Calling Tacoma a 'tech town' is far-fetched. The city could make some inroads, though

Credit: Bill Virgin, Tacoma News Tribune Contributing Writer

“Tacoma’s a tech town,” proclaims the subject line of an emailed newsletter from the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County, touting the community’s latest wins and accomplishments.

The immediate reaction among the jaded and cynical — like the proprietor of this column — might be found somewhere between eye-rolling and resignation for another round of disappointment. Ever since someone thought up the concept of technology as a distinct industry, like steel or cars or ag, and saw how certain parts of the country, like Silicon Valley or Seattle, were getting rich off it, every American community has pined for and lusted after a piece of that action.

More often than not, those efforts came to naught. It takes a precise and still poorly understood combination of luck, history, foundation companies and academic institutions to create tech hubs, and most communities lacked those ingredients or had them in insufficient proportions. Tech hubs are also rarely planned; they seem to spontaneously combust.

Thus the notion of Tacoma being a recognized tech hub prompts responses of “here we go again” and expectations that this won’t produce anything more than being “America’s No. 1 Wired City” did.

ANNOUNCEMENT - Startup253 Partners With AWS To Give $3,000 Hosting Credit To Any Startup Who Pitches At A Startup253 Founders Series Event

Hey Founders, We have some great news!

We wanted to let you know of incredible news developing within Startup253 which will directly (and positively) impact you and the Startup253 community in your city. We are excited to announce a partnership with Amazon and AWS, which in a nutshell allows ANY AND ALL presenting companies who are chosen and simply attend and give their 1 minute pitch at a Startup253 Founders Series event $3,000 credit towards their hosting on Amazon.  Yes, seriously. That's pretty cool. And it's a big deal!

"Amazon Web Services provides startups with low cost, easy to use infrastructure needed to scale and grow any size business. AWS Activate is a program designed to provide startups with resources they need to get started on AWS. Join some of the fastest-growing startups in the world and build your business using AWS!"


What does this mean?

Startup253 presenting startups will be eligible for:

  • $3,000 in AWS Promotional Credit valid for 2 years.

  • 1 year of AWS Business Support (up to $5,000).

  • 80 credits for Self-Paced Labs ($80 value)

Who can or can't take advantage of this?

  • Any startup who is chosen to pitch at a Startup253 Founders Series event.
  • The only disqualification is if the specific company has already taken advantage of this Activate offer from AWS.
  • This applies to existing and/or new AWS customers.
  • For all past and future Startup253 Founders Series presenters.

We are very excited about this special offer with Amazon, and are grateful and thankful they view Startup253 as a strategic partner. This is just the beginning of what is to come from many corporate partnerships providing opportunities and benefits to the Startup253 community. I hope you join us in seeing this as just one more thing that makes Startup253 so special and impactful in the Tacoma and South Sound entrepreneurial community. 


Lee Reeves, Co-Founder, Startup253

University of Puget Sound alum, Jesse Proudman, raises $1.6M for new startup, Strix Leviathan.

Credit: Taylor Soper, Geekwire

The world of cryptocurrency looks a lot like the wild west right now. In just the past week, Google announced that it would ban all cryptocurrency-related advertising, following in Facebook’s footsteps. That came a few days after news surfaced of cryptocurrency scammers who made off with more than $2 million. Meanwhile, the value of the world’s digital coins fell by $60 billion — in one day.

Despite all the instability, some investors like what they see with Strix Leviathan, a new Seattle startup led by Blue Box founder Jesse Proudman.

The company today announced a $1.625 million seed round from a diverse set of investors ranging from top VC firms to NFL players. Liquid 2 Ventures, a San Francisco firm co-led by NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana, led the round. Founders’ Co-op, Future/Perfect Ventures, and 9Mile Labs also participated, along with several angel investors, including Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin, Chris McCoy, Kirby Winfield, and Steve Hall.

Stan Larimer, Co-founder of BitShares and Cryptonomex Joins Topia Technology Board of Advisors

Credit: Business Wire

Topia Technology announced today that digital currency guru and parallel entrepreneur Stan Larimer has joined its board of advisors, established to provide strategic counsel for TopiaCoin, the first secure network to be introduced into the blockchain community in 2019. Larimer is co-founder of BitShares, a platform blockchain technology, as well as president and co-founder of Cryptonomex, a software development services company providing blockchains and related technology.

“Today, there is no real data security for blockchain-based applications and there is a huge need in the marketplace for a security layer,” said Larimer. “TopiaCoin will be the first to market with military-grade security and this will bring great value to the blockchain and BitShares community. I am excited to be involved with Topia Technology, a well-established company that is really going to make a world of difference in the future of blockchain through the introduction of TopiaCoin.”

Larimer is a global leader in developing innovative blockchain technologies. He brings decades of executive leadership experience in software, hardware, and systems engineering in the American aerospace industry. He is now focused on leveraging that expertise to build a new industry developing unmanned companies that produce smart currencies and other decentralized financial services.

“Stan will be a tremendous ally and we are thrilled to have him join our team,” said Janine Terrano, CEO, Topia Technology. “Not only is he the Godfather of BitShares, a community that is very important to us, he also understands the security gap that we are filling for blockchain-based applications. BitShares is expanding rapidly and we want to contribute to that growth through TopiaCoin.”

Through the introduction of TopiaCoin in 2019, Topia Technology will combine its patented security for shredding and encrypting data with the power and transparency of blockchain. Individuals and businesses will be able to easily and securely share any digital asset without a central server and with the confidence that each transaction is not only performed in a manner agreed upon by the blockchain, it will have the ability to guard against multiple threats.

Topia’s Initial Coin Offering, for accredited investors only, is scheduled for April 2, 2018. Topia is currently in a private pre-sale and accepting pre-registration for accredited investors at

RAIN Incubator in Tacoma named finalist in DHS S&T in $300K Biothreat Prize Competition

Credit: DHS S&T Press Office

ive finalists were announced today for Stage 1 of the $300,000 Hidden Signals Challenge. Issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), in collaboration with the Office of Health Affairs National Biosurveillance Integration Center (NBIC), the challenge calls for the design of an early warning system that uses existing data to uncover emerging biothreats. The announcement was made at the American Society for Microbiology’s 2018 ASM Biothreats meeting.

“We were impressed with the diversity of concepts submitted to the Challenge,” said William N. Bryan, DHS Senior Official Performing the Duties of Under Secretary for Science and Technology. “The five finalists explore new ways we can uncover emerging biothreats and we are confident they’ll inform a system that could enable city-level operators to make critical decisions.”

The five finalists are:

  • Readiness Acceleration & Innovation Network (RAIN), Tacoma, WA forCommuter Pattern Analysis for Early Biothreat Detection, a system that cross-references de-identified traffic information with existing municipal health data and internet keyword searches. The tool will be developed to recognize commuter absenteeism to flag a possible disease outbreak.
  • Vituity, Emeryville, CA for Monitoring emergency department wait times to detect emergent influenza pandemics, a model that alerts authorities of spikes in emergency room wait times that can be attributed to emergent flu pandemics. The solution sources real-time data from a network of 142 hospitals in 19 states and is updated hourly, allowing agencies to quickly intervene.
  • William Pilkington & team, Cabarrus County, North Carolina, for One Health Alert System, a symptoms database that analyzes the Daily Disease Report’s top ten symptoms as seen by 43 health care providers in North Carolina. The model flags disease outbreak using textual predictive analytics and accounts for seasonal rates of change.
  • Computational Epidemiology Lab at Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, MAfor Pandemic Pulse, a tool that integrates six data streams to detect bio-threat signals. First, it alerts agencies using Twitter, Google Search, transportation, news, and HealthMap data of an anomaly in the data stream, then it tracks potential biothreats using live transportation data on Flu Near You.
  • Daniel B. Neill and Mallory Nobles, Pittsburgh, PA,for Pre-syndromic Surveillance,  a machine learning system that overlays real-time emergency room chief complaint data with social media and news data using the semantic scan, a novel approach to text analysis. The model detects emerging clusters of rare disease cases that do not correspond to known syndrome types.

Big commitment from BitCoinLatina boosts TopiaCoin ICO

Credit: Business Examiner

Topia Technology’s TopiaCoin cryptocurrency received a boost today when the Tacoma cybersecurity firm announced that BitCoinLatina Foundation has committed one million of its own tokens toward TopiaCoin’s initial coin offering.

In a nutshell, BitCoinLatina — already one of Topia Technology’s clients — is purchasing TopiaCoins with one million tokens of its cryptocurrency, BitcoinLatina. TopiaCoins are currently in private pre-sale, with the public ICO scheduled for March 5.

Topia launched TopiaCoin to raise money to fund its development of new cybersecurity technology that combines its own software with blockchain. Blockchain is a technology already used by several in the cryptocurrency world to provide transparency within transactions.

“We are committed to working with the blockchain community to advance data security,” said Janine Terrano, CEO, Topia Technology. “We are excited to partner with an existing customer, BitcoinLatina Foundation, to bring data security to decentralized systems. This partnership represents a giant step forward in enabling consumers and enterprises to use the resources on the internet without going through a central authority.”

Tacoma startup Kade & Vos, Founder, featured in NY Times

Credit: Ellen Rosen, NY Times

Nadia Boujarwah knows personally that shopping for plus-size clothes can be difficult. But it was only while she was a student at Harvard Business School that she realized something else: The lack of options presented a commercial opportunity.

A year after graduating, Ms. Boujarwah and a business school classmate, Lydia Gilbert, began testing the market by acting as personal shoppers. And they saw their opening: offering women sizes 14 and up five articles of clothing chosen by a stylist who takes into account individual preferences. In 2015, they started an online retail site, Dia & Co.

“I hadn’t intended for retailing to be a career choice,” Ms. Boujarwah said. “But when I was in business school, I realized that my formative experiences were shared with millions of women. It was a call to arms for me. This was a problem for many women that I could play a role in.”

The scarcity of larger sizes stems from a deeply rooted stigma in the fashion industry — many designers either ignore or reject requests to offer their styles above a certain size. There are also manufacturing complications: Progressing from size 2 to 12 can be a simple matter of scale, but larger sizes often require a separate pattern to account for different proportions and entail more fabric, raising the production cost.

“I sat in on hundreds of meeting with designers, and this customer was never part of the conversation,” said Mariah Chase, an industry veteran and the chief executive of Eloquii, an e-commerce site devoted to plus sizes. “Once I understood the sheer size of the population and the dearth of merchandise, it blew my mind.”

Home buyers in Tacoma could benefit from Seattle tech startup, Loftium

Credit: Clare McGrane, Geekwire

Loftium made a splash last year when it launched a novel homebuying service in Seattle. The startup provides customers with cash for their down payment if they agree to then rent out a room on Airbnb and split the profits with the company. Today, Loftium is expanding beyond Seattle proper to the greater metro region.

Homebuyers in Tacoma, Bellevue, and Everett are now eligible for the service, though there is already a waitlist in the greater Seattle metro.

Loftium bills itself as a way to make buying homes more affordable, particularly in expensive markets like Seattle. Home buyers agree to rent out part of their home on Airbnb for 12 to 36 months. Loftium splits the profits from the Airbnb with the customer on a sliding scale, depending on their contract.

“The goal is to ensure that cities don’t become places where only the very, very wealthy can afford to own, that there’s still this ability for middle-class people to be able to own a home,” Loftium Co-Founder Yifan Zhang told GeekWire in a previous interview.

Zhang told GeekWire in an email that expanding outside Seattle will “show that Loftium works just as well outside tourism-heavy, expensive urban areas,” and inform the startup as it expands to more cities later this year.

Margaret Groves: How I Ended Up Co-Hosting a Women In Tech Event (Or, My Dreams Came True!)

Credit: Margaret Groves, Engineered Process Improvement

I had no idea what he would say, but I had to ask. 

"Would you like a co-host?" I said. "I'm available."

Plain and simple. Words of one syllable. Put it right out there. And then, I gave him options. "But if you'd like to use someone else, Ms. X of LocalTechCo and Ms. Y of LocalTechOrg might be good options. I don't know them personally, but I'm sure they'd be delighted." (This was possibly a big presumption, but heck, *I* would have been delighted, so I assumed they would be, too.} And then, the selling point: "I think it would be good PR to have a woman in tech as a co-host for this Women In Tech event."

I read over the email: Pitch, options, selling points. Not too long. High value (I used specific examples), low word count. No weasel words, or overuse of the word "just", as in, "I just think..." (When I see or hear that, I always want to respond, "Yes, that's all you're doing. You're JUST thinking. When you're ready to contribute something of value, please let me know.") But I digress.

I hit send. 

I had to wait, maybe, a few hours. Not long at all. "I would LOVE a co-host," he wrote back. And then he refunded my ticket with the caption, "Hosts don't pay. :)" It was that easy. 

I've said this before and I'll say it again: as women, we are NOT TRAINED in the art of the ask. Why? Well...when was the last time YOU asked someone out? Think about those ramifications for a second.

That's right. In the society in which we live, men gather ten to twenty years of experience, in their EARLY and FORMATIVE years, of asking people out. Women don't. TEN to TWENTY YEARS of EXTREMELY EARLY EXPERIENCE ASKING PEOPLE OUT. And, just to compare, women...don't have this. It's not a subjective discussion question. It's a fact. 

So the next time some well-meaning "meritocracy" apologist says to you, "Well, men get paid more because women don't ASK for raises!", I suggest this plan of action: resist strangling that person, nod, (because it's true) and then make a note to yourself to go out and practice asking for things three times that week. At the second-hand store, ask if they'll take less for this bag.  At work, ask for informational interviews with high-ranking women or men you admire. In line at Safeway, ask the person in front of you with 40 items if they wouldn't mind letting you go ahead with your half gallon of milk. The key to this practice is to ask LEVEL or UP. Don't practice asking by "asking" the waiter for extra sauce or the barista for an extra shot. They're getting paid to be nice to you and that is not fair. Ask for favors from those on YOUR LEVEL or UP. 

Or, you know, if you'd prefer, just quickly walking away from the meritocracy apologist and taking a professional development class about emotional intelligence are good options, too.

UPS grad and Seattle startup veteran, Jesse Proudman, unveils new cryptocurrency company Strix Leviathan

Credit: John Cook, Geekwire

Seattle entrepreneur Jesse Proudman — who recently quit his job at IBM to launch a new cryptocurrency startup — is sharing more details about the new initiative.

The 6-person startup company is called Strix Leviathan, an ode to the mythological creatures of Strix, the owl that in the words of the startup is “always watching and always listening,” and Leviathan, the sea monster with “eight legs, a big brain.”

The company is venturing into a complex, yet hot area of technology of helping organizations better trade cryptocurrencies. It describes its software platform as a way to combine “order execution and data ingestion engine with artificial intelligence, machine learning and proprietary algorithms to create the optimal environment for automated trading.”

“As the past several weeks have proven, the market value of crypto assets can fluctuate wildly,” said Proudman in a statement. “Cryptocurrency markets lack a way to address this volatility in an automated and algorithmic way. Strix Leviathan has solved that problem.”

Cryptocurrency remains a hot — yet relatively misunderstood — area of the startup world. According to PitchBook, 179 venture capital investors in the U.S. participated in at least one crypto startup deal in the past two years.

Proudman is well known in Seattle startup circles. He previously founded Blue Box, the cloud computing company that sold to IBM in 2016. At IBM, he served as a distinguished engineer. He’s also the past winner of the Young Entrepreneur of the Year, and Deal of the Year Award at the GeekWire Awards.