The strength and success of the people and companies across the Pacific Northwest tech ecosystem was on full display Thursday night at the GeekWire Awards.
It was so much fun celebrating with more than 900 of you at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle for the 11th annual GeekWire Awards, one of our favorite events of the year that spotlights the entrepreneurs, engineers, CEOs, designers, marketers, product managers, and everyone in between working at Pacific Northwest companies based in the region.
After collecting thousands of votes over the past several weeks, we had the pleasure of naming winners in 11 categories representing the pillars of the tech community here in the Pacific Northwest. The energy was buzzing inside of MoPop as the community came together for another epic party.
Spring wouldn't be complete without attending Seattle's annual tech Oscars #gwawards. Congratulations to all this year's winners and nominees, each of whom define what's so exciting about Seattle's tech community. pic.twitter.com/XtW9mHqhkz
— Robin Twyman (@RobinTwyman) May 3, 2019
— Textio (@textio) May 3, 2019
— FLEXE, Inc. (@flexe) May 3, 2019
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.
Listen to GeekWire’s Todd Bishop, John Cook and Jonathan Sposato recap the awards in this GeekWire Podcast.
Stay tuned for more coverage from the event. Read on for a rundown of the winners in each category; photo booth pics are also below. A big thanks to Kevin Lisota for snapping the photos, and presenting sponsor Wave Business Solutions for helping to make the Awards possible. See you at the Cloud Tech Summit in June.
Startup of the Year, presented by BCRA
Winner: The Riveter
“Fund women and hire women.”
That was the message from Amy Nelson, CEO of The Riveter, as she accepted the award for Startup of the Year on stage Thursday.
Nelson, who is 35 weeks pregnant, helped launch the Seattle-based company in 2017. The Riveter differentiates itself from other co-working spaces by providing amenities, programming, and other membership perks geared toward female professionals.
The company, which is open to all genders, raised a $15 million investment round last year that is helping it expand across the nation. It recently opened its sixth location in Austin, Texas, and has plans to launch in Dallas, Denver, Portland, Ore., Minneapolis – St. Paul, and Atlanta. The plan is to reach 100 locations by 2022.
“It’s been a helluva ride,” said Nelson, a former Wall Street lawyer who helped launch the company after continuously running into “bro-working” spaces.
The Riveter, which won the Newcomer of the Year category at the 2017 GeekWire Awards, generates revenue from membership fees that range from $99 per month for floating desk space to $750 a month for a private office at the original Capitol Hill location in Seattle. There are also community memberships for those that don’t need regular office access and “business plans” targeted at corporations.
Startup CEO of the Year, presented by ALLTECH
Winner: Athira CEO Leen Kawas
Based on her years of work both inside the lab and in the boardroom, Leen Kawas is committed to developing therapies that can help slow and stop the course of neurological diseases. And she’s doing it in the right place with the right colleagues.
“I am one of the luckiest people,” Kawas said on stage Thursday. “I live in the best city and work with the most amazing team.”
The foundation of Athira Pharma, previously known as M3 Biotechnology, began while Kawas was earning her Ph.D. in molecular pharmacology at Washington State University nearly a decade ago. The Seattle company, which recently announced its name change, uses technology that Kawas developed at WSU and has raised more than $20 million.
Athira is developing its lead therapeutic candidate, NDX-1017, a drug that could halt or reverse the nerve damage that causes Alzheimer’s disease and other illnesses including Parkinson’s and ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. It uses regenerative technology, rebuilding connections between neurons and increasing the mass of the brain and brain health. NDX-1017 is currently in Phase 1 clinical trials, with Phase 2 set to begin later this year.
“We are focused on developing and delivering therapies that are accessible and affordable,” Kawas said.
Kawas serves on multiple science and Alzheimer’s-related boards and holds a doctor of pharmacy degree from the University of Jordan. Here’s a comment from one of our GeekWire Awards judges about Kawas:
“Leen Kawas is a dedicated CEO who takes finding a therapy for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s very seriously. She is a champion for patient advocacy, promoting biotech in our region, and creating a work culture full of collaboration and innovation.”
Big Tech CEO of the Year, presented by EY
Winner: DreamBox Learning CEO Jessie Woolley-Wilson
In more than eight years at DreamBox Learning, Jessie Woolley-Wilson has helped the math education software company become arguably the most prominent education technology startup in the Seattle area.
On Thursday night, she added another factor to the equation, as the Big Tech CEO of the Year.
“Unlocking learning potential,” she implored the crowd at the end of her speech on stage Thursday.
Woolley-Wilson’s goal of reimagining education through technology has included other milestones along the way, including a whopping $130 million funding round in 2018.
Just last weekend, she encouraged other professional women of color at a Future of Us Assembly in Seattle to amass wide-ranging skills and experience, demonstrate a mastery of those skills and then share those skills with others.
“You can amplify your impact,” Woolley-Wilson said at the event. “Think about it as scaling goodness.”
Hardware/Gadget of the Year
Winner: Bardy Diagnostics
It’s been a pretty good couple weeks for Seattle-based heart monitor maker Bardy Diagnostics. Less than a month ago, the company scored a $35.5 million round, bringing it to a lifetime total of $71 million raised, and followed that up by taking home the hardware for this year’s Hardware of the Year award.
“We’re trying to make Seattle not only an amazing tech city, but also a med-tech city,” said Jonathan Wu, director of marketing and strategy.
The company makes the Carnation Ambulatory Monitor (CAM), which is a small, lightweight heart monitor that can detect arrhythmia. The CAM is meant to be worn comfortably for a week, designed to lead to higher rates of patient compliance. Bardy claims that its device captures clearer and more accurate heart rhythms than competing ECG monitors.
“For nearly 60 years, standard ECG engineering practices have over-processed the heart’s electrical message to make machines’ ‘lives’ easier at the expense of losing details in the ECG,” CEO Dr. Gust Bardy said previously. “In essence, such legacy engineering doesn’t listen to what the heart is trying to tell us but rather tells the heart what we are willing to hear.”
Dr. Bardy is a longtime cardiac electrophysiologist who also serves as a clinical professor of medicine, cardiology, at the University of Washington and is the director of the Seattle Institute for Cardiac Research. Dr. Bardy sold his previous company, Cameron Health, to Boston Scientific in 2012.
Young Entrepreneur of the Year, presented by Wave Business Solutions
Winner: Mike Radenbaugh and Ty Collins, co-founders of Rad Power Bikes
These longtime friends turned co-founders officially launched Rad as a direct-to-consumer electric bicycle startup in Seattle in 2015 after Radenbaugh started building and selling e-bikes in 2007. But their passion for entrepreneurship dates farther back than that.
“In college when we started doing this, it was quite literally our dream job,” Collins said on stage Thursday. “And we’re doing it.”
Mike started building e-bikes when he was in high school, taking over his parents’ woodshop. His father, John Radenbaugh, said “if we let him, he would have stayed home from high school every day putting e-bikes together and filling orders.”
“Big boxes of parts started showing up every day until our garage was overrun and it looked like a mad scientist’s lab,” added his mother, Patty Radenbaugh.
Mike teamed up with Ty in college. In the beginning, Ty focused on marketing their fledgling startup. His father, Bruce Collins, said that his son has always had the kind of unshakable optimism that entrepreneurs need to get their startups off the ground.
“When he was a small boy, he developed the idea that all possibilities are 50/50 in likelihood of happening, something would either happen or it wouldn’t,” Bruce said. “So, even in the face of long odds, Ty is able to make things happen because he feels it’s just as likely to happen as not.”
At about $1,500 a pop, a Rad bike is one of the cheaper options in the market. The startup did $1 million in sales in the first year, $7.5 million in year two, $20 million in 2017 and $45 million last year. Rad’s 2019 revenue is projected to double to more than $100 million. In March, Rad raised its first outside capital from e-commerce heavy-hitters Darrell Cavens and Mark Vadon.
“I see a business with super passionate customers, a cool product, and awesome entrepreneurs,” Vadon told GeekWire at the time. “That’s what you want to be investing in.”
See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Slope co-founder Brian Bosché; Loftium co-founder Yifan Zhang; Buttermilk founder Mitra Raman; and Possible Finance co-founder Tony Huang.
Deal of the Year, presented by Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati
Winner: DocuSign (Acquisition or IPO); Convoy (Venture Capital Round)
Over the course of more than 15 years, DocuSign built an electronic signature powerhouse that now reaches hundreds of millions of people. Last year, the company finally made its public debut on the Nasdaq stock exchange at $29 per share, taking in more than $465 million from investors. The stock soared 37 percent on the first day of trading, giving the company a valuation of more than $6 billion at the time.
The long-awaited Wall Street entrance won this year’s award for Deal of the Year, acquisition or IPO. DocuSign is technically headquartered in the Bay Area but was founded in Seattle 16 years ago and still has its largest office in the Emerald City.
“This is our home,” Tom Casey, DocuSign’s senior vice president of engineering, said on stage Thursday. “We are proud members of the Seattle and Northwest startup community. It’s a privilege to be with you, and we intend to support and help this community for a long time to come.”
Since its debut, DocuSign has grown to serve 454,000 paying customers. It has also expanded its offerings, adding a slew of tools focused on the process of drawing up and completing agreements.
“People knew us from previous rounds as a growth company with heavy losses,” DocuSign CEO Dan Springer told MarketWatch. “Now we’re doing half a billion in revenue and still growing at high rates, and we’re cash-flow positive. That was the piece that really stunned people.”
Honk if you love a huge funding round. Convoy, a fast-growing startup that has created an on-demand trucking platform, raised a $185 million round last year. The financing pushed the company’s valuation north of $1 billion and minted a brand new Seattle unicorn in the process. It also helped Convoy take home another GeekWire Awards trophy.
“If you think there’s a challenge raising a big round or building a really big, impactful company in Seattle, I’ve got a whole bunch of counterexamples for you right now,” said Grant Goodale, Convoy’s CTO, referring to the other nominees in the Deal of the Year category. “Seattle is on the startup map, and we’re super proud to be part of it.”
The $185 million round, which brought total funding for the 3-year-old company to $265 million, was led by the late-stage venture capital arm of Google parent Alphabet, CapitalG. It was the fourth-largest funding round ever for a Washington-based company, according to data from PitchBook.
The company is using the money to grow quickly and compete with rivals such as Uber Freight and Amazon’s new freight service in the $700 billion trucking industry. It has also received backing in the past from Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.
Convoy won the 2018 Next Tech Titan award and was Startup of the Year in 2017.
“We have a big vision and we’re in an ideal position to go after it and see it through,” CEO Dan Lewis told GeekWire previously. “Raising money is the best way to do this quickly via technology investment and rapid scaling to build our network/pool of data.” Convoy was started by Lewis and Grant Goodale after they left Amazon in 2015.
Geekiest Office Space, presented by JLL
Tableau’s offices in Fremont aren’t just geeky, they’re a distinct nod to the Pacific Northwest. From the inverted topological structure of Mt. Rainer in its lobby to the lockers in its shower rooms that dry the clothes you got wet on the commute into work, Tableau’s office is a reminder that Seattle tech requires a little more grit than Bay Area tech.
Those qualities impressed GeekWire Awards voters this year, allowing the company to take home one of the most coveted awards, the 2019 prize for Geekiest Office Space.
“The biggest compliment we ever get is, ‘that building looks so Tableau — it’s simple, it’s elegant, it’s full of light,” said Mike Ross, Tableau’s director of global real estate, on stage Thursday.
The space maximizes the amount of natural light flowing into the building during those long gray winters, with employee work areas lined along big windows on the outside of a big U-shape office plan. And Tableau has full kitchens throughout the office that allow employees to prepare their own meals but limits the seating in those kitchens to also encourage employees to spend money with local businesses in Fremont.
AI Innovation of the Year
Textio and its wife-and-husband founders, CEO Kieran Snyder and CTO Jensen Harris, have repeatedly popped up as finalists in GeekWire Award categories — and this year they finally made it into the winners’ circle, thanks to their innovative augmented-writing platform.
“It’s funny that we’d win AI Innovation of the Year, because our mission is to make people the best version of themselves,” Snyder said on stage Thursday. “When we started the company, it was with the notion that we didn’t have to choose between doing good and doing really, really well.”
Textio’s software is an AI-enabled editor that maximizes the impact of your words. It can analyze what you’ve written to tell you who’ll apply for the job you’re advertising, or who’ll respond to the recruiting message you’re putting out. This month the five-year-old startup released Textio Flow, which turns your raw thoughts into polished prose with the press of a tab key.
“This is the experience we founded Textio to create,” Harris said in a tweet.
Here’s hoping the GeekWire award takes an honored place on the trophy shelf, alongside the Webby award that Textio won a couple of weeks ago for best use of machine learning.
Health Innovation of the Year, presented by Premera
Fast-growing virtual primary care startup 98point6 took home the prize in the Health Innovation of the Year category.
The telemedicine startup is rethinking how primary care should be delivered with an app that already reaches more than 100,000 customers through their employees. The company has raised $86.3 million in just over three years, with backing from Goldman Sachs and others.
“98point6 is setting out to insure that every human on this earth has access to high quality primary care without ever needing to make a financial tradeoff to get it,” CEO Robbie Cape said on stage Thursday.
98point6 aims to make primary care cheaper and more accessible so that people can get medical attention early and often. It’s doing so with AI chatbots that help doctors be more efficient.
“Our goal is to keep relentlessly improving and increasing the capabilities of [98point6], whether it’s through technological developments that benefit patients and partners or advancements to our virtual clinic that boost efficiency and quality standards,” Cape said previously.
Over time, the startup aims to train its AI platform to take on more and more of the doctor’s workload from diagnosis to treatment. 98point6 recently signed a deal with health plan Banner | Aetna, which could add 300,000 members to its network over the next three years.
Next Tech Titan, presented by Walker Sands Communications
Rover’s quest for world domination of the pet care market took another step forward as it claimed victory in the competitive Next Tech Titan category.
Rover raised a $155 million funding round in 2018, one of the largest for a Pacific Northwest company in recent memory. Rover put that money to work, acquiring London-based DogBuddy in October to accelerate its European expansion. It also dipped a paw into the crucial Latin American market through investing in Brazilian pet care startup DogHero earlier this year.
“The Rover team is more mission-driven than any other group I’ve ever worked with,” Rover CEO Aaron Easterly said on stage Thursday. “We are absolutely committed to making sure that everyone can have a dog or pet in their life. We are just getting started.”
Rover has built a massive business by connecting dog owners with walkers and sitters. And now it is going after a new market, introducing a series of feline-oriented services to cater to the reported 47.1 million households in the U.S. that have a cat.
“The company’s philosophy has always been that there’s a lot of opportunity to push the limit on what we could provide, but only if we did the things that we were currently doing well,” Easterly told GeekWire previously. “So our belief has been that we wanted to do things best in class, be clear category leaders and then take on a new things. … We’ve been thinking about [cats] for a long time.”
Geeks Give Back, presented by BECU
Winner: Washington Technology Industry Association (Apprenti)
In less than three years, the Apprenti program launched by Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA) is showing the nation a new way to train people for a suite of tech jobs. Apprenti is focused on providing a path to economic stability to people of color, women, military veterans and other underrepresented workers in the tech field.
For their groundbreaking work, Apprenti received this year’s Geeks Give Back Award.
What do apprentices says about Apprenti? “’It’s life changing,’ is usually the first thing we hear from them,” said Jennifer Carlson, Apprenti’s director and co-founder. “‘It’s hard,’ that’s the second thing we hear. It’s not for the faint of heart.”
Apprenti is providing its apprentice-based program for free to participants in 11 states, with four more to come this year. Close to 600 people are enrolled in or have graduated from the program. The median income of a graduate is $78,000.
“We’d love to work with everyone in this room,” Carlson said on stage Thursday.