The Pacific Northwest tech community was buzzing in Seattle at the EMP Museum on Thursday evening, as more than 1,000 of you joined us for our annual celebration honoring the region’s top companies and entrepreneurs.
It was so much fun hosting folks from all walks of the tech industry at the eighth annual GeekWire Awards. After collecting more than 45,000 votes, we had the pleasure of naming winners in 13 geeky categories representing the pillars of the tech community here in the Pacific Northwest.
Winners walked away with custom-made geeky robot trophies to show off on their mantles, recognizing their climb up the startup and technology charts. Check out Twitter to see some reaction from our attendees.
Stay tuned for more coverage from the event — you can watch video of the program here — but without further ado, here’s a rundown of the winners in each category. A big thanks to Eric Tra and Kevin Lisota for snapping the photos, and presenting sponsor Wave Business Solutions for helping to make the Awards possible.
Startup of the Year, presented by MyWorkNinja
Led by genomics pioneer Leroy Hood and venture capital veteran Clayton Lewis, Arivale has plenty of star power (and cash in the bank). The Seattle health startup emerged last summer, developing a new type of system that combines cutting-edge genetic analysis with personal coaching, with the goal of improving individuals’ health.
Shortly after its launch, the company announced $36 million in funding, including cash from Arch Venture Partners, Polaris Partners and Maveron. Hood, a biotech legend who has started companies such as Amgen, Applied Biosystems and Rosetta, says that Arivale is poised to be the Google or Microsoft of a new category they are dubbing scientific wellness.
Both Hood and Lewis, along with a huge group of Arivale employees, accepted the award on stage. Hood noted that “scientific wellness has a really big job ahead of us,” while Lewis thanked his team and Arivale’s clients.
“Our clients understand that the secret to wellness is science,” he said.
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Convoy, Envelop VR, Flexe, Usermind.
CEO of the Year, presented by EY
Winner: Aaron Easterly
An online pet sitting marketplace may not be the geekiest of pursuits, but Rover.com is growing fast under the analytical mind of Aaron Easterly.
Easterly, a former executive at online advertising powerhouse aQuantive, raised $25 million for Rover.com last year from venture capital firm Technology Crossover Ventures. He’s used the money to grow Rover.com’s market share, expanding into new markets so that Fido, Bear and Henry always have a pleasant place to stay.
Total funding in the 4-year-old company now stands at more than $50 million, with investors including Foundry Group, Madrona Venture Group, Menlo Ventures, and Petco. It boasts more than 40,000 pet sitters in its network.
Easterly said it was a total surprise to win the award and said building a company around dogs is “something that is so much better than any other business I’ve been apart of.”
“One thing I learned about having a small four-pound dog for 15 years is that if you choose your friends well, they will carry you anywhere,” he said on stage.
— Rover.com (@RoverDotCom) May 13, 2016
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Limeade CEO Henry Albrecht; Moz CEO Sarah Bird; Chef CEO Barry Crist; RealSelf CEO Tom Seery.
Hardware/Gadget of the Year, presented by Tourism Victoria
Winner: The Microsoft Surface Book
Microsoft’s first laptop computer, the Surface Book, sold out online two weeks before launching. The $1,499 device offers a 13.5-inch diagonal screen and a detachable keyboard.
For Microsoft, the Surface Book serves as a great showcase for the ideal Windows 10 hardware environment. The hybrid laptop-tablet device received rave reviews when Microsoft unveiled it in the fall.
Pete Kyriacou, partner program manager at Microsoft, accepted the award on Thursday.
“I know Microsoft doesn’t really fit into the whole startup part from the perspective of many people,” he said. “But those who know the Surface group, it’s a bunch of kickass engineers who are super smart and work really hard. I’m honored to work with them everyday.”
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Amazon Echo; HTC Vive; PicoBrew Pico; Vicis Zero1 helmet.
App of the Year, presented by Salesforce.com
This app from the Bellevue, Wash.-based company connects buyers and sellers looking to unload or purchase everything from sewing machines to sofa beds.
Yes, it’s a challenger to Craigslist, but built from the ground up for the mobile world, with easy browsing and posting of items, and the ability for buyers and sellers to quickly message each other from inside the app. OfferUp is testing mobile payments in Seattle, as well.
OfferUp recently announced that it’s on pace for more than $14 billion worth of transactions this year. That’s 13 times the number of transactions in the marketplace as this time last year — major progress toward the critical mass required to build an effective marketplace.
OfferUp CEO Nick Huzar thanked his “freaking amazing team” and noted his “community-driven” company’s bold ambitions.
“We hope to build the next generation-defining consumer company in Seattle,” he said. “When was the last time you’ve seen that since Amazon? We are on track to do that.”
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Dolly; Spare5; Outlook for iOS and Android; Starbucks and Postmates delivery.
Hire of the Year, presented by Indeed
Winner: Krish Srinivasan of Remitly
Microsoft. Amazon.com. Lyft. Krish Srinivasan has played key roles in some very big companies, helping to shape some leading technologies. Now, he’s turning his talents to one of the Seattle’s fast-growing startups: Remitly.
As CFO, Srinivasan will have his hands full, especially since the Seattle money transfer startup just this week announced a whopping $38.5 million venture round. “Remitly is at the forefront of changing how money is transferred internationally, and the company’s mission to dramatically improve the cost, transparency and ease with which customers are able to do this is very near and dear to me,” Srinivasan said in a news release at the time of his hiring in February. “The team’s execution, in driving adoption and scale, has been impeccable, and I’m excited to help drive even more growth in the coming months and years.”
Srinivasan thanked the Remitly teams in Seattle, Manila, and Nicaragua on stage tonight.
“It’s truly humbling to be nominated and also be recognized this way, but that doesn’t compare to how humbling it is to come in and work with people who are doing so many talented things to make it easier, cheaper, and faster to send money home, which some of us can really relate to,” he said.
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Ana Mari Cauce, University of Washington; Mike Fridgen, Madrona Venture Labs; Kevin Goldsmith, Avvo; Nicole Robinson, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
Young Entrepreneur of the Year, presented by Fastly
Winner: Chad Wittman, co-founder of Dolly
As the co-founder of Dolly, Wittman is helping to provide a solution to a problem that almost everyone has faced: how to move large items when you don’t have a truck or van at your disposal. A startup veteran, Wittman oversees product development and product strategy for the company, which connects people who have trucks with those who need help moving items.
Wittman started the company with other co-founders, including former Wetpaint executive Mike Howell, Dolly’s CEO. The company last fall announced an $8 million Series A investment led by Maveron, with participation from KGC Capital, Amazon.com executive Jeff Wilke and other angel investors.
Wittman thanked his grandparents and father, who was in the crowd, as well as his co-founders for “turning my crazy ideas into a real business.” He also gave a shoutout to his wife.
“It takes a special partner to be able to support you through these ups and these downs,” he said. “Through my lows and my highs, thanks for being with me.”
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Brian Bosché and Dan Bloom, co-founders of Slope; Ben Gilbert, co-founder of Pioneer Square Labs; Leen Kawas, CEO of M3 Biotechnology; Phil Kimmey, co-founder of Rover.com.
Deal of the Year, presented by Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati
Winner: IBM’s acquisition of Blue Box
Bootstrapped in its early days as Web site hosting company by entrepreneur Jesse Proudman, Blue Box morphed in recent years as it helped companies establish and maintain private cloud installations. Those efforts really accelerated after Blue Box named tech industry veteran Matthew Schiltz as CEO in May 2014.
“You don’t get Deal of the Year without the Team of the Year,” Proudman said on stage, thanking a bevy of folks like Schiltz, employees who worked on due diligence for the acquisition, and his family.
Proudman also offered help to entrepreneurs.
“If you are working through or thinking about an acquisition, it is a long journey,” he said. “It begins way before you begin those conversations with acquired partner. I would love to be a resource for anybody and share my experiences, my failures, and my successes. We want to see more types of deals here in the years to come.”
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists:
- Amazon acquires video processing startup Elemental Technologies for $296 million
- Techstars acquires UP Global, operator of Startup Weekend and Startup Next
- Expedia buys HomeAway for $3.9 billion
- Electronic fleet tracking company Zonar Systems raises $50M, including cash from Daimler Trucks
Bootstrapper of the Year, presented by Code Fellows
Led by founder and CEO Justin Kowalchuk, MedBridge’s health care education platform is designed to help providers control rising costs. MedBridge boasts hundreds of hospital and private practice clients, and has a growing staff of more than 50 employees in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood.
“We’ve been very honored and appreciative of the opportunity to build a great company with a wonderful team of employees, as well as our wonderful and amazing clients, to help improve the lives of patients across the nation,” Kowalchuk said on stage while accepting the award.
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: BitTitan; Cloak; Endeavor One; Flowroute.
Geek of the Year, presented by Wave Business Solutions
Winner: Black Dot founders
Black Dot is a startup hub and resource center for Black entrepreneurs. Located in Seattle’s Central District, Black Dot strives to get more youth interested in entrepreneurship while providing Black entrepreneurs with the necessary resources to successfully start or maintain their businesses via panels, networking events, and the option to use Black Dot as a co-working space.
K. Wyking Garrett, Aramis Hamer, Monica Washington, and Mujale Chisebuka were inspired to launch Black Dot after attending a Startup Weekend event called Hack the Central District. They realized the community needed more than just a weekend to inspire and connect people of color.
“Creating a world class city should be reflective of the world that we live in and we think that the work here helps us get to that place,” said Black Dot co-founder Garrett in a GeekWire story last month.
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: David Molina, founder of Operation Code; Vikram Jandhyala, University of Washington; Kimberly and Rebecca Yeung; Diane Cook, Washington State University, Center for Advanced Studies in Adaptive Systems (CASAS).
Newcomer of the Year, presented by First Tech Federal Credit Union
Winner: The Amazon Treasure Truck
One of the quirkiest additions to the Seattle community over the past year was not a company or a person, but a truck.
Amazon’s Treasure Truck launched in February in Seattle, after a seven-month delay. In short, it’s a delivery vehicle for deals, the latest move by Jeff Bezos & Co. to expand beyond their digital roots and into the physical world.
The whimsical truck surprises Amazon customers with deals that can be ordered via smartphone and picked up from the truck at various locations around town.
As with the Amazon Bookstore, Amazon Fresh, Amazon Flex and countless other Amazon inventions, the company’s hometown is serving as the test market for this project. Amazon says the Treasure Truck is like a “neighborhood ice cream truck” — a “four-wheeled joy machine” dishing out deals and bringing e-commerce into the mobile era, literally.
“We set out to create Treasure Truck as a new way to engage with the customer,” Amazon Product Leader Margot Johnson said on stage. “We wanted to connect with them face-to-face and give them great products, and most importantly surprise and delight them.”
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Accolade hires Concur co-founders, establishes new Seattle HQ; Best Buy opens Seattle Technology Development Center; Pioneer Square Labs aims for startup innovation; Snapchat establishes secretive Seattle office.
Geekiest Office Space, presented by Knoll
Axon’s futuristic space feels like a portal into the future of technology. From the sliding space ship doors to the retinal identification scan to the reclining work pods, Axon’s space has a powerful wow factor.
Beyond this, however, is the powerful culture where employees feel plugged in and driven by the mission to protect life and protect truth. Employees get up close and personal with the technology they create — they can choose to be tased, and they can choose to do ride alongs with law enforcement to experience the results of Axon products.
Teams work hard, and employee’s well-being and social needs are tended to. Employees are flown to the Grand Canyon for whitewater rafting. One particularly wow-worthy event was the early screening of Star Wars for all employees and their families.
The office space, located on the 13th floor of the Metropolitan Park West towers in Seattle, was designed with flexibility and choice in mind. Employees all have sit-to-stand desks and ergonomic chairs. Ergonomic assessments are provided for employees to help educate on best practices for wellness at a workstation.
Collaborative and breakout areas throughout the space are opportunities for teams to alternately socialize or find refuge. Intricate lego models, built by teams, are scattered throughout the space. Team-building events almost always center around beer, several of which are always on tap in the sleek, modern kitchen.
Well-being perks also include unlimited vacation time, flexible work hours and extended parental leave policies. (Birth mothers can take up to 20 weeks paid leave, and non-birth parents including paternity, adoptions and/or foster care can take up to 10 weeks paid time off.) Teams donate their time by volunteering at Food Lifeline, and every year holiday gifts are collected for children at Child Haven.
“We didn’t just do this for our love of sci-fi,” Axon General Manager Marcus Womack said on stage tonight. “We did it for our vision of the future and what the future holds to inspire our employees to think differently everyday when they walk through the front door. For anyone we invite to our office, we ask you to think about the ideal future for you and how technology can change the world. For us, that’s safer communities.”
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Avvo; PitchBook; Redfin; Impinj.
Innovation of the Year, presented by Nuance
Winner: University of Washington 3D Face Reconstruction technology
This project is led by Supasorn Suwajanakorn, a UW graduate student working with two professors — Steve Seitz and Ira Kemelmacher — under the title, “What Makes Tom Hanks Look Like Tom Hanks.” It’s based on “a novel combination of 3D face reconstruction, tracking, alignment, and multi-texture modeling, applied to the puppeteering problem.”
The technology, which won the Madrona Prize at a UW event last fall, recreates and digitizes faces. “We can reconstruct a person and animate a person so that it still has his or her likeness and preserve his or her identity,” Suwajanakorn told us last fall. “Ultimately, you could imagine archiving anyone, or bringing back fond memories of your distant relatives.”
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Amazon Flex; Ossia Cota wireless charging; Blue Origin’s New Shepard reusable launch system; Allen Institute for Brain Science, Human Brain Atlas.
Next Tech Titan, presented by Kibble & Prentice
Online project management may sound a bit boring, but Smartsheet is making a mark in this lucrative arena while helping big customers like Hilton, ESPN, Netflix and Groupon more efficiently get work done.
The Bellevue company led by tech veterans Mark Mader and Brent Frei was recently named Google for Work’s Marketplace App of the Year, and it has continued to bolster its team and new clients. It now boasts 85,000 customers in 190 countries, with eight million registered users. The 10-year-old company raised $35 million in venture funding in 2014 from Madrona, Sutter Hill Ventures, Insight Venture Partners and others. Total funding in the 310-person company now stands at $70 million.
“We are in our tenth year, and for those of you who think everything is an overnight success, it took a lot of years before it really clicked,” Mader said on stage tonight. “For those of you starting firms, remain tenacious and go after it, because for us, it really kicked in in the sixth year and now we’re riding that wave.”
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Adaptive Biotechnologies; K2; OfferUp; Tune.