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Brian Valentine at the Ivy Softworks “innovation studio” in Seattle’s Pioneer Square.

When we stumbled upon the stealthy startup Ivy Softworks earlier this year, Jordan Ritter didn’t want to say too much about his plans for the Seattle-based “innovation studio.” Ritter, who previously co-founder Napster and Cloudmark, still isn’t saying much.

But he’s attracted some serious horsepower to the team.

Brian Valentine, a former Microsoft exec who most recently served as senior vice president of’s e-commerce platform, has joined Ivy Softworks as a managing principal.

Jordan Ritter
Jordan Ritter

“His talent for succeeding against the impossible is surpassed only by his passion for growing people and shipping product,” Ritter notes in a blog post. “I’m very excited to bring him into our Innovation Studio and build great things together.”

Valentine — a die-hard Seahawks fan who drives a mini “Bussell Wilson” vehicle to home games — retired from Amazon earlier this year after seven years. In a video message posted on the Ivy Softworks site, Valentine notes that he wasn’t really sure what he wanted to do after leaving Amazon, saying he knew that he wanted to “goof around” for awhile. Then, he discovered a post on GeekWire about Jordan Ritter and his plans for Ivy Softworks.

“As I read more about it, I got more curious. I’m like, man, I got to find out what this new idea is about,” he said. “How can anybody have a new idea in startups, since that model has been going on for a long time?”

He contacted Ritter, and said he got more excited about the unique model that Ritter is implementing.

The big idea? Individuals can focus on building great teams and products without having to worry about the next funding event, with the organization focusing almost religiously on team development and cohesiveness. Ivy Softworks says its goal is to create a new breed of entrepreneur, operating almost like an apprenticeship program in which innovators create long-term relationships.

“You can come in, and have all of the upside of working at a startup, and minimize that downside risk,” he said. Valentine’s full video message is below, which also includes comments about why he thinks a model like Ivy Softworks will thrive in Seattle.

In fact, our post about Ritter in May which initially caught Valentine’s attention certainly stirred the pot a bit when the former Silicon Valley entrepreneur dubbed the San Francisco Bay Area an unhealthy place to live and build companies.

“I’ve been building up a feeling as I’ve watched the changes in Silicon Valley over the past 14 years that things aren’t actually going in that great of a direction for society, for people, for the middle class,” said Ritter, who moved to Silicon Valley in 1999 to be a part of Napster. “I don’t feel like it is a healthy place to be. When I think about what has made my teams great, it has been about the growth of the individual. The big difference between us and say incubators or accelerators is that we are not investing in ideas, we are ultimately investing in people, and their growth. And that has been a big thing for me personally — and it has been a big thing for those who’ve worked with me. And I don’t feel like Silicon Valley is a good place where that is important.

The crew at Ivy Softworks — which also includes former Lycos exec and Pharmacy OneSource CTO Kaj Pedersen — still isn’t saying much about the first project, code-named Atlas, that they are working on.

“We’re still keeping the major details under wraps for now, but I’m excited to report that we’re on track to ship a limited beta before the year’s end! We’ll be releasing more details as we get closer to a public launch, so stay tuned,” Ritter writes. Valentine adds that they have many more great ideas in the “hopper,” and now they are looking for the right-minded folks to help build them.

The company had previously said that they are working on products that “raise the bar on modern productivity and collaboration.”

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