Startup incubator TechStars announced late last year that it is partnering with Amazon for the Alexa Accelerator, an incubator specifically for startups that want to build products based on Alexa’s artificial intelligence platform. The announcement was met with excitement from many in the tech community, but until today the person directing the program was still a mystery.
TechStars announced Wednesday that Simply Measured president and co-founder Aviel Ginzburg will serve as the first-ever managing director of the Alexa Accelerator program. Ginzburg will also stay on as Simply Measured president.
In a blog post announcing his new position, Ginzburg said he’s been on TechStars’ selection committee for several years and has personally mentored over 100 entrepreneurs. That is part of the reason he chose to join the new accelerator.
In an email interview with GeekWire, Ginzburg said his excitement for voice interface is another reason he took the job.
“I’ve always been fascinated by how humans interact with machines, it’s what got me into tech in the first place,” Ginzburg said. “In the same way that we now often bifurcate what we prefer to do on our phones vs. on our laptops and desktops, voice will open new opportunities and change our everyday behaviors.”
He said that his family’s Amazon Echo has already taken a central place in his household, and he predicts voice will become increasingly integrated with our everyday lives.
“Over the next several years we’ll see powerful voice technologies integrated into our cars and wearable devices,” Ginzburg said. “We’ll see it in our everyday consumer experiences, from shopping to visiting a doctor to customer support. It will follow us to work whether at an office, factory, or warehouse. In the same way that today’s youth expect to be able to touch a screen to interact with a machine, the next generation will expect to be able to talk to it.”
The Alexa Accelerator is now accepting applications for its first cohort. Check out the accelerator’s info session on March 6.
Pollard comes to the position after serving as CEO in residence at Madrona Venture Labs for several months. He has founded and led companies including mobile services startup Elemental, later acquired by Porch, and Jott, acquired by Nuance Communications.
He has also held leadership positions at companies including Amazon, where he was the director of customer reviews; Nuance Communications, where he led the voice-to-text division; Microsoft, where he spent eight years in various roles including senior director; and Expedia, where he spent three years in leadership positions.
In his role as CRO of Donuts, Pollard will oversee the company’s product management, sales, marketing, communications, and business development divisions. His appointment was announced by executive talent search firm The Laurel Group.
Perrine comes to the company after six years at Microsoft, where he had held leadership positions in strategy and marketing. He as also managed sales and business development teams for Skytap, EMC Software Group and CA Technologies.
“Our customers face an increasingly chaotic marketplace that’s being disrupted by digital transformation,” said Perrine. “I’ve spent my career in enterprise and cloud technology helping customers manage disruptive change and I look forward to bringing Changepoint’s innovative set of applications to market to address these challenges.”
— KMS Lighthouse, a knowledge management software provider and part of business conglomerate The Aman Group, announced a new American headquarters in Seattle along with the appointment of former Marchex employee Ben Fitzpatrick as the company’s managing director of North America.
Prior to joining Lighthouse, Fitzpatrick spent six years in Marchex’s business division. At Lighthouse, he will oversee all sales, marketing, and product operations in the U.S.
Fitzpatrick told GeekWire in an email that Lighthouse’s products offer knowledge management on many channels for business organizations, primarily sales and customer assistance.
“Think of it as Sharepoint, but a much more out-of-the-box and easier to use solution,” he said. “We are primarily selling into large contact centers, who use our platform to more quickly access their product data. This ensures their customers get the right answer every time, which improves customer experience and reduces contact center call volume and costs.”
Becker was previously an engineer at Classy Llama Studios in Springfield, Mo. At Bear Group, he will be responsible for overseeing and growing all groups working on web development.
“I’m looking forward to taking on a position that I haven’t been in,” Becker said in a press release. “It’ll be nice to work within the development team and include them in the decision making, unlike the typical separation you see between management and developers.”
— Minneapolis-based marketing technology company Gage announced the addition of John Fox as the company’s vice president of global customer success. Fox will be split his time between Gage’s Seattle and Irvine, Calif., offices.
Fox originally joined the company in 1999, when he led marketing campaigns for brands including Microsoft, Sony, and Best Buy as one of the company’s vice presidents. In his time away from Gage, Fox founded California-based marketing company Quiver and served in leadership roles at marketing and communications firms Kerr Corporation and Leader Enterprises.
“Gage has always had a history of combining marketing and technology in ways that world-class brands appreciate,” Fox said in a press release. “Now the agency is making a strategic pivot to include both Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) as another way to accelerate positive behavior. I am thrilled to be rejoining the ranks at Gage, which has always been forward thinking and has the drive of an entrepreneurial shop. I look forward to working with the team to help our global customers reach new levels of success while allowing their customers and partners to achieve more.”