s pitches. She recounted her own startup journey, one that started when Nelson was a corporate lawyer and became pregnant. That’s when she learned how 43 percent of women with college degrees “offramp” after having kids. “To me, that meant the system was broken,” Nelson said. “We all knew it and yet we weren’t doing anything about it.” The Riveter CEO Amy Nelson. Nelson, now pregnant with her fourth child, decided to do something and helped launch The Riveter two years ago. The women-focused co-working space operator a $15 million investment round last year and recently opened its sixth location in Austin, with plans to reach 100 locations by 2022. “Starting a company is, as many of you know, incredibly hard and nearly impossible,” Nelson told the crowd on Tuesday. “There will be many days when it is easier to quit than to keep going. There will be many days when you feel like you can’t keep going. But the thing is, you have to believe in the biggest ideas and believe that you can pull it off — and you likely can, if you truly believe that and dig into it.” Read on to learn more about and see our favorite pitches of the evening. , who reflected on the longevity of Techstars Seattle and on how the Seattle tech scene has changed over the past decade. Tagline: “Growing machine learning teams from hiring to productivity” AdaptiLab co-founder James Wu. Why we liked the pitch: Hiring engineers is hard, and AdaptiLab wants to help. James Wu, co-founder, didn’t miss a beat with his pitch on Tuesday, showing how his startup helps reduce the amount of time and money hiring managers spend interviewing candidates for machine learning-related roles. Wu said companies can spend as much as $180,000 hiring a single machine learning engineer. AdaptiLab has built a technical screening platform that customers use to screen and interview potential new employees. The company applies its own machine learning technology to rank candidates and provide technical report cards. It has already racked up customers such as Pinterest, Zillow, and Remitly. AdaptiLab is similar to fellow Seattle startup Karat, , though AdaptiLab is focused on one specific type of role with machine learning jobs. That specialization could limit how quickly the company can grow, but Wu teased its vision for scale. “Our plan is to use our screening product to build a wedge into the machine learning talent market by solving for the biggest pain points and building industry trust and customer relationships along the way,” he said. ” “As machine learning demand continues to skyrocket, we will leverage relationships to expand to a technical diagnostic marketplace, where we will source, evaluate, and place candidates,” he said. “…We will use this flow of candidate and company data to begin to own the machine learning hiring pipeline and to expand into the even larger talent development market for machine learning with strategic partnerships and SaaS products.” Tagline: “Building your personal electronic memory bank” Kristalic co-founder Jos van der Westhuizen. Why we liked the pitch: Kristalic has a big vision. The San Francisco-based startup is building an AI-powered assistant designed to record your work-related conversations throughout a day and capture all the data in an easy-to-digest searchable format. The idea is to help workers remember important information they might have otherwise forgotten — for example, who agreed to what in last week’s meeting, or what changes did the customer request? Kristalic does not require additional software, using already available hardware such as AirPods or your smartphone to record voice conversations. “We’re giving our customers memory superpowers not available to ordinary humans,” said Kristalic co-founder Jos van der Westhuizen. Both he and his co-founder Filip Kozera earned a master’s degree and PhD in machine learning at Cambridge University — a validation for their expertise that van der Westhuizen called out at this beginning of his pitch. The entrepreneurs aim to ride a surge in voice-related technology and usage. One investor that voice tech will replace keyboards in five years. Tech giants such as Google are also . Kristalic has a huge idea that could very well fall flat. There are also some privacy implications that the company will need to address. But it was refreshing to hear such an ambitious pitch — these “big swings” are something the Seattle startup scene could probably use more of, albeit from a Bay Area-based startup. Tagline: “Web3 made easy” Nodesmith CEO Brendan Lee. Why we liked the pitch: Even though big companies such as are building blockchain-related services along with a flurry of other , the jury’s still out on how important the technology will actually become. “Some of the skepticism is valid,” said Nodesmith CEO Brendan Lee. “Adoption hasn’t exactly been explosive. One of the core reasons for this is the lack of mature infrastructure and tooling that’s available for developers.” That’s where Nodesmith comes in. The Seattle startup provides access to blockchain networks and a suite of services that allow developers to easily build user-friendly applications. It provides the “picks and shovels” for blockchain developers, bringing a “much-needed professional polish to the wild west world of blockchain,” as Lee described. In his convincing pitch, Lee said building a blockchain app today is like building a traditional web app without the support of tools such as AWS, Auth0, or New Relic. It’s unclear how many customers Nodesmith has, and there’s the larger question of blockchain adoption. But investors oftentimes bet on people, and Lee and his co-founder Samm Desmond certainly have the necessary chops to fulfill their vision as they previously spent four years at Tableau building developer platforms. They’ve also been building on blockchain networks since 2016.
Led by F5 founder, Seattle cybersecurity startup Tempered Networks raises $17M

Led by F5 founder, Seattle cybersecurity startup Tempered Networks raises $17M

12:33pm, 8th May, 2019
Jeff Hussey. (Tempered Networks) Seattle-based has raised an additional $17 million to invest in engineering, sales resources, and partnerships. The company confirmed the new funding to GeekWire this week. The fresh cash brings total funding to $57 million, with backing from Ignition Venture Partners, IDG Ventures, Fluid Capital, Ridge Ventures and Rally Capital. Founded in 2014 by , who formerly helped launch F5 Networks, Tempered Networks builds products around , in which anything that connects to a network must pass an identification test. That’s in contrast to the traditional approach of trusting people and machines who are connected the organization’s network on site or through VPNs, while keeping out bad actors with firewalls. The company’s main technology, called “identity defined networking,” is a platform for zero trust networking. Connections are granted based on a whitelist that identifies trusted entities and gives access to the network. Tempered also claims to make the process of creating and managing networks easy with a simple point-and-click interface. Tempered’s customers include oil drillers, electrical substations, hospitals and smart buildings. The 55-person startup has recently been working on to accommodate the growth with internet-of-things devices. It has also to build secure systems for smart buildings. Tempered is part of a hive of cybersecurity activity in Seattle, joining startups including Auth0, ExtraHop, DefenseStorm and Polyverse, among others.
Fast-growing sales tech startup Highspot leases big Seattle waterfront office with room for 800 people

Fast-growing sales tech startup Highspot leases big Seattle waterfront office with room for 800 people

5:59pm, 7th May, 2019
The World Trade Center East building. (Highspot Photo) will soon have a new spot to call home. The startup that builds artificial intelligence-powered sales software has leased two floors with options to take more at the World Trade Center East building near the Seattle waterfront. The 55,000-square-foot space, which will be ready around the end of the year, will have room for roughly 450 people. Highspot CEO Robert Wahbe. (Highspot Photo) Today, Highspot has about 200 employees and expects to hit 300 when it moves into the space. The company will hold on to its existing offices in Seattle, giving it a total footprint of more than 90,000 square feet and capacity for roughly 800 employees. Robert Wahbe, co-founder and CEO of Highspot, said the company is experiencing explosive growth in revenue and other key business metrics, and it is hiring fast to keep up. “We are growing more than 100 percent per year across all the normal business metrics and growing more than 100 percent in our headcount,” Wahbe said. “Given how competitive the environment is we are very focused on attracting and developing world-class people.” Last year, Highspot landed a to power its rapid growth. The company has raised more than $64 million in its lifetime. Wahbe called his company the fastest-growing tech startup with fewer than 1,000 employees in the area. He came to that conclusion by looking at headcount growth numbers on LinkedIn of companies in the index of the top Pacific Northwest startups. Highspot’s customer base is growing 300 percent year-over-year, Wahbe told GeekWire last year, adding to a big-name stable of customers that includes Amazon, Dropbox, Uber, Lyft Twitter, Zillow, Airbnb and SAP. A finalist for at the 2019 GeekWire Awards, Highspot equips sales teams with artificial intelligence-infused technology to improve how they have conversations with prospective buyers. Its “sales enablement platform” is a sales playbook of sorts, analyzing hoards of internally-produced information — historical data; marketing presentations; case studies; data sheets, etc. — and then applying AI to optimize the selling process. Highspot also provides communication and analytics tools with a goal of helping marketing and sales teams better collaborate. Highspot’s future office space. (Highspot Photo) The concept of bringing sales and marketing teams together has been around since the beginning of the modern office, but the technology hasn’t been there. That all changed around 2010, as mobile technology, AI and software-as-a-service innovations progressed rapidly. Since then, the category has taken on a renewed importance, Wahbe said. “It’s a problem that’s been around that people have been trying to solve, but now that it can be solved, you’re seeing the heads of marketing and the heads of sales really excited about this category and buying this software to help their teams be more competitive,” Wahbe said. Wahbe named and as Highspot’s top competitors. The company’s differentiator is its sophisticated AI that helps identify what content should be surfaced at the right time. Wahbe got the idea for Highspot when he was working at Microsoft, where he spent 16 years equipping sales teams with necessary information to help craft perfect pitches to potential customers. He quickly realized it was a difficult task and made a bet that others were experiencing the same problem. He founded the company seven years ago with former colleagues with and . Highspot was recently named to list for 2018, one of just two Seattle companies to earn the honor — Outreach, another fast-growing sales tech startup and a , was the other. Seattle has established itself as a hub for enterprise software, led by giants such as Microsoft, homegrown startups, and satellite offices for big companies including Salesforce. Wahbe emphasized Highspot’s commitment to Seattle, saying he didn’t plan to expand its offices internationally anytime soon. “It’s a little bit against the grain, but we really think the best way to build great software is to be here in Seattle,” Wahbe said.
Seattle travel planning startup Utrip will shut down after critical deal falls through

Seattle travel planning startup Utrip will shut down after critical deal falls through

4:57pm, 7th May, 2019
Utrip CEO Gilad Berenstein accepts the award for Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2015 GeekWire Awards. (GeekWire Photo) journey is over. The Seattle-based trip-planning startup is ceasing operations after a deal that would’ve kept the company afloat fell through at the last minute. “We are devastated to no longer be able to continue to operate and partner with you,” Utrip CEO said in an email to clients obtained by GeekWire. Bernstein declined to comment further when contacted by GeekWire. Utrip’s services will remain online until June 7, at which point the servers will come down, according to the email. Founded in 2011, the company offered free itinerary-planning tools to consumers built with machine learning. Users entered information about the types of activities they like to do when traveling and related preferences. Utrip would then produce a schedule and other information to help them plan their trips. Utrip made money by and building products for businesses in the hospitality space, such as hotels and cruise lines. In 2017, to create a trip-planning portal stitching together flights, hotels, must-see sites, activities, and restaurants. Other “strategic partners” included Hilton, Holland America Line, Allegiant, and Starwood Preferred Guest. “Leveraging machine learning and advanced traveler preference data, Utrip enables travel companies, both large and small, to increase conversion rates, ancillary revenue, customer loyalty and engagement,” the company wrote on its . Utrip’s itinerary service. Utrip also had some high-profile investors. Executives from Apple and Costco, as well as Acorn Ventures, Plug and Play, and Tiempo Capital, participated in in early 2017. Seattle hotelier Craig Schafer was also an investor and former sat on Utrip’s board of directors. The company has 27 employees, according to . It was ranked No. 194 on the , our index of top Pacific Northwest startups. “We are so grateful for your partnerships over the years and for enabling us to help millions of travelers see the world in unique and personal ways,” Berenstein said in his email. The CEO graduated from the University of Washington in 2009 and at the 2015 GeekWire Awards. He helped launch Utrip after a trip to Europe left him wanting a more personalized travel experience without paying a travel agent or spending a lot of time to research. Other Utrip founders include and Yair Berenstein. Travel startups have taken off over the past five years, with a bevy of competitors such as Noken and Journy offering similar services to Utrip. Over that period, travel companies raised more than $1 billion in venture capital funding,
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.”
Seattle startup EnergySavvy acquired by utility software firm Tendril

Seattle startup EnergySavvy acquired by utility software firm Tendril

12:55pm, 3rd May, 2019
EnergySavvy co-founder and CEO Aaron Goldfeder (left) and COO Scott Case. (EnergySavvy photo) Seattle-based EnergySavvy has been acquired by Tendril, a Boulder, Colo. firm that provides software and analytics to electric and gas utilities. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. EnergySavvy’s team of more than 60 employees will not relocate under the acquisition. The company has offices in Seattle and Boston. EnergySavvy is an 11-year-old startup with a suite of products that help utilities manage their relationships with customers. Aaron Goldfeder left a role at Microsoft to co-found the company in 2008. In 2016, EnergySavvy , bringing its total funding to $30 million. At the time, EnergySavvy had about 40 utility customers, including Seattle City Light, Minnesota Energy Resources, New Mexico Gas Company, and others. Using EnergySavvy, utilities can provide personalized electricity plans for customers, accounting for changes in the industry like the growing popularity of rooftop solar panels. “Teaming up with Tendril creates a platform that unites all residential utility customer data, analytics and insights in one place,” Goldfeder said in a statement. Prior to the acquisition, EnergySavvy was ranked No. 110 on the , our index of top Pacific Northwest startups.
Seattle startup Spruce Up raises $3M for AI-powered home shopping platform

Seattle startup Spruce Up raises $3M for AI-powered home shopping platform

7:24pm, 2nd May, 2019
Spruce Up CEO Mia Lewin. (Spruce Up Photo) has some new spending money. The high-tech home shopping startup just closed a $3 million seed round, bringing its total funding to $4.5 million. New York investment firm Two Sigma Ventures led the round. Other investors include Madrona Venture Group, Female Founders Fund, Alumni Ventures Group, and Peterson Ventures. Spruce Up uses artificial intelligence to recommend home products from a catalog of more than 25,000 items curated by home stylists. Shoppers fill out an interactive quiz to gauge their taste and then receive curated suggestions from designers. “With this seed round, we are doubling down on AI powering every aspect of our product and operations,” Spruce Up CEO Mia Lewin said in a statement. The new funding will also help Spruce Up grow its engineering and data science teams. The startup currently has eight full-time employees and nine part-time stylists. Two Sigma Ventures’ Dan Abelon will join Spruce Up’s board of directors as part of the deal. “We believe AI-powered personalization is the future of e-commerce, and Spruce Up is addressing a multi-billion dollar market and significant pain point for consumers today stuck in eternal scroll,” Abelon said in a statement. Spruce Up is a spin out of Madrona Venture Labs, the venture capital firm’s in-house startup studio. The startup’s co-founders are technology and interior design veterans. Lewin is a former eBay executive who founded several design studios before joining Madrona Venture Labs as CEO-in-residence. Her co-founder Mike Dierken previously held leadership roles at Amazon and McKinsey & Co.
Here’s why two Y Combinator partners made a recruiting trip to the Univ. of Washington in Seattle

Here’s why two Y Combinator partners made a recruiting trip to the Univ. of Washington in Seattle

1:20pm, 30th April, 2019
Cherry blossoms were in full bloom at the University of Washington earlier this month. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) The University of Washington has one of the world’s best computer science programs. MBA recruiters recently the UW’s business school No. 2 for entrepreneurship reputation. Its CoMotion innovation center has helped the university spin out 80 startups over the past five years and land among the top 10 on . Yet for some reason, , the famed Silicon Valley startup accelerator, sees far fewer UW graduates applying for its program compared to other top public universities. That’s why two YC partners, and , made a quick trip north earlier this month and spent several hours on the UW campus in Seattle, hosting both “group office hours” and a two-hour workshop. The purpose was to educate students about startups and encourage them to apply to YC. Of the more than 4,000 founders who have gone through YC’s 3-month cohort program over the past 14 years, only 50 of them attended the University of Washington, according to data from YC. “There is a lot of talent at the UW and a lot of talent in Seattle — and I want to make sure people know that YC is an available path if they want to start a startup,” Manalac told GeekWire after the event. Y Combinator Partner Gustaf Alstromer speaks to UW students at the Foster School of Business as part of a YC workshop on campus earlier this month. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) Manalac, who specializes in finding entrepreneurs that can join the accelerator, said UW students tell her that they get so heavily recruited by big companies in Seattle — Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Expedia, T-Mobile, Starbucks, etc. — and “often don’t even think about starting a company as a viable option.” Added Manalac: “The pull of the FAANGs and big companies like Boeing are strong up here.” “In some cases, students are interested in starting a startup but fall into the trap of thinking, ‘I’ll work at a large company for a couple years to get experience and then start a company,'” she explained. “Once you’re used to working at big companies, it’s harder to make the shift into startups. And working at big companies doesn’t teach you what you need to know to start a company. The best way to learn about startups is to start one — or work at an early stage startup.” The thesis that homegrown tech giants such as Amazon and Microsoft, along with the bevy of Bay Area companies with huge engineering outposts in the region, are sucking up would-be startup talent and preventing Seattle from becoming another Silicon Valley startup mecca has been for . “In the past, I have noticed that most of our students do take the ‘safer’ established industry path over the startup path,” said , a UW computer scientist who has sold startups to , and . Patel agreed with Manalac and said it is indeed hard to jump to a startup after joining a big company. But others say that experience at a place such as Amazon or Microsoft can be valuable preparation for startup life. Knock co-founders Tom Petry and Demetri “Some of the fastest-growing companies in Seattle boast 20-something and 30-something entrepreneurs fresh out of Amazon who cite that experience at integral to their startup path and success,” noted Julie Sandler, managing director at Seattle startup studio Pioneer Square Labs and a lecturer at the UW’s Foster School of Business. and graduated from the UW and worked together at UBS Wealth Management before coming back to Seattle to launch their real estate startup Knock, which just a $10 million investment round. The founders say they picked up important skills and built a network at UBS that ended up being crucial to their decision to make the startup leap. “Ultimately, my time with a big company gave me enough confidence to enable me to say goodbye to that world,” Themelis said. “And I imagine a lot of founders get the necessary motivation to start something when they see first hand the rat-race of a big company culture — it definitely was for me.” But the opposite was true for , a 2013 UW grad who a fashion startup while still in school. He’s now working at Amazon as a product manager. “Beginning my career at a startup was definitely more beneficial for me than getting a job at a big company right away,” Bartlow said. “First of all, I don’t think I would have been able to get the product management roles I wanted without being able to leverage my startup experience. Second, it is much easier to stay in the frugal and hungry mentality coming right out of school.” Bartlow credited the UW’s Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship for promoting startups through business plan competitions and programs such as the Jones + Foster Accelerator program. In a statement, Amy Sallin, interim director of the Buerk Center, said that “the framework is in place for students or alumni to feel prepared to launch a startup at any point in their journey.” “Our graduates leave with the entrepreneurial skills that do make them attractive to very large companies looking to innovate from within,” she said. “However, we also see graduates who do take their startup and grow it into a business — whether in retail, food and beverages, health, social impact, cleantech, biotech, etc.” Nanodropper team members Jennifer Steger, Mackenzie Andrews and Allisa Song won the $15,000 grand prize at the University of Washington Hollomon Health Innovation Challenge in March. (Matt Hagen / UW Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship Photo) Sandler said she hopes the UW can encourage more cross-department connections across programs such as computer science, business, and human-centered design. She said that can help expose entrepreneurship to more students. “At other universities, it not uncommon to see one big student success kickstarting a positive entrepreneurial cycle,” Sandler added. “Students see other students successfully build impactful companies during their years in school and they’re inspired to do the same.” Whether the lack of UW grads applying to Y Combinator says anything about the university itself, or the larger Seattle tech ecosystem, is up for debate. It’s true that the UW ranks lower than schools including UC Berkeley, University of Michigan, University of Texas, UCLA, and others . And some of the higher-profile startups with UW roots — Turi, Senosis Health, Vicis, etc. — originated due to the work of professors, not students. Ed Lazowska, a longtime UW computer science professor, said geographic influence must be considered when comparing what a graduate from Stanford does after school, for example, to what a UW grad might do. “Stanford sends a disproportionate number of students to startups because the startup ecosystem in the South Bay is an order of magnitude more vibrant than anywhere else in the U.S.,” he said. “UW sends a disproportionate number of students to major companies because all of those companies are either headquartered in Seattle or have engineering offices here, and UW is a public university where most students do internships, which have a high conversion rate to permanent employment, and the established companies have great internship programs.” Lazowska said the UW has taken a number of steps to “address this balance,” from work being done at CoMotion and the , to the activity at Startup Hall, which houses the Techstars Seattle program and Founders’ Co-op venture capital firm. He added that “as the startup community in Seattle expands, the involvement of UW students in startups will surely expand commensurately.” And while some UW grads, such as Jason Tan and Brandon Ballinger of , do migrate to the Bay Area and launch startups, many of them stick around Seattle, where there are plenty of startup accelerators and studios. “Yes, YC is the gold standard,” Lazowska said. “But UW students come from Washington and remain in Washington.” For some, the idea of relocating to the Bay Area to work on a startup may not be as attractive as in years past. , co-founder of Seattle startup , participated in a YC cohort last year and came right back to Seattle. “In my opinion, right now Seattle is the best place to start a software company,” Kalb said. “The talent is here, Seattle is a beautiful place to live, and it’s way cheaper to live in Seattle than in San Francisco. No wonder Bay Area VCs . I think we’ll see some of the greatest, fast-growing startups come from Seattle in the next ten years. If I were a YC partner, I would heavily index on whether a company is based in Seattle.”
Bottomless, the Seattle startup keeping your coffee stock fresh, fills up with $1.9M in funding

Bottomless, the Seattle startup keeping your coffee stock fresh, fills up with $1.9M in funding

5:44pm, 29th April, 2019
Bags of coffee beans are shown sitting on scales developed by Bottomless, a Seattle startup that measures coffee consumption and delivers refills. (Bottomless Photo) The next cup of coffee should be on . The Seattle startup using technology to make sure that coffee lovers never run out of the stuff they love has raised $1.9 million, according to a recent . The company declined to reveal investors. RELATED: Michael Mayer, the entrepreneur who co-founded Bottomless alongside his wife Liana Herrera, had been bootstrapping the 3-year-old company prior to raising $245,000 last summer. Bottomless combines original hardware, an online marketplace, machine learning and more to determine when customers need a shipment of fresh beans. The solution, in part, is a rechargeable scale on which users set a bag of fresh beans that they’re using to make their daily coffee. The scale is connected to WiFi (and to Bottomless) and as the bag becomes lighter, it triggers the order for more beans. Users select from numerous Seattle-area roasters — Caffe Vita, Ladro Roasting and more — who are partnering with Bottomless. Mayer, a “self-taught developer/technologist,” said his machine learning algorithms have already matured and that the plan with the new capital is to “add a few team members to continue investing in our algorithms and tech.” He also wants to scale up in the fresh coffee market with eyes on expansion, and they just added roasters in the San Francisco Bay Area and San Diego.
Seattle startup AppSheet raises $15M for no-code app development platform, will open Portland hub

Seattle startup AppSheet raises $15M for no-code app development platform, will open Portland hub

5:20pm, 25th April, 2019
Praveen Seshadri, left, and Brian Sabino of AppSheet. (AppSheet Photo) Seattle startup has raised $15 million to fuel growth of its platform that helps businesses develop their own data-based apps without requiring a team of developers. Shasta Ventures led the round, with participation from existing investor New Enterprise Associates. Total funding to date is $19.3 million. Founded in 2014, AppSheet sells software that enables nearly 6,000 customers such as Husqvarna Group, Solvay, Tigo Guatemala, American Electric Power, M&O Partners, Boom Technology, and others to build “no-code” apps. More than 200,000 apps have been deployed using AppSheet and more than 18,000 “active app creators” build apps with AppSheet each month. Use cases include inventory management, CRM, and field service, and span across industries such as manufacturing, construction, scientific, and others. Examples of include those designed for requesting and tracking equipment maintenance; generating daily construction reports; or completing a pre-surgery checklist. AppSheet has been and natural language processing technology to further speed the creation of apps. AppSheet CEO launched AppSheet with , a former student in his database systems class at Cornell University. They had been exploring how mobile apps can make businesses more productive and discovered that businesses were hungry for modestly priced custom-built apps. AppSheet is among a number of platforms touting themselves as quick and easy app development platforms. The startup competes against products built by other Seattle-area companies such as Microsoft and K2 Software, as well as Siemens-owned Mendix, OutSystems, Betty Blocks. Asked about AppSheet’s secret sauce and differentiators, here’s what Seshadri shared with GeekWire: We disrupt traditional business software development across three dimensions: 1. Access: Our true no-code model allows every business user to create and innovate with apps without writing any code to build them. 2. Agility: Deployment of apps from the AppSheet intelligent no-code app platform is lightweight and instant. It is an order of magnitude more agile than a low-code solution, significantly more powerful, and comes at a fraction of the cost of using mainstream programming languages that convert a desired program into a sequence of low-level instructions computer hardware can execute. 3. Ambition: The expressive power of the AppSheet intelligent no-code platform is constantly improving. Our current generation of apps includes machine learning, rich integrations, micro-services, and are not limited to mobile/web apps. The fresh investment will be used to increase marketing spend and platform enhancements. AppSheet will also open a “center of machine learning excellence” in Portland, Ore. The company employs 20 people and expects headcount to grow to 50 over the next year. “We believe AppSheet’s demonstrated success with a broad horizontal customer base is a key indicator of its expected impact,” Ravi Mohan, managing director at Shasta Ventures, said in a statement. “There is no doubt that we are at the start of a technology revolution that will allow business users to create their own software solutions, and there is no doubt that AppSheet is the market-leading platform that will drive this transformation.” Other recent Shasta investments in Seattle-area companies include ; ; ; ; ; and . The firm is among a crop of Bay Area investors .
After raising cash, Seattle cybersecurity startup Cyemptive acquires Adaptive Technology Group

After raising cash, Seattle cybersecurity startup Cyemptive acquires Adaptive Technology Group

3:32pm, 24th April, 2019
Cyemptive CEO Rob Pike. (Cyemptive Photo) Seattle-area cybersecurity startup today announced the acquisition of (ATG), a 14-year-old IT consulting service company also based in the Seattle region. The ten employees working for ATG will join Cyemptive, whose headcount is now north of 65 people. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Cyemptive came out of stealth mode , announcing a $3.5 million investment round from undisclosed investors. The company 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. Cyemptive’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. The company plans to use ATG’s expertise in customer service and support to help serve its growing customer base of businesses and government clients. ATG founder and CEO Bryan Greene will join the Cyemptive management team. “Incorporating ATG’s already-established infrastructure of customer focus, service and support with our groundbreaking failsafe, pre-emptive cyber protection technologies is a natural next step in providing the best in cyber security solutions and support to them,” DuBois said in a statement.
How a Seattle startup turned a low-tech, thrift-store inspiration into a high-performing water purifier

How a Seattle startup turned a low-tech, thrift-store inspiration into a high-performing water purifier

4:34pm, 22nd April, 2019
The Raiin team is made up of current and former students at Western Washington University — including CEO and founder Nancie Weston. Back row, left to right: Clayton Foshaug, graphics (design major); Macall Prengel, actor (kinesiology major); Katie Winkleman, communications (communications major). Front row, left to right: Lucas Van Dyke, videographer (business major); Naia Shedd, graphics (design major); Weston; Michael Nguyen, editor and public relations (public relations major). Not shown: Ian Ferguson, actor (journalism major); Maks Mosses, videographer (public relations major); Dixon Kenley Lamb, website (computer science major). Inspiration can come from unlikely places. For , it sparked in a Goodwill thrift store. Seven years ago, Weston co-founded a company making water purification devices. The Seattle-based business produces water bottles targeted for the outdoors and travelers that filters out heavy metals, disease-causing bacteria, viruses and protozoa, and other contaminants. The bottles use a NASA-created filter and work like a French-press coffee maker where users force water through a filter-containing cartridge. Grayl scrapped its way to success, crowdsourcing support through and In 2015, Grayl announced that from angel investors. Weston was eager to expand the Grayl line to products for home use. After all, it’s easy to find news headlines warning of lead and other contaminants in the water that flows into houses and apartments, schools and other buildings from to The leadership and the board at Grayl, however, were focused on a different use and audience, Weston said. So she left the company in 2017, retaining shares in the business. Then came Weston’s a-ha moment at Goodwill. She was fiddling with a cup with a plastic top and squishy container when she was struck by an idea. She wondered if the squishy cup could be used to create suction to pull the water through a filter. The idea worked, and Weston quickly moved on to applying the technology to a larger pitcher that could meet home-filtration needs. Last year, Weston launched to create the suction-driven, water-filtering pitcher. “I started Raiin to continue my vision of bringing clean water to households and disaster areas around the world,” Weston said. “If families had these water pitchers in these disaster situations, it would stop palette loads of [bottled] water from going overseas. Bottled water drives me crazy, it’s so wasteful.” Despite her previous success, Weston struggled to find investors. She was running out of money and reached out to, which referred her to an entrepreneurship class at Western Washington University (WWU). Weston made her pitch and connected to a team of students eager to help. The undergraduates offered their public relations-focused services for free, but Weston is granting them stock in the startup. Raiin doesn’t have a specific home, ranging from Seattle to Bellingham, Wash., where WWU is located. A prototype of the Raiin pitcher. (Raiin Photo) There are numerous home water filtration options already on the market, including well-known Brita pitchers and more expensive systems installed into home plumbing. Weston hopes to offer an affordable alternative that removes more pollutants than Brita via smaller filters that create less waste. The Raiin team is , on Earth Day 2019. The 30-day, publicly-funded campaign aims to raise at least $20,000 to fund a final prototype. If the fundraising goes well, $300,000 would cover the production of a first batch of pitchers and $500,000 would pay for full production. A $49 pledge will buy contributors a pitcher, if all goes well. The market price for a pitcher will be $74. “I’ve done so much research about water, and it’s just crazy what’s in our water,” Weston said. “You just can’t see it, and we’re drinking all of that.” We caught up with Weston for this Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for her answers to our questionnaire. Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: I started a company called Raiin and invented a water pitcher that filters and purifies germs and toxins out of water anywhere in the world, fast. Inspiration hit us when: I was in a Goodwill, of all places, and I found a cup that was squishy on the bottom and hard plastic on the top and thought, “Wait a minute, I could add a filter to this and it would suck the water right through!” I added a filter and it worked! That night I slept on the idea and came up with the design for the pitcher. VC, Angel or Bootstrap: Bootstrap. I went to investors and they all said the same thing: “We don’t invest in hard products, only software, wearable tech or apps.” After six months I was out of money and I had to make the switch to Kickstarter. With no money I went to WWU and pitched my idea to a group of students in the entrepreneur program. Nancie Weston, founder and CEO of Raiin. (Raiin Photo) After class a guy walked up to me and said, “We just started a company and I have all the staff you need to help with Kickstarter. Two videographers, a lighting person, a makeup person, actors and actresses, a website person, two graphic artists, a social media and PR person…for free!” They needed the experience and for their resume. I was an alumna from WWU so we all hit it off. One of the kids was recently shocked when he read a WWU newspaper headline: “Lead found in the pipes of the old buildings on campus.” In two months, we’ve put together everything from branding to a video. We . Our ‘secret sauce’ is: Unlike all the other water filter pitchers out on the market that only filter odor, flavor and a few heavy metals, Raiin’s pitcher filters pharmaceuticals and chemicals and purifies things like bacteria, viruses and protozoa. It is faster than other pitchers — and it’s fun. The smartest move we’ve made so far: Finding these great “kids” at WWU. They are super driven, going to school, working jobs, managing social lives and doing with Kickstarter for me. They are amazing! I am learning from them and they are learning from me. Nancie Weston, Raiin founder and CEO, working on her device. (Raiin Photo) The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: For six months I went in front of investors to raise money. I should have gone straight to Kickstarter. Being a woman raising money is hard. Less than 10 percent of women get funded. I even had an investor actually say they wouldn’t give me money unless I had a male partner! Really? Which entrepreneur or executive would you want working in your corner? Richard Branson. He has charisma, is driven, fun, smart and knows how to pivot fast when things are going right. I would love to have him in my corner. Our favorite team-building activity is: We don’t have time for a team building activity. I wish we did! We met two months ago and it’s been crazy getting ready to launch on Kickstarter. The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: People who are passionate about your company, products and vision. People who are driven. They don’t need to be told what to do, they see things that need to get done and they just do it. What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: You and your team have to be passionate about what you are doing or you won’t make it through the tough times. There are so many times I wanted to quit, but knowing that the water filter pitchers that are currently on the market are unregulated and just remove odor, flavor and a little bit of lead, I had to keep going to keep people from potentially getting sick from the water we are all drinking.
Seattle cybersecurity startup Critical Informatics raises $9.6M and gets a new name — CI Security

Seattle cybersecurity startup Critical Informatics raises $9.6M and gets a new name — CI Security

2:30pm, 22nd April, 2019
CI Security’s Kraken Signal on the wall of its office. (CI Security Photo) A cybersecurity startup that pairs software with analysts who review and investigate attacks raised $9.6 million to continue battling intrusions against companies of all sizes, as well as healthcare and government organizations. CI Security CEO Garrett Silver. (CI Security Photo) In addition to the cash infusion, the company has changed its name from to . CEO Garrett Silver said the new name doesn’t mean a major shift in the business is on the way. It’s more about simplicity and reflecting the company’s core priorities and Critical Insight platform. “It gives customers critical insight into the threats they’re facing so we can help them manage, detect and respond,” Silver said of the company’s offerings. The new Series B round, led by a previous investor in Alan Frazier’s , brings the company to nearly $16 million in lifetime funding. The company has 68 employees, with its home office in Seattle and security operations centers in Bremerton and Ellensburg, Wash. The company is planning to expand the security centers, and the new funding round will help with that. Security and tech giants like ADT and Cisco Systems are in the “Managed detection and response” market that includes CI Security. One place where CI Security stands out, Silver says, is its offerings for healthcare and government organizations. The company’s office in Bremerton, Wash. (CI Security Photo) “Core to our mission is defending organizations that protect the health of our communities,” Silver said. “We’re seeing growth in our healthcare customer base as well as growth in our public sector customer base. We’re honored to be defending hospitals, clinics, cities, ports, and school districts. We want to help those organizations keep patients alive, keep the lights on, and keep our water clean.” Citing predictions from Silver said companies spent $96 billion on cybersecurity technology in 2018, yet attacks continue to impact organizations of all kinds. One big problem is a major shortage of qualified cybersecurity experts in the field, Silver said. CI Security’s technology is meant to amplify its human talent, not solve every problem on its own. Silver claims CI Security experts can spot attacks and help remove them much faster than the competitors: “in hours or minutes instead of months.” “There are threats everyday like phishing, crypto-mining, and malicious intruders,” Silver said. “When those threat actors get into a system, the industry standard is that it often takes months or years to detect them — the average is about 200 days. That’s not acceptable.”
Flickr founder, top VCs invest in Seattle startup that sells used kids clothing at steep discounts

Flickr founder, top VCs invest in Seattle startup that sells used kids clothing at steep discounts

11:14am, 17th April, 2019
Kids on 45th CEO Elise Worthy. (Kids on 45th Photo) had long been Seattle’s most well-known and oldest children’s consignment store. But in 2017, nearly 30 years after it opened, the tiny Wallingford retail shop was ready to shut down. That’s when stepped in and bought the business. Two years later, the tech entrepreneur has turned an old-school brick-and-mortar concept into an innovative e-commerce service that has shipped 500,000 items of used kids clothing to customers across the country. And now the Seattle startup is raising cash from top-tier investors to help fuel its growth. announced a $3.3 million funding round from YesVC, an early-stage firm co-founded by Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake; Maveron, the Seattle firm that previously backed e-commerce giants such as Zulily and eBay; and other investors including SoGal Ventures, Sesame Street Ventures, Collaborative Fund, Liquid 2 VC, and Brand Foundry Ventures. The company offers a unique solution to a problem that parents with young children often face: buying affordable clothes for their growing kids. The service takes advantage of partnerships with nonprofits and thrift organizations to source a supply of “nearly new” kids clothing that is discounted by 70-to-90 percent off similar products online. Customers select the types and sizes of clothing they need — four pairs of pants, three long-sleeve shirts, two dresses, etc. — and Kids on 45th stylists put together a curated box that is shipped to doorsteps. Items sell for as low as $1.99 each and an average of $3.29. There is no browsing process and the entire shopping experience is designed to take less than two minutes. “All of our competitors and incumbents rely on either a browse or discovery process,” Worthy told GeekWire. “We are specifically anti-browse. If you’re a mom who has a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old and they outgrow their pants, you won’t delightfully browse through clothes. You just want to solve the pants problem.” (Kids on 45th Photo) Worthy previously co-founded Seattle-based , a free nonprofit coding school for women that has graduated 250 students since in 2015. She left the day-to-day work at Ada in 2017 and had the opportunity to purchase Kids on 45th from the original owner. “It seemed like such a treasure trove of data,” said Worthy, who serves as CEO. “I thought it would be so cool to buy the store and figure out how to bring it online to be a web-scaled business.” Worthy not only started analyzing years and years of Kids on 45th purchasing data, but also observed customer experiences inside the store. Moms, especially those who don’t enjoy recreationally shopping, just wanted something to replace the clothes that their kids had outgrown. “It dawned on me that we were investing time in a browse experience that our customers didn’t want,” said Worthy, who has two young sons herself. The company has 15 employees in Seattle and another 15 people at its warehouse in Texas where garments are sorted into 350 categories. It has developed an efficient supply chain and distribution model to help keep handling costs low — it’s how items can be priced at such steep discounts, or as the company notes, “cheaper than Goodwill and Walmart.” Worthy described Kids on 45th as a “StitchFix-like experience without the cost or required subscription,” referencing the popular online clothing box service that also sells kids clothing. “We try to bring the StitchFix experience to 90 percent of Americans where that’s just not possible,” Worthy noted. Jason Stoffer, partner at Maveron who was an early board member at e-commerce giant Zulily, said the “rise in value retail offline has been unable to be replicated online until now, due to the difficulties of making the business model work.” “Elise and the Kids on 45th team have been able to sell clothing at radically low price points by challenging some of the shopping behaviors that have been accepted as a given up until this point,” he said in a statement. “They pass more savings onto their customers by pairing a global sourcing supply chain with taking on the burden of selection from moms, thereby reducing handling costs like photos, mannequins and returns.” Worthy added that “we are really happy with the unit economics of this business.” Kids on 45th also has an eye on sustainability, given the nature of its business, and hopes to help lessen the that are thrown into landfills each year. The company recently launched a new buy-back program that lets customers send in used clothes and receive Kids on 45th credit. Worthy said the startup will prove out its model with kids clothing before exploring other potential verticals. There are no plans to open more brick-and-mortar locations but Worthy said she’s open to the idea.
Fancy rentable dog houses with air conditioning and a ‘puppy cam’ arrive in Seattle

Fancy rentable dog houses with air conditioning and a ‘puppy cam’ arrive in Seattle

7:45pm, 16th April, 2019
(DogSpot Photo) The nation’s fanciest dog houses are coming to the most dog-friendly city in the U.S. , the maker of shared dog houses that you can rent by the minute, is launching in Seattle as part of a national expansion. The startup has partnered with grocery chain QFC for an initial roll-out of eight houses that are set to launch by early June. Just how fancy are the houses? They come with air conditioning and ultraviolet lights to disinfect the interior between uses. Pet parents can even check in on their pups during their stay through a “puppy cam” on the DogSpot app. Dog owners can book a house up to 15 minutes in advance or on arrival. The company’s cloud-based platform operates on Microsoft Azure. “[DogSpot] is good for local business, and it’s good for dog owners to have one of their problems solved. And it’s great for dogs because they get more walks and more quality time with the people they love,” said Rebecca Eyre, director of communications at DogSpot. DogSpot launched in New York City in 2016, but abruptly removed all 50 of their dog houses last year following conflicts with the city. Eyre said that new legislation, which will enable the company to return to its hometown, should pass in the next few months. The startup has raised $5.8 million to date. DogSpot is avoiding zoning problems by leasing the houses to local businesses, which will keep them on private property. For pet owners, the rental rate is $0.30 per minute, but QFC will offer the houses for free to shoppers. DogSpot is actively looking for additional partners who want to put the dog houses outside of their buildings. The company has 60 houses across 14 states, with many located at rest stops along freeways in New York and Connecticut. “Grocery stores and rest areas are huge pain points for dog owners who need to stop but have their pets and have no safe alternative,” said Eyre. For the time being, DogSpot doesn’t have any obvious competition. “We’re kind of the only dog in the fight, so to speak, for this specific piece of technology,” said Eyre, who grew up in Redmond, Wash., near Seattle. Seattle was recently ranked the by Rover and Redfin, which looked at factors including the number of dog walkers, the walk score of apartment buildings and share of property listings that included the word “dog.” When asked if DogSpot would ever partner with Rover, the Seattle-based tech platform for dog sitters and walkers, Eyre said the startup would be happy to. “We have some existing relationships with some key folks there, looking for the right opportunity,” she said. In addition to Seattle, DogSpot is also making a push into Washington, D.C. The startup initially launched as Dog Parker, but rebranded last year as it geared up for the national expansion. “I was wanting to change the name for so long because we never use the language of parking your dog,” Eyre said. “The national expansion with our last chance to do a rebrand.” DogSpot doesn’t have any Seattle-based employees but eventually plans to hire a local community manager.