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Amazon Treasure Truck Program Leader Margot Johnson accepts the award for Newcomer of the Year at the 2016 GeekWire Awards.

From cars to co-working spaces, the Pacific Northwest certainly welcomed its fair share of new tech organizations and entrepreneurs to the fast-growing region this year.

We’re kicking off our GeekWire Awards online voting today for Newcomer of the Year. This award recognizes a company or organization that has arrived in the community in the past 18 months. Last year’s winner was Amazon’s Treasure Truck.

The nominees this year are impressive and Seattle has already felt their impact. Finalists for 2017 include Airbnb and its new engineering center; BMW’s ReachNow car-sharing service; M87’s relocation from Austin; the Bezos Family Immunotherapy Clinic; and The Riveter, a co-working space for women. Read more about each of them and vote for your pick in the poll below. And a big thanks to First Tech Credit Union for sponsoring this year’s Newcomer of the Year category. 

Over the past few days, we’ve opened voting in various GeekWire Awards, and we’ll continue to do so over the next 10 days, with GeekWire readers choosing their top picks. Check back on GeekWire each day to cast your ballots, and go here to vote in previously announced categories.

All of the winners will be revealed at the GeekWire Awards — presented by Wave Business — on May 4 at the Museum of Pop Culture. Tickets are selling fast, and we do expect to sell out, so make sure to go here to grab yours.

Airbnb establishes new engineering center in Seattle

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky announces ‘Trips’ at Airbnb Open event. (Airbnb Photo).

This past June, Airbnb became the latest Silicon Valley tech giant to open up an engineering center in the Seattle region. The alternative accommodations company, which last month closed a $1 billion investment round at a $31 billion valuation, set up shop in downtown Seattle and tapped two experienced executives — engineering manager Ari Steinberg and product director Ian McAllister — to lead the office.

This is Airbnb’s second remote engineering center and sits right in the backyard of Expedia, which acquired HomeAway last year and has been positioning the Austin, Texas-based company as more of a direct rival to Airbnb.

San Francisco-based Airbnb opened its first remote engineering office in Portland, Ore., two years ago. The company is hiring frontend, backend, machine learning, and full stack engineers for the Seattle outpost.

“We recently kicked off a new initiative of distributed engineering teams at Airbnb,” the company noted in a Seattle job posting. “There is much more that we want to build and so much that we could improve.”

Airbnb also just launched Trips, a feature that allows local experts to sell activities to guests, in Seattle.

BMW launches ReachNow car-sharing service in Seattle

(GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

BMW picked Seattle as its first city for the company’s new ReachNow car-sharing service, launching this past April as a direct competitor to Car2go. ReachNow, led by former INRIX executive Steve Banfield, lets customers use a smartphone app (iOS, Android) to find available vehicles, hop in a car, drive to a destination, and park in any legal city parking spot. Fuel, insurance, and parking costs are included.

BMW has since grown its coverage area, added more vehicles to the fleet, and expanded into Portland and Brooklyn. There are now 45,000 ReachNow members across the three cities.

Beyond the basic car-sharing service, BMW also launched a pilot program for a ride-hailing service last year, setting it up to compete directly with Uber and Lyft. The company also just debuted corporate fleets and designated drop-off zones in busy neighborhoods. In addition, Seattle could soon be a testing ground for BMW’s driverless cars.

Former T-Mobile exec Cole Brodman takes helm of mobile networking startup M87, moves headquarters from Austin to Seattle

Cole Brodman.

Longtime telecom leader Cole Brodman took the leadership reigns at fast-growing startup M87 this past November and decided to relocate the team from Austin, Texas, to the Seattle area.

The former T-Mobile executive, who spent 17 years at the wireless carrier and held positions as CMO and CTO, is now CEO of M87, a mobile networking startup that late last year announced a $5 million fundraising round led by Seattle-based Madrona Venture Group, with participation from Qualcomm Ventures and Trilogy Equity Partners.

M87’s technology, born out of research done by founder Vidur Bhargava and Dr. Sriram Vishwanath at the University of Texas in Austin, helps wireless carriers improve network performance by creating dynamic device-to-device mesh networks. The idea is to expand network capacity for wireless carriers without adding physical infrastructure by creating what the company calls “proximate internet,” which utilizes device-to-device discovery and improves connection in poor coverage areas.

M87 now finds itself in the Seattle region, which is home to decades of wireless infrastructure innovation and has served as Brodman’s homebase since 1995.

The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center opens the Bezos Family Immunotherapy Clinic

Dr. David Maloney, medical director of the Bezos Family Immunotherapy Clinic, in the facility. The Clinic is the first of its kind and solely geared towards researching immunotherapy treatments for advanced cancers. (Fred Hutch Photo)

The field of immunotherapy, which uses the body’s immune system to kill cancer cells, could be the key to treating cancers and that are hard or impossible to cure with other treatments.

But despite some incredible successes, there are many more questions to address about this therapy. Finding answers is one goal of the Bezos Family Immunotherapy Research Clinic, a new facility that opened this past December at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The clinic is named for the family of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, which has donated about $30 million to immunotherapy research at Fred Hutch, in addition to a separate record-breaking $35 million gift that came in last month.

The clinic is designed specifically to fuel the research of immunotherapy treatments, and will likely be a boon for Seattle’s Juno Therapeutics, a startup that spun out of Fred Hutch and licenses immunotherapy techniques produced in several Fred Hutch labs.

Dr. David Maloney, medical director of the Bezos Family Immunotherapy Clinic, said the new clinic will allow Fred Hutch to greatly expand its ability to run clinical trials, speeding up the process of developing these treatments and finding solutions to persistent issues.

The Riveter, a co-working space for women, launches in Seattle

Co-founders Kim Peltola and Amy Nelson are launching The Riveter co-working space in Seattle. (The Riveter Photo)

Kim Peltola and Amy Nelson are out to challenge bias and the status quo with a new co-working space where women don’t feel excluded from the business world because of their gender.

Called The Riveter, the space — which GeekWire covered last month — is designed as a haven for female founders and freelancers. After continuously running into “bro-working” spaces, Peltola and Nelson were inspired to build a female-focused collaboration center where they would be happy working every day.

The Riveter has raised a $760,000 seed round to open a flagship facility in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. A soft launch is planned for mid-April and The Riveter will officially open its doors May 1. The space will have nine offices, room for 120 collaborative desks, a fitness studio, meditation room, retail space, and other amenities. Daily yoga classes, wellness seminars, and community events are key to Nelson and Peltola’s vision.

Although the space is designed for female founders and freelancers, men are also welcome there. The Riveter has taken on male employees and encourages its members to bring diverse teams into the facility.

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