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Sid Reddy. (Conversica Photo)

Conversica — a startup developing artificial-intelligence-fueled sales software — may be headquartered in California, but it has distinct ties to the Seattle area. The company traces its roots back to Bellingham, Wash., and recently opened a new office in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood.

On Thursday, the company announced that it had achieved 50 percent year-over-year revenue growth and unveiled a trio of additions to its leadership board. One addition is former Microsoft researcher Sid Reddy, who will serve as the company’s chief scientist and be based at Conversica’s Seattle office.

Other additions include tech veteran and startup investor and advisor Victor Belfor, who joins the company as its SVP of business development, and tech executive Brian Kaminski, who will serve as its chief customer officer. Belfor and Kaminski will be based at Conversica headquarters in Foster City, Calif.

Reddy is a career AI researcher with an expertise in natural language processing (NLP). He has held research positions at Microsoft, Northwestern University, the Mayo Clinic and Lnx Research.

Victor Belfor. (Conversica Photo)

At Conversica, he will oversee the data science department and work on artificial intelligence software and NPL systems.

“Conversica is the leader of an important category with an amazing executive team,” Reddy said in a press release. “Only a small number of businesses have successfully commercialized conversational AI, and this company is leading the pack, with an ambitious vision in AI-powered business conversations. Between the incredible growth that Conversica is experiencing and the growing team of talented data scientists they employ, this opportunity is a data scientist’s dream.”

Belfor has a history as an entrepreneur and tech executive and is also an active investor and adviser in the startup community. He most recently served as VP of partnership and distribution strategy at Open Sesame, a Portland, Ore., based e-learning company.

Brian Kaminski. (Conversica Photo)

Kaminski joins Conversica from IBM, where he led worldwide client success efforts. He previously held executive positions at advertising and marketing software companies Marin Software and iProspect.

The company also touted new growth metrics Thursday. Conversica now has more than 1,200 customers — including big names like Microsoft, New Relic and Epsilon — and announced new features in its AI sales assistants, including new language offerings, multi-channel communication and a new AI Service Assistant.

“The recent additions we’ve made to our executive team will ensure that we continue to serve each of our customers well, even as we continue our accelerated company growth,” Conversica CEO Alex Terry said in the release.

Linda Lian. (Madrona Venture Group Photo)

— Linda Lian, a Madrona Venture Group associate, will leave the firm to join Amazon Web Services as a product marketing manager on the AWS Lambda team, GeekWire has learned.

Lian joined Madrona just over a year ago and formerly worked as a financial analyst at cybersecurity company Lookout and financial services company Morgan Stanley.

AWS Lambda was one of the first products to support serverless computing, the idea that developers should be able to write applications based around events and triggers without having to worry about the underlying servers.

Kellie Zimmerman. (Avalara Photo)

Avalara announced it has added yet another high-profile tech executive: longtime Concur exec Kellie Zimmerman has joined the company as its VP of sales.

Zimmerman joined expense management company Concur in 2006 and has held sales and leadership positions there for the past eleven years. She most recently served as the company’s VP of sales.

Zimmerman told GeekWire in an email that she is excited to work on Avalara’s sales tax solutions software.

“Honestly, sales tax automation remains one of the largest business problems that no one ever talks about. Avalara has built an incredible product to solve that problem, but there is still a need to get to a level of mature market awareness,” She said.

Zimmerman is in good company as an ex-Concur member at Avalara: the company hired former Concur and ADP executive Greg Stivers as its SVP of sales just last week and recently added Concur co-founder Raj Singh to its board of directors

Claire Bonilla. (SightLife Photo)

SightLife, a longtime Seattle non-profit focused on eliminating blindness around the world, announced that former Microsoft executive Claire Bonilla has been appointed as the organization’s new CEO.

She replaces longtime SightLife CEO Monty Montoya, who will take over as president and CEO of the organization’s for-profit subsidiary, SightLife Surgical, which was established in the fall of 2016.

“The board believes Claire has the talent, business savvy and interpersonal skills to lead SightLife into its next chapter, as proven by the 60 percent growth she has driven in expanding SightLife’s work to end corneal blindness in developing countries,” SightLife Board Chair Melody Summers said in a press release. “SightLife and SightLife Surgical’s joint mission to end corneal blindness by 2040 will be best served by having separate CEOs to focus on their respective roles serving those in need.”

Monty Montoya. (SightLife Surgical Photo)

Montoya had served as SightLife’s CEO since 2003. Both he and Bonilla are active board members of the Washington Global Health Alliance, and Bonilla is currently serving as the alliance’s vice-chair.

Bonilla first joined SightLife in 2015 as its chief global officer. Before joining SightLife, Bonilla spent 16 years at Microsoft, most recently serving as the GM of the company’s governance, risk management and compliance program. She previously worked at accounting and professional services firm EY.

“I look forward to enhancing and expanding SightLife’s outstanding service to the cornea community – from those who generously donate the gift of sight and their families, to patients, surgeons and the support system necessary for corneal transplantation,” Bonilla said in a press release.

Lee Cheatham. (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Photo)

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) announced that Lee Cheatham has been appointed as the lab’s director of technology deployment and outreach.

Cheatham is best-known for his long tenure as the executive director of the Washington Technology Center, the state’s technology-based economic development enterprise.

He left that role in 2010 and has since served as an advisor and, most recently, as the director of strategic partnerships at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York state.

At PNNL, Cheatham will parnter with the business community to commercialize technology developed in the labs.

“To move more technologies into the marketplace, we need partners who further develop and commercialize these innovations and ultimately create jobs,” PNNL Deputy Director for Science and Technology Malin Young said in a press release. “Lee has an extensive track record of leadership in advancing science, technology and commercialization in the DOE laboratory system, academia and private industry. In each role, he has built successful public-private partnerships to expand the economic impact of innovation.”

Elisa Steele. (Tile Photo)

— Elisa Steele, a former Microsoft and Skype executive, has joined the board of Bay Area technology company Tile. Tile produces bluetooth-powered devices to track personal belongings.

Steele was previously the CEO of Jive Software, a Bay Area company that produces communication and collaboration tools. She previously spent time as the corporate vice president and chief marketing officer of Consumer Apps & Services at Microsoft and was formerly the CMO of Skype and Yahoo.

“We are incredibly excited to have Elisa on board,” Tile CEO and Co-Founder Mike Farley said in a press release. “Drawing on years of experience as a CEO herself, Elisa brings the invaluable viewpoint of someone who understands the strategic and operational challenges of building a global business.”

[Note: Steele’s status with Jive Software has been corrected since original post.]

Eric Lawrence. (International Futures Photo)

— Creative consultant Intentional Futures announced that Eric Lawrence has joined the company as its new creative director.

Lawrence formerly served as creative director at Seattle design consultant TEAGUE and previously held the same role at Frog Seattle. At Intentional Futures, he will oversee the company’s user experience and design work and lead creative strategy for key accounts.

The company’s clients include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, electronics giant General Electric and media company Viacom.

“I’m excited to combine my experience with iF’s impressive reputation for partnering with its clients to create a vision and make that vision a reality,” Lawrence said in a press release. “I look forward to being part of such a dynamic team that values the importance of bringing visual storytelling and data together in an engaging way that simplifies the customer experience and makes an impact.”

“Eric brings a high level of design expertise, creative guidance, and strategic insight. His diverse skills as a creative innovator across a variety of industries presented him as a natural fit for the role,” IF Managing Partner and Co-Founder Michael Dix said in the release.

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