Startup253 Company Profile: Packaged Life

Startup253 serves the Tacoma and South Sound startup communities through events, resources, data and insights.  Through the Startup253 Company Profile, Startup253 supports entrepreneurs and startups in Tacoma and the South Sound by providing them with a platform to share their story.

Startup253 Company Profile: Packaged Life.

Founder and CEO, Amy Atherton

Location: Tacoma, Washington


Elevator pitch, GO!  Explain what Packaged Life does:

Packaged Life is a tech startup that aggregates all school communication in 1 daily package. We can aggregate all the activities of your family, with all your separate children in one package. One login, one password- for the entire family. Time stamped and trackable by the administration, our software will save parents and teachers hundreds, if not thousands of hours of labor, thousands of dollars worth of paper, and ease parents and teachers' lives.

How (and when) were you inspired to start your company:

I am a parent of 3 children in school. Daily I am bombarded with robocalls/voicemails from the school, crumpled papers in backpacks, weekly folders, daily folders, phone calls, emails, and snail mail and I am STILL missing communication. I get duplicates of information and still missed communication on my daughter's picture day and my son's winter party.

The path to funding (Bootstrap, Angel or VC):

Currently bootstrapping. Looking for a VC or angel. Applying to 500 Startups and YC in 2018.

Tell us about your ‘secret sauce’ without giving away your ‘secret sauce’:

There is no other software technology that aggregates the entire families' activities in one place. Additionally there is not a communication system that schools can use that tracks who and when communication was opened.

What's the smartest move you've made thus far?

Humbly asking for help. By asking people at Amazon, Gigster, Glu, and Oracle for help it has filled in the spaces where I am less experienced.

What's the biggest mistake you've made thus far? (Note: There are no mistakes, only learning lessons)

At first I hired college students to create my software. I wasted valuable time, but the lesson I learned was that it's worth it to give up more equity to get a more experienced team.

Windows Phone, Apple, or Android?

Apple, but our platform will work on all. ;)

How do you strengthen the relationship(s) with your team? 

Doing something fun! Beer tasting, wine tasting, coffee tasting.

What characteristic(s) do you look for when hiring a new employee:

Drive. In the startup world they need to be able to have the entrepreneurial spirit and inner drive to create something out of nothing.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out?

Two things:

Most people will think you are crazy. All successful people were thought to be crazy at some point. You have to be willing to believe in your product no matter what anyone else thinks or says.

Do something everyday that scares you. Those who succeed have no fear of failure. By doing something everyday that scares you, you flex that muscle so that nothing will stand in your way.

A Place for Working Moms with Kids in Tow

Credit: South Sound Magazine

Working moms have a new alternative to help them balance work and play in Tacoma. The Pod Works is a mom-made (kid-friendly) co-working and lifestyle space in University Place. Local work from home mom Kayla Schroader felt Tacoma lacked a mom-minded working environment that provide the flexibility and community that moms are seeking in the early years. With this in mind, she opened The Pod Works.

Memberships to this new “mom’s club” start at $49 and $89 a month and support budding mompreneurs. Information is available here and at 7024 27th Ave West A in University Place. The Pod Works also hosts public workshops, events, and birthday parties.

The Right Way to Support Your City's Local Startups

Credit: David Zipper, 1776 Venture Fund

HQ2—Amazon’s very public search for a second headquarters in North America—has attracted applications from over 200 citiesoffering an array of taxpayer subsidies as part of their pitch. But the expense and distraction of the HQ2 competition have also created a backlash, as skeptics question whether corporate relocation should drive a city’s economic development strategy. Many, myself included, have thrown water on the HQ2 euphoria, suggesting that city resources are better spent nurturing local startups loyal to their hometown rather than on front-loaded incentives for companies like Amazon based elsewhere.

But if a city is going to shift its economic development strategy toward a “grow-your-own” orientation, where should it focus resources? There are a number of potentially powerful approaches to choose from. But there’s at least one tactic city officials should avoid. Just as corporate relocation packages like HQ2 generally aren’t a good idea given the cost of incentives, neither are large contracts to local startups for untested or inferior products. City officials are often asked to make such deals to support ambitious local entrepreneurs. They should resist the temptation.

Although a fast-fashion app or a manufacturing process tool won’t probably want city contracts, a wide array of startups in sectors like education, construction, and transportation see local government as a potential customer and respected validator. There is a reason why most cities’ economic development offices get a steady stream of pitches from local entrepreneurs.

Tacoma’s historic Old City Hall is up for sale again

Credit: Kate Martin, The News Tribune

More than two years ago, the city asked developers to send their pitches for the 124-year-old building. Four developers replied with their visions.

Nothing panned out, so the city is trying again.

“We have received interest from a variety of developers,” said Elly Walkowiak, assistant director for the city’s Economic Development Department, via email.

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Startup253 featured in

Credit: Monica Laufer, Engine

Why Tacoma’s Thriving Intellectual Workforce Is Attracting Startups

Tacoma, Washington is a city between the booming Seattle and Portland ecosystem. But why are startups taking up residence in this city versus the nearby ones? In this interview series of #StartupsEverywhere, we talked with Lee Reeves, cofounder of Startup253, and Shadrach White, founder and CEO of cloudPWR, to talk about the differences between the cities, the uptick in the business sector and emerging startups.


35798865180_d308bf8e96_k-e1511204133401.jpg touts the city’s assets, from incentives to amenities to available properties.

Credit: Kate Martin, Tacoma News Tribune

A month after Tacoma and Pierce County, and hundreds of other cities, applied to lure Amazon’s second headquarters here, the city and its boosters have set their sights on smaller companies that might be looking for a South Sound home.

They’ve launched a new website they hope will help. touts the city’s assets, from incentives to amenities to available properties.

The website will allow businesses to do deep research into Tacoma’s workforce, educational opportunities and what it’s like to live here.

“Before (companies) make that phone call, they check on the city or county, first via a web search,” said Elly Walkowiak, assistant director for the city’s Economic Development Department. “If your web presence is not robust, then there’s a possibility you’ll never even know they were looking at you.”

The prize: $50,000. The challenge: Decode mysteries of monarch butterfly migration

Credit: Debbie Cockrell, Tacoma News Tribune

Monarch butterflies can mesmerize their audience.

Just ask Eli Moreno, Tacoma entrepreneur and founder of startup co-working spaces Surge Tacoma and Union Club.

Fifteen years ago, Moreno and his family were vacationing in Mexico.

“We stopped by a monarch butterfly reserve where they spend winter, and we were just overwhelmed by the natural beauty,” Moreno said. “It was an incredible site, and we felt we were walking on sacred ground. We came back and decided as a family we personally wanted to help.”

This year, Moreno says, the butterflies have been slow to migrate.

“For a monarch butterfly to be in the Northeast (United States) this late is very unusual,” Moreno told The News Tribune. “They are not going to make it to Mexico in time before it gets too cold. Scientists attribute it to climate change, and it is fooling the butterflies to not go.”

Current tracking methods are not ideal.

“Contemporary methods of tracking this migration rely on adhesive tags applied to the hindwing, a limited system that requires researchers to find the butterflies sometime later, usually after death,” the group’s news release states. “Overall, this method fails to provide key points of information, such as the butterflies’ daily migratory flight and how environmental conditions affect that flight.”

Dr. Karen Oberhauser, director of the Arboretum at the University of Wisconsin, is optimistic on what will be gained from a prize-winning entry.

“The additional data that we can gather from an advanced tracking device would allow us to aid in the preservation of this migration,” she said in the group’s news release.

Chip Taylor is founder and director of Monarch Watch, a professor with the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Kansas and a Monarch Butterfly Fund board member.

Taylor said understanding the migration adds to our larger understanding of nature.

“It’s more than just monarch: It’s pollinators, ground-nesting birds, small mammals, biodiversity ecosystem resilience and integrity, respect for the system that sustain us,” he said in a statement. “The bottom line is that it’s in our self-interest to save the monarch migration and all the life forms that share the same habitats. The monarch decline — among many other signals — is telling us we need to slow down and to put the brakes on the processes that are leading degradation of the very systems that support life.

“Last February a reporter asked me, ‘Why do you environmentalists protect animals rather than people?’ Same answer: Saving wildlife is all about saving ourselves from ourselves.”

UW Tacoma multidisciplinary group develops Lab-On-A-Chip; Tech Uses Smartphone to Diagnose Infectious Diseases

Credit: R&DMagazine, Kenny Walter, Digital Reporter



A multidisciplinary group that includes the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaignand the University of Washington at Tacoma has developed a novel platform to diagnose infectious disease at the point-of-care, using a smartphone as the detection instrument in conjunction with a test kit in the format of a credit card. The group is led by Illinois Electrical and Computer EngineeringProfessor Brian T. Cunningham; Illinois Bioengineering Professor Rashid Bashir; and, University of Washington at Tacoma Professor David L. Hirschberg, who is affiliated with Sciences and Mathematics, division of the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.

Findings have been published in Analytical Chemistry, demonstrating detection of four horse respiratory diseases, and in Biomedical Microdevices, where the system was used to detect and quantify the presence of Zika, Dengue, and Chikungunya virus in a droplet of whole blood. Project collaborators include Dr. David Nash, a private practice equine expert and veterinarian in Kentucky, and Dr. Ian Brooks, a computer scientist at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications.

The low-cost, portable, smartphone-integrated system provides a promising solution to address the challenges of infectious disease diagnostics, especially in resource-limited settings or in situations where a result is needed immediately. The diagnostic tool's integration with mobile communications technology allows personalized patient care and facilitates information management for both healthcare providers and epidemiological surveillance efforts. Importantly, the system achieves detection limits comparable to those obtained by laboratory-based methods and instruments, in about 30 minutes.

High-tech mouth guards helping high school football players stay safe on the field

Credit: KOMO News, Tammy Mutasa

High-tech computers hit a local high school football field on Friday night in a surprising place.

They're inside the players' mouths and they're tracking a danger many young athletes are facing right now.

Spanaway Lake High School is trying to tackle the concussion problem using cutting edge Vector mouth guards.

For Spanaway Lake football players, a winning game isn’t only about scoring—it’s about safety.

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UW Tacoma EMAR Project Awarded NSF Grant

Credit: UW Tacoma Blog

The National Science Foundation has awarded a $1.1 million grant to fund the development of a robot that will be used to measure stress in teens. EMAR [Ecological Momentary Assessment Robot] is the brainchild of UW Tacoma Nursing & Healthcare Leadership clinical faculty Elin Björling and School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences Assistant Professor Emma Rose.

Björling and Rose enlisted UW Assistant Professor Maya Cakmak to help with the creation of an autonomous social robot. EMAR would be sent to schools to collect information about stress levels and moods in order to help students cope. “Teens suffer more stress than any other age group and they’re more negatively impacted by it in terms of mental health, physical health and suicidal ideation,” said Rose.

Björling and Rose spent the past year-and-a-half using participatory design sessions to better understand teens. The idea is to get a sense of what the young people would like to see in a robot. The three-year grant will allow them to expand upon their work. “A big part of our project includes outreach for underrepresented communities in STEM,” said Rose. “We’re looking into how we get voices into the conversation that aren’t normally included.”