Seattle’s Joe Coffee is uniting indie coffee shops through tech to compete against Starbucks

Seattle’s Joe Coffee is uniting indie coffee shops through tech to compete against Starbucks

10:28am, 10th May, 2019
Joe Coffee’s co-founders, from left to right Nick Martin, Brenden Martin and Lenny Urbanowski: (Joe Coffee Photo) In Starbucks’ own backyard, a family-built startup has taken hold and assembled one of the largest networks of independent U.S. coffee shops. Launched in 2014, Seattle-based has created a platform that allows customers of local coffee shops to pre-order and pay for their drinks on mobile devices. The service also tracks purchase and rewards frequent caffeinators with free drinks, just like a paper punch cards do. The business has 300 independent coffee shop partners using its service, with 150 participants in Seattle. Last fall, Joe raised $1 million in its first round of funding, led by Flying Fish Partners. The idea for Joe was sparked by a road trip. More than four years ago, brothers and were driving from Eastern Washington to Seattle and made what should have been a quick pit stop for java. The two started talking about the long waits at coffee shops and drive-thrus and began percolating ideas for a solution, ultimately landing on the notion of a mobile ordering system. Take your pick of independent coffee shops through the Joe Coffee app (Joe Coffee Image) Between the two of them, they had experience in marketing, startups and product management. And as kids, they’d had front-row seats to entrepreneurship when their dad started a company in Central Washington building and selling lawn-and-garden storage sheds. They saw firsthand that “you have to pour your heart and soul into that thing to make it work,” Nick said. And even then, it isn’t always enough. After running his company for about 10 years, the national brand Tuff Shed squeezed out their dad’s local business. Not long after Joe got its start, Starbucks launched a pilot of its mobile ordering app. That made Joe’s product key not only to speeding up coffee purchases, but also to competing with international purveyors. A main driver for Joe’s founders is “empowering small businesses in the coffee space,” Nick said. To round out their team’s skill set, Brenden enrolled in a coding school so that he could lead the development of their minimal viable product (MVP). It was there that he met , who would become their third co-founder and chief technology officer. Joe’s business model charges a small “convenience fee” for consumers of 35 cents per transaction, and charges coffee shops an 8 percent fee on purchases made through its system. Some of that money is used to cover the cost of the rewards program for loyal coffee drinkers, essentially a buy-10-drinks-get-one-free sort of deal, which can be redeemed at any shop using the Joe platform. Coffee shops manage the Joe-enabled orders through a tablet provided by the startup. The eight-person company expects to triple in size in the near future and in August is moving to larger offices in Seattle. They have plans to expand into a second market soon, saying it will be another large, West Coast city. Competitors in the space include Cups, which has offices in Brooklyn and San Francisco, and Vancouver, B.C.-based JoJo. Growth is still challenging for Joe. Every coffee shop has a different menu, a different work and customer flow, a different physical setup. For the company to succeed, partnering businesses need to ensure that freshly-made drinks are ready to go as quickly and smoothly as possible for their customers. Despite that challenge, the Joe founders have venti-sized dreams. “Our goal,” said Nick, “is building a network that meets and beats what you can get at a Starbucks.” We caught up with Nick, who is Joe’s CEO; Brenden, software developer and product manager; and Urbanowski for this . Continue reading for their answers to our questionnaire. Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: Joe is a mobile order and rewards app for local and independent coffee retailers that empowers them to compete with the “shop on every corner convenience” of national chains and allows coffee consumers to quickly and easily order directly from their phone. Joe Coffee CEO Nick Martin. (Joe Coffee Photo) Inspiration hit us when: Initially, it was while waiting in the drive-thru — a process that is designed for speed and efficiency that was clearly failing. When people pass up the experience they prefer for one that is more convenient, it hurts the relationships that our partners work so hard to cultivate. Ultimately, it also affects their bottom line. We started thinking about a way to level the playing field on convenience while enhancing the things that make local coffee so special to begin with. VC, Angel or Bootstrap: We’ve done all three now. We bootstrapped it ourselves in the beginning because we had to: cashing in 401Ks, putting expenses on credit cards, taking on multiple freelance jobs and driving for Lyft. We didn’t have access to the right network of people, but eventually, we did make the right connections. Our first round was a mix of angles and VC. Initially, we were targeting angels because we weren’t sure that VCs would be interested in us. As it turns out, they were. The feedback and guidance we’ve gotten from both Flying Fish and our angel investors have been invaluable to our development. Our ‘secret sauce’ is: We have a significant lack of ego and a real focus on outcomes. We have an intense focus on doing whatever it takes to empower our partners and relying on data to create value around coffee-specific behavior on both sides of the transaction. We believe that our coffee-specific focus creates a comparative advantage that allows us to deliver higher value faster for partners and our users. The smartest move we’ve made so far: We started working closely with our partners to refine the experience. We needed to think beyond just the technical experience and more on providing real, tangible value to their customers. Through that learning, we’ve built a better experience for everyone in a way that fits seamlessly into our customers’ existing processes at a cost structure that equals in-person orders. Making an order through Joe Coffee (Joe Coffee Image) The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: The biggest mistake we’ve made is basically the inverse of our smartest move. We thought that if something didn’t scale right away, it wasn’t worth building from a product and process perspective. In the early phase, it’s more about learning than anything else. Once we took a step back and focused on learning about the unique needs of different segments of our audience, we could move faster and find a model that would scale. Which entrepreneur or executive would you want working in your corner? Nick: I have great respect for the leadership team from my time at Zillow. The way that and represented themselves as leaders — they were authentic and approachable. To me, you empower your team to move faster and take risks when they know you trust them and that everyone has a shared mission of moving the business forward. Brenden: I would love to spend time with the leadership team at . The way they’ve been able to scale in the food space, there’s a lot of things we can learn from them. Also, the Lyft team. They way they’ve gamified the experience is awesome. They know what makes a great end-user experience and they truly empower their partners and make them feel valued. Lenny: While at Microsoft I had the pleasure to work under (now chief product officer at Looker). He is truly one of the most inspirational engineering leaders I’ve ever encountered. He continuously fought to empower and elevate those who reported to him, and his example largely guides my management style today. Our favorite team-building activity is: Every Friday we do what we call an “unwinder.” We get a few cocktails and we debrief on the week as a team. We talk through what’s going on with partners and the end users. We try to bubble up as many insights as possible, and we talk about wins and opportunities. The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: We are looking for people who are ambitious, eager and want to stretch and contribute in big ways. We are still testing and learning, so we need people who are OK trying new things and can come with solutions. They also need to be able to speak their truth while also leaving their ego at the door. We have a culture of always speaking up, and assuming any criticism comes from a place of good intention. Ultimately, we all want to grow and improve so this has been critical to the quality of the Joe experience. What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: First of all, startup life can be overly glorified — it’s not always as sexy as you might think. You go through serious ups and downs and some extremely challenging times so you have to believe in what you’re doing and be in it for the right reasons. To us, we couldn’t NOT work on Joe. We almost didn’t have a choice — that’s how hot the fire was burning to get it done and it’s taken every bit of that to get this far. Similarly, ideas are worthless without the right execution and as a startup, you’re already facing an uphill battle. Make execution and relentless improvement your core competencies. Lastly, spend time really developing your network. Regardless of the merit of your ideas, the right advisers can create an incredible amount of value in keeping you on track and connecting you to people and investors. For three founders from a working-class background, getting access to those networks was imperative.
Seattle’s Joe Coffee is uniting independent coffee shops with tech to compete against Starbucks

Seattle’s Joe Coffee is uniting independent coffee shops with tech to compete against Starbucks

8:33pm, 9th May, 2019
Joe Coffee’s co-founders, from left to right Nick Martin, Brenden Martin and Lenny Urbanowski: (Joe Coffee Photo) In Starbucks’ own backyard, a family-built startup has taken hold and assembled one of the largest networks of independent U.S. coffee shops. Launched in 2014, Seattle-based has created a platform that allows customers of local coffee shops to pre-order and pay for their drinks on mobile devices. The service also tracks purchase and rewards frequent caffeinators with free drinks, just like a paper punch cards do. The business has 300 independent coffee shop partners using its service, with 150 participants in Seattle. Last fall, Joe raised $1 million in its first round of funding, led by Flying Fish Partners. The idea for Joe was sparked by a road trip. More than four years ago, brothers and were driving from Eastern Washington to Seattle and made what should have been a quick pit stop for java. The two started talking about the long waits at coffee shops and drive-thrus and began percolating ideas for a solution, ultimately landing on the notion of a mobile ordering system. Take your pick of independent coffee shops through the Joe Coffee app (Joe Coffee Image) Between the two of them, they had experience in marketing, startups and product management. And as kids, they’d had front-row seats to entrepreneurship when their dad started a company in Central Washington building and selling lawn-and-garden storage sheds. They saw firsthand that “you have to pour your heart and soul into that thing to make it work,” Nick said. And even then, it isn’t always enough. After running his company for about 10 years, the national brand Tuff Shed squeezed out their dad’s local business. Not long after Joe got its start, Starbucks launched a pilot of its mobile ordering app. That made Joe’s product key not only to speeding up coffee purchases, but also to competing with international purveyors. A main driver for Joe’s founders is “empowering small businesses in the coffee space,” Nick said. To round out their team’s skill set, Brenden enrolled in a coding school so that he could lead the development of their minimal viable product (MVP). It was there that he met , who would become their third co-founder and chief technology officer. Joe’s business model charges a small “convenience fee” for consumers of 35 cents per transaction, and charges coffee shops an 8 percent fee on purchases made through its system. Some of that money is used to cover the cost of the rewards program for loyal coffee drinkers, essentially a buy-10-drinks-get-one-free sort of deal, which can be redeemed at any shop using the Joe platform. Coffee shops manage the Joe-enabled orders through a tablet provided by the startup. The eight-person company expects to triple in size in the near future and in August is moving to larger offices in Seattle. They have plans to expand into a second market soon, saying it will be another large, West Coast city. Competitors in the space include Cups, which has offices in Brooklyn and San Francisco, and Vancouver, B.C.-based JoJo. Growth is still challenging for Joe. Every coffee shop has a different menu, a different work and customer flow, a different physical setup. For the company to succeed, partnering businesses need to ensure that freshly-made drinks are ready to go as quickly and smoothly as possible for their customers. Despite that challenge, the Joe founders have venti-sized dreams. “Our goal,” said Nick, “is building a network that meets and beats what you can get at a Starbucks.” We caught up with Nick, who is Joe’s CEO; Brenden, software developer and product manager; and Urbanowski for this . Continue reading for their answers to our questionnaire. Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: Joe is a mobile order and rewards app for local and independent coffee retailers that empowers them to compete with the “shop on every corner convenience” of national chains and allows coffee consumers to quickly and easily order directly from their phone. Joe Coffee CEO Nick Martin. (Joe Coffee Photo) Inspiration hit us when: Initially, it was while waiting in the drive-thru — a process that is designed for speed and efficiency that was clearly failing. When people pass up the experience they prefer for one that is more convenient, it hurts the relationships that our partners work so hard to cultivate. Ultimately, it also affects their bottom line. We started thinking about a way to level the playing field on convenience while enhancing the things that make local coffee so special to begin with. VC, Angel or Bootstrap: We’ve done all three now. We bootstrapped it ourselves in the beginning because we had to: cashing in 401Ks, putting expenses on credit cards, taking on multiple freelance jobs and driving for Lyft. We didn’t have access to the right network of people, but eventually, we did make the right connections. Our first round was a mix of angles and VC. Initially, we were targeting angels because we weren’t sure that VCs would be interested in us. As it turns out, they were. The feedback and guidance we’ve gotten from both Flying Fish and our angel investors have been invaluable to our development. Our ‘secret sauce’ is: We have a significant lack of ego and a real focus on outcomes. We have an intense focus on doing whatever it takes to empower our partners and relying on data to create value around coffee-specific behavior on both sides of the transaction. We believe that our coffee-specific focus creates a comparative advantage that allows us to deliver higher value faster for partners and our users. The smartest move we’ve made so far: We started working closely with our partners to refine the experience. We needed to think beyond just the technical experience and more on providing real, tangible value to their customers. Through that learning, we’ve built a better experience for everyone in a way that fits seamlessly into our customers’ existing processes at a cost structure that equals in-person orders. Making an order through Joe Coffee (Joe Coffee Image) The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: The biggest mistake we’ve made is basically the inverse of our smartest move. We thought that if something didn’t scale right away, it wasn’t worth building from a product and process perspective. In the early phase, it’s more about learning than anything else. Once we took a step back and focused on learning about the unique needs of different segments of our audience, we could move faster and find a model that would scale. Which entrepreneur or executive would you want working in your corner? Nick: I have great respect for the leadership team from my time at Zillow. The way that and represented themselves as leaders — they were authentic and approachable. To me, you empower your team to move faster and take risks when they know you trust them and that everyone has a shared mission of moving the business forward. Brenden: I would love to spend time with the leadership team at . The way they’ve been able to scale in the food space, there’s a lot of things we can learn from them. Also, the Lyft team. They way they’ve gamified the experience is awesome. They know what makes a great end-user experience and they truly empower their partners and make them feel valued. Lenny: While at Microsoft I had the pleasure to work under (now chief product officer at Looker). He is truly one of the most inspirational engineering leaders I’ve ever encountered. He continuously fought to empower and elevate those who reported to him, and his example largely guides my management style today. Our favorite team-building activity is: Every Friday we do what we call an “unwinder.” We get a few cocktails and we debrief on the week as a team. We talk through what’s going on with partners and the end users. We try to bubble up as many insights as possible, and we talk about wins and opportunities. The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: We are looking for people who are ambitious, eager and want to stretch and contribute in big ways. We are still testing and learning, so we need people who are OK trying new things and can come with solutions. They also need to be able to speak their truth while also leaving their ego at the door. We have a culture of always speaking up, and assuming any criticism comes from a place of good intention. Ultimately, we all want to grow and improve so this has been critical to the quality of the Joe experience. What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: First of all, startup life can be overly glorified — it’s not always as sexy as you might think. You go through serious ups and downs and some extremely challenging times so you have to believe in what you’re doing and be in it for the right reasons. To us, we couldn’t NOT work on Joe. We almost didn’t have a choice — that’s how hot the fire was burning to get it done and it’s taken every bit of that to get this far. Similarly, ideas are worthless without the right execution and as a startup, you’re already facing an uphill battle. Make execution and relentless improvement your core competencies. Lastly, spend time really developing your network. Regardless of the merit of your ideas, the right advisers can create an incredible amount of value in keeping you on track and connecting you to people and investors. For three founders from a working-class background, getting access to those networks was imperative.
GeekWire Calendar Picks: Mother’s Day tech events; celebrating Seattle’s creativity; and more

GeekWire Calendar Picks: Mother’s Day tech events; celebrating Seattle’s creativity; and more

4:32pm, 3rd May, 2019
– The dilemma of raising kids as a working mother arose when women entered the workforce en masse in the mid-1900s. A from Edison Research published in 2018 shows most moms still shoulder the majority of parenting responsibilities — whether they work or not. So how are some working moms handling those challenges? In celebration of Mother’s Day, Code Fellows is hosting the panel on May 9. The panel will feature a variety of moms who work in the tech sector talking about the challenges they’ve faced and the victories they won throughout their careers. – Also in celebration of Mother’s Day, Democracy Lab is hosting on May 11. This hackathon is open to the public and teams will be comprised not just of developers, but of professionals in other fields such as research and project management. The projects encompass a variety of community-driven missions from environmental issues to government transparency to reducing school violence. Here are more highlights from the GeekWire Calendar: A presentation about how to enter the software engineering field without a traditional computer science degree at Code Fellows in Seattle; 12:15 to 1 p.m., Friday, May 10. : A talk about new applications of mathematics in a variety of fields at Kane Hall at the University of Washington in Seattle; 4:30 to 6 p.m. Friday, May 10. : A tour through the South Lake Union neighborhood focused on some of the changes in the area as a result of tech companies moving in, starting at Triangle Park in Seattle; 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Saturday, May 11. A panel about how Seattle’s creativity is having an impact not only in the city but also other places in the world, at The World Trade Center Seattle; 7 to 9:30 a.m., Tuesday, May 14. : An event where entrepreneurs can get feedback on their pitches at The Riveter in Seattle; 6 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 14. : An informal networking event at The University of Washington in Seattle; 6 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 14. : An event connecting entrepreneurs with angel investors at the Intellectual House in the University of Washington in Seattle; 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesday, May 15. : A panel comprised of venture capitalists and financial and legal consultants at OnePiece HQ in Seattle; 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, May 15. For more upcoming events, check out the , where you can find meetups, conferences, startup events, and geeky gatherings in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Organizing an event? .
JetSuiteX to launch $99 flights between Oakland and Seattle’s Boeing Field in July

JetSuiteX to launch $99 flights between Oakland and Seattle’s Boeing Field in July

4:49pm, 23rd April, 2019
JetSuiteX flies out of private air terminals on Embraer 135 aircraft. (JetSuiteX via PRNewsfoto) says it’s starting air service between Seattle’s Boeing Field and Oakland International Airport in July, with flights that combine the convenience of private jets with the pricing of commercial airlines. Up to three round-trip flights a day will be offered starting on July 1, at prices that range as low as $99 one-way. The expanded service will put JetSuiteX, a California-based airline that has a code-sharing partnership with JetBlue, in competition with Alaska Airlines, Spirit, Delta, American and Southwest. (JetBlue also offers SEA-OAK flights.) Even $99 isn’t as cheap as Alaska’s lowest fares for flights between Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and Oakland, which can go as low as $69 one-way, But JetSuiteX is banking on the benefit of avoiding travel delays between Seattle’s urban core and Sea-Tac, as well as the security-line congestion that travelers often face once they get to Sea-Tac. “Travelers between Seattle and the Bay Area can now shave valuable time off the trip by flying from the conveniently located Boeing Field while experiencing JetSuiteX’s unparalleled efficiency and customer service,” Alex Wilcox, co-founder and CEO of JetSuiteX, . JetSuiteX says its passengers can show up at an airport’s private terminal 20 minutes before their flight, avoid long lines and bring free luggage along for the ride. The airline uses 30-seat Embraer 135 aircraft to handle 330 weekly scheduled flights. In addition to Oakland and Boeing Field, daily destinations include Burbank, Orange County and Concord in California, plus Las Vegas. There’s seasonal service to Mammoth Lakes and Coachella Valley. Aircraft can also be chartered for group trips. JetSuiteX’s sister charter airline, JetSuite, is produced by Bothell, Wash.-based in the early 2020s. For what it’s worth, Zunum’s financial backers include JetBlue Technology Ventures as well as Boeing HorizonX Ventures.
How the Silicon Valley tech invasion has reshaped Seattle’s startup landscape, 15 years after it began

How the Silicon Valley tech invasion has reshaped Seattle’s startup landscape, 15 years after it began

11:07am, 21st March, 2019
Google is building a new campus in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, just across the street from Amazon’s headquarters. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) Back in 2005, when tech veteran joined Google to build its fledgling Seattle-area outpost, recruiting was straightforward. As the first in a new wave of Silicon Valley tech giants to establish an engineering center in the region, Google set up shop in Kirkland, Wash., just down the road from Microsoft, which was suffering at the time from a stagnant stock price and sagging employee morale. Google capitalized on Microsoft’s struggles and its own status as an emerging tech icon to expand its office to 400 people over the course of four years. Microsoft veteran Peter Wilson was instrumental in building the Google and Facebook engineering offices in Seattle. (File Photo) “For a lot of the people we hired, they basically came to us and said, ‘Hey, I think what you’re doing is right, and I’d like to come work with you,’ ” Wilson recalled in an interview with GeekWire this week. Tech recruiters today can only dream of having it so easy. Fifteen years after Google arrived, it’s not a stretch to see Seattle as Silicon Valley North. Nearly 120 out-of-town tech companies , many of them from the San Francisco Bay Area. Apple, Salesforce, Oracle, Uber and Twitter are just a few of the tech powerhouses building large teams in the region. Facebook employs more than 3,000 people here, . In the meantime, many homegrown tech companies are also surging. Microsoft is experiencing a renaissance as the world’s most valuable company. Amazon employs nearly 50,000 people in the Seattle region. Tableau, Zillow, Avalara, Smartsheet, T-Mobile, and F5 Networks recruit engineers aggressively. And Google, with 3,000 employees of its own in the area, is preparing to expand to a new South Lake Union campus — this time within poaching distance of Amazon’s headquarters. RELATED CONTENTCheck out GeekWire's established by out-of-town companies. Data from Seattle-based recruiting agency Fuel Talent shows more than 65,000 software engineers now in the Seattle area. But even with all that engineering horsepower close at hand, the growth of the major tech brands can make it more difficult for startups to land the talent they need to grow their businesses. “Every year since 2008, it has become more competitive, more challenging, and requires more creativity to attract senior engineering talent,” said , director of Fuel Talent’s technology practice. “Is it easier to identify engineers now than 10 years ago? Yes. Is it more difficult and expensive to hire engineers in Seattle? 100 percent.” So what does this mean for Seattle’s startup scene? From the beginning, the concern has been that the Silicon Valley influx keep talent away from promising upstarts. That still happens, and it’s still a big risk. But the long-term impact of these engineering centers is now becoming clear, and it’s more nuanced than it might have seemed. “They are really good for the Seattle startup ecosystem, but it’s not direct,” said , vice president of engineering at trucking logistics startup Convoy. “It takes a little time to play out.” Startup stepping stone Convoy’s leadership team now includes Viraj Mody (far left), who previously led the Dropbox Seattle office; Divya Mahalingam, who worked at Palantir’s Seattle office; Vishnu Challam, who led Twitter’s Seattle office; and Tim Prouty, who helped build Uber’s Seattle office. (Convoy Photo) Prouty’s own career tells the story. He graduated from the University of Washington in 2006 and joined Isilon, a fast-growing Seattle startup that had launched five years prior. He spent nine years there as Isilon went public and was later acquired by EMC, the data storage giant San Francisco-based Uber then recruited Prouty to establish a Seattle engineering office that grew from a few people to nearly 200 employees under his leadership. But after two years, he wanted to be at a company based in Seattle that “had all the benefits of being at the center where the energy is happening, where decisions are getting made, and where the core business is operating,” Prouty said. He landed at Convoy, an up-and-coming company backed by the biggest names in tech that has become . Other leaders from remote offices in Seattle followed Prouty, including , who previously led Twitter’s Seattle office; , who led Dropbox Seattle; and , who was development team lead at Palantir Technologies in Seattle. Prouty said the engineering centers offer a new “risk profile” or stepping stone that lets workers go from a big tech company such as Microsoft or Amazon to something smaller, but not as extreme as joining an early-stage startup. “The great thing about that is it sets the stage for them to go to a startup next,” Prouty said. The high-paying salaries might also benefit the Seattle startup scene in the long run, providing enough capital for future founders to chase their business ideas. In that vein, the engineering centers could be a key part of laying the groundwork for Seattle’s next billion-dollar startups. And more startup success stories may help encourage people at companies such as Amazon, Microsoft, Google, or Facebook to build on their experience and make the entrepreneurial leap. That’s what happened to , co-founder of Seattle startup , and his business partner . The pair spent years at larger enterprises such as Microsoft and the Gates Foundation. “At some level you ask yourself, how do I make sure I’m building something as opposed to executing someone else’s vision?” Spector said. “Then you can find real problems that you’ve experienced and you want to go build that thing. We had a desire to build something meaningful and mission-driven that had a big impact. It was just a matter of time and phase of life that allowed us to do that.” Options, options, options Google’s campus in Kirkland, Wash. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) It’s a lucrative time to be an engineer in Seattle. Spector said most top engineers looking for a job in the region will have six or seven offers on the table. “They are basically getting to dictate what type of company they work at,” Spector said. “They can optimize for whatever they want to optimize for — upside, security, career growth, etc. They can pick and choose what they want to do.” Employer demand for technology roles in the Seattle metro area has grown by 23 percent over the past year, according to Indeed data. A search on for “software engineer” shows nearly 15,000 open positions. Seattle has become a battleground of sorts, with big companies and small startups competing for the same highly-skilled engineers, a crucial key to success for any tech operation. It can be tough to turn down a $200,000 salary with stock options at a deep-pocketed well-known company developing cutting-edge technologies. And Seattle is also developing a reputation where big tech companies thrive, with many employees at bigger orgs content to ride out their careers in comfort. “Trying to woo people away from those big names is extraordinarily difficult, if not all out impossible,” said , CEO of IT intelligence startup Movere. But there’s still something attractive about joining a nascent startup, even though it may not be the logical or rational financial choice. , CEO and co-founder at Seattle startup , said large companies are at a disadvantage when recruiting people who want more ownership of their work, want to have a bigger impact on the product and customer, and want more opportunities to grow into upper management positions. “It’s really all about the individual you’re recruiting and what they value,” said Nakhuda. , co-founder and CEO of , likes having giant companies down the street that help make Seattle a world-class hub for engineering talent. He said his pitch to candidates often comes down to offering “fulfillment.” “If you’ve got a worthwhile mission, top talent will be attracted to you,” Huang said. “Then, you’ll welcome having those large soul-sucking corporations in your backyard.” Middle ground Facebook’s Seattle engineering center. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) The wide array of engineering centers offer something in the middle. “At Dropbox Seattle, we have a special advantage in that we have the intimate feel of a smaller office that many candidates are looking for, while also having the resources and impact of a global company with more than 500 million users,” said , director of engineering for Dropbox. , who leads a 400-person office in Seattle for Uber, said remote sites “often round out the gaps between big and small companies, offering new missions and hard problems to solve.” helped open Facebook’s first office here nearly a decade ago. He left to launch a startup, sold it to Airbnb, and is now in charge of growing a Seattle hub for the travel giant. “I have really enjoyed being a part of the smaller community of Seattle offices that is a little more startup-like,” Steinberg . “I am really proud of the team culture in Airbnb’s Seattle office right now. Employees play much more active roles in making this a fun place to work than they tend to at larger companies and offices where employees tend to be more passive.” There can be downsides to joining these offices, given the separation from a company’s headquarters. “One of the most important parts of managing a ‘remote’ office is making sure it doesn’t feel like a remote office,” said , vice president of gaming and the Facebook Seattle site lead. “To do that, we work really hard to make sure we’re scaling Facebook’s culture. It’s a big challenge.” But there are also other benefits to being remote. For example, it provides an opportunity to craft a space to fit the culture of a local community. To that point, Raji said the impact of remote engineering centers goes beyond simply adding more talented coders to the Seattle ecosystem. Facebook’s Seattle employees have started “Resource Groups” around issues that matter to them and work with similar groups at other local companies. They participate in the South Lake Union Chamber of Commerce; the Washington Tech Alliance; and other civic engagement programs. Facebook Seattle also hosts community events and partnered with the University of Washington to create a virtual reality lab. “All of these touch points make us a better company, and, we believe, make the local tech scene stronger and more robust,” Raji said. But while companies such as Facebook reap the benefits of operating a remote office in a talent-rich region, startups could suffer, especially given salary demands. The average annual paycheck for a senior software engineer in Seattle is $144,000, according to ZipRecruiter, but that number can swell for positions within the larger giants. “Having all that great talent isn’t worth anything if you can’t afford it,” said Wilson, the Microsoft veteran who led Google’s early growth in the region. Wilson went on to play a similar role for Facebook Seattle before returning for another stint at Google. In 2016, he joined mobile marketplace company OfferUp as vice president of engineering. And by then, the recruiting scene had completely changed. With engineers enjoying an abundance of job opportunities, OfferUp was forced to sink a significant amount of time and money into recruiting, with no guarantee of success. If he were starting a company today, Wilson said he’d think twice about doing so in Seattle because of the costs. That’s in line with a recent trend of founders for their headquarters. Wilson, who has since returned to London to serve as ’s vice president of engineering, said he hopes companies in Seattle can do more to help each other out rather than wasting valuable resources trying to poach one another’s top employees. “They’ve created this zero-sum game of recruiting,” Wilson said of the engineering outposts. “It’s fabulous all these companies have moved in and created opportunities for engineers, but it would be very cool if they could work out between them how to make it more of a win-win.”
My, oh magenta! T-Mobile customers will see extra perks at Seattle’s newly renamed baseball stadium

My, oh magenta! T-Mobile customers will see extra perks at Seattle’s newly renamed baseball stadium

6:39pm, 20th March, 2019
The Seattle Mariners like to say that their fans are “True to the Blue,” but the new look and some of the amenities at T-Mobile Park, the team’s newly named hometown stadium, could lead people’s allegiances to take on a magenta hue. T-Mobile, the Bellevue, Wash.-based wireless carrier, took over naming rights during the offseason for what had been Safeco Field for 20 years. Next Thursday, fans will enter T-Mobile Park for the first time for the Mariners home opener. GeekWire got an inside look on Wednesday, as workers busily hung new signage, painted, prepped a preview menu and tended to the grounds. Giant pink and white T-Mobile Park signs are now hung above the home plate entrance (above the statue of Mariners great Ken Griffey Jr.) and elsewhere. But the sign T-Mobile customers will want to look for is on the left field side of the stadium, along South Royal Brougham Way. At the T-Mobile Customer Entrance, the carrier’s customers will gain fast-track entry through a gate with magenta accents — all they have to do is show the attendant their phone. Gimme a P A R K. New T-Mobile signage gets lifted into place on Wednesday in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) The special entrance at T-Mobile Park, which allows faster access for customers of the wireless carrier. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) The ability to to use fast track and avoid the lines at other gates — presumably full of AT&T and Verizon customers? — is good for any event at the ballpark and is a practice that T-Mobile also employs at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Once inside that particular gate, fans will be in close proximity to The ‘Pen, Powered by T-Mobile. The reimagined experience near the bullpen behind the left field wall and wrapping around behind center field, is probably where guests will see the most magenta. Steel support beams were being painted magenta on Wednesday and will serve as indicators of where mobile charging stations are located. Each beam will have 32 outlets. Fans trying to use their phones, at least if they’r eon T-Mobile, will also see benefits. “In regard to coverage, we’ve increased capacity in and around T-Mobile Park by three times,” said Krystal McIntosh of T-Mobile. “So there should be no problems uploading, streaming, showing all of your Instagram stories when you’re here at the game.” Magenta signage points the way down to The ‘Pen where fans can watch a pitcher warm up or explore more food and drink options. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) A painter turns a green beam magenta to highlight the location of wireless charging stations at T-Mobile Park. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) T-Mobile also had an interactive Home Run Challenge set up on the plaza beyond center field in which fans are invited to step up to the plate and hit a ball off a tee into a screen. The animation — which makes it look like you’re hitting the ball toward the Space Needle — tracks the power of your drive. And, because it all ties back to T-Mobile, the challenge lets you hit in 4G and 5G settings. I hit four balls on Wednesday and in 4G they were weak grounders back toward the infield and in 5G I hit towering home runs. T-Mobile’s Tech Experience will also extend outside the ballpark, at least through opening day, as the company is taking over the corner of Edgar Martinez Drive South and 1st Avenue South, next to Henry’s Tavern. And T-Mobile Tuesdays, in which customers already get free stuff and deals as a gesture of appreciation, will extend to T-Mobile Park when the Mariners play at home on that day of the week. GeekWire’s Kurt Schlosser takes the Home Run Challenge at T-Mobile Park. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) A “Welcome to T-Mobile Park” sign is attached below the press box behind home plate. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) T-Mobile didn’t just get into the game when it decided to go after naming rights in Seattle. The company was already a sponsor of Major League Baseball, and just extended that deal another four years. , T-Mobile continues to be the Official Wireless Sponsor of MLB, as well as the title sponsor of the T-Mobile Home Run Derby during All-Star Week. Customers can also get a free full season of MLB.TV through their T-Mobile Tuesday app from March 26 through April 1. Elsewhere in The ‘Pen, where Seattle hip-hop star Macklemore will perform on Thursday before the game against the Boston Red Sox, fans can get their hands on a new signature cocktail called the Magenta Mojo. T-Mobile partnered with the Mariners and enlisted of Seattle’s Rob Roy to come up with the drink, which of course is just the right color for the new park. Built to be refreshing and “disruptively light,” Apte said the drink will help fans “stay in that good-sportsmanship mood.” It will sell for $12.50, and if you want a blinking magenta ice cube tossed in, the price jumps to $15.50. The Mariners and T-Mobile also hosted a menu preview to show off new vendors and food items that will be available at various points around the park. Crowd Cow co-founder Joe Heitzeberg grabs a burger featuring his company’s beef during a menu tasting at T-Mobile Park in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) The Grand Salami Sandwich is a tribute to Fave Niehaus, Hall of Fame broadcaster for the Mariners. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) Seattle chef and restaurateur Ethan Stowell is a partner with the Mariners and he was on hand Wednesday, as was a new burger with his name on it, featuring a hyper-local beef patty from , the Seattle-based startup and online marketplace for quality beef products. We also sampled bites from burger chain Li’l Woody’s, Fat’s Chicken and Paseo. And the tastiest fare may have been the new Grand Salami Sandwich, a tribute to beloved Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus that will be available at the ballpark’s Sultan of Sandwich. Speaking of food, we did ask whether T-Mobile CEO John Legere would show up at the park to host an episode of his weekly show in which he plugs his company and shares a cock pot recipe. There will be at least one, we were told. Old Safeco Field signage is ready to be taken away on the mezzanine at T-Mobile Park. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) Meanwhile, as the smell of burgers and fresh magenta paint filled the air, signs of the old Safeco Field — including some signs — were still visible around the ballpark as workers scurried to get the name change in place before the team returns next week. Trash cans along the mezzanine still had the Safeco logo. Other directional signs marking seat sections and so forth had been removed but not yet been carted away. But above the stands in left field, on a sunny and warm day that definitely felt like baseball weather, the iconic clock tower sign, with Seattle’s skyline rising behind it, had been changed to T-Mobile Park. The time had come.
The secret to Seattle’s success in tech, and what needs to happen to spark the next wave of growth

The secret to Seattle’s success in tech, and what needs to happen to spark the next wave of growth

8:32am, 23rd February, 2019
Seattle’s tech scene has been built based on nitty-gritty infrastructure. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) Despite all its success, Seattle’s tech community needs an unprecedented win to take it to the next level — a fast-growing, world-changing startup that creates a huge return for its backers and sparks a new wave of angel investing. The challenge: this isn’t what has historically fueled the region’s tech sector. But all of the work so far might have laid the foundation for this next generation. Those are some of the takeaways from a conversation with GeekWire co-founder John Cook on an episode of a new podcast from the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, hosted by Seattle Metro Chamber CEO Marilyn Strickland. “In past because Seattle is isolated in the Northwest and doesn’t sit in a big media hub, a lot of the innovations and creations that you’ve seen come out of Seattle are what you would maybe call a bit more boring,” Cook said on the show. “There’s a reason why enterprise software and cloud computing have grown up here.” It’s “the nitty-gritty infrastructure,” the technology that “makes everything work,” he said. GeekWire co-founder John Cook “It’s extremely important. There’s a ton of money in it,” he said. “There are some amazingly valuable companies that are growing up in this area. And so I think Seattle historically has been able to develop technologies in hard and complex areas — and that’s a real benefit.” Historically, that has translated into long company life cycles, not the breakout successes more common in Silicon Valley. Examples from Seattle include Tableau Software, the data visualization company that went public in 2013, a decade after it was founded; and travel and expense management company Concur Technologies, which sold to SAP in 2014 for $8.3 billion, more than a decade after it was founded. “What Seattle needs in order to spark this next generation of capital and investing is a home run that hits really quickly, like an Instagram … where twenty or thirty angels are invested in it and they make a crap-ton of money really quickly,” Cook said. Seattle Metro Chamber CEO Marilyn Strickland hosts the Chamber’s new “Under Construction” podcast. While it might not lend itself to such rapid growth, health technology is one promising area, he said. Much of the breakthroughs in that space would be impossible without the cloud infrastructure coming out of Seattle. Innovative health technology is “an area that I think is just going to accelerate and I think Seattle is really interestingly positioned for that with Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure,” Cook said. “Cloud computing is going to power the intelligence behind the ability for these researchers to … make the medicines or the cures that they want to go after.” “I see that transformation really happening in a big way and Seattle being positioned very well for that with the scientific health research, with UW, Fred Hutch and then the computing horsepower from Amazon, Microsoft and others.” Listen to the “Under Construction” podcast above, which includes more of Cook’s comments on Seattle and tech. Listen more episodes of the Seattle Chamber’s Under Construction podcast and (We’re featuring the discussion as part of a new GeekWire series spotlighting some some of our favorite podcasts about startups, leadership, technology, science and more from the Seattle region and beyond. Email suggestions for future guest podcasts to tips@geekwire.com.)