The Pacific Northwest technology community was buzzing inside the Museum of Pop Culture on Thursday night as nearly 1,000 people helped celebrate the region’s top tech companies and entrepreneurs at the eighth annual GeekWire Awards in Seattle.
After collecting more than 50,000 votes over the past several weeks, we had the pleasure of naming winners in 14 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.
A common theme throughout the evening was all about teamwork — nearly every winner made sure to thank his or her colleagues for helping them win. Many also touted the robust Seattle tech ecosystem — if the nominees this year are any indication, the region’s entrepreneurial engine is running faster than ever.
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 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 League
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, Salesforce.com 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.
Lewis accepted the award and thanked his “incredibly high-octane team.”
“They are all very driven, shifting into high gear,” Lewis told the crowd. “If you want to join a company that is literally moving the whole world, come join Convoy.”
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Heptio, Nohla Therapeutics, ReplyYes, and Wrench.
CEO of the Year, presented by EY
Winner: Smartsheet CEO Mark Mader
The software executive has expertly guided Smartsheet, building the maker of project management software into one of the region’s fastest growing companies. Earlier this year, the Bellevue company announced plans to grow its workforce by 300 employees, including a new office in Boston. Fueled with $70 million in venture capital, Mader is overseeing the growth spurt, doing so with a commitment to overcoming challenges. “When you find yourself facing a big problem, dig in instead of giving up,” Mader noted at GeekWire’s Startup Day event last year.
Accepting the award on stage, Mader said the CEO of the Year category was a bit “awkward” because a CEO is only as good as his or her team.
“The 600 people on our team right now are amazing,” he said. “I love them.”
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Moz CEO Sarah Bird, Outreach CEO Manny Medina, Remitly CEO Matt Oppenheimer, and Textio CEO Kieran Snyder.
Hardware/Gadget of the Year, presented by Igor Institute
Seattle-based smartphone lens and case maker Moment marked another successful Kickstarter campaign in March, raising funds for products including a new wide angle lens as well as cases for the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, 6 and 6 Plus, and Google’s Pixel.
The 4-year-old Moment, which builds camera lenses, cases and other accessories for smartphones, was founded by Marc Barros, who previously headed up the action-sports camera company Contour. Moment last year landed $3 million in new funding and scored an Apple Store distribution deal.
“It’s very inspiring to work with such a hard-working group of people,” Moment engineer R.J. Lincoln said on stage. “We wouldn’t be here without the whole team. And this is a really inspiring community and we’re very lucky to be apart of this.”
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: AWS Snowmobile, Bertha, Nintendo Switch, and Amazon Echo Dot.
App of the Year, presented by Northeastern University
Ripl’s app lets everyone from restaurant owners to fitness instructors to real estate agents create visual content that they can use for social media marketing. It’s a free app, but users can pay $9.99 per month to access premium features like additional designs, custom logos, music libraries, scheduled posts, and more.
Since last year, the company’s paying customer base has grown by 20X and it just passed 1 million in installs of the app, with more than 250,000 active small business users on the platform. It is currently the fourth-highest grossing photo and video app in the App Store.
“I really love that my team came up here, because it’s they who deserve it,” Ripl CEO Paul Ingalls said as he accepted the award.
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Microsoft Teams, Mighty AI, Shyft Technologies, and Senosis Health.
Hire of the Year, presented by Capital One
Winner: Arif Kareem, ExtraHop
Last year, business analytics company ExtraHop brought on Arif Kareem as its new CEO and president, hoping to usher in a new wave of growth at the company. Kareem took the helm as ExtraHop was expanding into the Asia-Pacific region and grew to more than 500 enterprise customers. Under Kareem, ExtraHop launched a new product to help businesses detect security breaches and other anomalies.
“This is great for the ExtraHop team,” Kareem said on Thursday. “It’s good to be part of the Seattle tech community.”
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Kathleen Fanning at Nohla Therapeutics, Tim Prouty at Convoy, Bill Richter at Qumulo, and Adam Selipsky at Tableau.
Young Entrepreneur of the Year, presented by Deloitte
Winner: Ben Gilbert, Pioneer Square Labs
Ben Gilbert is a founding partner of Pioneer Square Labs, a “startup studio” that turns ideas into new companies and helps them get off the ground. But his entrepreneurial work goes further back than that.
Gilbert is the former head of the Microsoft Garage, Microsoft’s internal technology incubator, and co-founder of Madrona Venture Labs. He’s been working in tech for nearly 15 years — an impressive feat for a 27-year-old.
Gilbert graduated from Ohio State University with a degree in Computer Science and Engineering, Entrepreneurship. On Thursday, he said he was honored to be apart of a “really awesome” group of nominees.
“It says a lot about how we have such a strong young entrepreneur community in Seattle right now,” Gilbert said.
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Nick Fajt, Grant Farwell, Garett Ochs, Yifan Zhang and Adam Stelle.
Deal of the Year, presented by Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati
Winner: Morningstar acquisition of PitchBook
PitchBook specializes in compiling venture capital, IPO and M&A data on tens of thousands of companies, offering investors, journalists and analysts a treasure trove of information about the latest deals and investment activity. The Seattle-based company became its very own data point when financial information juggernaut Morningstar announced this past October that it would purchase the remaining shares of PitchBook that it did not already own for $180 million. The transaction valued PitchBook — which employs more than 600 at offices in Seattle, New York and London — at $225 million.
Morningstar invested $10 million in the company earlier last year, bringing total funding in the 9-year-old company to just $14.25 million. It also helped seed the company’s early days with a $1.2 million investment in 2009, and owned about 20 percent of PitchBook prior to today’s announcement.
Gabbert on Thursday thanked his team and customers, and gave a shout-out to Morningstar.
“The success of a deal is only measured over time,” Gabbert said. “Morningstar has been a great partner to work with through the last eight years.”
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: RFID pioneer Impinj prices IPO at $14 per share, Turi sells to Apple for $200 million, Apptio prices IPO at $16 per share, Rover.com raises $40 million.
Bootstrapper of the Year, presented by Perkins Coie
Under the guidance of CEO Tim Chen, DomainTools pivoted in 2013 from a retail to an enterprise business model, focusing on the network security arena. It’s a bet that has paid off for the company, which was started as Name Intelligence in 2000 when one of the founders, Jay Westerdal, borrowed a limited amount of money from his parents.
Last year, DomainTools reported $10.7 million in revenue, $7.7 million of which came from the company’s new enterprise security group. About a third of the Fortune 500 now use DomainTools’ products, with Chen noting that the profitable company boasts about a 90 percent renewal rate.
Chen accepted the award on Thursday, noting that the award is “really in honor of all our fantastic employees who have worked tirelessly for many years.”
“For people who are thinking about bootstrapping, it can be done, and I encourage you to do it,” Chen added.
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Flowroute, QuoteWizard, and SiftRock.
Geek of the Year, presented by Wave Business
Winner: Ed Lazowska, University of Washington
Lazowska, the Bill & Melinda Gates Chair of the University of Washington’s newly christened Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, spearheaded the campaign for a second computer science building that will double the capacity of the top-rated CSE program, allowing it to award more than 600 degrees annually. Lazowska was instrumental in raising the outside funding for the project from companies including Amazon, Microsoft and Zillow, to supplement the state funding.
The longtime UW computer science professor also played a key role in the historic $40 million donation from Allen that’s expected to vault the program further into the top tier of U.S. computer science schools.
“This is really cool,” Lazowska said on stage Thursday as he accepted the award “on behalf of everyone at UW.”
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Connie Bourassa-Shaw, Candace Faber, Bob Ferguson, and Martina Welkhoff.
Newcomer of the Year, presented by First Tech Federal Credit Union
Winner: The Riveter
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 officially opened 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.
“We recognized that there wasn’t a space for women who want to start businesses and that’s what we are building at The Riveter,” Nelson said on stage. “We can’t wait to bring all of the people who come work with us next year to be up here with us.”
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Airbnb establishes engineering center in Seattle, BMW launches ReachNow car-sharing service in Seattle, Former T-Mobile exec Cole Brodman takes helm of M87 and relocates HQ to Seattle, and The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center opens the Bezos Family Immunotherapy Clinic.
Geekiest Office Space, presented by Knoll
Salesforce, one of the world’s fastest growing enterprise software companies, opened the doors to its new engineering hub in Bellevue, Wash., this past January. The San Francisco-based cloud services giant, which expects to double its 250-employee workforce over the next year, occupies three floors in a 70,000 square-foot office that features open common areas, big windows, natural light, views of the Cascade Range, and even a “mindfulness zone” where employees can meditate.
The office itself carries forward Salesforce’s “Ohana” culture, which stresses the value of inclusion and family that extends not just to the employees but also to the company’s community of customers and partners. The three social lounges — one on each floor — are places for employees to hang out and host meetings with people from outside of Salesforce.
Jim Walsh, senior VP of infrastructure engineering and the site director for Salesforce’s Bellevue office, accepted the award on Thursday. He said the company loves being apart of the local tech community and invited folks to check out the new office.
“We didn’t build our office to win an award,” he said. “We built it to create an amazing space for our amazing employees and team.”
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Chef, Facebook, Payscale, and Vicis.
Innovation of the Year, presented by Fred Hutch
Winner: Microsoft Project Catapult
This Microsoft initiative, unveiled last fall, puts the company at the forefront of field programmable gate arrays, or FPGAs. These processors are similar to the central processing units and graphical processing units that make up every computer’s logic fundamentals. But they can be reprogrammed on the fly to best serve whatever computing task is at hand.
The result of stealthy six-year initiative, FPGAs have been quietly installed in Microsoft servers in 15 countries on five continents over the past two years. Using the technology, the company demonstrated what it called “the first AI supercomputer” during Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s closing keynote address at company’s Ignite technology conference in Atlanta last year.
Andrew Putnam, principal research hardware design engineer at Microsoft Research, accepted the award. He thanked Geek of the Year winner Ed Lazowska for being “one of many reasons why I came to the University of Washington computer science program.”
“We kept it around UW and kept it local,” Putnam said of his project. “Now we are changing the world. I hope you guys can use our AI and cloud platform for your next innovations.”
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Echodyne, VREAL, Igneous Systems, and Spaceflight Industries.
Next Tech Titan, presented by USI Kibble & Prentice
BitTitan: Just a few years ago, BitTitan was competing in the GeekWire Awards in the “Bootstrapper of the Year” category. That bootstrapping business discipline has served CEO Geeman Yip well, and now, after a meteoric rise and $15 million in fresh capital, this cloud migration provider is growing by leaps and bounds.
To accommodate the growth, BitTitan secured 62,000 square feet in downtown Bellevue last fall, enough room to house more than 350 workers. The 10-year-old company, which struggled in its early years and led Yip to max out his credit cards, recently announced the expansion of its MSPComplete product, which positions it as a leader in the managed services automation arena.
Yip accepted the award on Thursday.
“It is really fitting that BitTitan wins the Tech Titan award — thank you for letting us get shit done in Seattle, we love you,” he said before popping a bottle of champagne with his employees.
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Accolade, Icertis, OfferUp, and Qumulo.
Geeks Give Back, presented by Bank of America
Winner: Tableau and PATH fight malaria with data visualization
Though the U.S. has been malaria-free since 1951, it is still a major concern for many countries in the developing world. That’s why two Seattle organizations — global health non-profit PATH and data visualization company Tableau — have launched the Visualize No Malaria campaign, aimed at eradicating the disease from the Zambia by 2020.
The partnership, in cooperation with the Zambian Ministry of Health, uses Tableau’s software and PATH’s data to study and visualize the spread of malaria and come up with effective solutions. Before the campaign, PATH and Zambian health officials were sitting on mountains of data but weren’t able to translate it into insights.
In addition to data visualization software and analysis, Tableau has pledged $100,000 per year to support the work until 2020. Other contributors include MapBox, Twilio, Alteryx, DataBlick, Exasol, DigitalGlobe and Slalom.
Tableau Foundation Director Neal Myrick said that the number of malaria cases in the provience where the two organizations are testing their solution dropped from 25,000 three years ago to 2,500 today.
“We are making progress, people,” he said on Thursday. “It’s a curable disease and we can take care of it.”
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Ada Developer’s Academy, Tune, StemBox, and the WTIA’s Apprenti program.