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AI2 CTO Ruben Ortega. Photo via LinkedIn.
AI2 CTO Ruben Ortega. Photo via LinkedIn.

—The Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence hired Ruben Ortega as chief technology officer for the two-year-old AI research foundation. Ortega, who previously served as CTO at Amazon’s A9 ad tech firm and ran Google’s offices in Seattle, will help Seattle-based AI2 take on some big new challenges.

“I’ve known Ruben from his days as a graduate student in UW’s Computer Science department, and have long admired his trajectory at Amazon, A9, Google, and more,” AI2 CEO Oren Etzioni told GeekWire. “He brings deep expertise in search, exceptional engineering leadership, and a passion for high-impact projects. As CTO, he is poised to help scale AI2, and Semantic Scholar, to the next level in 2016 and beyond.”

Before starting at AI2, Ortega served as the vice president of e-commerce technology for Nordstrom. He also was the engineering director at Google’s Seattle offices, where he worked on projects like Google’s domain name registrar service and custom search engines. At Amazon, he served as CTO and vice president the A9 service and was director of the Mechanical Turk team, along with other engineering roles.

John Root
Envelop VR director of developer relations John Root

Envelop VR tapped two gaming industry veterans to help build up products and further its developer relations, key hires that come just a few weeks after it raised $4 million in venture financing from Madrona Venture Group and others. J.J. Hoesing will serve as the Bellevue, Wash.-based VR company’s principal software engineer and John Root as its director of developer relations.

“I’m thrilled that J.J. and John have joined the Envelop team,” said Envelop VR co-founder and CEO Bob Berry. “They both have incredible expertise and knowledge that are going to advance our products and get them in the hands of the people that need them most.”

Hoesing is a key hire for Envelop VR as the company looks to bring its first product to market. He’s served as a VR engineer for Epic Games and helped develop Unreal Engine 4 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Android. He’s also worked with Monolith Productions, Snowblind Studios and Microsoft.

Root is a co-founder of the Virtual Reality Foundation, a non-profit organization that puts on events like VRLA and the Proto Awards. He also led the motion capture team for Magic Leap and also worked with Epic Games, iD Software, Disney and Midway Games.

Ann Watson 1_Nov. 2015
Cascadia Capital COO Ann Watson

Cascadia Capital hired a new chief operating officer and brought on a new board member. Ann Watson will serve as COO, managing the Seattle-based investment bank’s finance, operations, human resources, technology and compliance. Tom Hanly is joining the board of directors.

“2014 was a milestone year for Cascadia, and 2015 is proving to be on par for another very strong year,” said Cascadia Capital CEO Michael Butler. “By welcoming strategic members to our leadership team, we are supporting our continued growth and finding new ways to better serve our clients in 2016 and beyond.”

Watson previously served as chief financial officer at Moss Adams and chief human resources officer at Russell Investments. She’s also held positions on the boards of the Seattle Foundation and Heritage Bank. Hanly is the CEO of Two Eagle Investments and has also held executive roles at Russell Investments, including chief investment officer, chief operating officer and chief financial officer.

New Mpirica board member Eduardo Shoval

Mpirica Health appointed Eduardo Shoval to its board of directors. Shoval is a venture partner at OurCrowd First, which also recently gave Bellevue-based Mpirica $400,000 in funding.

“I am thrilled to join with an innovative partner like OurCrowd at such a disruptive time for the healthcare industry,” said Mpirica CEO Shakil Haroon. “This funding will allow us to increase our breadth of procedure coverage, and bring even more savings to our enterprise customers.”

Shoval has a history of working with companies to go public, including Optibase, VCON Telecommunications and BigBand Networks. However, he’s also helped found and grow a range of tech companies, including Accells and Sirica.

The $400,000 in funding will help Mpirica expand the medical procedures in its database, which scores healthcare facilities and individual physicians on their actual outcomes.

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