(Outreach Photo) Seattle has a new unicorn. Outreach CEO Manny Medina. (Outreach Photo) Sales automation startup has reeled in a huge $114 million investment round that pushes its valuation to $1.1 billion, joining an elite club of other fast-growing companies also valued above $1 billion. “That’s right: Outreach is officially a ‘unicorn’ and the only one in the rapidly growing sales engagement space,” Outreach CEO wrote in a . Outreach has been on a roll for the past few years with its software that uses machine learning to help customers such as Cloudera, Adobe, Microsoft, Docusign, and others automate and streamline communication with sales prospects. The technology offers one system to track all touch points, from phone calls to emails to LinkedIn messages, and integrates with existing tools including Salesforce and Gmail. Outreach more than doubled its revenue in 2018 and met all goals and metrics, Medina told GeekWire earlier this year. The company now has more than 3,300 customer accounts and 50,000-plus users. It employs 315 people and plans to reach 450 by the end of 2019. Medina said the company will continue to invest in its hometown, with a goal of becoming “the next enterprise beacon of Seattle.” Lone Pine Capital, a Greenwich, Conn.-based hedge fund manager, led the Series E round. Meritech Capital Partners and Lemonade Capital joined the round, as did existing investors DFJ Growth, Four Rivers Group, Mayfield, Microsoft Ventures, Sapphire Ventures, Spark Capital and Trinity Ventures. Lone Pine Capital previously invested in Convoy, another Seattle startup that . Other companies with valuations north of $1 billion in the Seattle region include Rover and OfferUp. (Outreach Photo) The $114 million round for Outreach follows a $65 million round that came in this past May. Total funding to date is $239 million. “This financing will enable us to infuse every aspect of the customer journey with the power of machine learning so organizations can identify the actions that move the needle in order to make better, faster decisions,” Medina wrote in the blog post. “We will also expand in the coming months by doubling our machine learning team, increasing our international footprint, and investing in our partner ecosystem, Galaxy, as well as our recently announced integration with Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 for Sales.” Medina told GeekWire in February that “this upcoming year we will make more investments in scaling the business efficiently and prepare for an IPO a few years out.” Medina, a former director at Microsoft, originally launched a recruiting software startup called GroupTalent in 2011 with his co-founders Andrew Kinzer, Gordon Hempton, and Wes Hather. But the entrepreneurs in 2014 to focus on building tools for salespeople. “Outreach is one of my favorite stories,” Founders Co-op’ Managing Partner Chris DeVore, an early Outreach investor, . “The business they set out to build wasn’t working, but because they stuck together as a founding team and kept adapting and learning, they figured out how to find a productive thing. But that wasn’t because of where they started or the early metrics. It was because as humans, they were so committed and resilient and so gritty that they figured it out.” Outreach is ranked No. 23 on the , our index of top Pacific Northwest startups. Outreach is also a finalist for Next Tech Titan, a category at the upcoming that highlights future dominant forces in the Pacific Northwest tech scene. Last year, Outreach to upgrade its headquarters and made its It was the only Seattle company to crack the top 25 in list for 2018. and previously predicted that Outreach would reach unicorn status. There are 341 unicorn companies worldwide, according to , with nearly 30 startups reaching that milestone in 2019. reported that 57 companies became unicorns in 2017.
Knack co-founders Mariah Lincoln and Catherine Bye. (Knack Photo) Competition is heating up among co-working spaces geared toward women. The Riveter pioneered the model, in Seattle in 2017 and the business quickly took off. The Riveter 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. Now newcomers are entering the space, seeking to put a new twist on inclusive co-working. In Seattle, two such operations have cropped up this year. Marketing entrepreneurs Catherine Bye and Mariah Lincoln are opening in Seattle this spring. They met when they were both working for a Seattle marketing agency and decided to take the entrepreneurial plunge together. They launched Knack, a marketing agency that generated $3.4 million in revenue in its first year. The Knack Collective co-working space is a new branch of that business. “We understand that there is a significant gap for underrepresented communities when it comes to access — whether that’s access to funding, mentorship, supportive professional communities, and operational resources,” said Bye, Knack’s CEO. “We determined that filling this gap would be best served by reimagining co-working to include business-critical resources and advisors in legal, finance, recruiting, IT, and marketing, to name a few.” Knack’s co-founders insist they are offering something that The Riveter isn’t. Knack memberships are geared toward women, members of the LGBTQ community, and their allies. Pricing runs from $35 for a day pass to more than $1,850 for a private office or suite. “Much of our hope for the future of work is shared by many, but we differentiate in that we are heavily focused on providing access to business-critical resources and support that goes beyond a safe space,” Bye said. “You can’t just create a space — you have to help people along.” Tag Spaces is another new female-focused co-working space. It is attempting to serve entrepreneurs with smaller budgets and irregular hours. Eileen Carpenter managed 10 apartment buildings in Seattle’s University District before launching Tag Spaces. She opened the facility in January with her business partner, Craig Smith. Tag offers floating desks and flex spaces 24 hours a day to accommodate different schedules. Over time, Tag plans to add community events and workshops. “Although, monthly events may be female-focused, Tag wants to appeal to all locals that are simply passionate about what they do, whether it be entrepreneurship, education, a product or service,” Carpenter said. Jennifer Carpenter founded Tag Spaces to bring co-working to a broader range of customers. (Tag Photo) Tag’s day passes cost $25 and dedicate desk rentals go for $600. Like Knack’s co-founders, Carpenter believes Tag has something different to offer in the increasingly competitive co-working world. “Nestled inside a community like University District, Tag intends to be a spark to reignite the area’s small business,” she said. “Larger co-working ventures, like Riveter are placed in areas of established business, buzzing with activity. Tag intends to start this trend where ever the next location happens to be.” Female-friendly co-working spaces across the country, from Minneapolis to Brooklyn. This offshoot of the growing co-working movement seeks to provide resources, community, and safety at a time when women are confronting mistreatment in the workplace like never before.
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.
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
Sidonie Kiner reads a poem alongside her mother, Reverb CEO Mikaela Kiner, at the Champion Awards in Seattle on Thursday at the Pacific Science Center. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) Our world says women can’t break through … All women should be born with a sledgehammer to smash through that glass wall … All we want is gender equality … Women’s rights are human rights … The crowd fell silent as Sidonie Kiner read a poem written by her friend that echoed core themes of the , an event held Thursday night in Seattle that celebrated local women founders, investors, entrepreneurs, and others. By the time Sidonie finished the poem, called Pantoum of a Glass Ceiling, the tears were flowing for some of the 300 people in attendance. At her side was Sidonie’s mother, Reverb co-founder and CEO Mikaela Kiner, who helped co-host the second annual event with the Female Founders Alliance (FFA), a Seattle-based startup aiming to help close the gender gap in angel and venture financing. The event’s purpose is to put a spotlight on champions for gender equity across categories such as “The Advocate,” “The Founder,” and “Unsung Heroes.” Kiner, who heads up Seattle-based HR consulting firm Reverb, and Leslie Feinzaig, CEO of FFA, were joined by leaders from organizations such as WTIA, Bank of America, the Seattle Office of Economic Development, and many more on Thursday at the Pacific Science Center. “We bonded over our hopes that the world and workplace would be better and more inclusive for our daughters,” Kiner said of her partnership with Feinzaig. “We want women to have equal opportunities. We want women to have equal pay. Primarily, we want women to have a voice. We want for women to be seen for our values and recognized for our contributions.” (Female Founders Alliance Photo) Female Founders Alliance was born from Feinzaig and her members’ experiences seeking to raise investment capital. Less than 3 percent of venture capital dollars , a number that hasn’t moved much in recent years despite more attention on the gaps. Women-founded companies accounted for just 16 percent of first venture capital financings between 2005-2017, according to a . This year, researchers found 63 percent of startups have no women on their board of directors and 47 percent have no women in leadership. Men outnumber women three to one in the tech industry, according to stats shared last month at the . Across all industries, women earn around 79 cents for each dollar a man makes, according to , based on an “uncontrolled” gender pay gap calculation. The gap has narrowed by 1 percent over the past year. Leslie Feinzaig, founder of the Female Founders Alliance, speaks at Thursday’s event. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) Feinzaig, who is 37 weeks pregnant with her second child, gave an impassioned speech to close out the event that recounted how her own life experiences growing up in Costa Rica and immigrating to the U.S. have helped shape her views on equality and unity today. “Allyship, championship — they are not binaries,” Feinzaig said. “The world, as much as you might not believe it, is not made up of allies and assholes. All of us are in the imperfect, messy middle.” The FFA founder said she wants her daughter to live in a world not divided but rather “where we can all be each other’s allies.” “To those with the dreams, those who are unseen, those that have been hearing the us vs. them language for so long, that have been told we don’t have the power, that we are less than — I just want to say that you do have power,” Feinzaig told the crowd. “You have power and you can use it. There’s power in being beaten down. There’s power in not having anything. There’s power in not being seen, because when you’re beaten down, you learn how to get back up and when you have nothing, you have nothing to lose. And when you’re on unseen, then nobody sees you coming.” Here are the other winners from the Champion Awards, with category descriptions from FFA and Reverb. The Role Model: The role demonstrates what is possible for ambitious women. She is someone with a long trajectory, demonstrated integrity and leadership in her field, who inspires other women to strive for greatness. Winner: Jill Angelo, CEO and co-founder, genneve Jill Angelo, CEO and co-founder of Seattle startup genneve. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) The Sponsor: The sponsor leverages their network and resources to help the women that they mentor advance and succeed in their career. Winner: Shellie Willis, founder, Redefining You Foundation Shellie Willis, founder, Redefining You Foundation. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) The Investor: The investor has literally put “their money where their mouth is” when it comes to investing in women- and non-binary-led businesses and helping founders succeed. Winner: Yoko Okano, angel investor and founding member, Grubstakes Yoko Okano, angel investor and founding member, Grubstakes. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) The Advocate: The advocate is an individual or organization who uses their public platform to promote and advance women’s causes. Winner: Julie Pham, PhD, vice president, community engagement and marketing, WTIA Julie Pham (left), PhD, vice president, community engagement and marketing, WTIA. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) The Company: This organization has created a work culture that supports and advances women, forging meaningful outcomes for its employees that run counter to what’s typical in its industry as a whole. Winner: Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream Molly Moon’s founder Molly Moon Neitzel. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) Unsung Heroes: Often working behind the scenes, these are the champions who uplift women entrepreneurs every day. They provide opportunities, support, and mentoring. They excel in delivering others into the spotlight. The seven recipients announced at the Champion Awards are: – Jennifer Arlem Molina, Lead Consultant, j.a.Molina Creative – Michaela Ayers, Founder, Nourish – Mar Brettmann, PhD, Founding Executive Director, Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST) – Chelsea Cooper, Co-chair, Starbucks Women’s Impact Network – Laura Espriu, Founder & Principal Consultant at Laura Espriu Coaching & Consulting – Judy Loehr, Enterprise SaaS Advisor, Bayla Ventures – Amy Pak, Founder, Executive Director, Families of Color Seattle From left to right: Amy Pak, Founder, Executive Director, Families of Color Seattle; Judy Loehr, Enterprise SaaS Advisor, Bayla Ventures; Laura Espriu, Founder & Principal Consultant at Laura Espriu Coaching & Consulting; Michaela Ayers, Founder, Nourish; Jennifer Arlem Molina, Lead Consultant, j.a.Molina Creative; Chelsea Cooper, Co-chair, Starbucks Women’s Impact Network; and Mar Brettmann, PhD, Founding Executive Director, Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST). (Female Founders Alliance Photo) The Founder: The founder has persevered in the face of adversity to launch and grow a business. This is a peer award that was voted on by the members of the Female Founders Alliance. Winner: Karen Okonkwo, co-founder, TONL (award accepted by colleague)
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
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.
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.
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.
University of Washington graduate students Katherine McAlpine and Daniel Gochnauer work in the Ultracold Atoms Group’s lab to study ultracold atoms and quantum gases. (UW Photo / Dennis Wise) Editor’s note: is a co-founder and managing director at Seattle-based venture capital firm Madrona Venture Group. He is a member of Challenge Seattle and sits on the Amazon board of directors. Commentary: This week I had the opportunity to speak at the , co-sponsored by Microsoft, the University of Washington and Pacific Northwest National Labs. The Summit brought together, for the first time, the large network of quantum researchers, universities and technology companies working in quantum information science (QIS) in our region to share quantum developments and to work together to establish the Pacific Northwest as one of the leading quantum science centers in the world. Quantum computing has the potential to transform our economies and lives. As one of the Summit speakers said, we are on the “cusp of a quantum century.” Quantum computers will be able to solve problems that classical computers can’t solve, even if they run their algorithms for thousands of years. Quantum computers are not limited to the on-or-off (one-or-zero) bits of today’s digital computers. Quantum computers manipulate “qubits” that can be one-and-zero simultaneously, which allows exponentially faster calculations. Quantum computers are expected to be able to crack present-day security codes, which is already causing scientists to work on devising new encryption protocols to protect consumer and business data and national security. Applications developed for quantum computers likely will help us overcome existing challenges in material, chemical and environmental sciences, such as devising new ways for sequestering carbon and improving batteries. Even though the Seattle area is one of the top two technology centers in the U.S., along with the San Francisco Bay Area, we have to make investments now to ensure we become a leading quantum center. To achieve this goal, I argued that we will need to substantially increase financial support to build up the UW’s quantum research capacity and equally important, to create an extensive quantum information science curriculum. The UW’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering began this year to offer a course teaching Microsoft’s Q# language, but one course is not enough if we are to make our area one of the major quantum centers of the future. Madrona Venture Group Managing Director Tom Alberg speaks at the Northwest Quantum Nexus Summit this week in Seattle. U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., is seated behind Alberg. (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Photo / Andrea Starr) Fortunately for our region, Microsoft is one of the acknowledged leaders in quantum computing and is committed to building our regional network. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella gives credit to former Microsoft chief technology officer and research leader Craig Mundie for launching Microsoft’s quantum initiative 10 years ago. Microsoft’s goal is no less than to build a “general-purpose” quantum computer — the holy grail of quantum computing. In the meantime, they are supporting efforts to build a cadre of researchers who are familiar with quantum and capable of writing quantum programs. They have developed and launched a quantum computer language, Q#, as well as a quantum development kit and “Katas,” which are computing tasks that classical computer scientists can use to learn quantum computing skills. They are also building an open source library of quantum programs and have launched the Microsoft Quantum Network to provide assistance to quantum startups and developers. The federal government has recently launched the National Quantum Initiative, which will provide $1.2 billion over the next five years primarily to quantum researchers. The president the new law in December after the bill was approved by unanimous consent in the Senate and a 348-11 vote in the House. Among the purposes are to build a “quantum-smart workforce of the future and engage with government, academic and private-sector leaders to advance QIS.” This federal funding is welcome, even though it’s less than required for a Manhattan-style project equivalent to China’s national quantum initiative. It will be highly important to our region that our congressional delegation, several members of whom are particularly tech-savvy, advocate our case for a fair share of this funding. Our Washington State Legislature should support this by making appropriations for quantum computing and education at the UW as a down payment showing local support. There is also a role for private companies to support our quantum efforts beyond what Microsoft is already doing. I am reminded of the grants by Amazon to the UW in 2012 during the Great Recession, engineered by then-UW computer science chair Ed Lazowska to recruit two leading professors, Carlos Guestrin from Carnegie Mellon and Emily Fox from the University of Pennsylvania, to strengthen the UW’s machine learning expertise. The two $1 million gifts created two endowed professorships. Inflation has certainly raised the price for endowed professorships, but perhaps this could be repeated. Microsoft is focusing on the development of quantum computers that take advantage of cryogenically cooled nanowires. (Microsoft Photo) Another way to build our region’s quantum expertise would be for a local tech entrepreneur to follow the example of Paul Allen, who endowed five $100 million-plus scientific institutes, one of which is the Allen Institute of Artificial Intelligence, headed by former UW professor and current venture partner at Madrona, Oren Etzioni. Building a quantum workforce begins in K-12 schools with teaching computer science, which is a stepping stone to quantum information science. K-12 schools in the U.S. are woefully deficient in teaching basic computer science. Nationally, only 35 percent of high schools offer a computer science course, according to Code.org. And in low-income and minority schools this is even lower since the 35 percent reflects a lot of suburban schools which are more likely to offer computer science courses. We are beginning to address this gap in high schools, but a much larger commitment is needed. Private companies can help fill part of the gap. Amazon recently its Future Engineers program, which includes a $50 million investment in computer science and STEM education for underprivileged students. As part of this program, a few weeks ago, Amazon announced grants to more than 1,000 schools in all 50 states, over 700 of which are Title 1 schools. Studies have shown that if a disadvantaged student takes an advanced computer science course in high school, they are eight times as likely to major in computer science at a university. In addition to Amazon, Microsoft and other tech companies have programs to increase the teaching of computer science. One of those programs, backed by Microsoft, is TEALS, which organizes employees and retired employees as volunteers to teach computer science in schools. Amazon, Microsoft and other tech companies are big financial supporters of Code.org, which is having a significant effect on increasing the teaching of computer science in public schools. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2020 there will be 1.4 million computer science related jobs needing to be filled, but only 400,000 computer science graduates with the skills to apply for those jobs. Only a tiny percentage of the 400,000 are minorities or from low-income families. A similar need exists in Washington state, with a gap of several thousand between the jobs to be filled and the number of annual graduates. In Seattle and other tech centers in the U.S., we have been fortunate that we have been able to attract and retain a very substantial number of computer scientists from other countries to fill these jobs. But with immigration and trade uncertainties, this flow is uncertain and may not be as robust as needed. Even more important, by not providing the opportunity for our kids, particularly disadvantaged children, we are short-changing them. The best way to close the income gap is to improve our public educational system so a broader segment of our population can qualify for the jobs of the future. Organizations such as the Technology Access Foundation are attacking this problem head-on by creating curriculum, recruiting minority teachers and building schools. We need to support these organizations and implement their approach broadly. At the university level, we are also deficient in educating a sufficient number of computer scientists. Even at universities such as the UW, with large and high-quality computer science schools, we are unable to fill the demand for computer scientists. The Allen School graduates about 450 undergraduate students annually. Although this is double what the school produced a few years ago, it is woefully short of the several thousand needed annually in our state. This needs to be doubled again, but funding is lacking. In short, our region needs to recommit to building our computer science workforce beginning in our K-12 schools, and undertake a new effort to build our quantum expertise and workforce.
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 .
Everett Memorial Stadium north of Seattle is now Funko Field. (Flickr Photo / Chase N) The Seattle Mariners will be playing in a hometown stadium with a new name this season, and so will the team’s Class A affiliate up north. , the Everett, Wash.-based makers of pop culture products, announced that Funko Field will be the newly named home for the Everett Aquasox minor league baseball team. Funko bought the naming rights for the next six years, and will add signage around the stadium and branding on ballpark staff uniforms. The that the deal will cost the company up to $1.1 million and required approval of the Everett School Board. (Funko Image) “Funko has been a prominent fixture in the community since moving to downtown Everett,” Brian Mariotti, chief executive officer of Funko said in a news release. “Our commitment to the community and our employees has never wavered. This partnership is a terrific opportunity to further engage with our fans and neighbors by cheering on the home team together.” The company said Friday home games will be designated “Funko Fridays,” and will include promotions and giveaways for AquaSox ticket holders. The Herald said a 15-foot figurine will be featured in right field. Funko is well known as the creators of Pop! collectibles, the figurines with wide eyes that capture the likenesses of characters across the pop culture spectrum. The company went public in 2017 and near $825 million in 2019. called Funko stock “a steal” in recent comments. Funko Field opening day is June 21, when the AquaSox meet the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. In Seattle, the Mariners will be playing at T-Mobile Park staring on March 28. The Bellevue, Wash.-based wireless carrier bought naming rights after a 20-year-deal with Safeco Insurance came to an end.
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.