Revealed: The winners of the 2014 GeekWire Awards

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Rory Rawlings, co-founder and chief tax automation officer of Avalara, celebrates on stage after winning the award for Next Tech Titan.

The best and brightest of Seattle’s startup scene filled the EMP Thursday evening, as we welcomed more than 800 of you to honor the region’s top entrepreneurs and companies at the 2014 GeekWire Awards.

The night began with an awesome intro video that was followed by an inspiring keynote from Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff, who praised “the misfits, the troublemakers, the geeks,” in the room and implored everyone to take the road less traveled when picking a career.

Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff delivers the keynote.

Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff delivers the keynote.

“I hope everyone that leaves here will commit to telling one person in your life to do something professionally unconventional,” Rascoff said. “Tell them to dare to be uncomfortable. Ask them to push human race forward, instead of falling back in line.”

We also had the pleasure of naming winners in 13 geeky categories representing the pillars of the startup community here in Seattle. Winners walked away with custom-made joystick trophies to show off on their mantles, recognizing their climb up the startup charts. Check out Twitter to see some reaction from our awesome attendees.

Stay tuned for more coverage from the event, but without further ado, here’s a rundown of the winners in each category. A big thanks to Eric Tra for snapping these photos.

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Hardware/Gadget of the Year, presented by Nytec

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Poppy co-founder Joe Heitzeberg.

Winner: Poppy 

Remember the classic View-Master device? Well, two Seattle area entrepreneurs — Urbanspoon co-founder Ethan Lowry and Snapvine founder Joe Heitzeberg — are looking to re-create that experience for the iPhone generation.

Their oddly-shaped device is called Poppy, and it turns iPhones into a camera “capable of capturing, viewing and sharing full-motion, full-color video and stills in 3D.” That means the Poppy device can be used to watch videos from YouTube’s 3D channel, or any other 3D video or photographic content for that matter.

Lowry and Heitzeberg got the project off the ground with a strong crowdfunding campaign last summer — raising more than $190,000, well past the original goal of just $40,000. They began shipping the device to Kickstarter backers in December.

“Honestly, what an honor,” Heitzeberg said tonight. “Everyone who backed us on Kickstarter, thank you.”


Heitzberg also gave a shout-out to fellow category nominee Marc Barros, founder of camera lens maker Moment, for offering his guidance in the hardware world. Other finalists were Exo Labs, Pencil by FiftyThree and SNUPI. See this post for more background on this category.

App of the Year, presented by MobileAppTracking

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Leafly co-founder Cy Scott

Winner: Leafly

Leafly, an app for iPhone, Android and the web is like the Yelp and Consumer Reports for medical marijuana, giving users the ability to find strains of pot that can help with specific medical issues such as nausea, inflammation, and anxiety.

It’s the flagship app from Seattle-based Privateer Holdings, which has been tapping into the rising acceptance of marijuana use to build, yes, a budding business.

“This is a big shout out to the Seattle tech community,” said Leafly co-founder Cy Scott, who recently moved his company to the area. “You guys have been great. We love this city.”


Other finalists were Cloak 2, Lively, Office for iPad and Parallels Access. See this post for more background on this category.

Hire of the Year, presented by Protingent

Oren Etzioni

Oren Etzioni

Winner: Oren Etzioni, Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence

Perhaps no one has been more synonymous with the startup ethos at the University of Washington than computer science professor Oren Etzioni, a mainstay on campus for more than two decades and an inspiration for budding entrepreneurs in academia.

Etzioni moved on from academia after nearly 30 years this past September after Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen asked him to lead an ambitious new undertaking around the study of artificial intelligence, a multi-million dollar effort that could have huge implications for the region’s tech industry and, more importantly, society as a whole.

Etzioni thanked his mother and wife after accepting the award tonight.

“She deserves Wife of the Year,” Etzioni said of his spouse.

Other finalists were Rudy Gadre, Ted Kummert, Scott Moore and Errol Samuelson. See this post for more background on this category.

Deal of the Year, presented by Cooley

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Jason LeeKeenan, VP of Business and Corporate Development at Zulily.

Winner: Zulily IPO 

Zulily did not disappoint with its public offering. The Seattle e-commerce powerhouse priced at $22 per share, and opened at $39.40 on Nasdaq. It has since soared, with the stock topping $70 at one point. It now has a market value of more than $5 billion.

“It may not be a glamorous way of saying it, but I believe that a retail business is a detail business. And it is that execution every day that makes us great, so you are going to see us invest in that detailed execution,” CEO Darrell Cavens said at the time of the IPO.

Jason LeeKeenan, Zulily’s VP of Business and Corporate Development, accepted the award tonight.

“This was a great year, but this is just the beginning,” he said. “We have a lot more in store.” Here’s the speech:

Other finalists were EagleView Technologies, Act-On, Juno Therapeutics and Tableau Software. See this post for more background on this category.

Geek of the Year, presented by Wave Business Solutions

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Julie Sandler

Winner: Julie Sandler, Madrona Venture Group

Julie Sandler, one of the top women in Seattle’s venture capital community, has emerged as a leading voice for women in technology as a founding member of the Seattle Entrepreneurial Women’s Network and leader of Startup Weekend Women’s Edition.

She’s also a regular speaker and leader of events that encourage young girls to explore potential careers in technology and computer science.

A former member of Amazon’s Kindle team, Sandler is also an adjunct faculty member at the University of Washington, teaching a course on Entrepreneurship at the Foster School of Business.

Sandler shared appreciation for her fellow nominees and her colleagues at Madrona Venture Group.

“I feel very excited and totally unworthy in this company,” she said.

Other finalists were Seaton Gras, Dr. Jim Olson, Hadi Partovi and Dan Shapiro. See this post for more background on this category.

Perk of the Year, presented by Kibble & Prentice

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Buuteeq CEO Forest Key.

Winner: Buuteeq

Buuteeq, an online marketing platform and content management system for hotels, won this award for its $2,500 travel stipend it gives employees every year.

CEO Forest Key said that the experiences his employees get to have while traveling “will be with them forever.” He noted one employee who had never traveled outside of the country and used her stipend for a two-week trip to Nepal.

“I’ll never forget the story she shared with our team when she came back,” Key said. “For me, that’s one of the highlights of this company to date.”

Other finalists were Brown Paper Tickets, HasOffers, INRIX and Simply Measured. See this post for more background on this category.

Young Entrepreneur of the Year, presented by Vertafore

Jesse Proudman and his baby.

Jesse Proudman and his baby.

Winner: Jesse Proudman, Blue Box

For the first nine years of its existence, Seattle hosting startup Blue Box bootstrapped its way to success under the guidance of entrepreneur Jesse Proudman, who formed the company while attending The University of Puget Sound.

That changed in 2012 when the Proudman reeled in his first round of capital, money that helped the company accelerate its big cloud push. “The private cloud marketplace is as hot as ever, and we’re hearing resounding interest from companies that want a frictionless way to deploy and operate OpenStack,” said the 29-year-old Proudman last October. The company now has more than 600 customers. But this isn’t Proudman’s first entrepreneurial venture. He started out building Web sites for companies when he was just 13.

Proudman accepted the award tonight while carrying his baby.

“These 11 years at Blue Box have been an incredible journey,” he said. “I’m delighted to be in Seattle and delighted to get to know so many folks in this small community.”

Other finalists were Lucas and Lee Brown of HasOffers, Aviel Ginzburg of Simply Measured, Adina Mangubat of Spiral Genetics and Andrey Nokhrin of BuildersCloud. See this post for more background on this category.

Geekiest Office Space, presented by Knoll

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HasOffers co-founder Lucas Brown.

Winner: HasOffers

HasOffers, whose tools help marketers measure the effectiveness of their online and mobile campaigns, took over the old Twilight bar in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood to create a cool kitchen area and hang-out space a block away from its headquarters.

The space serves as both a meeting space and kitchen area where employees can gather for free lunches, meetings and other activities. The company has its own private chef, and provides breakfast, lunch and dinner for everyone.

“We all spend so much time at the office, and if we can relax and build cool code, we want an environment to support that,” HasOffers co-founder Lucas Brown said. Here’s the acceptance speech:

Other finalists were Avalara, Lively, Porch and Simply Measured. See this post for more background on this category.

Bootstrapper of the Year, presented by CreativeCircle

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Geocaching co-founder Jeremy Irish.

Winner: Geocaching

Geocaching founders Jeremy Irish, Bryan Roth and Elias Alvord not only started a company 14 years ago, they sparked an entire industry around the fun location-based activity of discovering hidden treasures in unusual spots.

Now, geocaches are found all over the planet, and even off the planet. (Yes, there’s one cache on the International Space Station). In true bootstrapping spirit, the founders received their initial capital by selling 144 donated geocaching t-shirts, starting the company out of Irish’s spare bedroom. Not bad, considering the company has grown into a force in the geocaching world and now hosts an annual festival near its headquarters in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, one that draws fans from all over the world.

Irish gave an ode to The Goonies in his acceptance speech.

“Here’s to the goonies out there,” he said. “Never say die.”

Other finalists were BrandVerity, Dwellable, Edifecs and Yoogi’s Closet. See this post for more background on this category.

Innovation of the Year, presented by Fresh Consulting 

Winner: ExtraHop for AWS

IMG_0471 copyExtraHop, which helps IT managers avoid costly outages and problems, introduced a unique solution for companies using Amazon Web Services in November.

ExtraHop for AWS is a real-time tool designed to give developers and companies running applications on AWS a complete overview of how workloads are performing in terms of availability, security and efficiency.

ExtraHop was founded in 2007 and has raised $19 million to date.

Other finalists were Kymeta, Planetary Power, Airbiquity and the University of Washington. See this post for more background on this category.

Next Tech Titan, presented by BigDoor

Winner: Avalara

IMG_0495 copyThe Bainbridge Island company is a bit quirky, celebrating its island culture with Margarita nights and even orange toilet paper in the bathrooms. (Orange is the color of the company, with many employees wearing it every day). But Avalara is building a real business, helping those who sell products online deal with the thorny issue of sales tax collection.

It has information on more than 12,000 tax jurisdictions across the United States, and integrates with most major ERP systems, accounting packages, ecommerce shopping carts, as well as POS systems and mobile platforms to make it easy for sellers to collect the sales tax they need. Avalara just unveiled a free cloud-based service for small businesses called TrustFile, and the 10-year-old company raised a $30 million venture round in February to “support growth.”

Co-founder Rory Rawlings, as you can see from the photos, clearly had the most energetic acceptance speech of the night.

“Avalara is really an idea whose time has come,” he said. Here’s his wild acceptance speech:


Other finalists were Apptio, Chef, DocuSign and Redfin. See this post for more background on this category.

CEO of the Year, presented by Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

IMG_0522 copyWinner: Jane Park

The former Starbucks executive is building a new type of beauty brand, infused with innovation and marketing savvy. And Julep is not only garnering fans among women who love the Seattle company’s nail polishes and cosmetics, but investors too. Just this week, Park scored $30 million in funding for Julep, including cash from marquee investors such as Andreessen Horowitz, Maveron, Madrona and others.

The company employs more than 200, and Park now has her sights on growing even bigger with the new capital infusion. “At this point, we are excited about taking the powerhouse organization that we’ve built, and really scaling it,” she says.

Park thanked her company, her board and the community after accepting the award.

“I am so inspired by all of you who are really building a better tomorrow,” Park said. Here’s her acceptance speech.

Other finalists were Sarah Bird of Moz, Forest Key of Buuteeq, Mark Mader of Smartsheet and Liz Pearce of LiquidPlanner. See this post for more background on this category.

Startup of the Year, presented by General Assembly

IMG_0561 copyWinner: Rover.com (award accepted by CEO Aaron Easterly)

Formed by venture capitalist Greg Gottesman as a fun project at a Startup Weekend event, Rover.com is lapping up funds and taking a bite out of the traditional $7 billion-plus kennel business.

Described as Airbnb for pet care, Rover.com inked a huge deal with Petco last summer, and then last monthraised $12 million from Menlo Ventures and others. Rover now employs 43 people, with more than 25,000 pet sitters across the country. It is led by former aQuantive exec Aaron Easterly, and his dog Caramel.

“When people ask me why I’m in this business, I tell them to name one development in the history of human kind that has increased happiness on a sustained basis more than the domestication of dogs,” Easterly said tonight.

Other finalists were Context Relevant, Haiku Deck, Porch and Remitly. See this post for more background on this category.

Related: Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff: Fortune Favors the Geeks

  • http://blog.redfin.com/ GlennKelman

    Congrats to Avalara! I loved Rory’s acceptance speech, which was passionate and goofy and kind to his team. And was I the only one impressed by just what a huge shindig Geekwire put on? AMAZING.

  • troy applegate

    When your done fellating each other please find the nearest cliff and ride off it on your Segways. Everyone in Seattle hates you.

    • nowimsad

      somebody forgot to take his happy pills this morning

    • balls187

      U MAD BRO?

    • http://cheezburger.com Scott Moore

      #lame

  • Ted

    Not a great deal of real tech there.

  • Ted

    That is why we won!