Peter Wilson, a fixture on the Seattle tech scene for more than 20 years, is on his way to London for his next challenge. The former vice president of engineering at OfferUp, who also helped establish the engineering outposts in the Seattle area for Google and Facebook, joined Blockchain as the company’s first vice president of engineering.
Wilson described blockchain technology as “the new internet” with the potential to “do to the financial system broadly what email did to the Post Office and e-commerce did to bricks and mortar.”
The company shares a name with blockchain technology, a secure file sharing system invented to secure cryptocurrencies. The company — which raised $40 million in venture capital last year from billionaire Richard Branson and Google — creates the most commonly used blockchain wallet system, according to its site.
“The digital currency wallet is at the center of this ecosystem and provides a vantage point to understand and drive innovation,” Wilson told GeekWire via email. “Blockchain has the best and most used wallet so this is a great place to be if you believe in the potential of blockchain technology.”
Asked about whether blockchain technology is overhyped, Wilson also gave a sunny view of the technology’s prospects.
“With new technologies there is a tendency to overestimate the impact in the short term and underestimate the impact in long term,” said Wilson. “The internet was like this and I believe that blockchain and digital currencies will follow a similar pattern. There is a huge opportunity to improve people’s (financial) lives through decentralization, removing the need for trusted third parties, and empowering individuals to ‘be their own bank’. This opportunity goes far beyond the somewhat frothy Bitcoin speculation that fuels headlines, so in my opinion the opportunity is not at all overhyped in the longterm.”
Wilson started his career at Accenture before moving on to Microsoft, where he served as a director for nearly 10 years. He studied computer science at Imperial College in London before making his move to the U.S. in the 1990s.
“London has changed dramatically since I last lived here, and specifically the energy, optimism and scrappiness of the London startup scene reminds me of Seattle back when I first arrived,” said Wilson, who also plans to spend time in New York.
— Seattle venture capital firm Madrona Venture Group announced a round of new additions Thursday.
Most notably, Microsoft and Ignition Partners veteran Shannon Anderson joined the firm as its director of talent. Anderson will identify and develop top leadership talent for Madrona portfolio companies as well as serving as a strategic human resources partner, the firm said. She will also advise Madrona on talent elements of its investments and decision-making.
Anderson spent nine years as a recruiter and talent leader at Microsoft in the 90s and went on to be a founding talent partner at venture firm Ignition Partners, where she stayed for eleven years. She also co-founded and spent eleven years at Velocity Search Partners, an executive talent search company. She most recently served as a principal at Recruiting Toolbox, saying that she’s been “immersed” in the Seattle tech ecosystem for years.
“We are fortunate to have so much talent here – and a lot of new talent coming to the area,” Anderson said in a press release. “My role is to help companies attract and keep the right talent; that’s what gets me up and excited every day.”
Madrona also announced that University of Washington professor Luis Ceze joined the firm as a venture partner. Ceze is a leader in computer systems architecture, machine learning, and DNA data storage. He’s also a co-founder of Corensic, a UW spin off backed by Madrona, and has worked informally with Madrona’s team for several years.
Meanwhile, the firm also promoted Daniel Li to principal. Li first joined Madrona as an associate in 2015 and previously spent three years as a consultant with the Boston Consulting Group.
— Esports platform Matcherino named entrepreneur and startup executive John Maffei as CEO. Maffei joined the company in January, just a month after it raised $1.2 million in new funding. He formerly spent nine years at Microsoft — four in the company’s Xbox division — and has founded several startups, including California-based mobile game company Titan Gaming.
Matcherino co-founder and former CEO Grant Farwell is now serving as chairman and chief strategy officer.
“Esports is exploding but the market is still developing and changing rapidly,” Maffei told GeekWire in an email. “Matcherino has an unbelievable opportunity to help shape the industry by providing the go-to platform for crowdfunding thousands of esports tournaments across hundreds of leading game titles each month. Ideally, Matcherino becomes the engine that enables a new generation of gamers to play esports for a living and allows esports tournament organizers to become paid professionals – not volunteers.”
There also remains opportunity in mobile, especially as game publishers “invest in making their games esports titles,” he said.
— Adrianna Burrows, a Microsoft vet who led marketing for the company’s Windows division, is on to a new role. She has been tapped the new chief marketing officer of San-Francisco based Cornerstone OnDemand, a provider of workforce management software. Burrows was most recently the CMO of programming database StackOverflow.
Burrows spent six years at Micorosft, leading global product marketing, business strategy and brand communications initiatives as a general manager in Windows. Before joining Microsoft, she was a senior vice president at global press relations firm Waggener Edstrom. Burrows will remain in Seattle in her new role at Cornerstone and will oversee all aspects of the company’s global marketing functions.
“Cornerstone’s vision for its next phase of growth and the enormous potential to expand the company’s brand make it an exciting time to join this talented team. I look forward to playing a key role in Cornerstone’s evolution into a high-growth SaaS company,” Burrows said in a press release.
—Ebay is making a big push into artificial intelligence, and the online marketplace recently tapped Jan Pedersen, a longtime Microsoft and Amazon computer scientist, as its chief scientist of artificial intelligence. Pedersen — the former vice president of data science at Twitter — will lead AI technology strategy and day-to-day technical work.
He formerly spent seven years leading core search technology at Microsoft and also spent a year as the chief scientist for Amazon’s A9 search engine and search advertising subsidiary.
“Jan is a true pioneer in the industry, with over thirty years developing search, deep learning, machine learning and AI technologies at scale,” Ebay CEO Devin Wenig said in a press release. “He joins us at a pivotal moment when AI sciences including computer vision and deep learning are now capable of transforming personalized, immersive shopping experiences. eBay runs on AI and our continued innovation under Jan’s leadership will transform each meaningful moment we have with our buyers and sellers.”
— Ron Huddleston, the corporate vice president in charge of Microsoft’s One Commercial Partner Organization, recently joined San-Francisco based cloud communications platform Twilio as chief partners officer.
Before joining Microsoft, Huddleston spent seven years as a senior vice president at Salesforce, overseeing the company’s AppExchange store and later its IoT Cloud efforts. He formerly spent ten years in leadership at Oracle.
“The opportunity to be a part of an organization that is redefining an industry is rare,” Huddleston said in a press release. “Twilio has the potential to revolutionize the communications industry in the same way cloud computing redefined the software industry.”
— Avvo, the Seattle-based online legal services marketplace that was acquired last month by Internet Brands, named Ashley Raiteri vice president of engineering. Raiteri joins the company from airline travel company AirHelp, where he most recently served as the chief information officer. At Avvo, he will lead the company’s software development teams.
He described Avvo as having a dynamic and agile culture where “rapid testing and learning is at the forefront.”
“I’m looking forward to incorporating my data-driven approach so that we can continue iterating and improving – and so that we can continue to connect consumers with the legal help they need,” he said.
— Vision Critical, a Vancouver, B.C., based customer intelligence platform, tapped tech executive Alan Price as its new chief technology officer. Price joins the company from mobile SDK platform Fuel Powered, where he was the CTO and product director for five years. He formerly spent five years at Electronic Art’s Canada headquarters, where he served as CTO for four years.
“Vision Critical works to ensure companies around the world are actively improving their customers’ experience by engaging them, listening, learning, and applying customer insight to every interaction,” Price said in a press release. “As someone who is incredibly passionate about technology and how it can change our everyday lives, I’m thrilled to be working with a company whose mission is to do exactly that.”
— Text messaging marketing software provider Tatango announced that Jack Bobin joined the company as its enterprise business development manager. Bobin previously worked at AT&T, where he was a strategic marketing and product manager on the company’s advanced messaging solutions team.
“I’m thrilled to join the great team at Tatango,” Bobin said in a press release. “As a lifelong business mobile messaging advocate, I’ve always had a deep appreciation for Tatango’s messaging product and expertise in the industry.”