Brian Valentine was at the forefront of two of the most important technological waves of the past 30 years, serving as a high-ranking executive at Microsoft in the late 1980s before moving on to a senior vice president role at Amazon.com in 2006.
Now, the technology executive sees a big opportunity at a Redmond company that’s trying to use technology to solve another problem entirely: food waste.
Valentine recently left Seattle startup accelerator Ivy Softworks to toss more support behind Wiserg, a Redmond startup that just last month raised $11 million in funding to help grocery stores and restaurants turn food waste into organic fertilizer. An early investor in the company, Valentine already held a board seat. But he is now devoting more time to the company, which he said has a bigger opportunity to “change the world in different ways than I’ve had impacts before.”
“I thought, you know, these guys could really use my help in a big way now that they are going to scale fast,” the 55-year-old Valentine told GeekWire. “I’ve done things that have had pretty big impact on the world, but this thing has a whole other angle of having an impact on the world.”
Backers of Wiserg include Pete Higgins of Second Avenue Partners, who worked alongside Valentine at Microsoft.
Valentine said there is an opportunity to apply technology to the 40 billion pound food waste problem in the U.S., replacing “archaic” systems in the waste industry with advances in science, biology and analytics.
“If you can think about reducing the 40 billion pounds (of food) by 20 percent, and you think about what is leftover — capturing and re-using it into the actual food chain as opposed to letting it go to waste — than I think that is a pretty good impact you can have on the planet,” he said.
Valentine said he’d accomplished everything that he set out to do at Ivy Softworks, in fact doing so faster than he imagined. He said he left the firm on good terms, and he remains close friends with co-founder Jordan Ritter. GeekWire first reported on his hiring at Ivy last September.
The stealthy startup “innovation studio” also recently hired Mark Zbikowski, an early Microsoft architect who was the designer of the DOS executable file format and just the third employee in Microsoft’s history to reach 25 years of service, according to Wikipedia.
Valentine called Zbikowski a “deep technical kind of architecture guy.”
“Given that he was coming in to Ivy and he could take over the reins of what I was doing in that role, made it even easier for me to walk away and go to the next thing for me,” said Valentine.
Ritter said that Valentine provided great support to Ivy Softworks even during his short tenure, bringing process, visibility and team growth. He will remain an adviser.
“I will say his decision had absolutely nothing to do with the Studio’s prospects or the amazing products we’re building,” said Ritter, who is still rather mum about the firm’s products. “Everyone here loves Brian’s attitude and energy, and his everyday presence is already missed.”