There was singing; there was cheering; there was laughing; there was crying.
The 2018 GeekWire Awards had it all on Thursday evening as we honored the top companies and entrepreneurs across the Pacific Northwest.
It was a blast welcoming more than 900 of you at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle for the tenth annual GeekWire Awards — a longstanding event symbolic of this region’s robust and growing tech ecosystem.
After collecting thousands of votes over the past several weeks, we had the pleasure of naming winners in 13 categories representing the pillars of the tech community here in the Pacific Northwest.
Winners walked away with custom-made geeky robot trophies, recognizing their climb up the startup and technology charts. Check out Twitter to see some reaction from our attendees.
— Washington STEM (@washingtonstem) May 11, 2018
— BCRA (@BCRAdesign) May 11, 2018
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
Winner: Crowd Cow
Crowd Cow is on a mission to deliver sustainably-raised beef to customers across the U.S. The 3-year-old business, founded by tech vets Joe Heitzeberg and Ethan Lowry, works with independent ranches and cuts out the middleman to bring quality beef direct to consumers. Users of the company’s website can pick cuts of their choosing from select animals and help “tip a cow.”
Using technology, Crowd Cow can accurately partition and sell every cut from the animal so nothing is wasted, which contrasts with traditional cow sharing from local farms where it’s typically necessary to buy hundreds of pounds of beef in one big miscellaneous mix. Investors in Crowd Cow include Maveron, Zulily founders Mark Vadon and Darrell Cavens, ex-NFL star Joe Montana, and others.
“Thanks to the many independent farmers producing better beef that you can’t find in grocery stores,” Heitzeberg said on stage Thursday.
“When we started this thing, we couldn’t tell the difference between a cow and a steer,” added Lowry. “We’ve come a long way. And it’s great to have a business where you get to eat a lot of great food.”
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Amplero, Boundless, JetClosing, and Textio.
CEO of the Year, presented by EY
Winner: John Legere
It’s not ever day that the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company busts out an acapella version of “What a Wonderful World” on stage in fron of 900 folks. But that’s how the hard-charging and slow-cooking leader of T-Mobile, John Legere, finished his acceptance speech Thursday night at the GeekWire Awards.
But it’s more than just flash. Since joining T-Mobile in 2012, Legere has helped turn around the company, guiding it to 19 straight quarters — and counting — with more than one million net customer additions. Since he became CEO, Legere drove an aggressive campaign in which T-Mobile branded itself the “Un-carrier,” with new pricing strategies, subscriber benefits and promotions that forced rivals to change their own packages and promotions.
The result? T-Mobile’s customer count now tops more than 72 million. Legere, known for guzzling Red Bull, running marathons and his popular Slow Cooker Sunday cooking show, ranked No. 20 on Glassdoor’s Employees’ Choice Awards last year among highest-rated CEOs.
— John Legere (@JohnLegere) May 11, 2018
Legere accepted the award on Thursday, rocking tons of T-Mobile magenta and giving a shoutout to his “crazy, passionate, customer-obsessed” employees.
“I’ve run my company on a very simple philosophy,” Legere said. “Listen to your employees. Listen to your customers. Shut the f*** up and do what they tell you.”
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Usermind CEO Michel Feaster, Skilljar CEO Sandi Lin, Mighty AI CEO Daryn Nakhuda, and Textio CEO Kieran Snyder.
Hardware/Gadget of the Year
Blokable is a Seattle startup founded by a former Amazon manager that aims to cut costs for builders and residents alike through the construction of tech-powered manufactured housing. The company’s modular units are pre-fabricated in a warehouse and trucked to a construction site, where they are craned onto the foundation, connected to utilities, and stacked several stories high.
Blokable says it can reduce design time by as much as 70 percent and cut building time in half. Its investors include Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital; Jason Calacanis; Borealis Ventures; Urban Us; and Kapor Capital.
“Our mission at Blokable is to make quality housing attainable for everyone,” Sandy Anuras, vice president of technology, said on stage. “We are on a mission.”
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: HaptX, Play Impossible, Roxy, and Vicis.
Hire of the Year, presented by Indeed
Winner: Julie Sandler, managing director at Pioneer Square Labs
Julie Sandler is no stranger to the startup world. This Harvard and Stanford grad has spent the last five years as an advisor, investor and mentor, in part through her six-year-long role as an investment partner at Madrona Venture Group.
But in June, Sandler joined another hot startup hub in Seattle: the up-and-coming startup studio and incubator Pioneer Square Labs, which has so far spun out nine startups including TraceMe, advertising intelligence company Ad Lightning and immigration assistance company Boundless. Sandler described Pioneer Square Labs as a startup itself and told GeekWire she was excited to help shape the organization from an early stage.
Sandler is also a past GeekWire Award winner, taking home the 2014 award for Geek of the Year.
“It is kind of a strange thing to be nominated for Hire of the Year,” Sandler said on stage. “I feel like I landed the dream team of the year. Getting to come to work everyday at PSL, it’s a group of people across both our studio and venture fund who are so passionate about empowering founders to bring to life their vision for their companies. It’s just a total joy everyday.”
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Chloe Harford, VP of Product, OfferUp; Julie Larson Green, Chief Experience Officer, Qualtrics; Jason LeeKeenan, CEO, TraceMe; Steve Singh, CEO, Docker.
Young Entrepreneur of the Year, presented by Honest Buck
Winner: Phil Kimmey, co-founder of Rover
Phil Kimmey, 28, co-founded Rover seven years ago and has watched as the peer-to-peer petsitting startup has grown to 377 people with $156 million in funding.
Kimmey started developing Rover when he was still in college, according to Inc. Veteran investor Greg Gottesman met Kimmey after his junior year at a Startup Weekend event. They discussed Gottesman’s negative experience boarding his dog at a kennel. He later called Kimmey and asked if he wanted to spend the summer building what would become Rover out of the offices of Madrona Venture Group, where Gottesman was a partner.
Today, Kimmey serves as Rover’s director of software development, where he is involved in developing the product and manages part of the engineering team. Kimmey attended Washington University in St. Louis but left to work on Rover full time.
“These types of awards, I always feel are a little bit embarrassing because they are individual recognition for what is completely a team sport,” Kimmey said on stage. “Thank you to all the people I get to spend every day at work with.”
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Shivaas Gulati, co-founder of Remitly; Tony Huang, co-founder of Possible Finance; Garrett Ochs, co-founder of Otto Robotics; Yifan Zhang and Adam Stelle, co-founders of Loftium.
Deal of the Year, presented by Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati
Winner: Icertis (Venture Capital Round); Redfin (Acquisition or IPO)
There were so many deals flying over the past 12 months that we decided to split the Deal of the Year category this year, recognizing the top deals in two divisions: Acquisitions/IPOs and Venture Capital deals.
Icertis took home the award for venture capital deals after raising a $50 million Series D round led by Meritech Capital Partners this past February. The company builds software delivered over Microsoft’s Azure public cloud that helps companies keep track of deals with suppliers and customers that require extensive contracts. Given how the legal system works, that’s a lot of contracts, and Icertis’ software also helps companies negotiate better contracts by highlighting ways to save money or move faster.
The company, led by CEO Samir Bodas, has about 100 people in the U.S., 75 of whom work in Bellevue. Like most startups with fresh cash, Icertis plans to open new offices (mostly in Europe) and expand its work on sales, marketing, and customer support.
Speaking on stage Thursday, Bodas said the award should go to investors and thanked Meritech and Ignition Partners.
Tech-powered real estate brokerage Redfin became the first Seattle company to go public last year when it had its IPO this past July. Its stock soared nearly 45 percent on the first day of trading. The company aims to transform how people buy and sell homes across the U.S., using a combination of technology and its own brokers.
Redfin’s stock has stayed relatively flat since the IPO. It reported $79 million for its most recent quarterly earnings.
“For a company that was never looking for a way out and always looking for a way in, this is a huge honor,” Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman said on stage Thursday. “We are so excited to be on the public markets. It was a wild, bumpy ride for us and we never would have never made it without all of you.”
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists:
Deal of the Year — Acquisition or IPO
- Amazon to acquire Ring video doorbell maker for more than $1B, cracking open the door in home security market
- Juno Therapeutics acquired by Celgene for $9B in dramatic deal for rising biotech star
- Microsoft acquires Seattle startup PlayFab to bolster cloud offerings for game developers
- Snapchat parent Snap acquires location analytics startup Placed for more than $200M
Deal of the Year — Venture Capital Round
- Fast-growing Amperity raises $28M round led by Tiger Global, one month after launch
- Identity management startup Auth0 raises $30M to fuel international expansion
- Echodyne gets $29M from NEA, Bill Gates and others to boost radar for drones
- Heptio raises $25M Series B funding round as Kubernetes takes over the world
Geek of the Year, presented by Wave Business
At a Seattle event in 2015, he made the audacious prediction that “it is actually plausible that in 10 years we will have cures and therapies for most, if not all, human cancers.” The nationally recognized cancer center is working on some of the hottest frontiers in cancer research, namely cellular immunotherapy treatments that specifically target a patient’s unique cancer mutations.
Under Gilliland’s leadership, the Hutch has recruited big names from the technology field to its board of trustees, including Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Mike Clayville, a vice president at Amazon Web Services. In a GeekWire interview, Gilliland explained that “big data is going to be hugely important for the next steps” in the fight against cancer, which will focus on leveraging a huge amount of biological data to personalize cancer treatments.
“We will cure cancer. And we will cure it in a very short timeframe,” Gilliland said on Thursday.
But Gilliland said he needs help from the tech community. “We can’t do this alone,” he said before asking his fellow nominees to join him on stage in one of the most touching moments of the night.
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Caroline King, co-founder and CEO of Washington STEM; Solynn McCurdy, CEO of Social Venture Partners; Amy Nelson, CEO of The Riveter; CEO Hadi Partovi and president Alice Steinglass of Code.org.
Newcomer of the Year, presented by Walker Sands Communications
Snowflakes are a rare sight in the Pacific Northwest, but one is making a big impact in the region. Snowflake Computing, the Silicon Valley-based data warehouse company led by former Microsoft exec Bob Muglia, opened an office in Bellevue last year.
Just a couple days after the Seattle-area office announcement, the company closed a $100 million funding round that included Seattle-based Madrona Venture Group. That was followed by a massive $263 million round in January.
Snowflake makes a data warehouse designed for the cloud-native era. Data warehouses are more or less the same as regular databases, but they are designed for analytical applications and to emphasize reading data over writing data.
“We are very excited to be in the Seattle area and part of this great community,” Leo Giakoumakis, leader of the Seattle engineering center for Snowflake, said on stage. “This is a great honor.”
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Baidu, ClusterOne AI, Snowflake, Seattle Partnership for Research on Innovative Therapies, and F Bomb Breakfast Club.
Geekiest Office Space, presented by Knoll
When Avalara began on Bainbridge Island 14 years ago, a 114,000 square foot office space certainly seemed out of the question.
Now, with 1,400 employees — 400 of whom were most recently split between several buildings in Seattle’s Pioneer Square — the maker of tax automation software needed to bring their people under one roof. It found the perfect spot at Avalara Hawk Tower — a new 18-story building just a stone’s throw from Seattle’s CenturyLink Field.
Avalara loves the color orange, and you can find it splashed throughout the space, including on the surface of a ping pong table. The company also plays up a tropical beach theme, part of an effort to induce relaxation.
“Early on, it was just a symbol of relaxing, being on a beach, being in a hammock,” Avalara Vice President of Marketing Bryan Wiggins told GeekWire last month. “You can do what you want in your life instead of dealing with your taxes.”
Central stairwells connect several floors, bringing together employees and making amenities such as the patio and top-floor tiki bar even more accessible. The new space has plenty of room for expansion, allowing Avalara to add up to 300 more people in the building.
“It was a team collaboration,” Karen Sherwood, vice president of corporate experience at Avalara, said on stage. “We love our space. We invite you all to come visit us.”
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Intellectual Ventures Lab, PicMonkey, Qualtrics, and Zipwhip.
Innovation of the Year, presented by Premera
Winner: Misapplied Sciences
This is the the future that Misapplied Sciences envisions with its “parallel reality” display technology. It’s a new type of display, enabled by a “multi-view” pixel. Unlike traditional pixels, each of which emit one color of light in all directions, Misapplied Sciences says its pixel can send different colors of light in tens of thousands or even millions of directions. They call it a “magic pixel.”
The impact could be massive. Misapplied Sciences will face a series of technical, economic and even societal challenges as it works to achieve widespread adoption for the technology. But with seemingly endless potential to create new forms of entertainment and information, the company’s long-term ambition is nothing less than to change the way people experience the world. The Redmond, Wash.-based startup, which came out of stealth mode earlier this month, was founded by a small team of Microsoft and Walt Disney Imagineering veterans.
“We have a lot to announce in the coming months,” CEO Albert Ng said on stage. “This is just the tip of the iceberg of what we’ll reveal to the world.”
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Arzeda, Amazon Go, KenSci, and Pivotal Commware.
Next Tech Titan, presented by Smartsheet
Seattle startup Convoy keeps on truckin’. The company’s platform matches 100,000 truckers with available jobs, and it has rapidly grown to 270 employees.
That’s up from 120 employees this past July, when Convoy raised a $62 million round from investors like Bill Gates, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Code.org founders Hadi and Ali Partovi, former Starbucks president Howard Behar, Expedia Chairman Barry Diller, and others. The round brought Convoy to $80.5 million raised since it was founded in 2015.
The startup helps facilitate shipments to more than 400 customers, including 20 Fortune 500 companies, and makes money by keeping a percentage of each transaction. It has deals with giant corporations like Anheuser-Busch and Unilever.
Convoy operates in a competitive industry, battling against Uber Frieght, freight-booking startups like Transfix and uShip and large incumbents like C.H. Robinson and XPO Logistics. Convoy also took won Startup of the Year in 2017.
“This is a huge honor,” Convoy co-founder Grant Goodale said on stage. “This award has been won by so many impactful companies over the course of the last few years — it really raises the bar for us and encourages us to keep pushing hard to make Convoy the best company it can be.”
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Accolade, Outreach, Remitly, and Rover.
Geeks Give Back, presented by Bank of America
Winner: Technology Access Foundation
Technology Access Foundation, or TAF, has been serving students of color for 22 years through after-school classes, teacher training and groundbreaking nonprofit-public school partnerships.
In 2008, the foundation opened the TAF Academy, a pioneering sixth- to 12th-grade public school with a STEM focus located south of Seattle. The program sought to make students partners and active participants in their education, which centers on hands-on, project-based learning. The teachers worked to form meaningful connections with the kids and their families. The students flourished in this nurturing environment — 95 percent of the high school students graduate on time — and TAF began exploring ideas for expanding more broadly.
“We have a whole different version of what STEM means,” TAF co-founder and executive director Trish Millines Dziko told GeekWire. “It’s not the stand-alone subjects. It’s having a set of tools to solve problems or create things.”
Since 2013, TAF has partnered with three Puget Sound-area public schools to transform them into TAF-style schools. Participating teachers received training at the foundation’s institute and have mentoring support. And last year the original academy merged with Federal Way’s Saghalie Middle School to create TAF@Saghalie, which more than doubled their enrollment to 700 students.
“We are building your pipeline,” Millines Dziko told the crowd on Thursday. “We have black and brown kids that are ready to come work for you. Come invest in us.”
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Alliance of Angels, Female Founders Alliance, Rainier Scholars, and Techbridge Girls.
We started the event with a little bit of history, showcasing highlights over the past 10 years.
And here’s a look at some of the fun in the Moz photo booth.