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Randy Neely of Ekt LLC, whose device sounds an alarm to prevent the loss of master keys in commercial buildings. He tied for first on Tuesday in the NWEN First Look Forum.

The Northwest Entrepreneur Network’s First Look Forum, a coaching program for early-stage entrepreneurs, has graduated such varied companies as bootstrapped and Kickstarter-funded BodSix, angel-backed Cadence Biomedical, and recently-acquired investor relations platform ir2020.

It’s a reminder that Seattle startups aren’t all about the consumer web.

The spring installment of this bi-annual investor showcase was no exception. It attracted 60 applicants, culled to 12 finalists pitching their hearts out Tuesday in the dome room at downtown Seattle’s historic Arctic Club.

In a race that was too close to call, the audience voted for six (instead of the traditional five) top presenters, based on initial five-minute pitches. These six brave souls came back for another 60 seconds in the limelight to talk more about their ‘secret sauce’ and face a barrage of questions from the panel of investor judges.

The judges — OVP’s Lucinda Stewart, angel investor Bill Bryant and Denny Hill Capital’s Jan Hendrickson — arrived at a swift yet unprecedented decision.  Two teams tied for first place, so time will tell how Martin Selig Real Estate doles out the grand prize: 9 months of rent-free office space.

Here are the top six finishers.

Katherine Sears made the pitch for Booktrope
  • Booktrope Publishing is reinventing the way books are created through its “team publishing” concept. Chief Marketing Officer Katherine Sears walked us through the publishing process, which starts with a reader pool curating submissions. From there, the crowd-sourced publishing decision is based on the willingness of agents, editors, and marketers to sign on to the project. Averaging over 70 book purchases a week, Booktrope boasts best-selling Nook title Riversong as its pilot. Tied for first.
  • Ekt, LLC , short for “electronic key tether,” this device is a loss prevention tool for master keys at commercial properties. Inspired by what amounted to an $80K price tag for the loss of keys at a bank, Randy Neely set about solving his own problem via a two unit system: when the keys stray too far from the security guard’s belt, an annoyingly audible alarm will sound. Demo’ing just how loud 85 decibels is, Neely “accidentally” left his keys on stage. Tied for first.
  • KineMotion Health, gesture recognition for physical therapy, enabled by Xbox Kinect, with plans to expand into the sports market after an initial foray into hospital partnerships.
A avatar, customized with Qdoba.
  • Leaves , a free web platform designed to help consumers tell, share and preserve life stories. Targeting the baby-boomer market, simplicity is the core of the value proposition for this social sharing ancestry site.
  • Raveld, enterprise tool to track and manage cloud expenses, and recommend cost-saving solutions.
  •, customize your online persona by checking in at venues and events…aka, make your avatar the NASCAR of virtual bling. Built on the Buddy platform, through this location-based app, consumers become brand ambassadors.

Rounding out today’s pitches, check out the remaining six of the twelve finalists:

  • DealScoopr travel deals discovery engine
  • Greenfab, modular housing that is easy to build, energy-efficient, and affordable
  • High 5 Pies, a wholesale specialty pie shop foraying into the retail marketplace (dangerously and deliciously close to my home, I’m afraid)
  •, personalized online shopping for clothes, cars and homes
  • Ligoes , “Salesforce meets Facebook” for personal injury lawyers
  • MyOVS, dashboard and mobile integration for SAP enterprise customers

Rebecca Lovell, GeekWire’s Chief Business Officer, is the former Executive Director of the Northwest Entrepreneur Network and a longtime member of Seattle’s entrepreneurial community. You can reach her at or follow her on Twitter @Lovelletters.

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