It was another big year for news in the Pacific Northwest technology community, and for the past few weeks we’ve been recognizing our 2012 GeekWire Newsmakers of the Year. It’s an annual tradition honoring the people who made the biggest impact in a variety of areas of technology — from startups to big tech companies and, this year, even space.
We’ll be recognizing the 2012 Newsmakers Thursday night at the GeekWire Gala, and many of the honorees will be joining us. (During a brief program at the event, we’ll be presenting them with special GeekWire soccer scarves that we’ve had custom-made for the occasion.)
Continue reading for the full list …
Luke Friang, Zulily
Perhaps no Seattle startup is moving quite as fast as Zulily, the daily deal site for moms which just scored $85 million in funding at a whopping $1 billion valuation. The company has hired hundreds of employees; opened warehouses in Ohio and Nevada; launched service in Europe; and topped more than 10 million subscribers — and it has done all of that in under three years.
Growing at that rate is no easy task. And making sure that the trains run on time at Zulily is Chief Information Officer Luke Friang, a Seattle technology veteran who previously served as CIO at drugstore.com and senior director of e-commerce technologies at Costco.
Christina Lomasney isn’t out to change the way we share photos with one another, nor does she want to create a new mobile app for finding the best restaurants in your neighborhood. Nope, she’s frankly got bigger fish to fry.
A University of Washington-trained physicist who previously worked at Boeing, Lomasney believes that Modumetal’s nanolaminated coatings are stronger, lighter and more durable than steel.
Panos Panay, Microsoft
Microsoft’s decision to develop its own tablet computer was a historic moment for a company that built one of the biggest businesses in the tech industry by focusing almost exclusively on software. Just as surprising: The company was able to keep the project under wraps until the Surface unveiling earlier this year.
Leading the team is Panos Panay, the general manager of Microsoft Surface. He is also responsible for the Microsoft Hardware division, which makes the company’s keyboards, mice and other peripherals.
Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com
It was another big year for Amazon.com, with the expansion of the company’s Kindle and Kindle Fire lineup, the continued growth of Amazon Web Services, major sales tax truces across the country, Amazon’srapid growth and expansion in Seattle, and moves by the company’s core e-commerce business into new areas such as fashion and wine.
But the defining moment, clarifying and cementing Amazon’s role in the technology industry, was delivered as an aside by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos during the company’s Kindle launch event in September.Speaking from behind a podium, the Amazon CEO explained the company’s approach with a single sentence that an accompanying slide called the “Amazon Doctrine.”
“We want to make money when people use our devices, not when they buy our devices,” he said.
Greg Gottesman and Matt McIlwain, Madrona
At a time when many are proclaiming the death of the traditional venture capital firm, Madrona Venture Group seems to be hitting its stride. The Seattle firm, originally founded 17 years ago as a loose network of prominent angel investors, raised a $300 million fund in June. That marked the largest in Madrona’s history, and came in well beyond its $250 million goal.
Led by the firm’s next-generation leaders Greg Gottesman and Matt McIlwain, Madrona is flying the flag for Northwest startups in a big way. And it’s not just by writing checks.
Michael Young, University of Washington
Are startups in the DNA of the University of Washington?
If not right now, they will be once President Michael Young finished his work. Young, who took the helm of the state’s largest research university in July 2011 after a successful run at the University of Utah, has pledged to double the number of startups coming out of the UW.
It was a bold statement by Young. But alongside trusted lieutenants such as vice provost Linden Rhoads, Young is making it happen, opening a 23,000 square foot incubator in Fluke Hall in February that will have space for 25 startups.
Chris Lewicki, Planetary Resources
Planetary Resources’ mission would sound crazy if it wasn’t for the people behind it — led by “chief asteroid miner” Chris Lewicki as president and chief engineer. A NASA veteran who was flight director for the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity, Lewicki leads the Bellevue-based company’s day-to-day operations and oversees its strategy and vision.
Sunny Gupta, Apptio
The thing we’ve always liked about Sunny Gupta is that he’s not playing “small ball.” Nope, the entrepreneur is taking a big swing for the fences with Apptio, a Bellevue company that’s developing new ways for corporate IT departments to manage costs.
And Gupta, who previously co-founded iConclude, took a big step up to the plate in March when Apptio raised $50 million in venture funding from the likes of T. Rowe Price, Madrona Venture Group, Greylock and others.
It was among the biggest venture capital deals in the state this year, putting a very healthy $600 million valuation on the enterprise software company.
Matt Inman, “The Oatmeal”
Webcomic artist Matthew Inman is known for his wicked and funny takes on modern life as The Oatmeal. But the Seattle resident made another mark in the tech world this year, by tapping into the power of crowdfunding to make a big impact — not once but twice.
Inman raised more than $1.5 million for charities and nonprofits through two separate initiatives — the first in response to a legal threat against him, and the second to help fund a museum to honor Nikola Tesla.
Make no mistake about it, Starbucks is still very much about the coffee experience. But the world’s best known coffee colossus is embracing its inner geek, with eyes on a new digital frontier.
And leading the charge in that arena is Adam Brotmanwho was promoted to the position of chief digital officer after Stephen Gillett left for Best Buy in March. Brotman has helped usher in some pretty big initiatives at Starbucks, including a partnership with mobile payments provider Square that launched this month. That allows Starbucks’ customers to purchase their lattes from their mobile phones by simply scanning a barcode at the checkout counter.
Seaton Gras had dreamed for years of a place where entrepreneurs could gather to commiserate (and share war stories). And this year Gras finally made that dream a reality, opening up a 15,400 square-foot incubator on the 8th floor of Seattle’s Exchange Building.
SURF incubator is not just an office space with a few desks tossed in. It has become a community gathering spot, a breeding ground for early-stage entrepreneurs.
Rand Fishkin has put SEOmoz on a possible path to become one of the Seattle region’s next public companies. Succeed or fail, his other contribution to the community will be his brutal transparency as he shares his lessons learned.
The $18 million raised by SEOmoz in May wasn’t the largest venture capital financing for a Seattle tech company this year, but it was a particularly satisfying step for the search-engine optimization software company after its unsuccessful attempt to raise a large round of funding the previous year.
2012 will be remembered as the year that crowdfunding came into its own — letting creators of all sorts tap the power of online communities to provide a new funding source to projects that otherwise wouldn’t see the light of day.
In the Seattle region, there was no better example than the revival of the classic Shadowrun role-playing game. Veteran game designer Jordan Weisman and his company, Harebrained Schemes,raised more than $1.8 million on Kickstarter to develop new versions of the game for tablets and PCs — blowing past the original goal of $400,000.
Steve Singh, Concur
Concur Technologies doesn’t get as much attention as its publicly-traded Seattle area counterparts. After all, filling out travel and entertainment expense reports typically ranks right behind going to the dentist.
But Concur’s technology, which helps automate expenses at hundreds of companies throughout the world, is getting some serious traction as it enters its 20th year in business. It won a huge $1.4 billion contract in June from the U.S. General Services Administration, overseeing online bookings, travel authorizations and vouchers across all U.S. government agencies.
We’re looking forward to seeing many of our 2012 Newsmakers and more than 700 of you tomorrow night! Late registration is available here if you haven’t yet gotten your ticket for the GeekWire Gala.