After considerable discussion, careful deliberation and more than a few debates at the neighborhood bar, the GeekWire team has finished compiling our Newsmakers of 2011 — a list of the people we’ve covered who, in our estimation, made the biggest impact on the technology community and did the coolest stuff within their respective fields over the past year.
We’ll also be recognizing many of these newsmakers in person at the big GeekWire Gala in Seattle tonight, and we’re looking forward to seeing many of you there.
So who made the cut? And who didn’t? Continue reading for the entire list, in alphabetical order, with links to the posts we wrote as we rolled out the list over the past month.
Paul Allen is the ‘Idea Man’: Allen made headlines in 2011 not as much for what he did, but for what he wrote. The Microsoft co-founder’s memoir, “Idea Man,” put Allen in the public eye in large part for his unvarnished account of the Redmond company’s history and of his longtime friend and co-founder, Bill Gates.
But for all the controversy stirred by that early excerpt, the actual book showed those anecdotes to be part of a broader effort by Allen to tell an honest story, even about his own failings. [Read Full Story]
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos fires up a new era for the online retailer: Whether or not the Kindle Fire ultimately succeeds as a low-priced alternative to Apple’s iPad, 2011 will be remembered as a year when the Amazon.com founder tried, once again, to change how we think about a market we thought we knew.
Amazon’s new Kindle Fire tablet won’t blow users away with a slick industrial design or a high-performance processor. Instead, it’s a utilitarian device, designed to serve as a portal to videos, books and Amazon’s other online services — where Bezos & Co. are hoping to eventually make up the money they’re losing on the $199 hardware. [Read Full Story]
Z2Live CEO David Bluhm builds a mobile games powerhouse: Bluhm — a veteran Seattle entrepreneur and gaming executive — likes to say that his company batted three for three in 2011. And it’s hard to argue with those metrics.
The maker of MetalStorm, TradeNations and Battle Nations saw each of its titles soar to success this year. Even more impressive, Bluhm and his rapidly growing team have rolled out new games for the iPhone while building a very profitable business. [Read Full Story]
Zulily CEO Darrell Cavens leads daily deal site to meteoric growth: Cavens likes to move fast, tackling opportunities before the moment passes. And no one moved as quickly in Seattle tech as Cavens in the past year.
In just 25 months, the operator of daily deals for baby apparel, toys, maternity clothes and other goods has grown from a nugget of an idea — conceived by Cavens and co-founder Mark Vadon — to more than 240 employees. [Read Full Story]
Melinda Gates, ‘impatient optimist’: Sure, Bill Gates may get more attention, but Melinda Gates is the one who deserves the newsmaker title this year — making a mark in a variety of ways in her role as co-chair and trustee of their philanthropic foundation.
On the local front, she was a driving force behind the creation of the new Gates Foundation headquarters complex in Seattle. On the international front, the self-described “impatient optimist” continued to display both of those characteristics in the foundation’s global health initiatives. [Read Full Story]
Ben and Emily Huh unlock secret to Web humor at Cheezburger: The husband-and-wife team (Ben serves as CEO, while Emily works as editor-in-chief) have made our list for building one of the most surprising (and hilarious) success stories in Seattle tech.
In the course of a few years, they’ve transformed a small cat photo blog into an international Web humor juggernaut. Cheezburger’s 50 or so comedy sites now attract more than 20 million monthly visitors, making it bigger than The Wall Street Journal’s Web site and many other well-known media brands. [Read Full Story]
Apple’s Steve Jobs, In Memoriam: The death of Jobs in October was one of those rare universal moments, a shared experience that made us stop and reflect not just on the man but also on the values he represented, and how those values relate to our own lives.
Jobs’ rare ability to reshape the technology world is illustrated by the fact that even in death, he’s keeping us guessing about his ideas for changing how we use technology in one of our most personal spaces of all, the living room. And in the end, it’s pretty cool to think that we might still see another “one more thing” from the mind of Steve Jobs. [Read Full Story]
Daniil Kulchenko sells startup at age 15: Of all the stories we covered on GeekWire in 2011, one of the most remarkable was the tale of Daniil, a high school sophomore from Kenmore, Wash., who sold his first startup this year at the ripe old age of 15.
Kulchenko made his mark by developing a cloud-computing service for hosting and deploying Perl applications. His startup, Phenona, was acquired in June by Vancouver, B.C.-based ActiveState — a company founded a year after Kulchenko was born. [Read Full Story]
Cliff Kushler & Mike McSherry spell out an acquisition for Swype: Swype revolutionized the way millions of people input text on Android devices, with the simple swipe of a finger. Founded by Kushler and led by CEO McSherry, the Seattle company’s technology almost magically reproduced text as users moved their fingers across letters on touchscreen keypads.
Swype raised cash, rolled out new features and was on the path to record some 100 million installations of the software when suitors came knocking. In early October, Nuance Communications agreed to gobble up Swype for a cool $102.5 million. [Read Full Story]
Yoky Matsuoka links humans to devices, from thermostats to robots: The University of Washington associate professor has long been interested in the frontiers of human interaction with machines, exploring new ways for the nervous system to work in conjunction with robotics and other mechanical devices.
In 2011 she pushed that work forward on two fronts — inside the research lab, and inside a thermostat. [Read Full Story]
F5′s John McAdam quietly creates a billion dollar business: Over the past decade, McAdam has led F5 Networks on one of the more impressive growth paths in the Seattle tech industry.
When the former IBM and Sequent Computer executive arrived at the helm in 2000, the networking equipment and software maker was doing just over $100 million in revenue. In 2011, F5 hit a major milestone. McAdam and his growing team posted $1 billion in revenue for the 2011 fiscal year. [Read Full Story]
T.A. McCann sells Gist to RIM, makes his mark on the startup scene: Persistence, courage and an ability to learn from failure. Those are some of the attributes of entrepreneurs, all traits exhibited by Gist founder and CEO T.A. McCann in 2011. One of Seattle’s most respected entrepreneurs, McCann sold personal contact organizer Gist to RIM in February.
The deal marked the end of a 3-year startup voyage for Gist and McCann. Since the deal, McCann has been actively involved in the Seattle tech community, advising startups and mentoring entrepreneurs at TechStars all while leading Gist. [Read Full Story]
Scott McFarlane guides Avalara through turbulent online tax sector: Avalara is based on Bainbridge Island, and the company’s software helps online merchants manage the mundane tasks of sales tax collection. Given those two attributes, it’s easy to understand why the company often gets overlooked.
But Avalara — under the direction of founder and CEO McFarlane — is executing on some big ideas in the shadow of the ferry terminal. And 2011 was perhaps the most significant year in the company’s 12-year history. [Read Full Story]
Bryan Mistele guides Inrix on road to success: With Mistele at the wheel, Inrix was on the move in 2011. The Kirkland provider of real-time traffic information raised a $37 million venture round from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, signed a multi-million dollar deal with Google and purchased its biggest European rival.
The $60 million buyout of ITIS Holdings added $27 million in revenue and 155 employees to Inrix, a profitable 7-year-old Microsoft spin-off which had already been growing at a fast pace. [Read Full Story]
Nathan Myhrvold, gourmet geek and patent lightning rod: Myhrvold was in the spotlight in 2011 perhaps more than at any other point since he was Microsoft’s chief technology officer — and for two very different reasons.
First, Myhrvold and his team released the geekiest cookbook the world has ever seen. And second, Myhrvold’s Intellectual Ventures came under increased scrutiny for acquiring, trading, licensing and in some cases filing suit over its huge collection of patents. [Read Full Story]
Home-wiring wizard Shwetak Patel named MacArthur Genius: Among Patel’s inventions: A device that can detect noise on electrical systems to monitor the energy usage of specific appliances and electronics in homes.
More recently, Patel has been working on a way of using electrical wiring as an antenna to receive signals from a variety of low-powered sensors around the home, to monitor conditions such as air quality.
Patel in September was named one of 22 MacArthur Fellows, commonly known as the MacArthur Genius Award. The prize comes with $500,000 — no strings attached. [Read Full Story]
PopCap’s founders and their big EA deal: More than a decade ago, in the middle of the dot-com bust, John Vechey, Jason Kapalka and Brian Fiete founded PopCap Games and debuted their first puzzle game, which came to be known as Bejeweled.
Yep, that turned out pretty well. Millions upon millions of jewels and zombies later, the sale of PopCap to Electronic Arts for as much as $1.3 billion this summer was one of the biggest news stories of 2011 in the Seattle region’s technology industry. [Read Full Story]
Spencer Rascoff lifts Zillow to new heights with a personal touch: Rascoff successfully guided Zillow to a blockbuster initial public offering in July, a significant milestone for the fast-growing online real estate company.
And while that achievement alone would have warranted Rascoff’s inclusion as a GeekWire 2011 Newsmaker, it’s the little stuff that’s most impressive about the 36-year-old Internet executive. [Read Full Story]
Neil Roseman helps bring Zynga to Seattle: One of the biggest stories in Seattle tech in 2011 was the arrival of the Silicon Valley tech titans. It seemed that nearly every other month a new company was establishing an engineering center in rain-soaked Seattle, picking off talented managers and engineers and altering the tech recruiting landscape in the process.
Zynga, the fast-growing social gaming powerhouse, found its man in Roseman. The former Amazon.com vice president of technology and CEO of Seattle startup Evri joined Zynga in March, saying he was attracted by the entrepreneurial freedom that Zynga founder Mark Pincus had injected into the business. [Read Full Story]
Kathy Savitt leads Lockerz on a Generation Z growth spree: Some of the biggest names in venture capital are putting their faith in Lockerz, a Seattle upstart that came on the scene in a big way in 2011.
The company, which is building a social networking service where teenagers and twenty somethings earn points for sharing content or watching videos, landed a massive $36 million venture capital round from venerable Silicon Valley firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, former Microsoft CFO Greg Maffei, DAG Ventures and Live Nation. It also bought three companies in 2011, purchasing online video startup Vodpod, social sharing service AddToAny and Twitter photo service Plixi. [Read Full Story]
Steven Sinofsky sets a new course for Microsoft Windows: Windows is a longtime source of financial fuel for Microsoft’s business, and by extension for the Seattle region’s economy — used by hundreds of millions of people around the world and producing billions in profits every year.
But the world is rapidly changing, and Microsoft is radically transforming its flagship product in an effort to keep up in the era of mobile devices and the web. It’s a huge but necessary gamble for Microsoft, and the person leading the charge is Steven Sinofsky, the Windows president, who unveiled the company’s plans for Windows 8 in September. [Read Full Story]
Glenn Walcott & Greg Enell raise the stakes for Double Down Interactive: Under the guidance of Enell and Walcott, Double Down has expanded fast. It just moved into new offices at Seattle’s Union Station, in part to accomodate a growing staff that has mushroomed from 16 to more than 80 this year.
The company’s DoubleDown Casino game now attracts 1.3 million players each day on Facebook, up from 70,000 at the beginning of the year. The game, which includes 19 different casino-style offerings but no actual betting, is now one of the 20 most popular games on Facebook. [Read Full Story]
Smilebox CEO Andrew Wright builds big business on life’s little moments: It’s that time of year when folks start thinking about connecting with family and friends through holiday cards. And Wright has certainly seen his fair share of interactive creations over the years.
Since its launch in 2006, the Smilebox software has been downloaded by more than 15 million people and over 180 million Smilebox greetings have been played. Those numbers attracted the attention of an Israeli suitor in August, with Tel Aviv-based IncrediMail Ltd. agreeing to gobble up the company for as much as $40 million. [Read Full Story]
Google engineer Steve Yegge, the accidental newsmaker: Yegge probably never would have expected to make this list. Not that the Google engineer isn’t doing important work.
But he made news this year by accident, when an exceptionally insightful rant that he intended for internal consumption was inadvertently made public through the Google+ social network — generating widespread headlines for its brutal candor about Google and Amazon. [Read Full Story]
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg pushes the potential of the social infrastructure: Now that everybody is connected, things are about to get really interesting. That was the message from Zuckerberg this year, through his words and actions.
The Facebook CEO sees the new “social infrastructure” transforming businesses including television, movies, books and music before moving on to traditional sectors such as health care and finance. [Read Full Story]
Editor’s Note: Here’s a guide for all of those coming to the sold-out GeekWire Gala tonight at Union Station in Seattle.