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Scott McFarlane of Avalara has quietly built an online tax software juggernaut on Bainbridge Island. (Photo: Sheri Pollock)

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 Scott 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.

After all, given’s tax squabbles, online sales tax collection became a very hot topic. Avalara is positioning itself to capitalize on some of the choppy seas, with McFarlane claiming that online sales tax collection doesn’t have to be a headache for businesses.

“It is hard in its implementation, and it is a big-kind of business,” McFarlane told GeekWire earlier this year in describing Avalara’s tax management service.

In April, the company raised $14 million in venture capital financing, followed by a $7 million round in September that was used to cash out some of the early shareholders.

The company is on track to top $30 million in revenue this year, with McFarlane and crew saying they’d like to crack the $100 million sales mark in the coming years. They’ve also grown to 225 employees, adding more than 100 employees at offices in Virginia, California, India and, of course, Bainbridge Island.

While Avalara felt the need to open a Seattle branch earlier this year, in part to recruit technical talent, the company very much identifies with the island culture of Bainbridge where it feels at home in a new 17,500 square-foot headquarters near the ferry terminal.

No wonder you’ll occasionally see Avalara execs donning Hawaiian shirts. Things are just a little different in the islands.

Newsmakers at the GeekWire Gala

We’ll be recognizing more than 20 Newsmakers of 2011 during the GeekWire Gala, Dec. 8 at the Great Hall at Seattle’s Union Station. We’ll introduce a new Newsmaker every weekday leading up to the big event.

The night is also a celebration of “Geeks who Give Back,” recognized in a special GeekWire 2012 Calendar that will be given to attendees, with a share of sponsorship proceeds going to the Child’s Play charity.

Tickets are available here for the event.

Thanks to our sponsors Zillow, Bing, Filter, Facebook and Barokas PR for helping to make this special evening possible.

Contact Rebecca Lovell,, for sponsorship opportunities.

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