GeekWire >https://www.geekwire.com/wp-content/themes/geekwire/dist/images/geekwire-feedly.svg BE4825 https://www.geekwire.com/ Breaking News in Technology & Business Tue, 23 Aug 2022 00:10:59 +0000 en-US https://www.geekwire.com/wp-content/themes/geekwire/dist/images/geekwire-logo-rss.png https://www.geekwire.com/ GeekWire https://www.geekwire.com/wp-content/themes/geekwire/dist/images/geekwire-logo-rss.png 144 144 hourly 1 Former Activision-Blizzard CFO resigns from Smartsheet board after internal backlash https://www.geekwire.com/2022/former-activision-blizzard-cfo-resigns-from-smartsheet-board-after-internal-backlash/ Mon, 22 Aug 2022 23:52:04 +0000 https://www.geekwire.com/?p=717771
Dennis Durkin, former Activision Blizzard chief financial officer, resigned from the board of Smartsheet, the Bellevue, Wash.-based collaboration and work management technology company, citing unspecified personal reasons, less than a month after he was named to the role. The abrupt resignation, disclosed Monday in a regulatory filing, follows an internal uproar among Smartsheet employees after Durkin’s appointment to the board on Aug. 2. The backlash focused in part on his past role as a top Activision-Blizzard executive. Durkin was chief financial officer at the video-game giant as it faced widespread allegations of fostering a “frat boy” environment and culture of… Read More]]>
Dennis Durkin resigned from the Smartsheet board effective Aug. 21. (Activision-Blizzard Photo)

Dennis Durkin, former Activision Blizzard chief financial officer, resigned from the board of Smartsheet, the Bellevue, Wash.-based collaboration and work management technology company, citing unspecified personal reasons, less than a month after he was named to the role.

The abrupt resignation, disclosed Monday in a regulatory filing, follows an internal uproar among Smartsheet employees after Durkin’s appointment to the board on Aug. 2.

The backlash focused in part on his past role as a top Activision-Blizzard executive. Durkin was chief financial officer at the video-game giant as it faced widespread allegations of fostering a “frat boy” environment and culture of sexual harassment and discrimination against female employees.

Activision-Blizzard, which earlier this year agreed to a $68.7 billion acquisition offer from Microsoft, reached a settlement for $18 million in September 2021 in a consent decree with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

A separate civil securities suit, which names Durkin among the defendants, alleges that Activision-Blizzard failed to properly disclose allegations of harassment against the company to investors.

In internal forums and calls, Smartsheet employees including members of the company Women’s Employee Resource Group expressed deep concern and frustration over Durkin’s appointment, and the company’s priorities for creating a safe and equitable working environment, according to people who took part.

Part of the frustration came from the fact that Durkin and Smartsheet CEO Mark Mader both attended Dartmouth College and played on the football team, leading to assumptions that cronyism played a role.

However, a person familiar with the situation said today that while Mader and Durkin were aware of each other from their time in college, they have never been personal friends, and hadn’t had any connection since college until a search committee brought Durkin forward as a candidate for the Smartsheet board.

Smartsheet released this statement on Durkin’s resignation.

We can confirm Dennis Durkin’s resignation from our board. We respect his decision and wish him well. 

Our board conducted a robust recruitment and vetting process for the skills and experience we needed to add to our board. In listening to our employees, it’s clear we can improve this process. We are actively working to address these gaps, keeping our employees updated throughout. 

We are grateful and proud that Smartsheet is a place where employees care deeply about our culture and feel comfortable expressing their opinions with leadership. Smartsheet is and will continue to be a place where employee safety and wellbeing are foundational, where raising concerns and suggestions is welcomed and encouraged, and where we work to enable and enact meaningful change.

The company’s SEC filing said, in part, “Mr. Durkin’s resignation is not due to any disagreement with the Company or the Board on any matters relating to the Company’s operations, policies, or practices.”

Durkin worked for more than 12 years at Microsoft, including a role as CFO/COO of the Xbox business. He was at Activision-Blizzard for more than nine years, leaving in May 2021. Microsoft announced its agreement to acquire Activision-Blizzard in January, contingent upon regulatory approval, which is still pending.

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Legal tech company led by former U.S. diplomat will represent Seattle at the Startup World Cup https://www.geekwire.com/2022/legal-tech-company-led-by-former-u-s-diplomat-will-represent-seattle-at-the-startup-world-cup/ Mon, 22 Aug 2022 18:41:14 +0000 https://www.geekwire.com/?p=716183
Seattle-area startup Advocat is using artificial intelligence to help companies save time and money with their legal contracts. Led by a former U.S. diplomat, Advocat’s AI-based legal contract generator uses templates based on existing company contracts and guardrails set by legal teams. Its software also provides a negotiation tracking tool. The idea is to eliminate repetitive work for legal teams, keep contracts up-to-date, and streamline business processes. “Advocat is part of a movement to make the legal system more fair using technology, have a real impact on standardizing the way that contracts are made, and speed up the process to… Read More]]>
The Advocat team. (Advocat Photo)

Seattle-area startup Advocat is using artificial intelligence to help companies save time and money with their legal contracts.

Led by a former U.S. diplomat, Advocat’s AI-based legal contract generator uses templates based on existing company contracts and guardrails set by legal teams. Its software also provides a negotiation tracking tool. The idea is to eliminate repetitive work for legal teams, keep contracts up-to-date, and streamline business processes.

“Advocat is part of a movement to make the legal system more fair using technology, have a real impact on standardizing the way that contracts are made, and speed up the process to make it more accessible and affordable,” said CEO Pradnya Desh, a trained lawyer who helped launch Advocate in 2019.

CEO Pradnya Desh. (Advocat Photo)

Advocat follows a usage-based pricing model that charges companies on a per-contract basis. The 10-person startup focuses on the most common contracts that U.S. companies need, but can train AI models for new types of contracts within a month, Desh said.

Earlier this month, Advocat won the Seattle regional event for the Startup World Cup and advanced to the global finale in San Francisco taking place this fall. The competition, hosted by Pegasus Tech Ventures, awards $1 million to the winning team.

Advocat has raised $2.2 million from investors, as well as the San Diego Angel Conference and Seattle Angel Conference

We caught up with Desh for the latest Startup Spotlight. Continue reading for her answers to our questionnaire. Answers were edited for brevity and clarity.

Our competitors and how we’re different: We have competitors in the market that have very large, heavy Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) systems — they’re the opposite of product-led growth. To implement a large CLM, it takes months of a sales cycle and then after that, it takes months of onboarding time. During that onboarding process, those companies have to dedicate a full-time employee to assist with the onboarding, so it’s a very heavy lift from the customer side of things. We’re the opposite of that — if somebody decides to use Advocat, they can decide today and just start. So, we call ourselves the anti-CLM.

The smartest move we’ve made so far: Hiring great people. The team is who is with you for the long haul.

The greatest challenge in developing Advocat: Legal has a very high need for accuracy, so it’s very important to get the contracts right, protect data and make sure our system is secure. Those are all key considerations that we’ve had in developing it, so building a model that is as accurate as our customers need them to be while not letting data go from one part of the system into another part of the system was a challenge. It’s something that we made sure we did before even going to market, but our engineers spent quite a bit of focus on doing that well.

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: Engineering takes a lot longer than then you expect it to take, and even if you expect it to take longer than you expected, it takes longer than that.

How the economic uncertainty is affecting our growth: We were raising in June so it felt very uncertain as to whether we would be able to close it in time. Seeing the macroeconomic situation, we made sure to close it as quickly as we could. We were worried that if we didn’t close it then, it could go on for a long time and as an early-stage startup, we don’t have a long time. So, it just made us act a lot quicker in closing a funding round.

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Seattle startup aiming to detect, treat Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease raises cash https://www.geekwire.com/2022/seattle-startup-aiming-to-detect-treat-alzheimers-and-parkinsons-disease-raises-cash/ Mon, 22 Aug 2022 15:09:59 +0000 https://www.geekwire.com/?p=717523
The news: University of Washington spinout AltPep recently raised $44.4 million, according to a regulatory filing. The company declined to discuss the filing, but founder and CEO Valerie Daggett spoke with GeekWire about AltPep’s progress on its experimental blood test to detect Alzheimer’s disease at the earliest stages. “We’re going after that first molecular trigger for the pathology,” said Daggett, who is also a UW professor of bioengineering. The 3-year old startup is also developing a diagnostic for Parkinson’s disease and treatments for both conditions. Making progress: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently gave AltPep’s Alzheimer’s test its “breakthrough… Read More]]>
AltPep CEO and founder Valerie Daggett. (AltPep Photo)

The news: University of Washington spinout AltPep recently raised $44.4 million, according to a regulatory filing. The company declined to discuss the filing, but founder and CEO Valerie Daggett spoke with GeekWire about AltPep’s progress on its experimental blood test to detect Alzheimer’s disease at the earliest stages.

“We’re going after that first molecular trigger for the pathology,” said Daggett, who is also a UW professor of bioengineering. The 3-year old startup is also developing a diagnostic for Parkinson’s disease and treatments for both conditions.

Making progress: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently gave AltPep’s Alzheimer’s test its “breakthrough device” designation, putting it on the path to prioritized review. The company is developing a kit for the test and talking with potential partners, including large diagnostic companies.

AltPep’s tests for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease are also being used in preclinical studies for the company’s candidate treatments for those conditions. The tests would ideally be approved before future clinical trials and would be used in conjunction with them, said Daggett.

Building the company: The 25-employee startup raised $23.1 million in a Series A round in January 2021 led by Matrix Capital Investment with participation from Alexandria Venture Investments. AtlPep has been growing at its labs in Seattle’s Northlake neighborhood and is hiring.

AltPep hired a chief medical officer, Gilbert Block, early on. That’s not something a lot of startups do, said Daggett. “Our preclinical studies are being designed with an eye to the clinic,” she said. “We are really trying to bring that in early to not go off in too many tangents.”

The research at AltPep and in Daggett’s UW lab build off of each other. “We can still do a lot of the basic research at UW and publish, and it can help inform what we’re doing with AltPep,” she said.

The people: Other members of the leadership team include Patrik Edenholm, chief operating officer; Charles Horne, chief financial officer; Kurt Becker, VP, legal and business development; and Nancy Hill, chief product officer.

Board members are Daggett, biotech veteran Todd Patrick, Adaptive Biotechnologies co-founder and CEO Chad Robins, Matrix Capital Management co-founder David Goel; and Joel Marcus, executive chairman and founder of Alexandria Real Estate Equities/Alexandria Venture Investments.

How it works: Toxic forms of a molecule called Amyloid-beta are thought to set Alzheimer’s disease in motion, years before the symptoms of Alzheimer’s manifest. Research from multiple labs suggest that Amyloid-beta forms toxic “oligomers” that build up in the brain and trigger a host of other pathologies. AltPep’s diagnostic detects these oligomers, which are also present in the blood.

The company’s approach to treating Alzheimer’s disease targets the same oligomers, with the aim of hijacking the disease before it sets in. “It’s really important to go after the very earliest events,” said Daggett.

AltPep’s pipeline. (AltPep Image)

More science: Daggett and her colleagues showed that the oligomers adopt a specific three-dimensional structure as they form, called an alpha-sheet. They also generated matching peptides, small proteins that bind the structure — these peptides are the basis of the company’s therapeutics and Alzheimer’s test, called SOBA (soluble oligomer-binding assay)-AD. AltPep is taking a similar approach to developing diagnostics and treatments for Parkinson’s disease, which also is associated with a protein that forms alpha-sheets.

State of the field: Despite decades of research and hundreds of clinical trials, big breakthroughs in Alzheimer’s disease treatment remain elusive. One key reason, said Daggett, is that most experimental approaches target the disease well after it is underway, often aiming for Amyloid-beta after it’s formed nasty clumps throughout the brain. The controversial new drug Aduhelm mainly targets forms of Amyloid-beta more prevalent at later disease stages, said Daggett.

Meanwhile, companies like Seattle’s Athira Pharma are aiming for targets other than Amyloid-beta.

Most experimental diagnostics also target later stages of the disease, said Daggett. “So far, there hasn’t been a way to diagnose early enough, and there hasn’t been a way to treat early enough, and we’ve got that target,” said Daggett.

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Amazon reportedly eyeing Signify Health as it continues push into healthcare https://www.geekwire.com/2022/amazon-reportedly-eyeing-signify-health-as-it-continues-push-into-healthcare/ Mon, 22 Aug 2022 01:15:19 +0000 https://www.geekwire.com/?p=717598
Amazon is eying an acquisition of Signify Health in a deal that would further push the tech giant into healthcare. The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that Amazon is among several suitors for Signify Health, which is for sale in an auction. The deal could value the healthcare provider at more than $8 billion, the Journal reported. An Amazon spokesperson said the company does not comment on speculation. CVS Health Corp. and UnitedHealth Group Inc. are among the other suitors for Signify Health, which provides technology to help with in-home care. Its customers are healthcare businesses, government-run programs, and others.… Read More]]>
(GeekWire Photo)

Amazon is eying an acquisition of Signify Health in a deal that would further push the tech giant into healthcare.

The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that Amazon is among several suitors for Signify Health, which is for sale in an auction. The deal could value the healthcare provider at more than $8 billion, the Journal reported.

An Amazon spokesperson said the company does not comment on speculation.

CVS Health Corp. and UnitedHealth Group Inc. are among the other suitors for Signify Health, which provides technology to help with in-home care. Its customers are healthcare businesses, government-run programs, and others.

Update: Signify’s stock surged more than 35% on Monday morning. Amazon’s stock is down more than 3%.

Amazon last month said it plans to acquire primary care provider One Medical for $3.9 billion, one of its largest acquisitions to date as the company goes on a buying spree. Earlier this month it announced plans for a $1.7 billion acquisition of Roomba maker iRobot, which would push its annual spending on acquisitions to a new high.

One key question is how much antitrust scrutiny Amazon will face with its recent acquisitions. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission made its new outlook on tech acquisitions clear with the announcement July 27 that it will attempt to block Facebook parent Meta from acquiring virtual reality fitness app Supernatural. FTC official John Newman scolded Meta for trying “to buy market position instead of earning it on the merits.”

Amazon reportedly made it a strategic priority to disengage in any rumors or public speculation on its courting of One Medical. CVS was also vying to purchase the company. The dueling bids by Amazon and CVS are more evidence of the desire among big companies to expand further into health tech, STAT News reported.

Signify’s market value at the time of reporting is nearly $5 billion.

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OceanGate’s explorers update their view of a tattered Titanic ⁠and the life around it https://www.geekwire.com/2022/oceangates-explorers-update-their-view-of-a-tattered-titanic-and-the-life-around-it/ Sun, 21 Aug 2022 16:00:00 +0000 https://www.geekwire.com/?p=717457
After his second yearly series of dives to the Titanic, the CEO and founder of Everett, Wash.-based OceanGate says the deterioration of the world’s most famous shipwreck is continuing apace. “We’ll have some better data next year, but it definitely is in worse condition this year than it was last,” OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush told GeekWire. “It’s going through its natural consumption by the ocean.” Rush said the decay is particularly noticeable on the sunken ship’s forward railing. Scientists on the Titanic survey team should be able to get a better fix once they analyze the scaled measurements that were… Read More]]>
OceanGate photographed Titanic’s iconic bow in 2021, at left, and in 2022. (OceanGate Expeditions Photos)

After his second yearly series of dives to the Titanic, the CEO and founder of Everett, Wash.-based OceanGate says the deterioration of the world’s most famous shipwreck is continuing apace.

“We’ll have some better data next year, but it definitely is in worse condition this year than it was last,” OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush told GeekWire. “It’s going through its natural consumption by the ocean.”

Rush said the decay is particularly noticeable on the sunken ship’s forward railing. Scientists on the Titanic survey team should be able to get a better fix once they analyze the scaled measurements that were made using a laser scanner attached to OceanGate’s Titan submersible.

Surveying the Titanic’s remains on a yearly basis is one of the prime missions for Titan, which was built to withstand the enormous pressures experienced almost 4,000 meters (12,600 feet) beneath the surface of the North Atlantic Ocean.

Marine archaeologists say we may be nearing the end of the Titanic’s saga, which began with its fatal first voyage in 1912 and continued with its rediscovery in 1985. Recent surveys have documented how the once-mighty luxury liner is turning into a rusty ruin. Studying year-by-year changes can shed light on the factors behind the accelerating deterioration.

Another prime objective is to categorize the deep-sea habitat surrounding the ship. Rush expects to see some significant biological discoveries come out of this year’s Titanic survey.

“We have researchers at the University of Edinburgh, the University of North Carolina looking at the video as we speak, to look at both the density of the species and then the types,” Rush said. “I thoroughly suspect that they will find species they can’t specifically identify. It’s a challenge to know if they’re new species unless you get the DNA.”

Fortunately, OceanGate Expeditions is partnering with a Canadian company called eDNAtec to collect and analyze samples of water at the ocean floor as well as at other levels of the sea, looking for traces of environmental DNA. The results could help scientists determine which kinds of species left behind their genetic signatures — including previously unknown species.

Rush said it’s likely to take at least three months to finish the DNA analysis.

OceanGate’s team members and outside researchers weren’t the only ones to take trips to the Titanic: The company brought along a total of 21 mission specialists who paid as much as $250,000 to be part of the adventure.

Among those mission specialists were two spacefliers who previously rode Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital rocket ship — Evan Dick and Dylan Taylor — as well as planetary scientist Alan Stern, who heads up NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt and is scheduled to take his own suborbital spaceflight.

“It really does seem unreal that we visited the Titanic, sometimes being as close as just a foot or so from the ship,” Stern wrote in a blog post.

Other mission specialists included artists from Canada’s First Nations, plus a self-described “Titanic nut” who won a contest sponsored by Make-A-Wish Canada.

Rush, who served as the submersible’s pilot, said that OceanGate and its partners at Horizon Maritime got in eight dives over the course of a research season that ran from mid-June to late July. Teams shuttled back and forth between St. John’s, Newfoundland, and the Titanic wreck site, about 370 miles away.

During last year’s expedition, OceanGate faced a host of technical problems. “This year, our challenges were much more related to the weather and operational challenges, new team members, new procedures and the like,” Rush said. “Things are getting smoother. I wouldn’t say easier, but it was more predictable.”

Rush and his teammates are already thinking about the 2023 expedition. “We’re looking to do the mission a little earlier — we’ll start in mid-May and be done by the end of June,” he said. “And we’re going to have a different ship, so there’s a lot of work we have to do to qualify that ship and get it ready.”

He’s also looking for targets beyond the Titanic. “We might do something in the Azores,” Rush said. “That would be very interesting. I’ve always wanted to do hydrothermal vents.”

Here are some of this year’s Titanic highlights on Twitter:

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Week in Review: Most popular stories on GeekWire for the week of Aug. 14, 2022 https://www.geekwire.com/2022/geekwire-weekly-roundup-2022-08-14/ Sun, 21 Aug 2022 15:01:06 +0000 https://www.geekwire.com/2022/geekwire-weekly-roundup-2022-08-14/
See the technology stories that people were reading on GeekWire for the week of Aug. 14, 2022.… Read More]]>
Get caught up on the latest technology and startup news from the past week. Here are the most popular stories on GeekWire for the week of Aug. 14, 2022.

Sign up to receive these updates every Sunday in your inbox by subscribing to our GeekWire Weekly email newsletter.

Most popular stories on GeekWire

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Understanding Amazon: Secrets of the company’s success, and where it’s headed next https://www.geekwire.com/2022/a-deeper-understanding-of-amazon-secrets-of-the-companys-success-and-where-its-headed-next/ Sat, 20 Aug 2022 17:37:40 +0000 https://www.geekwire.com/?p=717445
Amazon is one of the most extraordinary business stories of our time. Many people in the tech industry have a general understanding of this story, picking up bits and pieces of its lore and culture over the years. But what are the real reasons for Amazon’s success? What can today’s entrepreneurs learn from what Jeff Bezos did? And where is Amazon headed next?  Two startup investors spent about two months researching Amazon in their spare time to answer questions like those, and they just shared what they learned. Ben Gilbert, managing director at Seattle-based Pioneer Square Labs, and David Rosenthal,… Read More]]>
An Amazon promotion for the film “Jurassic World,” with a hashtag that could double as the company’s mantra. (Amazon Photo)

Amazon is one of the most extraordinary business stories of our time. Many people in the tech industry have a general understanding of this story, picking up bits and pieces of its lore and culture over the years.

Ben Gilbert, co-host of the podcast Acquired, and managing director at Pioneer Square Labs. (PSL Photo)

But what are the real reasons for Amazon’s success? What can today’s entrepreneurs learn from what Jeff Bezos did? And where is Amazon headed next? 

Two startup investors spent about two months researching Amazon in their spare time to answer questions like those, and they just shared what they learned.

Ben Gilbert, managing director at Seattle-based Pioneer Square Labs, and David Rosenthal, a San Francisco-based angel investor, this week released an epic episode of their podcast, Acquired, spanning nearly 4-and-a-half hours — providing a deeper understanding of Amazon and new insights into the company.

Gilbert joins my colleague John Cook and me on this week’s episode of the GeekWire Podcast to discuss key takeaways and highlights from their Amazon deep dive.

Listen below, and continue reading for notes from the conversation.

Why was it important to do this deep dive on Amazon?

  • Amazon has been mentioned frequently on Acquired, but Ben and David felt that they hadn’t done the company justice as a subject unto itself.
  • They came to realize that many people in the Bay Area, for example, might know about door-desks or two-pizza teams, but don’t understand the intricacies of the company.
  • It’s a very interesting time at Amazon, but the main reason was that this company is still misunderstood.

Key insight from Ben on the Acquired episode: Amazon philosophically is a straight line, strategically a squiggly line, and tactically a random set of dots powered by a fact-finding algorithm.

  • This explains why the company persists despite failures, such as its multiple attempts at the third-party retail business before coming up with the successful Amazon Marketplace.
  • The philosophical straight line is customer obsession. Jeff Bezos posits that, in the extreme long-run, there is perfect alignment between customer and shareholder interests.
  • How do you turn customer obsession into a product roadmap? You can’t. And so you need to squiggle your way to it, zooming around the maze, hitting a wall, backing up and trying again.
  • Related to this is Amazon’s distinction between one- and two-way doors: distinguishing between decisions that are irreversible and those that aren’t, and treating decisions differently depending on that determination.

Biggest surprise from the research?

  • Bezos was initially inspired by a report showing that web traffic in 1993 had grown by a factor of 2,300, or 230,000 percent, as detailed by Brad Stone in his book, The Everything Store.
  • As a business opportunity, it’s difficult or impossible to identify anything that compares to that kind of growth today, and much of the biggest growth areas are the result of the internet.
  • A good question for entrepreneurs: would they recognize and act on opportunities like this?
  • Todd suggests quantum computing or fusion energy as the next one. John jokes that it’s the metaverse.

Pivotal early meeting between Amazon and eBay showed the difference.

  • Meg Whitman, then CEO of eBay, preferred the higher profit margins of a capital-light, pure digital business.
  • Bezos believed in building out the infrastructure for distribution and order fulfillment — costlier short-term but more valuable long term.
  • Ben: “I don’t know how many people are spending too high of a percent of their paycheck on eBay these days. But there’s a lot more on Amazon.”

Amazon’s impact on the Seattle startup ecosystem.

  • Ben on Acquired: “The biggest impediment for the Seattle startup ecosystem was the fact that Amazon facilitated entrepreneurship over and over again, for people of all stages of their career with all levels of ambition.”
  • John agrees: What’s amazing about Amazon is their ability is their ability to stay innovative and entrepreneurial even as they’ve grown to more than a million employees, allowing them to retain and recruit entrepreneurial people who otherwise might have created their own startups.

Is it really still “Day One” at Amazon?

  • This is Bezos’ oft-quoted mantra, meant to illustrate the growth potential ahead. In 2000, Bezos wrote, “We still believe that some 15% of retail commerce may ultimately move online.”
  • Retail sales exceeded that threshold in the pandemic, declining somewhat since the peak. Based on this, Ben says, “I think it is Day Two for Amazon.”
  • Ben: “Where do people think that ecommerce penetration will land as a percentage of total commerce? We’re there. And to be honest, other than maybe a house and a car, I don’t know how I could spend more money on the internet … most of it on Amazon.”
  • Shift to a new CEO, Andy Jassy, is also a sign of this.
  • However, Ben says, it’s important to note: “Day Two” does not mean Amazon is no longer innovative. “I think it’s Day Two, because they’re open to the idea of making money and reaping some of the value from everything that they’ve created out in the world.” Investors expect them to do this at some point.

What’s the best acquisition Amazon has made?

The original Amazon HQ, in a rented home in Bellevue, Wash., shows innovation can come from anywhere. Here’s our story on the 2019 sale of that home, and the significance of the oversized mailbox that was once on the curb.

What should entrepreneurs study, learn, and adopt from Bezos or Amazon that they wouldn’t do naturally?

  • True customer obsession. Not just lip service. Genuine devotion to serving customers. Bezos put “every single ounce of attention and energy” into this.
  • This is not a natural thing for many startups to do, despite what they may say.
  • Ben: “The only way to birth Amazon into the world and to then continue to innovate the way they did for 20-plus years is to perform unnatural acts, over and over and over again.”

For much more, check out the full Amazon episode of Acquired.

Listen above, or subscribe to GeekWire in Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen.

Audio editing and production by Curt Milton.

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AI thrilled the video star: Seattle musician uses unique tech to generate imagery for his song https://www.geekwire.com/2022/ai-thrilled-the-video-star-seattle-musician-uses-unique-tech-to-generate-imagery-for-his-song/ Sat, 20 Aug 2022 15:00:00 +0000 https://www.geekwire.com/?p=717380
Someone once famously said that “video killed the radio star.” Forty-one years after that song helped ironically launch MTV, the question in 2022 is, what will artificial intelligence do for the video maker? Seattle’s Jacob Colker is already providing an answer. Colker, managing director of the startup incubator at the Allen Institute for AI, is one half of King//Colker, a rock-electronic duo which also features Nick King, a Los Angeles-based filmmaker. These days the pair make music together remotely from their respective basements and their YouTube channel has had some success, attracting about 800,000 views across four music videos. ‘It… Read More]]>

Someone once famously said that “video killed the radio star.” Forty-one years after that song helped ironically launch MTV, the question in 2022 is, what will artificial intelligence do for the video maker?

Seattle’s Jacob Colker is already providing an answer.

Colker, managing director of the startup incubator at the Allen Institute for AI, is one half of King//Colker, a rock-electronic duo which also features Nick King, a Los Angeles-based filmmaker.

These days the pair make music together remotely from their respective basements and their YouTube channel has had some success, attracting about 800,000 views across four music videos.

‘It unlocks a whole new world of creativity that is trapped in people’s minds.’

The latest video (above) is for a song titled “Moment,” and it’s a high-tech creation made by Colker over the span of a weekend. Posted on Monday, the video quickly racked up 150,000 views, perhaps due in some part to the unique nature in which it was made.

Colker had access to a private beta of DALL-E 2, a new system from the San Francisco AI research laboratory OpenAI, which improves upon the previous release of DALL-E 1.

DALL-E 2 can take simple natural language descriptions and turn them into realistic images or artwork. The technology, designed to enhance visual expression as well as teach humans how AI sees our world, is described in this YouTube video — where you’ll get to see what art of a koala bear riding a motorcycle looks like.

“With the limited tools that we have and a production budget of zero, because this is a side project, we’ve tried to find creative ways to make music videos,” Colker said.

Jacob Colker, left, and Nick King of the band King//Colker. (King//Colker Photo)

After shooting previous videos on an iPhone for fun, Colker and King wanted to use animation for “Moment,” a song about the many chapters of human life.

Using DALL-E 2, Colker would type in such things as “cyberpunk painting of teenager with blue hair hanging out with mom and dad.” The system would generate images to match those criteria, ultimately providing a single frame in a colorful video that features more than 200 separate “paintings” stitched together by Colker.

“It was a fun moment to bring together my two worlds of tech and AI and also music,” Colker said.

In the age of Instagram, TikTok and tech of all kinds, the rapid-fire imagery of Colker’s creation seems to make sense, even if it does feel like a strange evolution from the heyday of MTV and cinematic music videos that defined a generation, from “Thriller” to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and so on.

But as a part-time creative, Colker said he doesn’t have tens of thousands of dollars to hire a professional illustrator or creative house to generate his imagery. And he sees the technology as a breakthrough akin to the iPhone 15 years ago, and how it has enabled people to create incredible photography with a device in their pocket.

“It unlocks a whole new world of creativity that is trapped in people’s minds, who deserve to have their art seen but they don’t have the production budgets that other folks do,” Colker said of DALL-E 2. “I think that’s really powerful.”

Time to update those lyrics from the hit that hyped MTV …

AI thrilled the video star,

In my mind and in my car,

We can’t rewind, we’ve gone too far.

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Seattle customer intelligence startup Amperity lays off recruiting staff https://www.geekwire.com/2022/seattle-customer-intelligence-startup-amperity-lays-off-recruiting-staff/ Sat, 20 Aug 2022 14:54:18 +0000 https://www.geekwire.com/?p=717448
Amperity this week joined a growing list of Seattle startups that are trimming headcount. The customer intelligence company laid off 13 employees, or about 3% of its staff, a spokesperson confirmed to GeekWire. The company employs 375 people and plans to hire an additional 25 across the organization. “At Amperity, we are constantly monitoring our business to ensure there is alignment across the organization to support our strategic growth plans,” Amperity CEO Barry Padgett said in a statement Friday. “Today, we made the very difficult decision to eliminate thirteen roles primarily on our talent acquisition team. We are, however, continuing… Read More]]>
(Amperity Photo)

Amperity this week joined a growing list of Seattle startups that are trimming headcount.

The customer intelligence company laid off 13 employees, or about 3% of its staff, a spokesperson confirmed to GeekWire. The company employs 375 people and plans to hire an additional 25 across the organization.

“At Amperity, we are constantly monitoring our business to ensure there is alignment across the organization to support our strategic growth plans,” Amperity CEO Barry Padgett said in a statement Friday. “Today, we made the very difficult decision to eliminate thirteen roles primarily on our talent acquisition team. We are, however, continuing to hire and invest in specific areas of the business to help us execute on our growth strategy.”

Tech companies have been laying off employees and slowing hiring in an effort to cut expenses amid uncertain economic conditions.

Other Seattle-area tech startups including Flyhomes, Shelf Engine, Convoy, Outreach, Qumulo, and Esper have laid off employees in recent months.

Founded in 2016, Amperity’s software lets companies fine-tune their targeted marketing campaigns by connecting fragmented data sources about individual customer habits via emails, purchase history, mobile app usage, website traffic, physical store visits, etc. The idea is to give marketers a holistic understanding of a given user and increase sales while driving brand loyalty.

Amperity earned “unicorn” status in July 2021, reaching a $1 billion valuation after raising $100 million.

The company’s co-founder Kabir Shahani stepped down as CEO and a board member earlier this year, with no public explanation.

Padgett, who was previously president and COO, has been CEO since February of this year. He is a a veteran of Concur Technologies and former chief revenue officer at Stripe. Derek Slager, who co-founded Amperity with Shahani, remains at the company as CTO.

Shahani and Slager previously co-founded Appature, a health marketing startup that sold to IMS Health in 2013.

Amperity’s backers include HighSage Ventures, Tiger Global Management, Declaration Partners, Madrona Venture Group and Madera Technology Partners.

Its board includes Madrona Managing Director Matt McIlwain; Accolade CEO Raj Singh; former Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson; and singer-songwriter Ciara.

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A sneak peek inside Till Dawn, a new video game-themed bar and cafe in Seattle https://www.geekwire.com/2022/a-sneak-peek-inside-till-dawn-a-new-video-game-themed-bar-and-cafe-in-seattle/ Sat, 20 Aug 2022 14:00:00 +0000 https://www.geekwire.com/?p=716278
From the outside, Till Dawn looks nondescript. But when you first enter the new neighborhood bar in West Seattle, it feels like a video game-induced trip. The walls are covered in gaming-inspired murals. LED lights flicker different colors, resembling a gaming keyboard or a Twitch streamer’s backdrop. There is also a collection of Easter eggs, such as a star from Super Mario Brothers, guns from the Devil May Cry, and Pipboy from Fallout. The mystique is mostly intentional, says Andrew Spence, a Bay Area transplant who owns another West Seattle bar, 2 Finger’s Social. “Through this build out, I get… Read More]]>
Each stand-up gaming station at Till Dawn will have its own monitor and console. (GeekWire Photo / Nate Bek)

From the outside, Till Dawn looks nondescript. But when you first enter the new neighborhood bar in West Seattle, it feels like a video game-induced trip.

The walls are covered in gaming-inspired murals. LED lights flicker different colors, resembling a gaming keyboard or a Twitch streamer’s backdrop. There is also a collection of Easter eggs, such as a star from Super Mario Brothers, guns from the Devil May Cry, and Pipboy from Fallout.

The mystique is mostly intentional, says Andrew Spence, a Bay Area transplant who owns another West Seattle bar, 2 Finger’s Social.

“Through this build out, I get the feeling that I don’t even know what’s going on outside,” he said last week during a tour of the space, which opens soon. “I wanted it to feel like it takes you away from reality.”

The new gaming bar, located on 5048 California Ave SW, will mainly cater to coffee, beer and video game enthusiasts of all ages. There are 16 stand-up gaming stations, each with its own monitor and console. Patrons will be able to play games individually, tournament-style or as teams. There will also be a private Dungeons and Dragons game room available for campaigns.

One of Spence’s main objectives with Till Dawn is to make patrons feel comfortable, no matter where they are coming from, providing a space where gamers can come together to celebrate their love of video games.

The current exterior of Till Dawn is mostly nondescript. (GeekWire Photo / Nate Bek)

Spence said the aim is to serve mostly walk-in customers. Patrons who drive will need to find street parking along the popular West Seattle strip.

Seattle-based Boon Boona will supply the coffee, while all the main food items will be catered from local bakeries. The bar will also feature a selection of “gaming nerd concessions,” ranging from Mountain Dew and Hot Cheetos, to Japanese-influenced snacks like rice candy and Hi-Chew. 

Till Dawn has yet to get its liquor commission and will serve coffee drinks to earn initial revenue. Once it gets licensed, it will feature more than 75 beers from around the world, along with high-end liquors, which will range in price from $12-to-$15.  

Spence said he plans to open for coffee and gaming within the next three weeks. The store will launch on limited hours from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Andrew Spence, founder of Till Dawn and 2 Finger’s Social in West Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Nate Bek)

The genesis of the name comes from the moment when gamers realize they’ve been up too long, where night turns to day, a familiar experience for Spence, who said his passion for video games started when he got the Atari PONG.

He has also honed his craft of being a restaurateur, serving as a bartender for more than 23 years, starting at Brouwer’s Cafe in Fremont, where he worked for five years.

“There’s really no retirement in bartending,” said Spence, who moved to Seattle in 1999. “You either open up your own spot or end up a dinosaur bartender at a hotel downtown.”

Till Dawn will join a growing list of bars that incorporate video games, including Coindexter’s, Admiral Pub, Add-a-Ball, and others. The popular GameWorks Seattle reopened earlier this month. Top Golf, a high-tech driving range that features other games, debuted in Renton this month, while Five Iron Golf, another high-tech golf experience, opened in the Capitol Hill neighborhood in March.

Till Dawn is set to open in West Seattle within three weeks. (Till Dawn Photo)

The Till Dawn site previously belonged to a licensing agency, which closed in late 2019 alongside allegations of its shady business dealings. Converting the site into a gaming bar has proven to be a difficult task, with new building regulations passed by the city adding time and costs to the project, Spence said.

He began the process of converting the site into a cafe in October, first reported by the West Seattle Blog, drawing curiosity and mounting hype from the surrounding community.

During our visit last week, a passerby poked his head in the window, commenting on how impressed he was of the layout and his love for Boon Boona coffee. Spence said that happens frequently, adding that the community is anxious about the bar’s opening.

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Nortis, a Seattle-based startup developing ‘organ-on-a-chip’ tech, raises cash https://www.geekwire.com/2022/nortis-a-seattle-based-startup-developing-organ-on-a-chip-tech-raises-cash/ Fri, 19 Aug 2022 22:59:16 +0000 https://www.geekwire.com/?p=717367
Nortis, a Seattle-area startup founded in 2011 that markets “organ-on-a-chip” technology, has raised $6 million, according to an SEC filing. The company’s microfluidic chips foster the growth of human cells in ways that resemble organs, and have been used to create kidney, liver, blood vessel, heart, intestine, and tumor models for researchers. Nortis has previously received backing from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and collaborated on a project to send a kidney chip into space. Its chips are used in research studies. The company spun out of VisionGate and is led by Thomas Neumann, a former exec at VisionGate.… Read More]]>
Nortis, a Seattle-area startup founded in 2011 that markets “organ-on-a-chip” technology, has raised $6 million, according to an SEC filing.

The company’s microfluidic chips foster the growth of human cells in ways that resemble organs, and have been used to create kidney, liver, blood vessel, heart, intestine, and tumor models for researchers.

Nortis has previously received backing from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and collaborated on a project to send a kidney chip into space. Its chips are used in research studies. The company spun out of VisionGate and is led by Thomas Neumann, a former exec at VisionGate.

We’ve reached out to the company for more details about the new funding and will update if we hear back.

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How Microsoft’s AI convinced me to switch to Edge, and where the browser still falls short https://www.geekwire.com/2022/how-microsofts-ai-convinced-me-to-switch-to-edge-and-where-the-browser-still-falls-short/ Fri, 19 Aug 2022 19:00:00 +0000 https://www.geekwire.com/?p=717340
I finally broke down and switched to Microsoft’s Edge browser this week on my Windows PC, after many years of using Google Chrome. No, it wasn’t the incessant and annoying prompts in Windows 11, urging me to make Edge my default, although the nagging did keep the Microsoft browser top of mind. For me, the tipping point was Edge’s built-in “Read aloud” feature, and what sounds to my ears like major advances in some of Microsoft’s synthesized voices, to the point that they’re almost indistinguishable from human narrators. I’ve long been a fan of text-to-speech for listening to articles and… Read More]]>
Microsoft’s Edge browser comes with a built-in “Read aloud” feature. (GeekWire Illustration)

I finally broke down and switched to Microsoft’s Edge browser this week on my Windows PC, after many years of using Google Chrome.

No, it wasn’t the incessant and annoying prompts in Windows 11, urging me to make Edge my default, although the nagging did keep the Microsoft browser top of mind.

For me, the tipping point was Edge’s built-in “Read aloud” feature, and what sounds to my ears like major advances in some of Microsoft’s synthesized voices, to the point that they’re almost indistinguishable from human narrators.

I’ve long been a fan of text-to-speech for listening to articles and long emails.

  • Combined with wireless headphones or earbuds, it’s a great way to get up from your desk and do something else (clean the room, stretch, brush your teeth, etc.), while the text is being read.
  • When writing or editing, the extra step of listening to the audio helps me catch missing or errant words, or notice awkward sentences I might otherwise miss.
  • In a world of distractions, following along with the text as it’s being read is one way of improving focus.

I’ve used various apps and browser plugins over the years, some of them more seamless than others.

  • Pocket is a good tool to save stories from the web for listening on a phone, but I found there were also many instances when I wanted to listen directly from the browser on my computer.
  • There are a bunch of text-to-speech browser extensions, but I’ve found the experiences somewhat disjointed. I like the “Read Aloud” browser extension for Chrome, Edge and Firefox, for example, but you control and interact with it using an alternative version of the text that pops up from the toolbar, not the native text on a web page.

Microsoft Edge’s “Read aloud” feature is controllable directly from a web page, after activating it from a menu accessible under the three dots in the upper right of the browser frame, or by right-clicking on the text.

As it reads, you can click on the actual text on the page to go to a particular section.

As with most automated text-to-speech technologies, sometimes you do have to put up with some minor annoyances, such as the voice reading fine print, menu items or disclaimers on a site. The ability to select the text to be read, or jump around by clicking on the text, helps to overcome that when listening via the browser.

Significant improvement in voice quality: But the grabber for me is the increasing authenticity of some of the Microsoft voices: the inflections, the pauses, the lack of the tell-tale robotic vocal fry. For example, here is “Microsoft Michelle Online (Natural)” reading this paragraph.

It’s not perfect. The AI can still sound briefly robotic. Unusual names can also cause problems. Reading this story today about Geocaching by my colleague Kurt Schlosser, for example, “Michelle” pronounces it “Geo-coshing.”

Still, the quality is much better than the drone voices that had my friends and colleagues making fun of my attempts to use text-to-speech tools in the past.

Microsoft Edge’s features for importing data and passwords, standard in browsers these days, made the switch relatively easy. Edge’s use of Chromium, the underlying open-source engine that powers Chrome, also helped ease the transition. Edge debuted in 2015, and the company officially retired Internet Explorer this year.

Mobile syncing benefits and bugs: The feature is also available in the Edge browser for smartphones, and it works well there. You can access “read aloud” by clicking on the three dots at the bottom of the Edge mobile app.

But this also shows where Microsoft is falling short. Edge’s “Collections” feature for saving web pages is supposed to sync across PCs and mobile devices when logged in via Microsoft account. I’ve set up a “Read Later” collection where, theoretically, I can save articles in my PC browser for the AI to read aloud later in the Edge app on my Android phone.

The articles do save in my PC browser, but my Edge Collections won’t sync to my phone. I’ve checked all the settings, gone through all the troubleshooting steps, without any luck. All of my other data is syncing. This appears to be a problem for many others, as well.

I’ll keep trying to find a fix, and I’ll update this story if I do. Even if it is a case of user error, it shouldn’t be this hard.

Amazon Alexa and audiobooks: This is probably a subject for another post, but I’m also a fan of Amazon Alexa’s feature for reading Kindle books on Echo devices, but the implementation in my experience is less than ideal, frequently forgetting where you were when you stopped having Alexa read to you.

It’s going to be fascinating to see the impact that the growing authenticity of synthetic voices has on Amazon’s Audible audiobook subsidiary in the years ahead.

In the meantime, if anyone out there has any feedback, ideas, or different approaches for making the most of text-to-speech technology in your daily work, please let me know via Twitter, LinkedIn or my email address below.

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Washington Rep. Derek Kilmer on entrepreneurship, maritime innovation, Inflation Reduction Act, more https://www.geekwire.com/2022/washington-rep-derek-kilmer-on-entrepreneurship-maritime-innovation-inflation-reduction-act-more/ Fri, 19 Aug 2022 15:47:29 +0000 https://www.geekwire.com/?p=717305
Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash) was the featured speaker at an event in Tacoma, Wash., this week sponsored by Maritime Blue, a Washington state public-private coalition promoting marine-related technologies that runs an incubator in Tacoma. Kilmer worked for a decade on the economic development board for Tacoma-Pierce County before running for office and has a staff member serving on the Tacoma Maritime Innovation Incubator steering committee. In 2019 he was appointed chair of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, which is tasked with bringing Congress into the 21st century. Here’s a rundown of his comments at the event, hosted… Read More]]>
U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer speaks at TractionSpace event in Tacoma, Wash. this week. (Photo by Steve Case)

Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash) was the featured speaker at an event in Tacoma, Wash., this week sponsored by Maritime Blue, a Washington state public-private coalition promoting marine-related technologies that runs an incubator in Tacoma.

Kilmer worked for a decade on the economic development board for Tacoma-Pierce County before running for office and has a staff member serving on the Tacoma Maritime Innovation Incubator steering committee. In 2019 he was appointed chair of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, which is tasked with bringing Congress into the 21st century.

Here’s a rundown of his comments at the event, hosted at the TractionSpace coworking offices in Tacoma. Answers were edited for brevity and clarity.

On the importance of innovative entrepreneurs

It’s important that everybody wrap our arms around innovative companies, innovative entrepreneurs, who are doing cool things here in our community. Now here’s why that’s important: If you look at the data around economic recovery, it’s not the big guys that are growing the jobs and pulling us out of economic challenges. It’s generally small businesses that are doing that important work.

On government helping entrepreneurs

I think of entrepreneurs like our star running back. They are the folks who are racking up the tough yards, that are scoring the touchdowns. And I think part of the role of the federal government, part of the role of local economic development folks and of city leadership and others, is to make sure that we’re doing some blocking for you and making sure that we’re handing you the ball. And at the very least, make sure we’re getting the heck out of your way so you can score those touchdowns that we need you to score.

On the blue economy

I feel like this is a blue economy week for me. We just had the U.S. secretary of energy come out to our region, to talk about the blue economy. And she came out to Sequim to visit the PNNL lab, the Department of Energy’s only marine science lab in the entire country. It was the first time either an undersecretary, or a secretary of energy has come to our region to actually put eyes on these blue economy opportunities.

I came away from that, not to use another football analogy, and not to reference someone who no longer plays for our team, but as Russell Wilson said, “Why not us?” I think about the opportunities in the blue economy space and my reaction is, why not us? Why not see those opportunities happening here in Tacoma and here in our region? Part of the reason that I was supportive of the federal grant for the maritime incubator was because there is such opportunity here to promote opportunity in the energy-related space and the clean water space and the logistics space and maritime innovation.

On the importance of incubators

Why not us? Why not here? Part of the reason that I was supportive of this is the notion of supporting entrepreneurs with mentorship, and with space, and with access to funders and all of those important things that incubators do. That’s a no-brainer. We should be advocating that and frankly, the federal government ought to be supporting that work. So I think this is really a boon to our community and everybody who is participating in it. Everybody who’s supporting it or cheerleading it, thank you for that because I think it really, really matters.

On the CHIPS Act

A couple weeks back, Congress passed a bill called the CHIPS Act, which was focused primarily around trying to manufacture semiconductors here in the U.S. rather than someplace else. But there were other components of that bill that are focused on supporting entrepreneurship, on supporting innovation, on supporting science education and supporting innovation coming out of our colleges and universities.

Importantly, it also included a billion dollars for a program I wrote that’s focused on investing in communities, including in neighborhoods that have faced persistent economic challenges. If you look at the district I represent, there are a whole bunch of neighborhoods and communities that have faced persistent economic challenges.

On the Inflation Reduction Act

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Inflation Reduction Act that passed on Friday, Obviously the main focus of that is on trying to reduce costs for the American people, and people will see an impact with regard to lowering healthcare premiums, prescription drug costs, and hopefully over time reduction in gas prices. But it also represents the most significant investment combating the climate crisis in history and it is really an example of the U.S. stepping up and trying to show leadership.

So part of the reason I mentioned this is when we had the visit from the secretary of energy, her focus is not just on big regulatory matters or things like that. She wants to make sure that we’re driving entrepreneurship in the climate space and seeing small businesses take advantage of some of these opportunities that will grow out of the passage of this new law. And I truly believe, when I share this with every one of you, every entrepreneur here with Maritime Blue, we will see opportunity out of this if we go after it.

On the importance of pulling together

I’m a big believer that the boat moves best when all oars are in the water rowing in the same direction. That’s a little bit different than in Congress where oftentimes the oars are out of the water with people actively beating each other over the head. But I think Tacoma shows what we can get done when we work together on things and this incubator is a terrific example of that.

On finding ways to keep tech talent in Tacoma and Pierce County

We have a lot of amazing ingredients. We have a lot of smart people who live here, [but] a lot of them get on Interstate 5 every day and we’d love to have opportunities to not do that. I say that as someone who’s about to get on Interstate 5, unfortunately. So, the role of our colleges and universities is very significant in that regard. The role that Andrew Fry (director at University of Washington Tacoma’s school of engineering and technology) plays, and trying to facilitate industry connections between entrepreneurial people and entrepreneurial students and startups and those sorts of things, matter.

Part of the reason we have this dynamic is we have more affordable housing than Seattle does. But we have a supply problem on the housing front here in Tacoma, and that’s putting a substantial burden on folks. So, we’ve been working on some legislation, and tried to drive additional affordable housing development. We were able to actually get federal funding in the appropriations law for literally hundreds and hundreds of additional affordable housing units here in Tacoma. That’s important. That’s not the only thing we have to do but it’s a thing that we have to do.

I actually think efforts like the incubator matter because it enables folks to start here, develop a network here and hopefully, grow and stay here.

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No hiding from its popularity: At 20, Geocaching still seeks to turn players on to worldwide game https://www.geekwire.com/2022/no-hiding-from-its-popularity-at-20-geocaching-still-seeks-to-turn-players-on-to-worldwide-game/ Fri, 19 Aug 2022 15:00:00 +0000 https://www.geekwire.com/?p=716969
More than 20 years after getting its start in Seattle, Geocaching is still hiding and seeking — and attracting new players all over the world. The game, which combines GPS technology with outdoor recreation, is basically a massive treasure hunt. There are now more than 3.4 million boxes, or caches, hidden in more than 190 countries. The aim from the start was to get people off the couch and outside, stashing containers of all sizes, finding them, trading trinkets, signing log books and more. Over the past couple years, more people than ever have been doing just that as the company… Read More]]>
Brayn Roth
Geocaching co-founder and CEO Bryan Roth in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle where the company is based. (GeekWire File Photo)

More than 20 years after getting its start in Seattle, Geocaching is still hiding and seeking — and attracting new players all over the world.

The game, which combines GPS technology with outdoor recreation, is basically a massive treasure hunt. There are now more than 3.4 million boxes, or caches, hidden in more than 190 countries.

The aim from the start was to get people off the couch and outside, stashing containers of all sizes, finding them, trading trinkets, signing log books and more. Over the past couple years, more people than ever have been doing just that as the company has seen record growth.

‘We really didn’t predict that it was going to become this kind of global phenomenon.’

Started in 2000, this weekend marks the 22nd anniversary for Geocaching, and they’re staging a big event on Saturday at Seattle Center to celebrate, with exhibits, vendor booths, speakers and more kicking off at 10 a.m. It’s still billed as a 20th anniversary event because COVID ruined plans the past two years.

The company has been bootstrapped since the start. Computers were donated by the founders and initial revenue came from the sale of 144 geocaching T-shirts. Primary revenue is now driven by a premium membership program — still $30 a year since starting about 20 years ago. Geocaching HQ employs 95 people.

We caught up with co-founder and CEO Bryan Roth for a quick chat about the growth of Geocaching, what makes a good game player and some of his favorite geocaches. Our Q&A has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Geocaching HQ, in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, is a popular destination for game players from all over the world. More than 18,000 account holders have signed the cache log book to date. (Annie Love Photo)

GeekWire: Did you expect to be around this long?

Bryan Roth: “Had you asked me if there were going to the millions of people playing this game 20 years from now, I probably would have said, ‘I really don’t know, but that sounds delightful.’ We really didn’t predict that it was going to become this kind of global phenomenon.”

What has surprised you most about that growth over the years?

“At its very basic level it’s like a big game of hide and seek. What has surprised and delighted me is the international community that has grown around the game — the friendships and the fact that people are just here because it’s a celebration of finding boxes.

“When you get so many people from so many different countries having fun together, it’s just a great example of showing how we can all get along. There don’t have to be so many walls between us.”

How did the pandemic impact business?

“So many forms of recreation worldwide became inaccessible, so people were looking for ways to get outside and have fun that they could do in a socially distant manner. So many people discovered Geocaching as a way to do that. In terms of user growth, 2020 and 2021 were the two best years we have ever had in the history of the game.”

What makes a good game player?

“There’s so many facets of the game. When it comes to geocache hiders, as a group, it’s people who are putting in time and effort to create a special experience that they’re willing to share with people that they’ve never met before, sort of in exchange for knowing that they’re bringing more joy into the world. They’re helping people have a reason to get off their couches, away from their televisions and out into the real world having fun adventures.”

Geocaching HQ employees Jennifer Arterburn and Adam Brown check out a cache in British Columbia made to resemble the TARDIS from the television series “Dr. Who.” (Bryan Roth Photos)

Do you have a favorite geocache of all time?

“I attended an Event Cache in November of 2001 where I met my wife and my now adopted son, so that’s a favorite. I’ve been in an underground cave in Finland … I had to crawl through this lava tube to find the cache. And a couple of years ago we were in Germany and we rapelled down the side of a cliff, it was 175 feet. I found that cache when I made it to the bottom. My ‘woo hoos’ could be heard for miles away because I was proud of myself and excited and energized.”

What do the next 20 years look like for Geocaching?

“We’re focused on some innovation. We have a new project called Adventure Lab. Instead of hiding a box people are creating multistage, multimedia experiences that they can share with other people — maybe an art history tour or a story-driven adventure. It’s experiences that are a little bit more accessible for people who might be a little concerned about rappelling off a cliff. The focus for us is really building more tools, expanding the platform in a way that’s going to inspire people to leave their houses and go outside.”

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Microsoft engineering vets raise $7.75M for mobile app testing startup https://www.geekwire.com/2022/microsoft-engineering-vets-raise-7-75m-for-mobile-app-testing-startup/ Thu, 18 Aug 2022 20:18:31 +0000 https://www.geekwire.com/?p=717201
Sofy, a Seattle startup that provides developers and quality assessment professionals a no-code platform to test their mobile apps, has raised $7.75 million in new funding. The cash will be used to expand the platform’s capabilities to serve web and API functions, an addition to its current ability to test mobile apps, CEO and co-founder Sayed Hamid told GeekWire in an email. He added that the company will also boost its sales and marketing team, doubling its headcount by the end of the year. The 35-person startup was co-founded in 2016 by Hamid and Hyder Ali, who both spent a… Read More]]>
Sofy CEO and co-founder Sayed Hamid. (Sofy Photo)

Sofy, a Seattle startup that provides developers and quality assessment professionals a no-code platform to test their mobile apps, has raised $7.75 million in new funding.

The cash will be used to expand the platform’s capabilities to serve web and API functions, an addition to its current ability to test mobile apps, CEO and co-founder Sayed Hamid told GeekWire in an email. He added that the company will also boost its sales and marketing team, doubling its headcount by the end of the year.

The 35-person startup was co-founded in 2016 by Hamid and Hyder Ali, who both spent a bulk of their careers in engineering leadership roles at Microsoft. They are joined by Usman Zubair, another previous Microsoft engineer who has started a number of software companies.

Sofy is currently being used by 45 customers, including Microsoft and Alight, with a total user base of 15,000. The startup quadrupled in size last year and is on course to repeat that growth by the end of this year.

Sofy’s user interface. (Sofy Photo)

Sofy’s patented tech can run diagnostics on both iOS and Android apps. Developers and quality assurance professionals can test their app’s performance, create automation, review performance results, and diagnose visual quality and network issues, Hamid said. They can do all this without writing a single line of code.

“No-code test automation is transforming the $4 billion mobile application testing market and bringing tremendous gains to the software development and deployment process,” James Newell, a partner at Voyager Capital who is joining Sofy’s board of directors, said in a statement.

Sofy will need to compete with a growing number of startups going after this specific market, including well-funded players such as Browerstack and Applause, along with newcomers including Autify and Waldo.

“While our competitors are focused on test automation creation, Sofy has taken a holistic view of the QA process,” Hamid said. The startup offers more than 10 different specialized tools for quality assurance of mobile apps, which can increase a company’s testing efficiency, he added.

Sofy has raised a total of $9.6 million to date. The current round was led by Voyager Capital, with additional investment from PSL Ventures, GTMFund, Revolution, and others. Julie Sandler, managing director at PSL Ventures, will be an observer on the startup’s board of directors as part of the funding round.

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This 12-year-old indie developer is bringing his retro-style game to Emerald City Comic Con https://www.geekwire.com/2022/this-12-year-old-indie-developer-is-bringing-his-retro-style-game-to-emerald-city-comic-con/ Thu, 18 Aug 2022 20:09:04 +0000 https://www.geekwire.com/?p=717162
At 12 years old, Max Trest is already an established independent video game developer who has even created a game with the Unity engine. That project, Astrolander, which Max developed by himself, currently has a demo on the Steam digital storefront, and is one of the games chosen for the Indie Games Showcase at this weekend’s Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle. Max currently self-publishes the title through his company, Lost Cartridge Creations. In Astrolander, two players control different systems on a single rocket ship, and must work together to solve puzzles, dodge obstacles, and avoid enemies. Max is a… Read More]]>
Max Trest in front of his development station for his indie game Astrolander. (Photo courtesy of Bernard Trest)

At 12 years old, Max Trest is already an established independent video game developer who has even created a game with the Unity engine.

That project, Astrolander, which Max developed by himself, currently has a demo on the Steam digital storefront, and is one of the games chosen for the Indie Games Showcase at this weekend’s Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle. Max currently self-publishes the title through his company, Lost Cartridge Creations.

In Astrolander, two players control different systems on a single rocket ship, and must work together to solve puzzles, dodge obstacles, and avoid enemies. Max is a big fan of retro gaming and old computer systems, and Astrolander takes much of its inspiration from the 1979 Atari arcade game Lunar Lander.

Max has exhibited Astrolander at several virtual and real-life events this summer, including the Puddle Jump Games and Play festival in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, and the Steam Next Fest.

He’s also a member of the Seattle Indies development community, frequently coming down to participate from his home in British Columbia. Academically, Max is a homeschooled student who’s currently in 10th grade, and was one of the participants in this summer’s Mission to Mars competition by the Mars Society.

We caught up with Max to learn more about Astrolander, some of his favorite games and more. The conversation was edited for brevity and clarity.

GeekWire: What got you started on Astrolander in the first place?

Max Trest: The freedom of being able to express myself, and putting my ideas into reality. When I was younger, I used to tinker around a lot with hardware and making things, and this basically expands on that.

Game engines today are really easy to use compared to some of the older stuff I’ve studied. Unity and Unreal both have visual scripting solutions, and I don’t know how good they are compared to other options, but they seem pretty good. It’s still somewhat hard to work with since you have to know the tools, the art, and everything if you want to create custom things, but overall it’s a lot easier than it was.

I use Blender on a daily basis for doing a lot of things. I’m self-taught on it; I started back when it was on 2.8 or something, when that revision came out. Before, I couldn’t use it, because it was super confusing, but they changed it with that revision and I was able to get into it.

Max Trest, right, exhibits his game at the Puddle Jump Games and Play festival in Seattle in June. (Photo courtesy of Bernard Trest)

So Astrolander is inspired by Lunar Lander, according to a conversation I had with your father.

Yeah, I really enjoyed playing that one, with the vector graphics. It’s really good-looking, and holds up today, honestly.

That would be a deep cut for somebody my age, let alone yours. What drew you to that game, as opposed to something newer?

Mainly, it’s the simplicity and the repetition. Predicting what you’re going to land on, and trying not to crash. I’ve been to lots of arcades and they’ve occasionally had that game there. I wanted to make a modern take on it.

What are some of your other favorite games?

I enjoy Civilization VI, and play that a lot. Lemmings, for the Commodore Amiga. Also, Populous. I like strategy games a lot.

We have a Raspberry Pi that runs RetroPie, and I play a lot of retro games on that. I was going to try to see if I could release my game on the Intellivision Amico, but it doesn’t look like that will ever come out.

That was something I was curious about, if you’d tried to get your game to run on any older hardware. I’d heard you gave former Xbox exec Ed Fries a non-functional Astrolander Atari 2600 cartridge at a New Tech Seattle event in June.

I was thinking about doing something like that. The only problem is coding in Assembly for legacy systems. It’s insane how complicated coding for older systems is. I’ve done some music, but nothing past that.

What are you thinking about long term?

For my next game, I’m planning a modern take on something like Lemmings, maybe in AR or VR.

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Wizards of the Coast reveals new streamlined version of ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ https://www.geekwire.com/2022/wizards-of-the-coast-reveals-new-streamlined-version-of-dungeons-dragons/ Thu, 18 Aug 2022 16:00:00 +0000 https://www.geekwire.com/?p=717021
As part of a new publishing initiative, Wizards of the Coast plans to make a number of changes to Dungeons & Dragons, which includes the introduction of an official virtual playing space, physical/digital book bundles, and an eventual 2024 re-release of the core D&D rule books. This initiative, “One D&D,” marks a significant move by Wizards of the Coast to move Dungeons & Dragons into the modern gaming landscape, in what D&D‘s design architect Jeremy Crawford calls “the start of a new generation.” Around the start of 2021, there were a lot of resources online for anyone who wanted to… Read More]]>
(Wizards of the Coast screenshot)

As part of a new publishing initiative, Wizards of the Coast plans to make a number of changes to Dungeons & Dragons, which includes the introduction of an official virtual playing space, physical/digital book bundles, and an eventual 2024 re-release of the core D&D rule books.

This initiative, “One D&D,” marks a significant move by Wizards of the Coast to move Dungeons & Dragons into the modern gaming landscape, in what D&D‘s design architect Jeremy Crawford calls “the start of a new generation.”

Around the start of 2021, there were a lot of resources online for anyone who wanted to play D&D over a Zoom call or via a shared virtual space, but comparatively few of them were official Wizards of the Coast products. One D&D, to some extent, is an attempt to change that.

Under One D&D, Wizards plans to release its own virtual play space; restructure and streamline the game’s rules; and try to organize all of its the digital play tools for D&D together into a single place.

What One D&D definitely isn’t, however, is a totally new edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Speaking at an advanced press briefing via Zoom call on Tuesday morning, Wizards’ designers were careful to note that One D&D is “building on top of 5th edition,” rather than replacing it in any significant way.

Instead, the plan is to restructure and reorganize the game’s core rules, based upon what Crawford calls “the lessons learned from the last decade.” This will be done over the course of the next year with a series of open playtests, which is planned to lead to a re-release of the three main books for D&D–the Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and the Monster Manual–in 2024. This also coincides with the 10th anniversary of D&D‘s 5th edition.

Back in April, Wizards’ parent company Hasbro acquired the popular digital toolset D&D Beyond. Now that Beyond is an official D&D affiliate, Wizards plans to make use of it as a direct digital storefront, through offering deals that bundle a physical book together with its digital edition via D&D Beyond.

(Wizards of the Coast Image)

The first product to make use of the deal is the December Dragonlance adventure Shadow of the Dragon Queen. Players who buy its physical/digital bundle will get the ebook two weeks early on Nov. 22 via D&D Beyond, followed by the physical edition when it releases on Dec. 6. The bundle’s deluxe edition (above) also includes the board game Warriors of Krynn and a special Dungeon Master’s screen.

Another pillar of One D&D is Wizards moving into the digital playset arena, alongside competitors like TaleSpire and Tabletop Simulator. D&D Digital is a “future-facing aspect” where players can make, create, and play with all-virtual miniatures sets and dungeon maps.

D&D Digital is currently being made in-house with the Unreal Engine (“to make it look dope,” according to the project’s vice president Chris Cao) and is in early development.

A virtual miniature from the official D&D Digital play space program, currently in early development. (Wizards of the Coast screenshot)

The rules changes that are coming with One D&D are intended to, as Crawford puts it, “integrate lessons learned from the last decade” of their work on the game. The team plans to restructure and expand the core rules of D&D 5th edition, with revisions, new versions of playable races, and many new options like special backgrounds or feats that can only be taken at first level.

These changes will be in open playtest for the next year, with each new set of rules dropping monthly as “Unearthed Arcana” on the official D&D website. The first batch of new rules focuses heavily on the character creation process, with Crawford citing the recent sourcebook Monsters of the Multiverse as an example of Wizards’ intended direction.

After the playtesting process, this will lead up to new, restructured 2024 editions of D&D’s Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide. The new rules are designed to be “backwards compatible” with all currently available 5th edition products.

Other announcements made during the first “Wizards Presents” conference include:

  • Keys from the Golden Vault, a winter 2023 anthology, is a collection of adventures that are all organized around a heist.
  • The Book of Many Things (summer 2023) is a sourcebook that revolves around the infamous magical item the deck of many things.
  • A new book in the summer of 2023 will follow up on the starter adventure The Lost Mines of Phandelver, expanding it to the point where it could make up an entire campaign.
  • One of the most famous campaign settings in D&D, Planescape, is planned to return in the fall of 2023. Planescape is set in D&D‘s elaborate afterlife, the Outer Planes, and in the free, neutral city of Sigil that exists above them. The setting debuted in 1994 and became particularly well-known due to Planescape: Torment, a 1999 PC game by Black Isle Studios that’s widely regarded as a classic.
  • As part of the return of the Spelljammer setting, Wizards quietly released a full album of original music, Spelljams, on Tuesday morning. A physical vinyl edition is available for pre-order now.
  • The next franchises to cross over with Magic: The Gathering, as part of its Universes Beyond imprint, are Warhammer 40K (Oct. 7), The Lord of the Rings (the Tales From Middle-Earth set, Q3 2023), and Doctor Who (Q3 2023). The latter set will be part of the official celebration of the Doctor Who franchise’s 60th anniversary.
  • Magic‘s 30th anniversary hits in 2023. This will include a special event in October 2023 in Las Vegas and several unspecified promotional tie-ins.
  • Magic begins a new story arc in September 2022 with Dominaria United, a new card set that involves a war between the planes of Dominaria and Phyrexia. The story is planned to continue into The Brothers’ War (Nov. 2022), Phyrexia: All Will Be One (Q1 2023), and March of the Machine (Q2 2023).
  • The classic Magic settings of Eldraine and Ixalan will both be revisited with new card sets in late 2023.
  • 2023 also marks the 35th anniversary of D&D signature character Drizzt Do’Urden, who first appeared in the 1988 novel The Crystal Shard. Wizards will mark the occasion with a new print run of R.A. Salvatore’s novels, which will sport new covers; a new Visual Dictionary for the Drizzt series; and a forthcoming webcomic starring Drizzt’s teenage daughter Briennelle (first seen in the 2020 novel Relentless), as she “borrows” Drizzt’s sword and goes on an adventure of her own.
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Startup detects COVID-19 using spit, light, and a computer built to analyze patterns https://www.geekwire.com/2022/startup-detects-covid-19-using-spit-light-and-a-computer-built-to-analyze-patterns/ Thu, 18 Aug 2022 15:00:00 +0000 https://www.geekwire.com/?p=716011
A Seattle-area startup called Pattern Computer is developing a rapid COVID-19 test based on patterns in light from spit, one of several projects moving ahead from the 7-year-old company that designed its own computer from scratch. The company’s “Pattern Discovery Engine” was created specifically to discover and analyze patterns and excels at the task, said CEO and co-founder Mark Anderson. Pattern Computer keeps the workings of its system closely guarded, and has not published its AI models in peer-reviewed journals. Outside researchers say it’s hard to know what’s under the hood. But its approach has attracted seasoned computer science talent and biotech heavyweights… Read More]]>
Pattern Computer’s ProSpectral device for detecting COVID-19. (Pattern Computer Photo)

A Seattle-area startup called Pattern Computer is developing a rapid COVID-19 test based on patterns in light from spit, one of several projects moving ahead from the 7-year-old company that designed its own computer from scratch.

The company’s “Pattern Discovery Engine” was created specifically to discover and analyze patterns and excels at the task, said CEO and co-founder Mark Anderson.

Pattern Computer CEO Mark Anderson. (Pattern Photo)

Pattern Computer keeps the workings of its system closely guarded, and has not published its AI models in peer-reviewed journals. Outside researchers say it’s hard to know what’s under the hood.

But its approach has attracted seasoned computer science talent and biotech heavyweights to the startup.

The company’s chief technology officer, co-founder Ty Carlson, previously managed the Amazon team that launched products such as the Amazon Echo. Its advisory board includes Leroy Hood, a co-founder of the Institute for Systems Biology, genome pioneer Craig Venter, and serial biotech startup founder George Church, a Harvard professor.

Anderson is founder and CEO of technology newsletter Strategic News Service, read by Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Michael Dell and Elon Musk, he said. He’s known as a “tech prognosticator” and each year brings together an eclectic mix of tech leaders and scientists at his “Future in Review” conference (he also co-founded the Whale Museum in Friday Harbor, Wash., where he lives).

At his 2015 conference, Anderson hosted a “chief technology officer challenge,” where participants designed a desktop supercomputer. The resulting system formed the seed for Pattern Computer. Participants included the other company co-founders, entrepreneur Brad Holtz and Michael Riddle, who previously co-founded Autodesk, makers of AutoCAD and other industrial software.

Leroy Hood
Genetics pioneer Leroy Hood. (Institute for Systems Biology Photo)

Pattern Computer focuses on biomedicine. But it also addresses problems in materials design, veterinary medicine, finance, mathematics, and aerospace with its partners, such as an analysis of ways to reduce flight delays.

Pattern Computer has raised $26 million to date, all from individual investors, including Venter and Ken Goldman, former chief financial officer of Yahoo and Pattern’s consulting CFO. The startup is now seeking to raise $40 million with a valuation of $1.2 billion, said Anderson.

“It’s a company that is taking an intriguing new approach to manipulate and analyze big data,” said Hood. And when the pandemic hit, it “thought deeply about the COVID problem,” said Hood.

Gearing up a spit test

Pattern Computer takes a unique approach to COVID-19 testing. The company analyzes patterns of light that pass through and are absorbed by spit.

The test takes only two drops of saliva and reads off a result from the company’s “ProSpectral” device within three seconds. The device harnesses an approach called hyperspectral sensing, which involves the analysis of light across all spectrums.

Instead of measuring the virus directly, the test captures the jumbled immune and metabolic response to disease. “There’s a fingerprint for that in light,” said Anderson.

Company researchers trained and assessed their model using spit from 470 samples roughly equally divided between those that were COVID-19 positive and negative on a PCR test, a conventional way to detect the disease.

Fred Hutch associate professor Taran Gujral. (Fred Hutch Photo)

Pattern’s test could detect 100% of people with the disease, with 8% of individuals without the disease showing a false-positive result, Anderson reported at the Life Sciences Innovation Northwest meeting this April. Shifting the test’s parameters enabled some COVID-19 cases to slip through undetected but yielded fewer false-positive results.

The test is also inexpensive: the in-house cost of running it is about 50 cents.

The testing approach is “very smart,” said Taran Gujral, a systems biologist and associate professor at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center. Gujral, who does not have a financial or collaboration relationship with the company, said the method also holds promise for detecting other diseases, potentially enabling rapid testing in airports, hospitals, and in the field.

“We think it will change diagnostics,” said Anderson.

Pattern Computer’s COVID-19 test. (Pattern Computer Image)

Keeping company secrets

Other outside researchers said they need more information to assess the company’s approach to COVID-19 testing.

The company does not divulge whether it captures data using a standard type of spectrophotometer that measures light in biological samples, or another instrument. “They are not sharing any information on how the signal is generated,” said Dan Fu, an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Washington.

University of Washington microbiology professor Evgeni Sokurenko, who is developing a rapid test for COVID-19 variants as co-founder of ID Genomics, said it’s important to look closely at Pattern Computer’s data — in particular, the PCR data it used to train and test its models.

PCR tests work by replicating DNA derived from the virus through multiple cycles to detect a signal. Different labs use different cycle numbers for COVID-19 testing, he said. Higher cycle numbers detect lower levels of virus.

Evgeni Sokurenko, co-founder of ID Genomics and University of Washington professor. (UW Photo)

The majority of Pattern Computer’s COVID-19 positive samples had a cycle threshold below 30, said company researcher Matt Keener — whereas the typical threshold is set higher, said Sokurenko (at 35-40 cycles).

That raises the possibility that the company’s models may not be geared to pick up low levels of the virus, and could therefore miss some asymptomatic infections, said Sokurenko.

Keener countered that the company’s data are consistent across all PCR thresholds. The results “don’t show any statistical sensitivity to the PCR value,” said Keener. “Our accuracy holds no matter what the PCR value for an individual test sample is.” In addition, the accuracy of the company’s test held true whether the samples came from asymptomatic or symptomatic individuals, he said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will be the final judge of the company’s COVID-19 test.

Pattern Computer has applied to the agency for emergency use authorization. It’s also identified four other countries for potential launch and has arranged for partners to help it scale up and produce the test.

“We’re looking forward to being able to discuss more once we are comfortably down the road to regulatory approvals and such,” said Keener.

Pattern Computer’s other bioscience projects include mining databases on gene activity in cancer cells to identify potential treatments, based on drugs already approved for other diseases — though it’s hard to tell how the company’s approach to this and other data-mining problems compares to others, said Gujral, who does similar research.

The company has identified two drug combinations that kill breast cancer cell lines in culture, and is moving them through animal testing for hard-to-treat “triple-negative” tumors. It also is investigating treatments for ovarian cancer and other tumor types.

Speaking at an investor presentation earlier this year, Omid Moghadam, CEO of diagnostics startup Namida Lab, said Pattern’s discovery engine substantially increased the predictive accuracy of an experimental test for breast cancer based on tear samples. Moghadam is a Pattern Computer customer and advisor.

And while Pattern has not published its bioscience projects in peer-reviewed journals, “their first priority has been to get everything going, which they’ve really had to put an enormous amount of time into,” said Hood. “I suspect they will be publishing comparative papers in the future.”

The team has been refining its system and mathematical tools over the last several years, with a lean crew of 21 employees. “We’ve been very heads down,” said Anderson.

Next generation computing

Pattern Computer is following the path of other groups, from academic labs to tech companies like Alphabet, that are changing how computers are constructed and programmed. The advent of artificial intelligence is spurring a surge of innovation.

AI models need to process vast numbers of calculations simultaneously. And current computing architecture designs are becoming a bottleneck for “computing speed, infrastructure cost, and power consumption,” said University of Chicago assistant professor of molecular engineering Sihong Wang.

“People working on the hardware side have started to develop a completely different type of computing platform that processes information by emulating the operation of neurons in the brain,” said Wang, who recently developed a flexible computing chip for wearable health tech, and is not familiar with Pattern Computer’s system.

University of Chicago professor Sihong Wang with his new chip. (Univ. Chicago Photo)

Anderson said Pattern Computer’s approach is unique. The company created an AI system that is distinct from the neural network approached leveraged by others, he said. “This is qualitatively very different from where someone has a neural network and they’re pushing it and modifying it,” he said.

Pattern Computer’s “explainable AI” enables it to counteract bias that can be baked into more conventional machine learning models by skewed training datasets, said Anderson.

“It allows us to see how and why the system was successful in getting high prediction rates,” he said. “Knowing how and why the system works provides the type of knowledge required to make major pattern discoveries, improve research, and solve real business problems.”

Building that new way to make sense of patterns is “a challenging problem,” said Neeraj Kumar, a senior data scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

In a recent preprint with outside researchers, company researchers published their view of how explainable AI could be applied to health data.

The publication does not specify how the company’s system works, said Vijay Janapa Reddi, a Harvard associate professor who directs the university’s Edge Computing Lab. “It is hard to glean much” about the startup from the preprint, said Reddi, who was not familiar with the company.

But Kumar has seen enough to be convinced.

“Pattern Computer’s computational approach is very robust,” said Kumar, an author on the paper. And it is “the first step for developing an explainable AI by extracting novel patterns in complex data that cannot be discovered using conventional analytical techniques and algorithms,” he said.

Meanwhile, the company is turning its attention to securing regulatory approval for its COVID-19 test and planning for scale up.

“We’ve created a different kind of company,” said Anderson. “We’ve done it in a different way.”

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Seattle startup Tangibly, which manages trade secrets and NDAs, raises $1.3M https://www.geekwire.com/2022/legaltech-startup-tangibly-raises-1-3m-from-wilson-sonsini-madrona-others/ Thu, 18 Aug 2022 15:00:00 +0000 https://www.geekwire.com/?p=717122
The news: Tangibly raised $1.3 million, providing the Seattle-based trade secret management startup fresh cash to boost its product development as well as its sales and marketing teams.  The team: The 8-person startup emerged from stealth mode in February, raising $700,000 at the time. It was founded by CEO Tim Londergan, a former exec at Intellectual Ventures and founder of Wavefront Venture Labs. He is joined by CTO Liat Belinson, who co-founded AI Patents, a search engine for patents, and co-founder and advisor Christopher Buntel, who held multiple board seats and leadership roles for tech companies. The tech: The first iteration of… Read More]]>
Tim Londergan. (Tangibly Photo)

The news: Tangibly raised $1.3 million, providing the Seattle-based trade secret management startup fresh cash to boost its product development as well as its sales and marketing teams. 

The team: The 8-person startup emerged from stealth mode in February, raising $700,000 at the time. It was founded by CEO Tim Londergan, a former exec at Intellectual Ventures and founder of Wavefront Venture Labs. He is joined by CTO Liat Belinson, who co-founded AI Patents, a search engine for patents, and co-founder and advisor Christopher Buntel, who held multiple board seats and leadership roles for tech companies.

The tech: The first iteration of Tangibly’s platform is designed for companies to upload their private documents to organize and manage permissions. Such documents could be a product design or non-disclosure agreement, and these documents can be accessed for litigation cases or to present to potential funders or acquirers.

The platform is currently being used by general counsel teams, professionals that specialize in intellectual property, and outside consultants helping clients manage their trade secrets, Londergan told GeekWire in an email. He said the platform is not industry-specific, with users able to protect anything from biotech inventions to recipes.

The competition: Tangibly will need to compete with traditional law firms that specialize in protecting trade secrets and have their own internal databases and platforms, along with software-enabled intellectual property managers like Questel.

The funders: Wilson Sonsini, a law firm that specializes in intellectual property law, and Madrona Venture Group participated in the pre-seed round. Other investors include Brainstorm Ventures, Incisive Ventures, PatentVest, Family Angel Management Fund, as well as other angels.

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Targeting ‘everyday givers,’ Melinda French Gates to teach MasterClass on impactful giving https://www.geekwire.com/2022/targeting-everyday-givers-melinda-french-gates-to-teach-masterclass-on-impactful-giving/ Thu, 18 Aug 2022 13:00:00 +0000 https://www.geekwire.com/?p=716894
If you’ve already mastered a skateboarding ollie thanks to Tony Hawk or the art of storytelling courtesy of Malcom Gladwell, perhaps you’re ready to work on your impactful giving. Time to bring in Melinda French Gates. French Gates is the latest professional to bring her expertise to MasterClass, the streaming platform where people can learn about a wide range of subjects, from cooking to painting to songwriting to negotiating business deals and much more. ‘The most generous people in the world are not philanthropists writing big checks.’ French Gates will use her class to help members identify and unlock their… Read More]]>
Melinda French Gates. (MasterClass Photo)

If you’ve already mastered a skateboarding ollie thanks to Tony Hawk or the art of storytelling courtesy of Malcom Gladwell, perhaps you’re ready to work on your impactful giving. Time to bring in Melinda French Gates.

French Gates is the latest professional to bring her expertise to MasterClass, the streaming platform where people can learn about a wide range of subjects, from cooking to painting to songwriting to negotiating business deals and much more.

‘The most generous people in the world are not philanthropists writing big checks.’

French Gates will use her class to help members identify and unlock their personal power through giving. It’s a subject she has spent 20 years better understanding as the co-chair of the Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The organization’s philanthropic pursuits and French Gates’ contributions have helped cut childhood death rates in half, reduce worldwide polio cases by 99% and expand access to contraceptives for millions of women in low- and middle-income countries. It all takes strategic planning and execution, said MasterClass founder and CEO David Rogier.

“Melinda is one of the most prolific givers in the world,” Rogier said in a news release. “In her class, she will share how her analytical background has influenced her giving and inspire members to start their own journey of enacting positive change, whether that’s through giving their time or using their voice, expertise or money.”

But for prospective students who might worry that such “impactful” giving could only start with a few billion dollars to spare, French Gates offered some inspiration.

“The most generous people in the world are not philanthropists writing big checks,” she said. “Rather, it’s the everyday givers who use whatever resources they have available to improve the lives of those around them. Those are the people who inspire me, and I hope that this class inspires them.”

Here is some of what French Gates will cover in the class:

  • Guide members in examining their own beliefs and resources and help them develop a personalized framework for philanthropic giving that best matches their resources, values and community needs.
  • Provide a “think, test, do” model for researching, developing and executing their own strategic giving endeavors.
  • Reflect on never-before-heard diary entries from her experiences in Tanzania, India and the United States, and outline different forms of philanthropy, demonstrate the value of building partnerships in local communities and teach members how to break down barriers and learn from failures.
  • Teach the significance of how qualitative and quantitative can help define community needs and define goals and successes.
Melinda French Gates tours the Family Planning Association of Malawi clinic in Lilongwe, Malawi, in December 2012. (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation File Photo)

MasterClass offers an annual membership in which viewers members get access to more than 150 instructors and classes across a variety of fields. Each class features about 20 video lessons, at an average of 10 minutes per lesson.

In partnership with French Gates, MasterClass will distribute free memberships to eight organizations in the U.S. and abroad championing issues that range from empowering young women to enter health and engineering fields to achieving gender equality in global health leadership.

MasterClass raised $225 million Series F round in May 2021, at a reported valuation of $2.75 billion. The company got a boost during the pandemic as people spent more time at home.

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‘$70,000 CEO’ Dan Price resigns as chief of Gravity Payments after assault allegations https://www.geekwire.com/2022/70000-ceo-dan-price-resigns-as-chief-of-gravity-payments-after-assault-allegations/ Thu, 18 Aug 2022 01:40:04 +0000 https://www.geekwire.com/?p=717102
Dan Price, who made international headlines seven years ago for his plan to raise the minimum wage at Gravity Payments, resigned Wednesday as CEO of the Seattle-based company. Price tweeted an email sent to employees about his resignation. “My No. 1 priority is for our employees to work for the best company in the world, but my presence has become a distraction here,” he wrote. “I also need to step aside from these duties to focus full time on fighting false accusations made against me. I’m not going anywhere.” Price pleaded not guilty in May to misdemeanor charges of assault and reckless… Read More]]>
Gravity Payments CEO Dan Price appears in court in 2016 for a lawsuit that was brought against him by his brother and former business partner. Price, who is facing misdemeanor charges of assault and reckless driving, resigned as CEO on Wednesday. (GeekWire File Photo / Todd Bishop)

Dan Price, who made international headlines seven years ago for his plan to raise the minimum wage at Gravity Payments, resigned Wednesday as CEO of the Seattle-based company.

Price tweeted an email sent to employees about his resignation. “My No. 1 priority is for our employees to work for the best company in the world, but my presence has become a distraction here,” he wrote. “I also need to step aside from these duties to focus full time on fighting false accusations made against me. I’m not going anywhere.”

Price pleaded not guilty in May to misdemeanor charges of assault and reckless driving in connection with an incident in which prosecutors alleged he attempted to kiss a 26-year-old woman in his car and then grabbed her throat when she rebuffed him.

Gravity Payments Chief Operating Officer Tammi Kroll is replacing Price as CEO. The credit card processing and technology company based in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood has 240 employees.

Gravity Payments made international headlines due to Price’s decision, announced in April 2015, to raise the company’s minimum salary to $70,000 over three years and immediately drop his compensation — previously more than $1 million — to $70,000 to help fund the raises.

In the process, Price became an outspoken advocate for workers’ rights, and equitable pay, frequently criticizing corporate leaders on social media and in press interviews.

Price helped start Gravity Payments 18 years ago.

In 2016, he prevailed in a lawsuit that was brought against him by his brother and former business partner, Lucas Price, that included a claim that Dan Price had used his majority control of Gravity Payments to pay himself excessive compensation. Court records showed that the suit was served on Dan Price in the days prior to his landmark salary announcement inside the company.

Gravity now has a minimum wage of $80,000 and reported record revenue last year, according to a tweet Price posted Wednesday.

Update: The New York Times on Thursday published the results of an extensive investigation, by reporter Karen Weise, detailing additional allegations against Price. His resignation Wednesday came hours after he responded to the newspaper’s questions, according to the report.

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Seattle-area company that aims to treat disease with radio frequency energy files for IPO https://www.geekwire.com/2022/seattle-area-company-that-aims-to-treat-disease-with-radio-frequency-energy-files-for-ipo/ Wed, 17 Aug 2022 21:35:33 +0000 https://www.geekwire.com/?p=716888
EMulate Therapeutics, a 20-year-old Bellevue, Wash.-based company developing radio frequency energy technology to treat a range of diseases, filed to go public Tuesday. The 7-person company, previously known as Nativis, has programs for aggressive types of brain tumors, pain management, PTSD, ADHD, anxiety and depression. The company can “specifically regulate signaling and metabolic pathways on the molecular and genetic levels — without chemicals, radiation or drugs — delivered via a simple-to-use non-invasive therapeutic system,” according to its IPO filing. Its therapeutic wearable device has not been approved by the FDA. The filing reveals that the company had insufficient revenue to… Read More]]>
EMulate Therapeutics CEO Chris Rivera. (Emulate Photo)

EMulate Therapeutics, a 20-year-old Bellevue, Wash.-based company developing radio frequency energy technology to treat a range of diseases, filed to go public Tuesday.

The 7-person company, previously known as Nativis, has programs for aggressive types of brain tumors, pain management, PTSD, ADHD, anxiety and depression.

The company can “specifically regulate signaling and metabolic pathways on the molecular and genetic levels — without chemicals, radiation or drugs — delivered via a simple-to-use non-invasive therapeutic system,” according to its IPO filing.

Its therapeutic wearable device has not been approved by the FDA.

The filing reveals that the company had insufficient revenue to meet ongoing operating expenses as of June 30, and had $15,000 of cash at the time. The company reported a net loss of $13.8 million for the six-month period ending June 30. EMulate spent $164,000 on research and development in the first half of 2022, and racked up $7.6 million in general and administrative expenses.

“With this offering, we are seeking sufficient capital to enable us to continue the technology and business expansion already well underway. We believe proceeds from this offering will be sufficient to fund our business plan for at least the next 12 months,” the company notes in the filing.

The company’s CEO, president and chairman is Chris Rivera. He was previously CEO of the trade group Washington Biotechnology and Biomedical Association, now Life Science Washington. He also was head of commercial operations at Corixa and held a similar operations role at Genzyme. He previously founded Hyperion Therapeutics, which was acquired by Horizon Pharma in 2015.

Rivera earned a salary of $882,073 last year, according to the IPO filing.

The company does not have any ongoing clinical trials but said it conducted a “compassionate use” study for people with diffuse midline glioma. The pediatric brain tumor affects about 100 to 300 children each year in the U.S. and most patients survive less than one year. The company also conducted a small study in patients with another highly deadly brain tumor, glioblastoma multiforme, and reported that it had no serious side effects.

According the company’s website, its technology “produces a broadband, multifrequency oscillating magnetic field, with frequencies from 0 kHz up to roughly 22 kHz, that is obtained from recordings of selected molecules derived using its proprietary Magnetic Interrogation Device System (MIDS).”

The tech was also outlined in a 2018 publication describing the results of its glioblastoma study using the company’s headband: “Molecular signals are obtained from solvated molecules using a direct-current super-conducting quantum interference device coupled to a second derivative gradiometer operating in a highly shielded magnetic environment.”

Magnetic fields may have an effect on the brain, and some clinicians use a technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation for conditions like depression. But EMulate makes additional claims.

Developing a molecularly targeted drug can take hundreds of millions of dollars and years of clinical trials, but the company says its approach can target specific molecules. The company says it has “selectively” targeted the molecule EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor), a common drug target, in preclinical studies.

Outside scientists have criticized the company. Derek Lowe, a longtime researcher and author of the In The Pipeline blog at Science magazine, previously told GeekWire that the company’s research leaves him and others in the scientific community unconvinced.

In a 2017 blog post Lowe said: “The company’s scientific basis tends to make people roll their eyes or burst out laughing.”

EMulate established four subsidiaries over the past year that target different health conditions, including one that aims to develop treatments for animals. It also created a consumer-focused company called Hapbee Technologies that sells a $299 wearable device claiming to promote improved sleep, focus, and relaxation. EMulate has a 25% stake in Hapbee, which is publicly traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Rivera is chairman of Hapbee.

EMulate’s largest common stock shareholder is Nancy Skinner Nordhoff, a 90-year old Seattle-area philanthropist who holds a 12.2% stake. Other shareholders include the Butters Family Revocable Trust, John and Tamera Kingman, and Bennet M. (Mike) Butters, a former VP at Signal Technology.

EMulate previously said it had raised more than $60 million from private investors.

The company competes against the Optune device, which its maker Novocure says disrupts cell division using electric fields.

EMulate Therapeutics said in the filing it has an unpaid aggregate severance amount of approximately $6.3 million related to former employees and founders. We’ve reached out to the company for additional details about its business and will update when we hear back.

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‘Gold standard’ or unconstitutional? Facebook and Wash. state AG spar over political ad disclosure law https://www.geekwire.com/2022/gold-standard-or-unconstitutional-facebook-and-wash-state-ag-spar-over-political-ad-disclosure-law/ Wed, 17 Aug 2022 20:00:14 +0000 https://www.geekwire.com/?p=716887
Facebook parent company Meta and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson agree on this: the state’s campaign advertising disclosure law is exceptional. But is that good or bad — and more importantly, is the law constitutional? That’s a matter of significant disagreement as both sides prepare for a key hearing early next month in King County Superior Court in Seattle. It promises to be a pivotal moment in a long-running dispute over the state’s public disclosure requirements for tech platforms that run campaign ads. Meta is seeking summary judgment in its favor in the state’s 2020 lawsuit. Calling Washington an “outlier,”… Read More]]>
Inside one of Facebook’s Seattle engineering offices. (GeekWire File Photo / Nat Levy)

Facebook parent company Meta and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson agree on this: the state’s campaign advertising disclosure law is exceptional.

But is that good or bad — and more importantly, is the law constitutional?

That’s a matter of significant disagreement as both sides prepare for a key hearing early next month in King County Superior Court in Seattle. It promises to be a pivotal moment in a long-running dispute over the state’s public disclosure requirements for tech platforms that run campaign ads.

Meta is seeking summary judgment in its favor in the state’s 2020 lawsuit.

Calling Washington an “outlier,” Meta asserts that the state’s disclosure law violates the First Amendment by unfairly targeting political speech, imposing onerous timelines for publicly disclosing what Meta considers unreasonable degrees of detail to people who request information about campaign ads.

“Holding that Washington’s unprecedented disclosure regime is unconstitutional here would not jeopardize other disclosure laws, whether in Washington or elsewhere,” Meta said in a July 15 motion. “It would simply bring Washington into line with the 49 other states that impose disclosure requirements that do not have the effect of shutting off entire channels of core political speech.”

Meta says Facebook has stopped serving ads for campaigns in the state after determining that the company wouldn’t be able to reasonably comply with the law.

The attorney general responded in a court filing Tuesday, saying that Meta has instead “made a business choice not to make the required information available despite already collecting it” through its ad platform.

Bob Ferguson
Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson. (GeekWire File Photo / Dan DeLong)

“There is no constitutional right to hide information related to election advertising spending just because a company would rather not provide it,” the AG’s filing said. “Meta’s unilateral decision was an intentional business choice, not a necessity, and demonstrates nothing other than that Meta’s purported commitment to election transparency is only on Meta’s terms and only when transparency suits it.”

In a news release, the AG’s office said Washington has the “gold-standard law” across the country, citing the state’s top ranking for campaign finance laws by the nonprofit organization Coalition for Integrity.

“This statute serves the vitally important purpose of informing the public about efforts to influence Washington elections,” the AG’s filing says. “That purpose has never been more important than it is today, as foreign actors and others aggressively spread election disinformation, including on Facebook. Indeed, Meta itself has publicly trumpeted the importance of election transparency and apologized for its role in election interference.”

The requirements are spelled out in WAC 390-18-050, including a two-day turnaround for responding to requests electronically. Providing details such as the name and address of the people paying for the ads, the cost of the ad, and the method of payment, etc., apply to traditional broadcast, print, and digital ads.

The law also includes this requirement specific to digital platforms.

A description of the demographic information, the statistical characteristics of a population (e.g., age, gender, race, location, etc.), of the audiences targeted and reached, to the extent such information is collected by the commercial advertiser as part of its regular course of business, and the total number of impressions generated by the advertisement or communication.

Meta cited similar decisions by other tech platforms to stop serving political ads for Washington state campaigns as further evidence of its contention.

“When it becomes more burdensome to host one type of speech, the rational response is to stop hosting that speech,” its filing said. “That is not a hypothetical concern. Faced with the prospect of having to comply with the disclosure law if they continued to host Washington political ads, Meta, Google, Yahoo, and Choozle all concluded that hosting core political speech is simply not worth it.”

This is the latest lawsuit filed by the state against the company over this issue. Facebook had been sued by the state and in 2018 reached a settlement by agreeing to pay a $238,000 fine. Washington settled a separate lawsuit with Google over the same issue for more than $423,000 last year.

The current suit against Meta, filed in April 2020, asserts that the company continued to accept political ads in the state after promising to stop.

The hearing on Meta/Facebook’s motion for summary judgment is scheduled for Sept. 2 before King County Superior Court Judge Douglass A. North.

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MacKenzie Scott gives $39M and Ballmer Group gifts $21M to education nonprofits https://www.geekwire.com/2022/mackenzie-scott-gives-39m-to-junior-achievement-usa-ballmer-group-gifts-21m-to-city-year/ Wed, 17 Aug 2022 17:44:36 +0000 https://www.geekwire.com/?p=716927
Philanthropy news: MacKenzie Scott’s latest gift is going to national education nonprofit Junior Achievement USA, which operates across 102 U.S. markets and reaches more than 2.5 million students annually. The $38.8 million donation is the largest in the organization’s 103-year-old history. Scott has given away more than $12 billion since divorce from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in 2019. The Ballmer Group, co-founded by Connie and Steve Ballmer (former Microsoft CEO), gave a $21 million gift to City Year, an education nonprofit that focuses on helping students at under-resourced schools. The grant is part of 18 economic mobility donations announced by… Read More]]>
Philanthropy news:

  • MacKenzie Scott’s latest gift is going to national education nonprofit Junior Achievement USA, which operates across 102 U.S. markets and reaches more than 2.5 million students annually. The $38.8 million donation is the largest in the organization’s 103-year-old history. Scott has given away more than $12 billion since divorce from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in 2019.
  • The Ballmer Group, co-founded by Connie and Steve Ballmer (former Microsoft CEO), gave a $21 million gift to City Year, an education nonprofit that focuses on helping students at under-resourced schools. The grant is part of 18 economic mobility donations announced by the Ballmer Group last month.
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Tech Moves: Ex-Amazon VP joins mobile energy startup Booster as CTO; 1Password hires CPO https://www.geekwire.com/2022/tech-moves-ex-amazon-vp-joins-mobile-energy-startup-booster-as-cto-1password-hires-cpo/ Wed, 17 Aug 2022 15:30:01 +0000 https://www.geekwire.com/?p=716829
— Andrew Hamel, a Seattle-based tech vet who spent 11 years at Amazon in various vice president roles, joined mobile energy startup Booster as chief technology officer. Hamel worked at Amazon from 2008 to 2019, most recently as vice president of customer experience technology and machine learning. He joined Seattle startup LivePerson in 2020 as an executive vice president. Founded in 2015 out of Seattle, Booster got its start by fueling up employee vehicles in private corporate parking lots. Now it also provides fuel to fleets for major logistics carriers and their contractors, and runs a consumer business. The company is now… Read More]]>
Andrew Hamel. (Booster Photo)

— Andrew Hamel, a Seattle-based tech vet who spent 11 years at Amazon in various vice president roles, joined mobile energy startup Booster as chief technology officer.

Hamel worked at Amazon from 2008 to 2019, most recently as vice president of customer experience technology and machine learning. He joined Seattle startup LivePerson in 2020 as an executive vice president.

Founded in 2015 out of Seattle, Booster got its start by fueling up employee vehicles in private corporate parking lots. Now it also provides fuel to fleets for major logistics carriers and their contractors, and runs a consumer business. The company is now based in the Bay Area.

“Booster’s data-driven energy network helps fleets win with technology at our core, and there’s no better leader to accelerate this vision than Andrew,” Booster CEO Frank Mycroft said in a statement.

Other personnel changes across the Pacific Northwest tech industry:

— New York City-based real estate startup Peek hired James Straub as chief technology officer. Straub previously worked at Amazon Web Services as a software development manager, and led engineering for Seattle-based tech companies including Porch and Crowd Cow.

— Toronto-based security company 1Password hired Steve Won as chief product officer. Won, based in Seattle, previously led security efforts at Duo Security, Cisco, and Shogun.

— Washington D.C.-based small business insurance company Pie Insurance hired Seattle-based tech vet Ekta Aggarwal as chief product officer. Aggarwal spent more than a decade at Microsoft and seven years at Amazon in various management roles.

— Seattle-area payments company Paymentus said CFO Matt Parson would resign effective Sept. 9. Paul Seamon is now interim CFO.

— Real estate giant Opendoor hired Seattle-based legal exec Michael Laskin as associate general counsel for product. He was previously principal corporate counsel at Redfin, and also worked at Amazon.

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Tech leaders in Washington state bullish about federal semiconductor bill https://www.geekwire.com/2022/tech-leaders-in-washington-state-bullish-about-federal-semiconductor-bill/ Wed, 17 Aug 2022 15:02:13 +0000 https://www.geekwire.com/?p=716798
There’s nothing quick, easy, or cheap about microchips. The tiny computers that power our smartphones, cars, washing machines and televisions work are derived from semiconductor technology, which can take as long as a decade to research, design, and test. The development process is also expensive. Lewis Johnson, chief scientific officer for Seattle-based NLM Photonics, said semiconductor startups face significant challenges raising capital because of the time and money-consuming longtail that comes with scientific development. That’s why many tech leaders say the new Chips and Science Act signed by President Joe Biden last week could mean big changes for Washington state’s… Read More]]>
(Bigstock Photo)

There’s nothing quick, easy, or cheap about microchips. The tiny computers that power our smartphones, cars, washing machines and televisions work are derived from semiconductor technology, which can take as long as a decade to research, design, and test. The development process is also expensive.

Lewis Johnson, chief scientific officer for Seattle-based NLM Photonics, said semiconductor startups face significant challenges raising capital because of the time and money-consuming longtail that comes with scientific development.

That’s why many tech leaders say the new Chips and Science Act signed by President Joe Biden last week could mean big changes for Washington state’s tech and manufacturing communities.

The act authorized $250 billion in government subsidies for technology and science, and $52 billion of that is earmarked for companies and institutions working with semiconductors.

For the team behind NLM Photonics, many of whom first collaborated at the University of Washington’s chemistry department, the bill’s passage could mean relying less on private investment as it develops new semiconductor technologies.

Lewis Johnson. (LinkedIn Photo)

“Many venture capitalists are looking for quite quick returns,” said Johnson. “This is where government support of semiconductor research is very critical. It’s expensive, it takes a long time, but it can yield some really amazing things.”

He noted that government investment in the research and development of semiconductors will also likely reduce risk for private investors. It’s possible some venture capital firms will feel more confidence in a government-backed project and may decide to contribute matching funds.

The passage of the Chips and Science Act comes at a time when many goods that rely on microchips — such as cars — are seeing pandemic-related production delays as foreign supply chains struggle to keep up with demand.

Chris Diorio, founder and CEO of Seattle-based RFID company Impinj, said he applauds the passage of the bill, and hopes it will enable his company to manufacture more chips in the U.S.

“Due to the current semiconductor shortfall, we have been unable to supply enough chips to our customers, with demand exceeding supply by more than 50 percent for more than a year,” Diorio said.

Impinj, which went public in 2016, uses third-party foundries for manufacturing, including one in southwest Washington. Diorio said the Chips and Science Act is a first step toward establishing more domestic foundries like that one.

“For Impinj, being able to manufacture more chips in the U.S. will help us advance our vision of connecting trillions of everyday things to drive efficiencies, reduce waste, enable the circular economy and, ultimately, we believe, improve peoples’ lives,” he said.

Chris Diorio. (GeekWire File Photo)

Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell was one of the act’s chief proponents. Her office predicts significant investments in research and entrepreneurship related to artificial intelligence, semiconductors, quantum information, robotics, and biotech, as well as several other technological areas.

“This investment helps America stay competitive, create more diverse tech ecosystems, grow jobs for tomorrow, and solve some of our most pressing problems, from climate change to cybersecurity,” Cantwell said following the bill’s passage.

Sen. Maria Cantwell. (Wikimedia Commons)

Research and business spinoffs from the University of Washington were largely the basis for the Chips and Science Act’s goals, according to Cantwell’s office. And with significant research related to artificial intelligence and other key areas already underway at the university, it’s likely that the UW will see an influx of government subsidies from the act in coming years.

Cantwell said the act seeks replicate the kind of development the Seattle tech region has seen over the last decades into other areas of the country.

“Seattle’s development as a tech epicenter served as a model for this legislation,” Cantwell said. “As other regions learn from us, America will become an innovation machine firing on all cylinders — and key local institutions like the University of Washington will be better funded too.”

But the legislation has its critics. Alan Sykes, a professor at Stanford University, has been a vocal opponent of the act. In a Stanford Q&A earlier this month, Sykes pointed out that the majority of the bill’s subsidies aren’t related to semiconductor research and funding. And as for the part that is, he thinks the free market should be left to sort supply and demand out without government involvement — which he says could end up funneling subsidies to certain interest groups.

“Government efforts to ‘pick winners and losers’ may simply dissipate resources and achieve little in practice even from the parochial perspective,” Sykes said.

The act contains funding for both short-term and long-term investments in science and technology. Michael Schutzler, CEO of the Washington Technology Industry Association, said investments in workforce development will take years to implement and measure results.

“They’re trying to move some big boulders up a big hill,” he said.

But the act also sets aside $10 billion to create regional technology hubs, and Schutzler expects to see results there much more quickly. He said the Department of Commerce and the National Science Foundation will be distributing funds, and they’re experienced with this kind of work.

“They’re also very nimble agencies, and very good at deploying federal dollars,” Schutzler said. “It’s rational to think we’re going to start seeing some movement on the regional tech hubs in the next 12-to-18 months.”

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SEC sues Dragonchain, alleging that $16.5M in crypto sales were illegal securities offerings https://www.geekwire.com/2022/sec-sues-dragonchain-alleging-that-16-5m-in-crypto-sales-were-illegal-securities-offerings/ Wed, 17 Aug 2022 01:12:59 +0000 https://www.geekwire.com/?p=716732
Dragonchain, a cryptocurrency company based in Bellevue, Wash., was sued Tuesday by the Securities and Exchange Commission on allegations that it engaged in the illegal sale of unregistered securities through its 2017 initial coin offering and subsequent sales of its DRGN tokens totaling $16.5 million. The company, founded in 2017 by a former Walt Disney Co. blockchain architect, has denied the allegations in previous statements anticipating the SEC lawsuit. It’s the latest cryptocurrency company to face such allegations from the SEC, which asserts that certain crypto assets fit the legal definition of securities, requiring greater levels of federal regulation and… Read More]]>
Dragonchain CEO Joe Roets at the GeekWire Summit in 2017. (Photo by Dan DeLong for GeekWire)

Dragonchain, a cryptocurrency company based in Bellevue, Wash., was sued Tuesday by the Securities and Exchange Commission on allegations that it engaged in the illegal sale of unregistered securities through its 2017 initial coin offering and subsequent sales of its DRGN tokens totaling $16.5 million.

The company, founded in 2017 by a former Walt Disney Co. blockchain architect, has denied the allegations in previous statements anticipating the SEC lawsuit.

It’s the latest cryptocurrency company to face such allegations from the SEC, which asserts that certain crypto assets fit the legal definition of securities, requiring greater levels of federal regulation and scrutiny than commodities do.

Dragonchain’s founder and CEO, John Joseph “Joe” Roets, is named as a defendant in the suit along with three affiliated companies and organizations: Dragonchain Inc., Dragonchain Foundation, and The Dragon Company.

“Because Dragonchain never filed a registration statement for its offer and sale of DRGNs, it never provided investors with the material information that other issuers include in such statements when soliciting public investment,” the SEC alleges in the 17-page complaint, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle.

That allowed the company to operate in “an information vacuum,” selling the tokens “into a market that possessed only the information Dragonchain chose to share about DRGNs,” the suit alleges.

The suit did not catch Dragonchain by surprise. After more than four years of communications, the SEC informed Dragonchain on April 27 that investigators would recommend pursuing Dragonchain for the alleged sale of unregistered securities, according to a May 24 post by Roets that linked to a lengthy pre-emptive defense.

That defense said, in part, “Purchasers of the DRGN micro-license did so knowing and legally acknowledging that the DRGN was a software utility license to be used on the Dragonchain platform and did not in any way represent shared equity or ownership in Dragonchain, the Dragonchain platform, or any other related IP.”

Roets also wrote at the time, “We are confident that we have a very strong case against any such charges should they be filed. We are also confident that this will not affect ongoing business or any other project plans.

Update: Dragonchain issued this response to the lawsuit Wednesday morning.

We are, of course, disappointed by the Commission’s decision. We’ve been consistent about the token model and utility as a software license since the beginning, when we filed for a patent on the model which was later granted by the USPTO.

Much of the complaint appears to be based on misunderstandings of the technology and the facts, for which we do not fault them as they are not software engineers or developers. We are still reviewing the complaint.

Details and information on our history, architecture, token model, and vision can be found in our response letter to the SEC dated May 19th

After the SEC suit was filed, news site Crypto Briefing published an investigative report Tuesday afternoon about Dragonchain based on interviews with former employees and others connected with the company.

Update: Dragonchain issued a response to the Crypto Briefing report.

The push to treat certain crypto assets as securities also led the SEC to file a lawsuit in July against a former Coinbase employee in Seattle who was charged separately with insider trading of cryptocurrency. Many involved in the crypto industry assert that such assets should be treated as commodities, not securities.

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Commentary: ‘Crying CEO’ post provides leadership lessons on authentic vulnerability https://www.geekwire.com/2022/commentary-crying-ceo-post-provides-leadership-lessons-on-authentic-vulnerability/ Tue, 16 Aug 2022 21:29:37 +0000 https://www.geekwire.com/?p=716734
Editor’s note: The following is a commentary written by Prem Kumar, co-founder and CEO of Seattle startup Humanly. Braden Wallake, the CEO of HyperSocial, now known infamously as the “Crying CEO,” caused a social media storm last week by sharing a LinkedIn post that featured a close-up selfie of himself crying — taken right after executing a layoff at his company.  Many went after him hard with mocking retorts and calling him out for narcissism while sharing in a collective cringe.  While a social media pile-on is rarely productive, situations like this can be teaching moments. As a founder/CEO, I… Read More]]>
Prem Kumar.

Editor’s note: The following is a commentary written by Prem Kumar, co-founder and CEO of Seattle startup Humanly.

Braden Wallake, the CEO of HyperSocial, now known infamously as the “Crying CEO,” caused a social media storm last week by sharing a LinkedIn post that featured a close-up selfie of himself crying — taken right after executing a layoff at his company. 

Many went after him hard with mocking retorts and calling him out for narcissism while sharing in a collective cringe. 

While a social media pile-on is rarely productive, situations like this can be teaching moments.

As a founder/CEO, I reached out to several peers to discuss this gaffe and the broader context of public vulnerability as leaders after seeing this story unfold.

Why did this post cause such an intense stir, drawing in thousands of comments and opinion pieces in mainstream media? 

As a founder who has been in similar challenging situations, the problem with Braden’s post was not that he cried. It was that he made the post and the situation about himself and his emotions — while members of his team were impacted by job loss.

Braden is someone who, like myself, gets to come into work every day doing a job we created for ourselves. Being a founder/CEO is a choice. Being laid off is not. 

The attention should have been focused on the latter — at least in that specific moment. 

Being a founder or CEO is not without its many challenges; even on good days, we have a very complex job. And yes, sharing vulnerability about the many difficulties is not only OK, it is usually a healthy and emotionally intelligent thing to do, with benefits for not just ourselves but our teams.

But context, content, timing, and focus in sharing matter. In fact, there are few parts of the CEO job I find more challenging or important than mastering contextual awareness and response in any given situation.

Own contextual cues, and you can win the room. Don’t, and you may just end up all over the internet in a way you don’t want to be. 

“Own contextual cues, and you can win the room. Don’t, and you may just end up all over the internet in a way you don’t want to be.”

When the desire to be publicly vulnerable is self-serving, takes a space that could be filled with support for team members, is poorly timed and overshadows the needs of our team, we have to bear the cost of the pushback. 

“I have a hard time with the concept of public vulnerability because it seems that often the person being ‘vulnerable’ is not aiming to add value, but themselves asking for emotional support,” Pradnya Desh, CEO and founder of Advocat.ai, told me. “That’s not a fair ask to an employee who has been laid off or even to the world at large, but it is appropriate for a CEO (or anyone) to seek out the mental health support that they need through family, friends or professional services.”

Again, context matters. Public vulnerability can bring attention to issues that may otherwise go unnoticed. It can also be counterproductive, and in some cases, it can be contrived or even malicious.

Shannon Palus, in a post titled “Don’t Blame the Crying CEO” added her thoughts on what makes some of these public displays unsettling: “They claim to offer some kind of window of insight, some humanity —”CEOs are people, too!”— when what they really are is marketing. That’s why it’s so unsettling to see vulnerability show up on the feed — even if it may come from a genuine place, it is released into the world to serve a much different purpose than human connection.” 

As a CEO, I asked my peers if there is a right way to approach authentic vulnerability as a leader.

“Too often leaders see vulnerability as a strategy for managing their public presence, influencing peers, and being seen as ‘progressive’ leaders,” said Aparna Rae, CEO and founder of Moving Beyond. “Real vulnerability isn’t in public posts, it’s in the day-to-day of managing a team or running a company. It shows up as making room for emerging leaders, acknowledging when you don’t have answers, cultivating deep listening, and accepting the ways in which your personal life and stressors impact work.

“Ultimately, the true sign of vulnerability is being honest with the people we work with — about our challenges, goals, dreams, and limitations.” 

At the end of the day, we owe it to our teams to always think about them FIRST. And yes, that applies to LinkedIn posts and public commentary. 

Ask yourself: does it hurt our team? Does it help our team? Is this the appropriate timing for the post? Shall I sleep on it? 

We all make mistakes (I know I do), and to his credit, Braden Wallake is now trying to use this new attention to help others. 

That is good, especially as there are a lot of Braden’s out there. He and I are both examples of today’s average U.S. CEO/founder: men who are choosing this job out of desire — not need — and are drastically and unfairly overrepresented in VC investments and the U.S. startup ecosystem. I hope that changes soon and will work to see it happen, but until it does WE must do better in how we think about ourselves and our teams. And how we post on Linkedin. 

I, for one, will be asking myself the above questions a lot more frequently from now on.

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RipeLocker, which sells containers that preserve food and flowers, raises $7.5M to boost production https://www.geekwire.com/2022/ripelocker-which-sells-containers-that-preserve-food-and-flowers-raises-7-5m-to-boost-production/ Tue, 16 Aug 2022 16:41:00 +0000 https://www.geekwire.com/?p=716582
The news: RipeLocker raised $7.5 million, providing the food-tech startup fresh funding to boost production, upgrade its systems and continue doing efficacy trials. The Bainbridge Island, Wash.-based company sells containers that preserve recently harvested produce and flowers. The father-son team: The company was co-founded by George Lobisser, who previously co-owned and led Pace International, a company that built food-preserving tech, and son Kyle Lobisser, a devices engineer who helped create the storage container but is not a current employee. RipeLocker currently has 13 full-time employees. The device: The patented RipeLocker containers, which are about the size of a pallet, preserve the… Read More]]>
(RipeLocker Photo)

The news: RipeLocker raised $7.5 million, providing the food-tech startup fresh funding to boost production, upgrade its systems and continue doing efficacy trials. The Bainbridge Island, Wash.-based company sells containers that preserve recently harvested produce and flowers.

The father-son team: The company was co-founded by George Lobisser, who previously co-owned and led Pace International, a company that built food-preserving tech, and son Kyle Lobisser, a devices engineer who helped create the storage container but is not a current employee. RipeLocker currently has 13 full-time employees.

The device: The patented RipeLocker containers, which are about the size of a pallet, preserve the shelf-life of the produce or flowers within the containers by managing its atmospheric pressure and gas composition. The system’s tech can also report and respond to shifts in the external environment by making adjustments to reduce decay.

The customers: The startup announced in June that it closed its first purchase agreement with The Queen’s Flowers, a floral importer and grower in Colombia and Ecuador with wholesale and distribution warehouses across the U.S. The company said that the RipeLocker containers extended the shelf-life of roses by an extra 2-to-4 weeks. It also works with Sorbatto Fresh, The Fruit Company, and Oasis Farms, Inc. The startup said that there are currently 400 containers built. It added that it was generating revenue but did not say if it was profitable.

RipeLocker containers extended the shelf-life of roses by an extra 2-to-4 weeks. (RipeLocker Photo)

The state of food-tech startups: RipeLocker’s funding comes at a time when the food-tech industry has seen declining investment from venture capitalists. Such startups raised just $5.6 billion across 275 deals around the world in the second quarter of 2022, down 21.5% quarter-over-quarter, according to a report by PitchBook.

Despite the downtrend, inflationary pressures and ongoing supply chain snarls may provide tailwinds to companies that can minimize delivery and service fees, the report said. RipeLocker faces a bevy of startups looking to capitalize on this trend.

The funders: RipeLocker says the funding comes from a mix of angel investors, including customers, farmers and packers, agricultural industry executives, and academics. The company has raised $21 million to-date and says it plans to raise a “much larger” Series A round in the fall. It did not reveal its current valuation.

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Amazon sets global debut times for new ‘Lord of the Rings’ series on Prime Video https://www.geekwire.com/2022/amazon-sets-global-debut-times-for-new-lord-of-the-rings-series-on-prime-video/ Tue, 16 Aug 2022 16:39:59 +0000 https://www.geekwire.com/?p=716590
Amazon has set the premiere times for the global debut of the hotly anticipated Prime Video series “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.” Two episodes of the fantasy series will start streaming at 6 p.m. PT on Sept. 1. Fans around the world will be able to watch simultaneously, so if you’re in New Zealand, for instance, that’ll be 1 p.m. on Sept. 2. After the premiere, Prime Video will roll out single episodes on a weekly basis on Thursdays at 9 p.m. PT. The finale of the eight-episode season will air Oct. 13. “The Rings of… Read More]]>
(Amazon Prime Video Photos)

Amazon has set the premiere times for the global debut of the hotly anticipated Prime Video series “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.”

Two episodes of the fantasy series will start streaming at 6 p.m. PT on Sept. 1. Fans around the world will be able to watch simultaneously, so if you’re in New Zealand, for instance, that’ll be 1 p.m. on Sept. 2.

After the premiere, Prime Video will roll out single episodes on a weekly basis on Thursdays at 9 p.m. PT. The finale of the eight-episode season will air Oct. 13.

“The Rings of Power” is set in the Second Age of Middle Earth, thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings.” Amazon has been hyping the series for months, with teasers and trailers.

Time magazine called the series “TV’s biggest bet” and “the most expensive show ever made” in a new cover story this week.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and girlfriend Lauren Sanchez were among those who attended the premiere in Los Angeles on Monday night. Amazon CEO Andy Jassy also attended, and he tweeted about the “care and passion” that has gone into the project.

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Inflation Reduction Act could boost climate efforts at Amazon, Microsoft — and increase their taxes https://www.geekwire.com/2022/inflation-reduction-act-could-boost-climate-efforts-at-amazon-microsoft-and-increase-their-taxes/ Tue, 16 Aug 2022 16:23:30 +0000 https://www.geekwire.com/?p=716548
President Joe Biden is expected to sign legislation Tuesday that includes the most ambitious initiatives to fight climate change that the nation has ever seen. While not as bold as earlier proposals, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is expected to curb America’s carbon emissions 31-to-44% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. The bill includes $370 billion for climate actions, such as clean energy tax incentives and government support for climate tech innovation and adoption. It’s packed with provisions that should help tech companies including Amazon and Microsoft achieve their bold goals for cutting carbon emissions. Given their climate-related ambitions and… Read More]]>
Amazon secured the naming rights for Seattle’s rebuilt KeyArena, dubbing it the Climate Pledge Arena. The company’s investments helped make it the first net-zero carbon certified arena in the world. Among its enviro features is a living wall. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser))

President Joe Biden is expected to sign legislation Tuesday that includes the most ambitious initiatives to fight climate change that the nation has ever seen. While not as bold as earlier proposals, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is expected to curb America’s carbon emissions 31-to-44% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.

The bill includes $370 billion for climate actions, such as clean energy tax incentives and government support for climate tech innovation and adoption. It’s packed with provisions that should help tech companies including Amazon and Microsoft achieve their bold goals for cutting carbon emissions.

Given their climate-related ambitions and struggles to slow emissions, the tech giants must be singing the praises of the new measure, right?

Perhaps not.

The legislation, which also has substantial healthcare implications, includes a 15% minimum tax applied to corporations that report $1 billion annually to their shareholders but pay taxes below 21% thanks to deductions, credits and other exemptions. The tax provision is expected to bring in $222.2 billion over a decade.

While roughly 470 American companies meet the $1 billion cutoff, most already pay more than the required minimum tax. The Tax Policy Center reported that about 150 companies would be subject to the 15% tax. Amazon is among those that could be affected. The Washington Post reported that the company paid 10% in taxes last year, and 7% and 6% in the years preceding. Microsoft paid more than 15% all three years.

The measure also includes a new 1% excise tax on companies when they do stock buybacks, which can drive up their value. Microsoft spent $28 billion on buybacks in the past 12 months, according to the Washington Post.

GeekWire contacted Microsoft and Amazon regarding the new tax rules. Microsoft responded with no comment and Amazon has not replied.

Their CEOs, however, belong to Business Roundtable, a policy advocacy organization that came out solidly against the measure.

“BRT strongly opposes tax proposals that would discourage investment in the U.S. We call on Congress to reject the proposed book minimum tax that would undermine proven bipartisan incentives that encourage capital investment,” the group tweeted following the Senate’s passage of the bill.

One of the few tech companies publicly supporting the Inflation Reduction Act is Salesforce, an enterprise software company that is based in San Francisco and has offices in Bellevue, Wash.

“We urgently need to move our country forward to a more sustainable future, one that will create jobs, reduce pollution, drive greater economic security and increase equity and access to clean energy for lower-income communities,” the company’s executive vice president of government affairs Eric Loeb told the publication Protocol.

Microsoft President Brad Smith at a January 2020 announcement of the company’s climate change goals. (GeekWire / Todd Bishop)

In recent years, Amazon and Microsoft have been publicly bolstering their climate bona fides.

Amazon launched the Climate Pledge in 2019, vowing to reach carbon neutrality by 2040 and urging others to join it. It created the $2 billion Climate Pledge Fund that it’s investing in promising clean technologies. Two years ago, it became the planet’s largest corporate purchaser of clean power.

Microsoft aims to be carbon negative by 2030 and helped form the Transform to Net Zero coalition to support businesses who have committed to cutting emissions. It’s investing $1 billion over four years to kick start climate tech innovation.

In its annual Form 10-K report to the Securities and Exchange Commission this summer, Microsoft called out climate change as one of the top risks that it needs to manage for.

“The long-term effects of climate change on the global economy and the IT industry in particular are unclear,” reads the report. That includes changes in environmental regulations; the availability of natural resources and energy supplies; and the costs of powering and cooling computer hardware used for cloud-based services, according to the report.

Among its efforts to shrink its emissions, Microsoft recently announced progress in developing a hydrogen-based, clean energy solution for running its data centers.

The tech giants have also invested in clean transportation startups — Amazon is a backer of EV maker Rivian and green aerospace company ZeroAvia, while Microsoft in 2020 invested in a startup called LanzaJet making sustainable jet fuel.

Both Amazon and Microsoft had significant emissions increases last year, revealing the challenges of following carbon diets with the clean tech that’s currently available.

Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell called out in a recent news release the Inflation Reduction Act’s specific benefits to local companies in meeting their climate obligations.

The bill could address transportation infrastructure needs that would help the Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Cantwell noted. Another component of the act could aid Amazon and local aerospace companies that have pledged to increase their use of sustainable fuels which currently cost more than fossil fuels.

“This grant program would help produce sustainable aviation fuel at an affordable price point,” Cantwell said, “to help them keep those pledges.”

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates shared his support for the bill last week.

“The Inflation Reduction Act’s passage through Congress is nothing short of extraordinary. The United States is taking a historic step towards the clean energy economy we need to meet our climate goals,” Gates tweeted after its passage in Congress.

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Seattle accounting software startup Lockstep to be acquired by The Sage Group https://www.geekwire.com/2022/seattle-accounting-software-startup-lockstep-to-be-acquired-by-the-sage-group/ Tue, 16 Aug 2022 15:34:02 +0000 https://www.geekwire.com/?p=716583
Lockstep, a Seattle-based startup that sells software used to automate the accounting of B2B purchases and payments, said Tuesday it will be acquired by The Sage Group, a British multinational enterprise software company that offers payroll, HR, and finance services. Founded in 2019, Lockstep aims to use automation to help eliminate the cash traps and cash leaks that occur through the human handling of company books. It has more than 300 customers. Lockstep’s 130 employees will be joining The Sage Group, which is publicly traded on the London Stock Exchange. Lockstep will retain its brand. “Its complementary portfolio of products, resources,… Read More]]>
Lockstep CEO Peter Horadan. (Lockstep Photo)

Lockstep, a Seattle-based startup that sells software used to automate the accounting of B2B purchases and payments, said Tuesday it will be acquired by The Sage Group, a British multinational enterprise software company that offers payroll, HR, and finance services.

Founded in 2019, Lockstep aims to use automation to help eliminate the cash traps and cash leaks that occur through the human handling of company books. It has more than 300 customers.

Lockstep’s 130 employees will be joining The Sage Group, which is publicly traded on the London Stock Exchange. Lockstep will retain its brand.

“Its complementary portfolio of products, resources, and know-how accelerates our ambition to be the trusted network for SMBs,” Sage CTO Aaron Harris said in a statement.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“Over the years it has become abundantly clear that Lockstep and Sage have the same vision for the future of the industry,” Lockstep CEO Peter Horadan said in a statement.

Horadan was previously an executive at tax automation company Avalara. Other co-founders include Matthew ShanahanBill Henslee, and Scot Madill, who left in October.

Lockstep had raised $17 million to date from investors including American Express, Point72 Ventures, Clocktower Ventures, Revel Partners, SeaChange, Avalara CEO Scott McFarlane, Avalara co-founder Jared Vogt, former Amazon exec Jeff Wilke, Pioneer Square Labs Managing Director Geoff Entress, and angel investors Ben Slivka, Lisa Slivka, and Charles Fitzgerald.

Lockstep is ranked No. 124 on the GeekWire 200, our index of top Pacific Northwest startups.

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Galvanize co-working space and coding bootcamp closing Seattle location after seven years https://www.geekwire.com/2022/galvanize-co-working-space-and-coding-bootcamp-closing-seattle-location-after-seven-years/ Tue, 16 Aug 2022 15:24:12 +0000 https://www.geekwire.com/?p=716375
Galvanize, the Denver-based company that offers co-working space and coding education bootcamps in several U.S. cities, is closing its location in Seattle after seven years. The company said doors would be shutting at the end of August at 111 S. Jackson St. in Pioneer Square. Galvanize first leased all five floors and 71,000 square feet in the building in 2015. Galvanize’s hybrid model combines tech office space with a programming school, access to investors and mentorship. Co-working options in the Seattle location included space for entrepreneurs and startup employees ranging from one seat to a private room for teams of up… Read More]]>
Galvanize
The Galvanize space at 111 S. Jackson St. in Seattle. (Galvanize Photo)

Galvanize, the Denver-based company that offers co-working space and coding education bootcamps in several U.S. cities, is closing its location in Seattle after seven years.

The company said doors would be shutting at the end of August at 111 S. Jackson St. in Pioneer Square. Galvanize first leased all five floors and 71,000 square feet in the building in 2015.

Galvanize’s hybrid model combines tech office space with a programming school, access to investors and mentorship. Co-working options in the Seattle location included space for entrepreneurs and startup employees ranging from one seat to a private room for teams of up to 30 employees, with prices ranging from $250 to $1,600 per month.

The building offered “everything from state-of-the-art workspaces and iconic views of Elliott Bay to easy access to some of the city’s best restaurants and coffee shops,” according to Galvanize’s website. It was also set up to host events ranging from meetups to hackathons.

In an email to members on Friday, Galvanize Senior Director of Business Operations Lindsey Rohde called the news “sudden, sad, and frustrating to say the least.” (See full email at bottom.)

“Over the past 7 years, several Galvanize team members and I have had the opportunity to meet many incredible people and watch numerous businesses and students grow within these 5 gorgeous floors,” Rohde said. “It is our hope that the community we built here together will hold a footnote in your future success story.” 

According to Galvanize, one employee will be impacted by the closure of the Seattle space, while 380 co-working members will be displaced.

Galvanize’s Seattle co-working space. (Galvanize Photo)

Founded in 2012, Galvanize was acquired by online education company K12 Inc. in January 2020 in a $165 million deal. At the time, Galvanize had graduated more than 8,000 students who went on to work at approximately 2,250 companies, including tech giants such as Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook.

Galvanize’s education model competed against other software development schools in the Seattle region, including Code FellowsCoding DojoAda Developers Academy, and more.

At the end of 2021, the company announced that it was shifting its Hack Reactor software engineering education to an online format.

The COVID-19 pandemic was especially hard on co-working spaces. Among the Seattle area’s co-working casualties were Impact Hall, Atlas Networks, The Riveter, Hing Hay Coworks, Ballard Labs and Office Nomads. More than 800 co-working spaces permanently closed their doors nationwide, according to Upsuite, a flexible office space provider.

In the era of hybrid work models that has emerged in the wake of the pandemic, some co-working spaces that survived are now thriving.

“Like many businesses coming through the pandemic, Galvanize has had to adjust the way we serve our customers and communities,” the company said in a statement provided to GeekWire. “We are proud to continue serving students through our remote online Galvanize and Hack Reactor programs.” 

Beyond Seattle, Galvanize operates locations in Denver, Boulder, Austin, San Francisco and Phoenix. Operations will continue at those locations.

Here is the full email to Seattle members from Galvanize’s Lindsey Rohde:

Hi gSeattle Community, 

As you likely now know, Galvanize has made an immensely tough decision to close our coworking operations in Seattle. This means our doors will be shutting on Wednesday, August 31, 2022. 

Over the past 7 years, several Galvanize team members and I have had the opportunity to meet many incredible people and watch numerous businesses and students grow within these 5 gorgeous floors. It is our hope that the community we built here together will hold a footnote in your future success story. 

We know this news is sudden, sad, and frustrating to say the least; with that we ask that you show our staff kindness through this transition. The team and I will do our best to assist throughout this process and still provide the highest level of service through our last days together. 

To approach this as clearly as possible we will be keeping you updated frequently throughout this process via Slack and email. Please stay tuned for moving information, account updates, and future office options, etc.

We can’t say enough about the positive impact that all of our members have had on this community — we simply couldn’t have done it without you.

Warmly, 

Lindsey and the Galvanize-Seattle Team 

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Remitly paying $80M to acquire Rewire, another digital remittance platform https://www.geekwire.com/2022/remitly-paying-80m-to-acquire-rewire-another-digital-remittance-platform/ Tue, 16 Aug 2022 14:52:28 +0000 https://www.geekwire.com/?p=716577
Seattle-based digital remittance giant Remitly announced Tuesday it plans to acquire Rewire, an Israel-based company founded in 2015 that also facilitates remittances. Remitly will pay about $80 million in cash and stock to buy Rewire, which it described as “geographically complementary.” Remitly went public last year and reported 42% revenue growth in its most recent quarter. Its stock is down 40% so far in 2022. M&A deals are down from last year’s record but still on pace for the second-most active year.]]>
Seattle-based digital remittance giant Remitly announced Tuesday it plans to acquire Rewire, an Israel-based company founded in 2015 that also facilitates remittances. Remitly will pay about $80 million in cash and stock to buy Rewire, which it described as “geographically complementary.”

Remitly went public last year and reported 42% revenue growth in its most recent quarter. Its stock is down 40% so far in 2022. M&A deals are down from last year’s record but still on pace for the second-most active year.

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Amazon moves physical retail tech teams into cloud division, looking to accelerate third-party adoption https://www.geekwire.com/2022/amazon-moves-physical-retail-tech-teams-into-cloud-division-looking-to-accelerate-third-party-adoption/ Tue, 16 Aug 2022 00:06:16 +0000 https://www.geekwire.com/?p=716383
Amazon is shifting tech teams for its physical stores from its consumer division to its Amazon Web Services cloud division, aiming to further expand the use of the company’s in-store technologies by other retailers. Dilip Kumar, Amazon’s vice president of physical retail and technology, will move to AWS along with executives and teams responsible for the Just Walk Out cashier-less checkout technology, the Amazon Dash Cart, and the Amazon One palm-recognition and payment service, among other technologies, according to an internal email. News site Insider first reported the changes earlier today, and GeekWire confirmed them independently. Amazon has increasingly been… Read More]]>
Dilip Kumar, Amazon’s vice president of physical retail and technology, discusses the Amazon One palm recognition and payment system at the company’s re:MARS conference in Las Vegas in June. Kumar and Amazon’s physical retail tech teams are shifting to Amazon Web Services. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

Amazon is shifting tech teams for its physical stores from its consumer division to its Amazon Web Services cloud division, aiming to further expand the use of the company’s in-store technologies by other retailers.

Dilip Kumar, Amazon’s vice president of physical retail and technology, will move to AWS along with executives and teams responsible for the Just Walk Out cashier-less checkout technology, the Amazon Dash Cart, and the Amazon One palm-recognition and payment service, among other technologies, according to an internal email.

News site Insider first reported the changes earlier today, and GeekWire confirmed them independently.

Amazon has increasingly been looking to license these retail technologies to others after they debuted in the company’s own stores, including Amazon Go convenience and grocery stores.

AWS, under divisional CEO Adam Selipsky, is the tech giant’s main pathway for offering technology to other companies. The goal is to “position our suite of checkout technology, products, and services for growth beyond our stores,” wrote Tony Hoggett, Amazon’s senior vice president of physical stores, in the email.

Its best known in-store technology, Just Walk Out, logs shoppers in when they enter a store, using cameras and sensors to detect when they pick items up, allowing the system to charge them after they leave the store, without going through a checkout, using payment information stored in advance.

Earlier this month, in a post on the AWS for Industries blog, Amazon said Just Walk Out is available at more than a dozen third-party stores in addition to more than 50 Amazon stores.

“These technologies have helped differentiate our physical store offerings, and the success of these products and services are generating increased interest from [third-party] customers,” Hoggett wrote. “Our teams will continue to work closely together given this is a continued priority in our first-party stores.”

It’s part of a broader set of changes in Amazon’s physical stores division following Hoggett’s arrival at the Seattle company last year from Tesco, the British supermarket chain.

Earlier this year, Amazon said it would close all of its Amazon 4-star, Books, and Pop Up stores, to focus more on its Amazon Fresh, Whole Foods Market and Amazon Go grocery and convenience stores, and its new Amazon Style apparel stores, in addition to underlying technologies like Amazon One and Just Walk Out.

Kumar, in an interview with GeekWire at Amazon’s re:MARS conference in June, said the company has gleaned new insights from third-party implementations of its in-store technologies, such as the need to let shoppers enter and log into a store using a credit card, not just an app, which is something Amazon then adopted, as well.

At the same time, Kumar said, Amazon remains committed to first-party physical stores as a business. He dismissed the notion that the company’s stores could become merely a proving ground for technologies to license to others.

“When we get into a particular business, we may try many different things, but the idea is that if customers like it, if we see the right feedback … and the right types of behaviors, then we double down and build more,” he said at the time.

Amazon’s physical stores were created out of a recognition that the “overwhelming majority” of sales will continue to happen in physical stores in certain segments, including grocery and apparel, Kumar said.

Amazon last week said it’s rolling out the Amazon One palm recognition system to more than 65 of its Whole Foods Market stores in California, after launching in Seattle, Austin, and some Whole Foods locations in New York and L.A.

Despite assurances from Amazon on privacy, and options to use other checkout methods, Amazon One has faced concerns from some users and groups. One of Amazon’s early partners, Red Rocks Amphitheater in Denver, canceled plans to use the palm recognition and payment system at the popular music venue.

Other Amazon physical retail executives making the move to AWS, according to the memo, are Sanjay Dash, vice president of technology for physical stores; Jennifer Maul, general manager for Just Walk Out Technology; Barry Johnson, vice president, physical stores technology, Gerard Medioni, another vice president.

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