Make.TV CEO Andreas Jacobi. (Make.TV Photos) continues to bolster its live streaming resume. The Seattle-based startup has expanded its partnership with , the world’s largest esports organization that runs competitions across the world and produces more than 1,500 hours of content annually. Later this month, Make.TV will stream action from the ESL One Mumbai, India’s first-ever major Dota 2 tournament with a $300,000 top prize. Founded in 2016, Make.TV helps customers such as MLBAM, NBC Universal, Al Jazeera, Viacom, Fox Sports Brasil, and others stream live video content in the cloud. The 42-person company, which relocated from Germany to Seattle two years ago, is backed by some of the top investment firms in the Pacific Northwest including Microsoft’s M12, Vulcan Capital, and Voyager Capital, which a $8.5 million Series A round in June 2017. Bruce Chizen, the former CEO of Adobe, is on the company’s board. Make.TV’s technology acts like a video router of sorts, allowing companies to take live video from a variety of sources and deliver it to any device on any platform, said, the company’s co-founder and CEO. “Simply put, we empower content creators to share their video with production teams working for TV networks, cable companies, esports and sports networks or any other type of video-based media,” he said. “We also simplify the work of the production teams by automating a number of tasks — sifting through lots of data; identifying content libraries to pick a short segment from; routing content to post-production houses, regional broadcasters and social media channels — enabling them to dedicate more time to what they do best: create content we all want to watch.” The company offers a similar service to Portland-based Elemental, which . Other competitors include , , , and smaller startups. Make.TV is ranked No. 165 on the , our index of top Pacific Northwest startups. With more people watching live video online and the growth of platforms such as Twitch, the live streaming industry is to surpass $13 billion this year.
Seattle startup Crowd Cow accepts the Startup of the Year award at the 2018 GeekWire Awards. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) A quick gander at the , our index of Pacific Northwest startups, shows the density of up-and-coming tech companies based in this region. That’s what makes the five nominees for this year’s Startup of the Year category at the all the more impressive. Amperity, Boundless, The Riveter, Rubica, and Sana Biotechnology beat out a bevy of other early-stage startups as nominees for a category that has honored fast-growing companies such as Crowd Cow, Convoy, Arivale, Rover, and others in the past. We’ve opened voting in 11 categories, and community votes will be factored in with feedback from more than 30 judges. On May 2 we will announce the winners live on stage at the GeekWire Awards — presented by — in front of more than 800 geeks at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle. Community voting ends April 19. This year’s nominees are using technology to disrupt everything from gene editing to cybersecurity — read more about them below and vote on all the categories while you’re here. And don’t forget to grab your tickets , as the GeekWire Awards sell out every year. Amperity Amperity co-founders Kabir Shahani (left) and Derek Slager. (Amperity Photo) launched a year-and-a-half ago and already has clients such as GAP, Nordstrom, Alaska Airlines, Wynn Hotels, and others who use its customer data technology platform. The company made headlines in October 2017 when it from Tiger Global Management, a New York-based firm known globally for making long-term investments in companies including Spotify, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flipkart, and other tech giants. The Seattle startup is led by co-founders and . The entrepreneurs previously started Appature and in 2013. What’s your secret sauce? Amberity CEO Kabir Shahani: “It’s still early days for us, but it will come as no surprise that our secret sauce is absolutely our people. We are fortunate to have attracted a world-class team, that beyond having skills, experience, and ambition that is unrivaled, are just wonderful to spend time with. This has been foundational to our ability to attract and maintain world-class customers like Gap, Nordstrom, Wynn Hotels, Alaska Airlines, and several other iconic consumer brands. The support of these organizations and the forward thinking leaders in these companies that took a chance on us early in our journey, have allowed us the opportunity to be an iconic company ourselves one day. We’re fortunate that all of this started with unwavering support from our investors and a strong board of directors that continually push us to be bold and ambitious in the pursuit of our mission to enable the world’s most loved brands to use data to unleash the full potential of their teams, and in turn create meaningful customer experiences.” What are one or two pieces of advice for other entrepreneurs? Shahani: “Every entrepreneur starts their journey with clarity of vision to make something better. I find that it’s important to be bold in your ambition when trying to solve that problem, and reduce the noise at each step of the way, including your own self-talk. I’ve found that every time I focus on the opportunity at-hand, in its largest, most audacious form, and work to enable those around me to achieve their goals against that vision, all the right things happen.” Boundless The Boundless team has grown to 28 employees in the company’s first two years. (Boundless Photo) In the two years since it launched, has become the top destination for immigrants applying for marriage-based green cards in the United States. The company, a spinout of Seattle startup studio Pioneer Square Labs, helps customers connect with attorneys, file applications online, and receive support throughout the immigration process. It also publishes and resources on its website to help immigrants navigate an increasingly complex system. Boundless, which was also nominated for this category last year, just an additional $7.8 million last month to fuel growth. Its co-founders— , , and — previously worked at Amazon, Microsoft, and the White House. What’s your secret sauce? Boundless CEO Xiao Wang: “Creating an environment and culture where people can thrive. One of the huge advantages of being an early-stage startup is to be able to deliberately craft the type of place you have always wanted to work at. I think that everyone is capable of doing incredible work, but often organizations put into place structures, policies, and processes that deliberately hamper the motivation and effectiveness of its employees. What we take seriously is to continuously evaluate how we operate — establishing the right levels of ownership, autonomy, and trust — that makes Boundless a place people want to build at. Are we perfect? Not even close. But as with everything else at Boundless, we will never stop experimenting and working at making it better.” What are one or two pieces of advice for other entrepreneurs? Wang: “First, it’s to focus. When you are building something new, there are an infinite number of opportunities that have potential or should be pursued. It is so easy (and usually it’s the entrepreneur’s fault) to fall into the trap of ‘let’s just add one more thing to this project’ or ‘what if we just tried that?’ In nearly all cases, you’re better off pursuing fewer initiatives at a deeper level than to scatter your precious time and resources. Spreading too thin often results to lots of inconclusive results that barely move the needle. Focus on the few things that matter. Second, it’s to hire people who are better than you. Looking across my team, each one of my reports is much, much better at their areas than I am, which is exactly how it should be. Your job is to find and convince these people to leave well-paying, stable jobs to join your crazy idea, and then to clear as many obstacles as possible so that they can do their best work.” The Riveter Inside The Riveter’s West L.A. space. (The Riveter Photo) Founded in 2017, The Riveter differentiates itself from other co-working spaces by providing amenities, programming, and other membership perks geared toward female professionals. The company, which is open to all genders, a $15 million investment round last year that is helping it expand across the nation. Last month it opened its sixth location in Austin, Texas, and has plans to launch in Dallas, Denver, Portland, Ore., Minneapolis – St. Paul, and Atlanta. The plan is to reach 100 locations by 2022. The Riveter, which won the Newcomer of the Year category at the , was co-founded by , a former Wall Street lawyer who helped launch the company after continuously running into “bro-working” spaces. What’s your secret sauce? The Riveter CEO Amy Nelson: “We (and I do mean ‘we’ – this is an enormous collective effort) are building something we believe the world needs and we are emboldened by the fact that we need it, too. We live in a world where we welcome A.I. into our homes and yet current trends show that men and women will continue to be compensated — and, valued — differently for 100 years, until the year 2119. We know we can do better and we’re building a movement and a company around that fact. Our need for a different tomorrow drives us when it’s hard — and it’s often hard. In less than two years, we’ve accomplished a lot but we know there is so much more work to be done.” What are one or two pieces of advice for other entrepreneurs? “The first is simple, hire a team of colleagues who you believe are smarter than you and who bring experience to the table that you don’t have. We have an incredible team of 51 people and every person brings something unique to what we’re building — and something we very much need. Second, lean into and highlight the differences that make you strong. I’m pregnant with my fourth daughter in four years. In a world where less than 3 percent of VC dollars go to all-female founding teams (and I believe The Riveter is the only all-female founding team in this category), I’ve been visibly pregnant or breastfeeding while raising every cent of the $21 million we’ve secured to grow The Riveter. Rather than hiding this or downplaying it, I talk a lot with investors, partners and teammates about how motherhood has made me a better leader. We can reframe the things society sees as weaknesses into the absolute strengths that they are.” Rubica (Rubica Photo) began as a research-and-design project focused on advanced cybersecurity within Concentric Advisors, a company the provides physical and digital security to prominent and high-net-worth families. In 2016, Concentric spun out its cyber division to become Rubica. The Seattle startup aims to protect both individuals and their families from cyberattacks. , previously an exec at Concentric, co-founded Rubica with , a cybersecurity expert and former colleague at Concentric. The company has raised more than $13 million from both angel investors and venture capital firms. What’s your secret sauce? Rubica CEO Frances Dewing: “Our people, and our inclusive culture. We’ve created an environment where people can trust each other and take risks and challenge the status quo. Rubica is a place of comradery where people are empowered to bring their multifaceted talents. We have cyber analysts who are also talented artists, software engineers with law degrees, and security professionals with creative writing skills. This collective creativity and diverse intelligence is the engine of our scrappy, innovative, mission-driven team.” What are one or two pieces of advice for other entrepreneurs? Dewing: “Be genuine. Be honest and transparent with your team. It builds trust – and trust is crucial on the rollercoaster ride of startups! The Rubica team knows that we are in this together, and that I will not abandon them or leave them in the dark. I’m honest about what’s working and what’s not, and we take the wins and losses together. When people know you mean it, and you’re all in, then they are too. Hire people that aren’t like you. Surround yourself with smart people that fill in your weaknesses. Intentionally look for people that are different or better than you in some way. This requires putting ego aside, but that’s what will allow you to build a winning team.” Sana Biotechnology Sana Biotechnology CEO Steve Harr. (Sana Photo) Former Juno Therapeutics executives and are behind , a stealthy startup focused on cell therapy, gene therapy and gene editing. Backed by ARCH Venture Partners, Flagship Pioneering and F-Prime Capital Partners, the company has an experienced leadership team that previously co-founded Juno, another Seattle biotech startup that was . Sana is reportedly working on a Series A funding round with the goal of raising between $800 million and $1 billion, . What’s your secret sauce? Sana CEO Steve Harr: “Sana focuses on the most challenging issues in understanding how to engineer biology to make important medicines. This vision and willingness to tackle big problems has attracted a unique and talented group of people, who are Sana’s secret sauce.” What are one or two pieces of advice for other entrepreneurs? Harr: “Companies are a combination of people, technology/opportunity, and capital. Great people attract great people. Great people attract and develop great technologies. Great people find great capital. Surround yourself with great people!”
Rad Power Bikes’ RadBurro model. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) , the Seattle e-bike startup, alleges in a new lawsuit that Phoenix-based competitor ripped off its website layout and e-bike designs. Rad calls Bam a “copycat company” and alleges it could not “succeed in the e-bike marketplace on its own merits,” so it had to mimic Rad’s look. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle this week, alleges that Bam launched a “knockoff” website in March that confused customers because it was so similar to Rad’s, making them think the two companies were related in some way. From the court documents: Bam apparently cannot succeed in the e-bike marketplace on its own merits. Bam instead hoodwinks an unwitting populace into the false impression that Bam has already achieved Rad Power Bikes’ prominence and reputational stature in the e-bike industry. Bam thoroughly mimicked Rad Power Bikes’ website content and e-bike designs in order to give the copycat company an unwarranted head start in the e-bike marketplace. Rather than compete fairly, Bam cuts marketing and design corners through siphoning Rad Power Bikes’ excellent reputation and goodwill in the burgeoning world of e-bike commerce. In addition to claims of copyright infringement and false advertising, Rad alleges that claims of patented technology made by Bam and its parent company, JHR Electric Transport, are misleading because the patents could not be found in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office databases. Throughout the filing, Rad shows images of the two companies’ websites side-by-side to emphasize the similarity in layout and product offerings. One image shows the tagline “Built for Everything. Priced for Everyone,” displayed prominently on both sites. Rad Power Bikes included this side by side comparison of the two companies’ home pages in its filing. (Photo Via court documents) When GeekWire visited the sites this week, taglines on both homepages had been changed. Bam also appeared to make tweaks to other areas of its website that previously looked similar to Rad in court documents. Rad alleges it got complaints from customers who thought its products were generic, since nearly identical models could be found on Bam’s website. Rad is asking for the court to put a stop to any elements of Bam that infringe on copyrights “in order to correct and end the misimpressions being foisted upon an unsuspecting public through Bam’s deliberate replication of Rad Power Bikes’ website design and business persona.” We’ve reached out to Bam and will update this post if we hear back. Rad declined to comment. Ty Collins, left, and Mike Radenbaugh, founders of Rad Power Bikes. (Rad Power Bikes Photo) has become one of the best-known e-bike brands in North America over the past four years, with revenues expected to double to $100 million this year, GeekWire previously reported. Last month, the company in Zulily co-founders and . The startup now sells its e-bikes in the U.S., Canada, and 30 European countries to both consumers and commercial in industries such as logistics, law enforcement, deliveries, and more. It has taken advantage of the direct-to-consumer model to shorten its supply chain, bypass traditional bike shops and create a tight feedback loop with customers to constantly improve its limited line of e-bikes that sell for around $1,500. On Bam’s website, parent company JHR calls itself “the leader in developing and manufacturing electric power vehicles in America.” It has been building electric vehicles since 2004, and according to the website is the company behind the “most popular mobility products in the world – EWheels.” Bam says it has been building e-bikes since 2009, and it offers four different models, all priced at $1,599. The company also builds several different types of e-scooters, ranging in price from $349 for a small folding scooter to $2,345 for the more powerful “Chopper Trike.” Here is the full lawsuit from Rad: by on Scribd
Dr. Sanford Markowitz, founder of Rodeo Therapeutics. (Case Western Reserve University Photo) Seattle-based startup is raising more cash for its work on tissue repair and regeneration. The company has reeled in another $4.3 million, according to , adding to an investment round that also included a $3.7 million cash infusion . Rodeo, which raised a $5.9 million Series A round in 2017, declined to comment on the new funding. The biotech startup is focused on creating treatments for inflammatory bowel disease as well as a drug that helps cancer patients’ cells grow quickly following stem cell transplants. Rodeo was started by gastrointestinal cancer expert Dr. Sanford Markowitz, stem cell and drug development specialist Dr. Stanton Gerson, and regenerative medicine expert Dr. Joseph Ready. Thong Le is the company’s CEO; he’s also president and CEO of Seattle-based Accelerator Life Science Partners, one of Rodeo’s investors. Thong Le, CEO of Rodeo Therapeutics. (Accelerator Corporation Photo) Regenerative medicine holds the promise of creating new tissues to replace damaged ones. Rodeo’s therapies could one day help the living with an inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease, as well as the 22,000 who receive a bone marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant . Rodeo’s investors include AbbVie, Lilly, Arch Venture Partners and Johnson & Johnson, among others. The new regulatory filing listed the following venture investors: Steve Gillis, managing director at Arch Venture Partners Asish Xavier, vice president of venture investments at Johnson & Johnson Development Corporation Joel Marcus, founder of Alexandria Venture Investments Tadataka Yamada, venture partner at Frazier Healthcare Margarita Chavez, managing director at AbbVie Ventures
(Xevo Photo) Global automotive giant today that it will acquire Seattle-area connected car startup for $320 million. Xevo, originally founded in 2000 as UIEvolution, develops connected-car software with more than 25 million vehicles on the road today using its proprietary technology. It sells two products, Xevo Journeyware and Xevo Market, that allow drivers to interact with in-car content and connects them with popular food, fuel, parking, hotel, and retail brands via touchscreen and mobile apps. The company, which a partnership with Domino’s Pizza last month, employs 300 across offices in Bellevue, Wash., and Tokyo. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter. “Automakers have embraced the potential of Xevo’s e-commerce platform, as well as the deeply customizable driver experiences made possible by Xevo’s artificial intelligence technology,” Xevo CEO Dan Gittleman said in a statement. “Today, with Lear’s reach, we can scale Xevo’s innovative technology and business model to a global customer base.” Lear, based in Southfield, Mich., specializes in automotive seating and electrical systems and employs nearly 170,000 people across 39 countries. It $21.1 billion in sales last year, up from $20.5 billion in 2017. The company’s stock reached record-highs in mid-2018 but has dropped 30 percent since then, trading at $141 per share on Tuesday. “The acquisition of Xevo broadens Lear’s connectivity portfolio, bringing together Xevo’s leading e-commerce vehicle platform technology with Lear’s expertise in electronic systems,” said John Absmeier, Lear’s Chief Technology Officer. “Xevo’s user interface establishes a connected marketplace for consumers in their vehicles, unlocking previously unrealized value from vehicle data and opening up new revenue streams.” Xevo was founded in 2000 by , who is known as the architect behind Microsoft products like Windows 95 and Internet Explorer 3. It in 2016 after the company acquired Seattle-based machine learning startup Surround.io Corp.
Integris CEO Kristina Bergman. (Integris Photo). Back in 2016, a Seattle startup called Integris with a modest $3 million in funding and a vision to help companies manage customer data with integrity. Fast-forward to 2019, when privacy issues are making daily headlines as politicians seek to rein in Big Tech, and business is booming for Integris. In a little over two quarters, Integris more than tripled its team to 30 full-time employees. The startup opened a second office in Vancouver, B.C. and is working with a number of Fortune 500 companies to help them implement data protection and privacy standards. Integris’ growth is driven by new laws in the U.S. and Europe that seek to crack down on tech companies that handle consumer data. The European Union is spearheading the effort with its broad General Data Protection Regulation. In the U.S., federal regulation has been sluggish as states step in to implement their own laws. Last summer, to give consumers more control over their data and dozens of other states are considering similar laws. Related: “When we started three years ago, most people couldn’t spell GDPR … but fast forward a few years and privacy is in the headlines,” said Integris co-founder Kristina Bergman. “It’s front page news in all the major publications and so the biggest thing that we’ve seen is a huge awakening among people everywhere about the impacts of privacy, the importance of privacy, and we’ve seen a lot of market maturity happen over the last few years.” Ironic as it might sound, big tech companies are . Apple and Microsoft have been actively promoting themselves as the secure, privacy-sensitive foils to their younger tech industry peers. It’s catching on. In March, Facebook by doubling down on encrypted, ephemeral messaging. But there is a growing concern in the business community about a future in which companies that handle consumer data are forced to comply with different laws in every state. “The concern is that if the federal government doesn’t step up and unify it in the way that Europe unified privacy legislation under GDPR, we’re going to end up with a privacy legislation framework in the U.S. that’s incredibly fractured, very hard to comply with, and not really feasible and implementable,” said Bergman. That fear is leading a number of tech leaders to support a federal privacy law that would pre-empt state regulations. Related: Integris surveyed 258 business executives at companies with 500 employees or more and at least $25 million in annual revenue as part of released Monday. Of those surveyed, 80 percent believe there should be a federal privacy law, though they may not be ready for it. About half of the respondents said they take inventory of the personal data they store just once a year or in response to an audit. However, 88 percent said their companies are increasing their data privacy management budgets in 2019. “What’s been a boon to the business is not the murkiness but the opportunity that privacy presents,” Bergman said. “In our discussions with companies, they’re looking at privacy increasingly as a differentiator for their business … they look at that as an opportunity to differentiate against their competition by being able to prove that they’re operating with integrity, they’re treating customer data with the utmost care, and they can prove it.” Integris’ goal is to help companies set up best practices in data privacy. The company uses machine learning and other technology to map a company’s sensitive data, apply regulatory obligations, and automate actions like encryption and deletion. On top of its initial $3 million round, last summer to amp up its regulatory compliance services.
Cole Brodman. , a Seattle-area networking startup led by former T-Mobile executive , was acquired last month by , a new company led by former Qualcomm CEO and chairman Paul Jacobs. The news was revealed Monday by in a story that details how Jacobs dropped plans to take Qualcomm private and is now focusing on San Diego-based XCOM. M87 launched out of Austin, Texas in 2014 and . That’s when Brodman, who spent 17 years at T-Mobile — including stints as CMO and CTO — took over as CEO. M87 develops technology to help wireless carriers improve network performance by creating dynamic device-to-device mesh networks. It’s similar to what Jacobs, whose father founded Qualcomm, and a group of former Qualcomm execs are building at XCOM: “giving everyone’s phones the ability to route traffic like a cell tower,” as WSJ reported. Paul Jacobs. (XCOM Photo) “We believed in the XCOM thesis of edge networks and compute, and Paul’s vision on how device-to-device technologies will enhance wireless networks,” Brodman told GeekWire in an email Monday evening. “That’s been our thesis all along, so it’s a great match. Plus, the XCOM team has some fantastic engineering talent and track record in wireless technology to help amplify our go-to-market and product roadmap.” M87 was folded into XCOM but will continue developing its technology, Brodman said. The company’s 20 or so employees are staying onboard, including Brodman. “XCOM likes the access to telecom and software talent in the Seattle area and is keeping an office here,” Brodman added. XCOM had about 30 employees before acquiring M87. It raised additional investment to buy the Seattle-area company, per the WSJ. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. M87 had raised around $12 million. It reeled in a $5 million fundraising round in 2016 led by Madrona Venture Group, with participation from Qualcomm Ventures, the company’s VC arm, and Trilogy Equity Partners, the Seattle-area firm where Brodman holds a position as partner. “It can be a really interesting business,” Brodman said in 2016. “There aren’t a lot of solutions today to help wireless carriers solve coverage capacity problems and most require them to build new cell sites. I’m excited about software-based solutions to approach this problem.” Brodman and spent the next four years as a board member for a handful of startups. Len Jordan, managing director at Madrona, told GeekWire he’s excited to see M87 “realize its vision for extending the power of networks all the way to the edge.” “The acquisition by XCOM is a great outcome for everyone involved,” he said. “The combined team has the experience and skill to reshape an industry.”
Crelate CEO Aaron Elder. (Crelate Photo) In a startup environment where heavy funding, bold bets, and rapid growth are the norm, stands out for its modest, slow-and-steady approach. The recruiting software startup just raised $5.3 million from Five Elms, a venture capital firm in Kansas City, Mo. Crelate develops tools to help recruiting agencies manage their pipelines of talent and job opportunities. The four-year-old startup just crossed 900 customers. “There’s definitely different approaches to building a business,” said Crelate CEO Aaron Elder. “There’s the burn fast and either get really big or burnout. I’m operating more under the continuous improvement, high probability of success.” The new funding builds off of a $1.2 million round the company closed in early 2017. Crelate plans to grow its 21-person team and double down on sales with the fresh cash. “We see a lot of demand and need for our product,” Elder said. “The industry is growing and they have some very specialized needs.” Crelate is headquartered in Maryland but its engineering operation is in Kirkland, Wash. Elder, who is based at the Kirkland office, said he picked the Seattle suburb because “the tax climate is more friendly to business” and “it’s a little bit cheaper.” Crelate is that have set up outposts in the Seattle area to mine the region’s tech talent.
Armoire CEO Ambika Singh in front of the company’s new pop-up store. (Armoire Photos) aims to help women access new clothes without having to enter a physical store. But now the Seattle startup is testing a brick-and-mortar strategy to compliment its online fashion rental service. Armoire will open its first pop-up location this week in downtown Seattle, taking over an old Sprint retail store and using it as a place for members to learn about new clothes and styles. Armoire CEO Ambika Singh and Lili Morton, community development, inside the company’s new store. Starting at $149 per month, the 3-year-old company ships designer clothes to customers who can swap out the items at any time or purchase them at a discounted rate. The pop-up store will allow new and existing members to try on clothes, experiment with different styles, and take home anything without pulling out their wallet. It will be open seven days a week and staffed by Armoire employees and stylists. Armoire CEO Ambika Singh told GeekWire that the company aims to improve the dressing room experience, which she said “has historically been a negative experience for women.” “We set ourselves up for failure as soon as we walk into that room,” she said. “With guidance from Armoire staff and stylists, we hope to create a shift where women instead see everything they love about themselves. We’re creating an environment where women choose self-confidence in the dressing room and in life, by armoring them with clothes they feel great in.” The startup also hopes that because the clothing is rental and “temporary,” its service will help women stop agonizing over size and body perception in a relaxed gathering place, which was designed by Fernish, a furniture rental startup that . “Our hope is that members come to think of this space as home — dropping in for a new item or just a chat,” Singh said. Armoire follows a similar playbook to Rent the Runway, the 10-year-old New York City-based company that was recently at nearly $800 million. Rent the Runway also operates physical locations; it its fifth store last year. Starting with digital and expanding to physical is also a recent retail strategy used by Amazon, which built a massive online e-commerce business and now has several brick-and-mortar locations, including Whole Foods stores and Amazon bookstores. Speaking of Amazon, the Seattle-based tech giant is also testing new ways to help people buy clothes. It recently rolled out a try-before-you-buy service . Armoire has raised $4.2 million from investors such as Zulily co-founder Darrell Cavens; Foot Locker exec Vijay Talwar; and a number of female backers who decided to invest after first becoming customers. They include Sheila Gulati of Tola Capital, former Drugstore.com CEO Dawn Lepore, and Angela Taylor of Efeste.
The Xealth team — and office dogs — inside the company’s office in Seattle’s Smith Tower. (GeekWire Photo / James Thorne) Is there big market for prescriptions beyond drugs? Several investors with deep experience in health are betting on it — joining in a new $11 million funding round for Xealth, a digital health startup building a platform that lets doctors prescribe everything from wheelchairs and insulin monitors to articles and Lyft rides. Xealth CEO Mike McSherry. (Xealth Photo) Founded by two Seattle startup veterans and spun out of Providence Health & Services, Xealth uses patient data to recommend services from a variety of vendors for possible prescription. The company wants to make its marketplace available to hundreds of thousands of doctors and nurses, letting them issue digital prescriptions, such as apps and digital media, or anything else they want to prescribe beyond a traditional drug. If a patient is overweight and doesn’t have a history of eating disorders, for example, Xealth might recommend that a doctor prescribe a service from Weight Watchers. Xealth’s Series A funding round drew new investors McKesson Ventures, Novartis, Philips and ResMed. Those names are notable in that they represent many of the medical supplies, digital therapeutics and devices that can be prescribed over Xealth’s platform. “I’m a huge fan of strategic investments,” said Mike McSherry, Xealth’s CEO and co-founder, in an interview at the company’s headquarters at Seattle’s Smith Tower, explaining why he likes to seek out investors from inside the industry, not just traditional venture capital. McSherry has followed this approach before, with success. He was previously CEO of Swype, maker of a popular swipe texting keyboard, and , key players in the world of mobile devices. Following , Xealth’s total cash raised now stands at $19.5 million, and the new round brought back prior investors Threshold Ventures, Providence Ventures, Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin Health Network, and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. McSherry and Xealth co-founder Aaron Sheedy make for unlikely healthcare innovators. The pair have been working together for more than two decades, tracing their roots back to a shared office at Microsoft in the 90s. They worked together at Swype, which sold to Nuance Communications in 2011. McSherry became Nuance’s VP of advertising and content and Sheedy its VP of mobile product. They took the plunge into healthcare after McSherry was invited by Providence CEO Rod Hochman to be an entrepreneur-in-residence at Providence Ventures in 2015. Founded two years later, Xealth now has 40 employees, up from 12 in 2017. Xealth’s marketplace lives inside of hospitals’ electronic health records systems. (Xealth Screenshot) The company reflects a broader surge in interest in health by people and companies from the tech industry. The frenzy around digital health has been stoked by significant entries into the space from the likes of Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft. Venture investment in digital health grew 42 percent last year to $8.1 billion, according to . Xealth was founded with a mission to be the ultimate marketplace for doctors to prescribe anything and everything digital. But the company says its platform is more than a marketplace: It also routes the flow of data from services back into the hospital’s electronic health record system. Xealth is currently tracking data from 40,000 sleep apnea patients who are using CPAP devices for Providence St. Joseph Health. “If you can more seamlessly engage with the patients digitally, like they’re used to in their consumer lives, you’re providing a better patient experience,” McSherry said. “But that also gives the hospital system a 360-degree view of the patient’s health.” Last year, Xealth for products that could be prescribed through its marketplace. What seemed like a simple integration — a surgeon could send a patient a link to buy a product for recovery, for example — was practically revolutionary in a world where doctors often hand their patients a photocopy of the product they recommend. Not surprisingly, navigating tech-style disruption in healthcare is complicated. Amazon’s service on Xealth doesn’t use the e-commerce giant’s recommendation engine; instead, doctors manually curate the products they want. And to avoid conflicts of interest, Xealth doesn’t get affiliate payments from Amazon. McSherry said that other e-commerce sellers would soon join the platform. The startup currently offers services from 30 digital health vendors. One recent addition to Xealth’s platform is Proteus, which sells pills with sensors that monitor a patient’s drug adherence. Xealth also recently added Duke Health and Baylor Scott & White Health as customers. The startup makes money by licensing its platform to healthcare providers. Competitors include Redox and Sansoro Health, both of which integrate third-party applications into electronic health records systems. McSherry made it clear that using data to make recommendations is central to realizing Xealth’s ambitions. It just has to make sure that healthcare providers are on board. Over time, McSherry said, the company should know what works best for patients down to an individualized level. “We didn’t get into this to play small ball,” he said. “We’re going to have a huge data set that works to optimize the best patient care and clinical recommendations for patients.”
Elliott Bay Office Park, Zipwhip’s future home. (Geekwire Photo / Nat Levy) Zipwhip has leased space for a new Seattle headquarters that will give the fast-growing business text messaging startup room to nearly double its headcount. The company has leased the top floor and a half at Martin Selig’s five-story , a 75,000-square-foot space with room for approximately 500 people. It will move into the new offices toward the end of 2019, said John Lauer, Zipwhip CEO. Zipwhip CEO John Lauer. (Zipwhip Photo) Zipwhip is “busting at the seams” in its current space, Lauer said. Today, it subleases a 50,000-square-foot space from Real Networks at a building called Home Plate Center, across the street from the Zipwhip has 270 employees today. Though the new space isn’t a whole lot bigger, the ability to design it from scratch, rather than taking over someone else’s offices, will allow for a better layout that can accommodate more employees, Lauer said. The new office is north of downtown Seattle at the intersection of the Lower Queen Anne and Interbay neighborhoods. The neighborhood is becoming a bit of a startup hotspot, with just across the street from the future Zipwhip space. Zipwhip is coming to the neighborhood around the same time just down the street. The area has popped recently because smaller companies are having a hard time finding office space in competitive neighborhoods in and around downtown. Zipwhip looked all over for a new HQ, but found this building to be the best fit for its culture. “Real estate in Seattle is a pretty tough market,” Lauer said. “This city has grown so wildly in the last five years that there’s not a lot of real estate. So we looked at as much as we could, and this turned out to be our best option.” Zipwhip’s current HQ is in this office building, across from T-Mobile Park. (Zipwhip Photo) Zipwhip factored in where its employees live when looking for space. The company found that many of its workers lived in neighborhoods north of downtown, making the new location ideal for a variety of commutes. Zipwhip sells software that lets businesses across various industries — from pro sports teams to large enterprise companies to small insurance shops — send and receive text messages with their customers using an existing business phone number. The company is coming off a $51.5 million Series D investment round . The round, which was one of the largest in the Seattle area in the last year, was led by Goldman Sachs Private Capital investing group, with participation from existing investors including OpenView, M12, and Voyager Capital. The Zipwhip team. (Zipwhip Photo) Founded in 2007, Zipwhip and set out to be the “Facebook of text messaging.” But it pivoted around 2013, taking a different approach by working with wireless carriers to enable hundreds of millions of business landlines to receive and send text messages. This allowed companies to text with their customers from landline phones, VoIP services, and toll-free numbers. Zipwhip has more than 30,000 businesses using its software and saw revenue increase 86 percent year-over-year in 2018. It has text-enabled 3.3 million landlines. Lauer sees a huge market for business texting, with more than 200 million business phone numbers in the U.S. alone. “We have a long way to go in solving this industry,” Lauer said. It’s this huge market that has the company planning for future growth. Today, Zipwhip has , and the new space will give the company capacity to grow even more.
(Bernard Spragg Photo via Flickr) For , maritime data is both personal and professional. King grew up sailing in New England and is now the owner of “Northern Lights,” a vintage Coronado 41 sloop that he restored. ioCurrents CEO Cosmo King. (ioCurrents Photo) He’s also the CEO and co-founder of Seattle startup , which today announced a $5 million investment to grow its platform for collecting and analyzing real-time data for the maritime industry. The company’s platform, MarineInsight, collects reams of data from various pieces of ship machinery and analyzes it in the cloud whenever a connection is available. The software then suggests actions based on any problems it finds or anticipates; it can help reduce fuel costs or prevent engine failures, for example. The startup has customers in commercial shipping, fishing and passenger industries. King was formerly an engineer at Isilon Systems, a Seattle startup that was acquired by EMC in 2010 for $2.25 billion. He launched ioCurrents in 2015 with co-founder and CTO. “This additional investment will allow ioCurrents to build on our existing success, and provide even more value to the maritime industry as a whole,” King said . The Series A round, which brings the company’s total amount raised to $6.4 million, was led by . Imagen, a Seattle-based venture capital firm focused on data and software startups, has also invested in Seattle-area companies such as and outdoors app maker BaseMap. “ioCurrents is defining itself as the market leader in the development of real-time, predictive analytics to the maritime industry,” John Polchin, managing director of Imagen, said in a statement. “Imagen’s investment will help ioCurrents capitalize on the global demand for their solutions and accelerate the company’s pace of product innovation.”
From left to right: Zulily co-founder Darrell Cavens; Rad Power Bikes co-founder Ty Collins; Rad Power Bikes co-founder Mike Radenbaugh; and Zulily co-founder Mark Vadon. Cavens and Vadon announced their investment in the Seattle startup this week. (Rad Power Bikes Photo) and know what it takes to build a successful consumer company. The entrepreneurs built not one but two online retail giants that went public, teaming up at Blue Nile starting in 1999 and then co-founding Zulily in 2009. So when the duo decides to invest together in an up-and-coming Seattle startup, it’s worth taking note. has become one of the best-known e-bike brands in North America over the past four years without raising any outside capital. But with revenue projected to double to more than $100 million this year, co-founders and are ready to spark their business. The company today announced an investment from Vadon and Cavens. Privately held Rad Power Bikes did not reveal the size of the deal, instead describing the cash infusion as “significant.” Cavens is joining the board of directors as a result of the funding. The Securities and Exchange Commission, where privately held companies typically report the sale of unregistered securities, does not yet show a record of the investment. Mike Radenbaugh, left, and Ty Collins, founders of Rad Power Bikes. (Rad Power Bikes Photo) In many ways, the e-bike business is much different than selling kids clothing or engagement rings. But Vadon and Cavens see a lot of similarities to Zulily and Blue Nile at their early stages. “I see a business with super passionate customers, a cool product, and awesome entrepreneurs,” Vadon told GeekWire. “That’s what you want to be investing in.” Radenbaugh, 29, and Collins, 30, met as students at Humboldt State University in Northern California and the idea for Rad Power Bikes was born in 2007 when they built their first e-bike. After years of doing custom conversions of traditional bikes to electric, they launched their company in 2015, raised $320,365 in an , and have been profitable ever since. The startup now sells its e-bikes in the U.S., Canada, and 30 European countries to both consumers and commercial in industries such as logistics, law enforcement, deliveries, and more. It has taken advantage of the direct-to-consumer model to shorten its supply chain, bypass traditional bike shops and create a tight feedback loop with customers to constantly improve its limited line of e-bikes that sell for around $1,500. Radenbaugh said the company’s bikes are priced “at a point that’s approachable to people” — cheaper than high-end options from top brands such as Trek and Specialized, with more power and range than competing products from European companies. The RadBurro can be outfitted with a variety of conversions, including flat bed, truck bed, cargo box and pedi cab. (Rad Power Bikes Photo) Rad Power Bikes is also riding a wave of interest in electric bicycles, which has become the fastest-growing bicycle type in the U.S., year-over-year in 2017. In addition, new forms of mobility are also “making privately owned vehicles obsolete,” reported last month. Rad Power Bikes describes itself as the largest e-bike brand in North America by e-bike volume. Mark Vadon at the GeekWire Summit 2014. (GeekWire File Photo) “We’re in the business of giving cars an early retirement,” Radenbaugh said. In an interview with GeekWire this week, Vadon and Cavens were unwavering in their optimism for Rad Power Bikes. Based on financial metrics and outlook just four years in, Vadon said the company reminds him of his other early investments in companies such as online pet supply retailer Chewy, which in 2017, and Allbirds, the high-flying sneaker startup that is at more than $1 billion. “This is going to be a very sizable business,” said Vadon, who is a board member at Home Depot and Seattle startups such as New Engen and Flyhomes. Vadon met Radenbaugh through a mutual acquaintance. After his first ride, he was hooked. “You feel like a 10-year-old,” Vadon said. “They are just a blast to ride.” A large addressable market, from millennials to moms to retirees, gets Cavens excited about how much Rad Power Bikes can grow. Cavens, — the e-commerce giant was acquired for $2.4 billion in 2015 — said his wife was skeptical when he took her into the company’s Seattle retail store. “She’s not a bike enthusiast and hadn’t ridden in 15 years,” Cavens said. “But she got on one and thought it was really fun. When customers get exposed to this, the connection is immediate.” Zulily CEO Darrell Cavens at the GeekWire Awards in 2013. (GeekWire File Photo) Rapid innovation in technology — batteries, motors, controls, production capabilities for electric bikes — has created a perfect storm for Rad Power Bikes. The ubiquity of the transportation option is helping, too, with thousands of shareable electric bikes from companies such as LimeBike that are easily accessible and can lead customers to investigate owning their own. “We’ve just hit a perfect tipping point,” Radenbaugh said. The challenge for Rad Power Bikes is managing growth and inventory. The company, which has physical stores in Seattle, Vancouver B.C., and the Netherlands, plans to double its 100-person workforce and expand into more markets. It is also relocating its HQ and showroom across Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood to a significantly larger building . Vadon and Cavens, both longtime entrepreneurs and angel investors in Seattle, aren’t forming a fund together but both plan to continue participating in the local ecosystem. “I remember Mark telling me when we started Zulily that our most limited resource was time. How do we put our time to where our biggest opportunities are?” Cavens said. “Joining the board at Rad Power Bikes — this is worthy of a tremendous amount of time and has potential to become something really special based here in the Northwest.”
(Techstars Seattle Photo) Validate the market. Sell before you build. Seek failure. And go all in. Those are some of the tips shared by founders participating in the latest class. GeekWire caught up with the entrepreneurs who are apart of the tenth Techstars Seattle cohort, a milestone for the 3-month accelerator that has graduated 100 companies to date over the past decade. Alumni of the organization — 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. Here are the ten startups in the newest class (Demo Day is set for May 7 in Seattle), with descriptions from Techstars, which provides $120,000 in funding in exchange for 6 percent common stock as part of the three-month accelerator. , who reflected on the longevity of Techstars Seattle and dishes on how the Seattle tech scene has changed. AdaptiLab founders James Wu and Allen Lu. Founders: James Wu and Allen Lu Headquarters: Seattle, Wash. Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: AdaptiLab helps companies build machine learning teams with our automated and robust technical screening platform for candidates’ coding and analytics skills. What makes you different from the competition? What’s your secret sauce? AdaptiLab has built the first-ever coding platform for assessing data analysis, feature engineering, and model training tasks. We automatically grade candidates’ code and models for quality and performance and provide in-depth technical scoring to the hiring managers distributing the interviews. We also handle question generation and anti-cheating measures. Overall, we add robustness to the recruiting process and drastically reduce the amount of time hiring managers and engineers spend interviewing candidates. What’s one piece of advice you’d give other entrepreneurs who are just starting out? Conduct significant customer discovery before building a product. Automaton founders MH Lines and Julia Funderburk. Founders: MH Lines, Julia Funderburk, and Andrew Graves Headquarters: Kirkland, Wash. Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: We provide quality and test automation for the millions of business users managing SaaS technology stacks, to keep lead flow and configurations working as expected. What makes you different from the competition? What’s your secret sauce? Our competitors are built for SDETs or require software development skills. We provide a simplified UI so that marketers and sales ops pros can do recurring testing, regression testing or smoke testing at the click of a button. What’s one piece of advice you’d give other entrepreneurs who are just starting out? Know your stuff — your TAM, your moat, your customer — and then go with it. The high-growth approach doesn’t make sense for every business, but if it does, find a tribe and some leaders — we chose Techstars — and just go with it. DataChain founders Arjun Pillai and Prasanna Venkatesan. Founders: Arjun Pillai and Prasanna Venkatesan Headquarters: Denver, Colo. Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: DataChain is a B2B sales and marketing insights platform — an artificial intelligence platform that proactively keeps track of companies and lets salespeople know the right time and context to sell. What makes you different from the competition? What’s your secret sauce? The way we unify the first party (company-owned) data with the publicly-available data about a company is pretty unique. We bring in huge amounts of public data about the company from more than 200 sources and tie it intelligently with the company-owned data. This enables us to do effective intelligence that will help the companies to better market and sell to their customers. What’s one piece of advice you’d give other entrepreneurs who are just starting out? Before writing a single line of code, go out and talk to your potential customers and ask them how much they’d pay for it (don’t ask if they need it). Don’t build because you feel that the world needs it; make sure it really does. Kristalic founders Filip Kozera and Jos van der Westhuizen. Founders: Filip Kozera and Jos van der Westhuizen Headquarters: San Francisco, Calif. Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: We crystallise your memories by extracting information from what you hear and say and make that content rapidly searchable. What makes you different from the competition? What’s your secret sauce? We’ve finished a masters and PhD in machine learning at Cambridge University. We leverage powerful deep learning models, developed during our research, in order to extract rich latent representations from spoken dialogues. These representations constitute our secret sauce for information extraction and rapid search. What’s one piece of advice you’d give other entrepreneurs who are just starting out? Actively push yourself to have the widest possible perspective on everything. Whether it be through reading books and articles, or speaking to the wisest people you know, try to develop a habit that makes you take a step back. With our heads in developer mode, we thought we could simply publish a different app each week to test customer interest. After two brutal weeks and two mediocre apps, a meeting with one experienced mentor shed light upon the much better technique of landing pages. Now we know of even better techniques, and we could have saved a lot of work by forcing ourselves to take a step back from the start. Level founder David Edelstein. Founder: David Edelstein Headquarters: Seattle, Wash. Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: Level delivers affordable and appropriate credit and savings through employers to enable hard-working Americans to break out of the payday-to-payday cycle. What makes you different from the competition? What’s your secret sauce? Inspired by innovations in the design and delivery of financial services in “developing” countries, Level employs strategies which are proven outside of the U.S. but are considered novel here. What’s one piece of advice you’d give other entrepreneurs who are just starting out? Identify a problem you are passionate about solving and make the leap! Logixboard founders Julian Alvarez (left) and Juan Alvarez (center), with Daniel O., head o operations. Founders: Julian Alvarez and Juan Alvarez Headquarters: Miami, Fla. Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: Our software is built to help companies all over the world better manage and control their freight operations in an easy and intuitive way. What makes you different from the competition? What’s your secret sauce? From first-hand industry experience, we understand that the freight industry has low quality and decentralized data. Our solutions are built to tackle this data problem head-on, as opposed to shying away from it. What’s one piece of advice you’d give other entrepreneurs who are just starting out? Start selling before you start building. We pivoted three times before we wrote a line of code. Grind your way to customer meetings, pitch your idea, iterate, validate, validate again, and then build. Nodesmith founders Samm Desmond and Brendan Lee. Founders: Samm Desmond and Brendan Lee Headquarters: Seattle, Wash. Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: We manage complicated and unreliable blockchain infrastructure so that you can focus solely on your blockchain based application. What makes you different from the competition? What’s your secret sauce? We focus on the holistic experience of building a blockchain based application. Not only do we provide basic access to blockchain networks, but we provide a suite of services that allow developers to easily build user friendly applications that don’t feel limited by the underlying blockchain infrastructure. What’s one piece of advice you’d give other entrepreneurs who are just starting out? There is no substitute for getting connected with folks in your local startup scene. In our experience, there is a ton of variance in how startups are built in the various tech hubs across the world — what you read on popular startup blogs is not necessarily reflective of the ecosystem where you’re trying to start a company. Rammer.ai founders Surbhi Rathore and Toshish Jawale. Founders: Surbhi Rathore and Toshish Jawale Headquarters: San Jose, Calif. Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: Rammer.ai automates notetaking in meetings. What makes you different from the competition? What’s your secret sauce? Our APIs enable communication platforms to add actionable insights on their platforms without any human intervention. What’s one piece of advice you’d give other entrepreneurs who are just starting out? Validate the market but trust your instinct. Tribl founders Ikechi Nwabuisi and Jordan Sterling. Founders: Ikechi Nwabuisi and Jordan Sterling Headquarters: Austin, Tex./Oakland, Calif. Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: Tribl is a P2P platform connecting immigrants to the cultural conversations, communities and experiences happening. What makes you different from the competition? What’s your secret sauce? We leverage people’s cultural identity/affiliations to connect multinational people no matter where they are instantly. What’s one piece of advice you’d give other entrepreneurs who are just starting out? Seek failure! Toggl founders Amr Adawi and Siamak Freydoonnejad. Founders: Siamak Freydoonnejad and Amr Adawi Headquarters: Seattle, Wash. Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: Toggl is a mobile app that lets users browse interactive, entertaining AR experiences. It’s YouTube for AR content. What makes you different from the competition? What’s your secret sauce? We’ve figured out what users actually like to do in AR, and what they find engaging. Also, no one else is doing aggregation of AR content as a platform. What’s one piece of advice you’d give other entrepreneurs who are just starting out? Go all-in, full-time as fast as you can! Then, quickly build a team of advisors from your network to keep you accountable and give you ongoing feedback.
The Thaw team, from left to right: Miles Ranisavljevic, Nate Rankin and Cooper Crosby. (Thaw Photo) For years, people have lamented the “Seattle Freeze” — the chilly reception that sometimes greets those looking to make friends in this area. Now a Seattle startup called offers an icebreaker for adults looking for new connections in the Northwest and nationwide. The business follows the standard dating app model of building profiles and making matches but with Thaw’s own twist, most notably the option of choosing more nuanced answers to questions about your interests that have the added bonus of being somewhat funny and clever. The goal was to make it “actually fun to build out a profile, which is something that is usually pretty tedious and unappealing,” said co-founder and CEO . Thaw also lets people to look for friends of the opposite sex. Other friend-matching sites such as Bumble BFF only allows you search for friends of the same gender and Hey! Vina, an app affiliated with Tinder, is only for women. The connecting site Shapr has more of a networking focus. Rankin officially launched Thaw near the end of 2018, but has been working on the project for a couple of years. Before Thaw, Rankin co-founded Wanderled, a digital marketplace for artisan goods from Guatemala. Nate Rankin, co-founder and CEO of Thaw. (Thaw Photo) Other Thaw co-founders include designer , who previously worked at and did design work for startups including and (which has also been ) and engineer , the iOS developer at , an online moving and delivery company. Rankin wouldn’t share their number of active users, but said there are a few hundred downloads a day. Thaw recently began running ads promoting the app. It’s currently only available for Apple devices, with plans to build an Android version. For revenue generation, Rankin said they’ll likely offer a basic service for free and eventually provide premium services as a subscription. They could also offer targeted advertising or partner with restaurants and event organizations to provide deals to users based on their profile interests. Social networking and the misuse of personal data are hot topics in the news these days as Facebook and Google, in particular, are facing serious criticism for some of their business practices. While these are early days for Thaw, what will the business do to avoid these sorts of missteps? “It’s something we’re going to need to think really hard about, and we’ve talked about already,” Rankin said. “I don’t exactly know what we’re going to do, but it’s something that is certainly very top of mind.” Rankin’s first startup shuttered in 2014 after two years. From the experience, he learned that while people might like your business idea, that doesn’t mean they’ll actually buy it. With Thaw, Rankin started with something people explicitly said that they wanted — a better tool for making friends — and then developed a product to meet that need. “If you ask someone, ‘What do you think of this idea?’ that’s not very helpful,” he said, “It’s a lot more effective to ask people very straightforwardly, ‘Would you use this, would you spend money on this, would you spend your time and energy on it?’” Rankin hopes that increasing numbers of people will continue to answer “yes.” We caught up with Rankin for this Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire. Thaw matches potential friends according to interests. (Thaw website) Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: Thaw is an app that connects people looking to meet and make friends nearby. Making new friends as an adult is hard. Thaw makes it easier. Inspiration hit us when: I moved to San Francisco after graduating from college and had a really hard time making friends. Aside from my co-workers, I didn’t have the common connectors I had previously relied on to meet people: dorms, classes and sports teams. The more I talked to other people, the more I realized this was a problem I wasn’t experiencing in isolation, and Cooper and I got to work! VC, Angel or Bootstrap: Staying bootstrapped has allowed us to launch and transition into working on Thaw full-time on our own terms, but we’ll be looking to raise a seed round in the not-too-distant future. Our ‘secret sauce’ is: Constantly talking to our users to better understand what’s hard about making friends, which features would help, and building them quickly. Other apps do a fine job of matching potential friends based on age and proximity, but it turns out there’s a lot more to making friends than that. For example, it can be tricky to initiate conversations and transition from chat-in-app friends to hang-out-IRL friends. Getting that feedback has allowed us to build features that directly address problems people face throughout the friend-making process. You say you like camping, but how much really do you like it? Thaw let’s users get precise in their preferences. (Thaw Image) The smartest move we’ve made so far: Turning some particularly “honest” feedback into the feature that really differentiates us from other apps in our space. We had planned on matching people using interests on a binary yes/no scale (for example, you either like snowboarding or you don’t), and the feedback we received showed us that approach was too limiting. Now you can indicate whether you hate snowboarding, snowboard a few times a year, or basically live in the mountains during the winter. Not only does this help us match potential friends better, but it takes something boring — setting up a profile — and makes it fun. The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: Initially we only launched in Seattle and users who downloaded Thaw outside of Seattle were put on a waitlist. We did consider that users who downloaded the app and had nobody nearby to match with would get frustrated and delete the app. And as it turns out, that’s exactly what happened. We opened Thaw to the whole U.S. and retention has gone up considerably. Which entrepreneur or executive would you want working in your corner? Between his time as a founder and investor, it’s hard to imagine someone being able to add more value than Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. There’s a fair amount of overlap between Thaw and Reddit, where he built a strong community and helped connect people who didn’t previously know each other. It would be awesome to pick his brain about what he’s learned from the companies he’s invested in, and he’d be an invaluable resource as we start the fundraising process. Our favorite team-building activity is: Team dinners with our partners. The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: Communication and initiative. We often work out of our respective homes, so it’s important for us to be in contact throughout the day and take care of what needs to be done without much oversight. We’ve only hired one person so far, but the bar has been set high! What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: Don’t ask people if they think your idea is good. Ask people if they would use it themselves, and why. Also, talk to users constantly, iterate quickly and be willing to admit when you’re wrong.
The Boundless team has grown to 28 employees in the company’s first two years. (Boundless Photo) In the two years since it launched, has become the top destination for immigrants applying for marriage-based green cards in the United States. Foreign nationals seeking legal status in the U.S. received more marriage-based green cards through Boundless than any other entity or law firm, according to the startup’s CEO Xiao Wang. Boundless CEO Xiao Wang. (GeekWire Photo) That early traction has helped the Seattle startup secure a $7.8 million funding round this month, led by Foundry Group. Previous investors, including Trilogy and Pioneer Square Labs, also participated in the Series A round. Wang said the fresh cash will help Boundless develop new products and grow its 28-person team in a bid to become “the one-stop shop for all family-based immigration.” Boundless currently offers two products. Immigrants seeking a marriage-based green card or U.S. citizenship can use the service to connect with attorneys, file applications online, and receive support throughout the process. The company also publishes and resources on its website to help immigrants navigate an increasingly complex system. “Legal immigration is important and critical for the future of the success of America and with technology and data, you can make immigration far more simple,” Wang said. Boundless charges $750 for its marriage green card service and $395 for its naturalization service. The flat rates cover legal and customer support until an application is approved. The service has been used by nearly 1,500 customers and has a 100 percent approval rate, according to Wang. Of course, Boundless can only expedite and simplify so much. Recent policy changes have led to delays and uncertainty for many seeking legal status in the U.S. The wait time for immigrants who apply for U.S. citizenship in the past two years. A could make it more difficult for immigrants to qualify for green cards and visas. Meanwhile, the U.S. government is and requesting follow-up evidence on applications more frequently than in years past. “We can’t speed up the government processing time but we can make meaningful improvements, helping families get their complete and accurate application faster than through any other source,” Wang said. Boundless has raised $11.3 million to date. It was one of the first spinouts from Pioneer Square Labs, a Seattle startup studio that has helped produce more than 15 companies .
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.”
Rainway CEO Andrew Sampson at TechStars Seattle Demo Day in 2018. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) Google today jumpstarted the ninth generation of gaming hardware with at the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco. Big on hype and , Stadia promises to use to let players jump straight into high-end, fast-paced games from existing devices without any need for additional hardware; if you can run a YouTube video at 4K, you’re already set up for Stadia. In Seattle, however, there’s already a startup doing what Google pitched on Tuesday. allows users to stream video games from personal devices to any other machine in their possession, as long as it has a browser and can comfortably run video at 60 frames per second. for its beta last year, the 2-year-old company that graduated from Techstars Seattle in 2018 made its official launch on the Windows platform at the end of January. “We did get there first,” Sampson told GeekWire over the phone from GDC. “It’s always good to beat the big guys to the punch.” Sampson fired off a set of tweets after Tuesday’s announcement, noting how Google “misrepresented” the performance of its beta tests for the new streaming service and said the search giant “goes on to pretend as if they are the first to get high-quality games playing in the browser.” Google then goes on to pretend as if they are the first to get high-quality games playing in the browser. They aren't. We launched two years ago with low-latency game steaming in Chrome, Firefox, and even Safari. — Andrew Sampson @ GDC (@Andrewmd5) If you want to maintain your freedom and begin playing your game library anywhere today, check out — we're building an extension to your games, not a replacement. — Andrew Sampson @ GDC (@Andrewmd5) Sampson told GeekWire that “Google doesn’t understand that openness is a big reason why people love playing video games.” “Some of the games that we love, like [Defense of the Ancients], are the result of people having access and control over the games that they’re playing,” he said. “By taking away the box, and taking away the ability to actually modify the game, what market are you serving, other than the publishers directly? People want to be able to configure and tinker. Being able to upgrade your console and PC is part of that experience. Getting rid of it is almost baffling.” Rainway has an announcement coming later this week regarding its availability on the Xbox. Since its launch, the company has racked up more than one million regular users. And remember, Rainway is coming to Xbox
Igneous Systems CEO Kiran Bhageshpur (Igneous Photo) Seattle startup has reeled in a $25 million investment round to fuel growth of its software that helps companies manage their unstructured data. WestRiver Group led the Series C round, which pushes total funding to date to $70 million. Existing investors including Madrona Venture Group, NEA, Vulcan Capital, and Redpoint Ventures also participated. by veterans of Isilon Systems and NetApp, Igneous’ platform provides visibility and storage for unstructured data, or information that isn’t easily categorized, both in the cloud or on-premise. The company’s clients span across various industries and include The Allen Institute of Brain Science, OpSec, PAIGE, Tippet Studios, Altius Institute, and Bardell. Igneous has customers in the “mid-double digits,” said CEO and co-founder . “They use Igneous to see, organize, mobilize and protect their unstructured data — and for our customers this is petabytes of mission critical, often machine generated data typically living across disparate systems onsite, offsite and in public cloud,” Bhageshpur said in an email. “Igneous helps data-centric enterprises tap into their valuable unstructured data, optimize their storage and IT resources and reduce their data risk posture.” (Igneous Photo) Bhageshpur said Igneous differentiates from competitors with its focus on enabling efficiency at scale and the ability to support any file or object protocol. “Our customers are able to quickly (in days) get up and running, see all of their data, improve their backup SLAs and modernize their data protection services, surgically archive and migrate data to control tier 1 storage costs, organize their datasets for use in HPC/ML/EDA/RPA workflows … all without the need for a full-time system administrator,” he explained. The startup employs 70 people and expects to grow headcount by more than 50 percent in 2019. Bhageshpur said new sales growth has increased by 10X over the past year. Igneous originally sold a hardware data appliance for companies to help manage on-premises storage systems but has since expanded to develop services geared toward cloud computing. The global big data market size is expected to reach $70 billion by 2022, according to . Bhageshpur is the former vice president of engineering in the Isilon Storage Division at EMC, having spent five years in senior engineering roles at the company. Another Isilon engineering vet, co-founder , is CTO at Igneous. The company’s third co-founder, , was the first employee at NetApp. Madrona was also an early investor in Isilon, which sold to . Anthony Bontrager, WestRiver Group managing director, will join the company’s board as a result of the funding. “Igneous is uniquely positioned to enable enterprises to unlock the value of their datasets and simultaneously reduce their risk profile,” he said in a statement. “This is a complex problem that Igneous has tackled with impressive technology services.” Other recent Seattle-area investments by Kirkland, Wash-based WestRiver Group include , , , and .
(Hello Alfred Photo) is ready to do Seattle’s laundry. And groceries. And cleaning. The hospitality startup this week expanded its on-demand home help service to seven apartment buildings in the Seattle area. Hello Alfred also opened a local office and hired an area manager and operations specialists. Seattle seems a natural fit for the company, given the city’s abundance of wealthy young professionals in luxury high-rises. As the name implies, the service acts like a virtual butler to take care of all the daily tasks you’d rather not do — taking care of your home, your pet, your travel plans. It can even help you throw a party. The startup partners with property owners, who offer the service to their residents as a perk. Two of the inaugural Seattle-area buildings are Alley24, in Amazon’s South Lake Union backyard, and Velo, which is near Google’s offices in Fremont. One-bedroom apartments in the two buildings go for around $2,000. New York-based Hello Alfred said it’s not merely another gig economy app that connects consumers with freelance contractors. The startup’s home managers are full-time employees, which the company says is important to building long-term relationships with customers. The expansion comes on the heels of a last year. Hello Alfred currently operates in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Dallas, Austin, Denver, Houston, and Washington, D.C. The company recently hired Chris Haseman, former director of engineering at Uber, as its chief technology officer and launched an updated mobile app. Hello Alfred is not to be confused with , a Spokane, Wash. startup that rents out downtown apartments and turns them into short-term rentals.