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Arivale CEO Clayton Lewis and co-founder Lee Hood, center, accept the award for Startup of the Year at the 2016 GeekWire Awards. (GeekWire Photo)

The 2017 GeekWire Awards are less than a month away, so that means it’s time to vote for the iconoclastic tinkerers, entrepreneurs and business leaders who are reshaping the way we live, work and play.

We’re kicking off online voting today, and we’re doing it in style with one of the biggest award categories: Startup of the Year.

This year’s finalists are looking to revolutionize everything from transportation to retail to auto maintenance. The finalists also include a Fred Hutch spin-out that’s pioneering a treatment for Leukemia, and a well-funded cloud tech startup that’s led by the co-creators of Kubernetes.

It’s one of the strongest finalist groups we’ve ever seen. Now, it’s up to you to help pick the winner.

To qualify for this award, startup companies had to be based in the Pacific Northwest and four years old or less. We received dozens of nominations from GeekWire readers, and our illustrious judging panel helped us winnow the group to the five finalists. You can read more about each company and cast your ballot for one of the five finalists for Startup of the Year in the poll below.

Koru’s Kristen Hamilton takes home the Startup of the Year robot trophy at the 2015 GeekWire Awards.

Over the next two weeks, we’re opening voting in 14 GeekWire Awards categories, with GeekWire readers choosing their top picks from finalists selected by our panel of judges from community nominations. Check back on GeekWire each day to cast your ballots. 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 on sale for the big Awards show, but we sell out each year, so don’t snooze if you want to join the fun. Tickets available here.

A big thanks to League for sponsoring the Startup of the Year category. And, since we all know startup life can be stressful with plenty of ups and downs, each of the five finalists in this year’s Startup of the Year category will receive a three-hour on-site visit from League’s team of certified massage professionals. You’ll be refreshed and limbered up by the time the Awards hit on May 4th!


convoy napkin
Convoy’s Seattle 10 display (Kevin Lisota Photo/GeekWire)

Convoy: 10-4 good buddy! This Seattle startup is making inroads in transforming the trucking industry, creating a more efficient way to match truckers with the loads they carry. It’s an $800 billion industry in the U.S., and Convoy has some big believers. Led by former Amazon general manager Dan Lewis, Convoy raised $16 million in venture capital last year from a who’s who in the tech industry, including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, CEO Marc Benioff, Greylock and others. It also scored a major coup earlier this year when it poached Tim Prouty — formerly of Uber and Isilon — as its engineering leader.

Heptio: You don’t see many startup teams with the technical chops found at Heptio, which emerged last year with an $8.5 million series A investment from Accel and Madrona Venture Group. Heptio co-founders Craig McLuckie and Joe Beda were two of the original founders of the Google-based Kubernetes project, big names in the world of cloud computing and containerized software. Before that, they cut their teeth at Microsoft. Now, at Heptio, they see an opening to create a set of services around Kubernetes, an open source technology that helps developers manage large fleets of containers. It’s geeky stuff, and Heptio sees an opportunity. “It became clear to Joe and me that there’s a gap we’d like to fill, which is providing this very neutral, open, community-friendly company to continue to evolve the agenda we started when were were inside Google,” McLuckie told GeekWire last fall.

Nohla Therapeutics: A 2015 spin-out from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Nohla Therapeutics is looking to transform the treatment of blood cancers through unique universal donor cellular therapies. The company, which uses technology originally pioneered by scientist and Chief Medical Officer Colleen Delaney, received a ringing endorsement last year when it scored a $43.5 million Series A investment from Arch Venture Partners, 5AM Ventures, and The Jagen Group, bringing total funding to $65 million. It also tapped pharmaceutical veteran Kathleen Fanning as its CEO earlier this year.

ReplyYes: Seattle has a history of pioneering retail technology. And ReplyYes, led by startup vet and former Amazon general manager Dave Cotter, is looking to make the next stride in how products are sold. A spinout of Madrona Venture Labs, ReplyYes describes itself as a chat commerce startup, essentially making it easy for retailers to sell products via text message. It’s first offering, The Edit, is focused on vinyl record sales, and allows customers to purchase records by simply replying “yes” to an offer. “It’s ridiculously frictionless,” Cotter told GeekWire last year. ReplyYes has raised $6.5 million in startup financing.

Wrench: Going to the auto mechanic shop to get your car fixed might rank right up there with dental visits. So, what if the auto mechanic came to you? That’s the idea behind Wrench, a Seattle startup that brings car maintenance to your front door. Wrench, which raised $4 million in funding last month and is led by Seattle native and former InfoSpace exec Ed Petersen, currently operates its on-demand car mechanic service in Seattle, Phoenix, San Diego and Portland. Dubbed an Uber for car mechanics, Wrench’s network of mechanics will work on cars in driveways, parking garages or office parking lots, with the company saying it can complete about 80 percent of maintenance issues on site. The company employs 30 people.

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