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2022 GeekWire Awards revealed: Community celebrates big winners in Pacific NW tech

Community. It felt good to say it and hear it, and it felt even better to see it in action on Thursday in Seattle as the tech community gathered for the…

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The scene at the 2022 GeekWire Awards at the Showbox SoDo in Seattle on Thursday. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Community.

It felt good to say it and hear it, and it felt even better to see it in action on Thursday in Seattle as the tech community gathered for the GeekWire Awards in person for the first time in three years.

With a room full of innovators, entrepreneurs, CEOs, scientists, tech titans, talented teachers and more at Showbox SoDo, GeekWire recognized more than 60 finalists and honorees across 15 categories. There were hundreds of nominations and more than 16,000 community votes this year.

After a rough couple of years because of a pandemic that kept everyone apart, being together again seemed to strike a tone, from the first award to the last.

“It takes a village to build a startup, so thank all of you guys in Seattle tech for making this place a village,” said Linda Lian, CEO of Common Room, as she accepted the night’s first award — Startup of the Year.

“We believe that nice people can come first,” said Anoop Gupta of SeekOut, as he accepted CEO of the Year honors at the end of the show. “Being nice, being empathetic does not mean that you’re not results oriented, and that you don’t compete.”

“The Drunken Tenor” Robert McPherson opens the GeekWire Awards with a song on Thursday. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

In between, guest appearances in person and via video included Seattle Opera sensation Robert “The Drunken Tenor” McPherson; Death Cab for Cutie singer Ben Gibbard; Seattle Seahawks great Doug Baldwin; and President of the United States of America singer Chris Ballew.

Baldwin addressed the crowd like he was rallying his former team in a huddle, commanding attention like he used to on the football field.

“There’s a lot of power, a lot of influence and a lot of money in this room. And I want you to hear this from me,” he said. “I encourage you to realize the power and the influence that you have, the impact that you have. I know we’re here to have fun, but please don’t forget the impact that you can make in the community. Don’t take that for granted.”

Former Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin addresses the crowd at the GeekWire Awards. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Across categories recognizing deals, innovations, hardware, workplaces, geeks who give back and more, the winners paid tribute to their teams, their customers and the wider community for supporting the journey.

Stephanie Winslow, a teacher at South Kitsap High School, was honored as one of three STEM Educators of the Year. She said she came to the event not knowing what to expect. She left the stage to a cheering audience, clutching a robot trophy.

“As I was talking to people in the crowd, I was brought to tears by the excitement and the amazing things that are happening,” Winslow said in her acceptance speech. “As a teacher, you could have been my students. You are making your dreams come true. Your teachers would be very proud. Keep on doing what you’re doing!”

Keep reading for all the winners and honorees from the 2022 GeekWire Awards, presented by Astound Business Solutions.

Startup of the Year, presented by Meridian Capital

Winner: Common Room

Viraj Mody, left, and Linda Lian, co-founders of Common Room, accept the Startup of the Year award at the 2022 GeekWire Awards in Seattle on Thursday. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

The gist: Common Room’s software aims to help companies deepen relationships with their users and customers. Integrating with communication apps such as Slack, Twitter, Discord, and more, the idea is to make “community” a competitive advantage, connecting users with each other and soliciting product feedback. CEO Linda Lian is a former associate at Madrona Venture Group and senior product marketing manager at Amazon Web Services. CTO Viraj Mody was formerly the engineering director at Dropbox and technical advisor to the CEO at Seattle startup Convoy.

See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Copper Banking; DexCare; Logixboard; and WhyLabs.

Young Entrepreneur of the Year, presented by ALLtech

Winner: Esha Joshi and Varun Puri of Yoodli

Varun Puri, co-founder of Yoodli, accepts the Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

The gist: Yoodli is an AI-enabled software platform that analyzes delivery and gives tips for improvement — in a non-judgmental way — on public speaking opportunities such as company presentations or wedding toasts. The Seattle startup is an AI2 spinout, and Puri and Joshi are AI2 entrepreneurs-in-residence.

See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Nancy Xiao; Tori Dunlap; Shane Kovalsky; and Michael Petrochuk.

Public Policy Champion for Innovation, presented by WTIA

Winners: Sen. Reuven Carlyle and Sen. Sharon Brown

Sen. Sharon Brown, right, accepts the Public Policy Champion for Innovation award, alongside Dr. Wendy Carlyle, who was accepting on behalf of her husband, Sen. Reuven Carlyle. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

The gist: This new award recognizes outstanding elected officials in Washington state for their contributions to the tech sector. Sen. Reuven Carlyle of Seattle counts his work addressing climate change as his most important contribution to the Legislature. Sen. Sharon Brown of Kennewick, Wash., established the SciTech Caucus, open to lawmakers from either house and any party, to advance technology solutions.

See this post for more background on this category and other highlights from Brown’s and Carlyle’s careers.

Deal of the Year: Funding, presented by Wilson Sonsini

Winner: Place

Vija Williams, head of industry at Place, accepts the Deal of the Year, Funding award. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

The gist: Bellingham, Wash.-based Place, a real estate technology and services company, raised the first outside capital in its history last November: a $100 million Series A round led by Goldman Sachs Asset Management, at a valuation of more than $1 billion.

See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Esper; Tomo; Shelf Engine; and Symbl.ai.

Deal of the Year: IPOs, Acquisitions & Mega Financings, presented by Wilson Sonsini

Winner: Remitly

Saema Somalya, general counsel at Remitly, acceps the award for Deal of the Year, IPOs, Acquisitions, & Mega Financings. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

The gist: Remitly was valued at nearly $7 billion when it went public last September. The Seattle fintech giant’s mobile technology lets people send and receive money across borders, including immigrants in the U.S. and U.K. who support families back home in countries such as the Philippines, India, El Salvador, and others. The service eliminates forms, codes, and agents typically associated with the international money transfer process.

See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Ally, ExtraHop, Rec Room, and ZipWhip.

Innovation of the Year, presented by Astound Business Solutions

Winner: First Mode

Maggie Scholtz, vice president of engineering at First Mode, takes home the trophy for Innovation of the Year for First Mode. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

The gist: The Seattle engineering company has developed a hydrogen fuel cell generator that can power massive trucks, retrofitting big vehicles to provide a clean source of energy. One of the first applications of the generator created “one of the biggest zero-emission vehicles on the planet,” which made its debut last week at a South African platinum mine.

See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Eviation, Helion, Spaceflight Inc., and StormSensor.

Health Innovation of the Year

Winner: Truveta

Truveta COO Lisa Gurry accepts the company’s award for Health Innovation of the Year. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

The gist: Truveta aims to aggregate data across healthcare systems to provide medical insights. The Seattle-area startup has 20 healthcare partners and access to medical records representing more than 15% of U.S. patient care. The ultimate goal is to learn which health interventions work best and to improve patient care, CEO Terry Myerson, a former Microsoft executive, told GeekWire. The company recently released an early version of its health data platform and has raised close to $200 million in funding to date.

See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: A-Alpha Bio; Parse Biosciences; Tasso; and the University of Washington’s Institute for Protein Design.

UX Design of the Year, presented by Blink UX

Winner: Humanly

Prem Kumar, co-founder and CEO of Humanly, accepts the company’s award for UX Design of the Year. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

The gist: Founded in 2018, Humanly is a Seattle HR startup that helps companies screen job candidates, schedule interviews, automate initial communication, run reference checks, and more. GeekWire Awards judges said they “enjoyed the grassroots human-centered design effort that the team put into this app — the founders conducting their own research in the field. We were impressed with their focus on diversity and this was apparent in several areas and features of the platform.”

See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Crelate; Genba; and Secure.

STEM Educator of the Year, presented by DreamBox Learning

Winners: Devina Khan, Johanna Brown, Stephanie Winslow

Devina Khan, teacher at West Valley School District 208. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)
Johanna Brown, teacher at Pullman High School. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)
Stephanie Winslow, teacher at South Kitsap High School. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

The gist: Devina Khan is an instructional designer at the West Valley Innovation Center in Yakima County where, among other things, she has promoted tech education for middle school students, guiding them to earning Microsoft certifications in seventh grade. | Johanna Brown has embraced a “gradeless” classroom at Pullman High School, where instead of accumulating points, students demonstrate their mastery of subjects through inquiry, project-based learning, and explaining the science. | Stephanie Winslow is a teacher of AP environmental science, astronomy and earth science classes, and an advisor for STEM Club and the Link Crew leadership program at South Kitsap High School.

See this post for more background on this category.

Geeks Give Back Award, presented by BECU

Honorees: The Black Boardroom Initiative, Coding Dojo, CovidWA.com

From left, Trey Chenier, an associate with Perkins Coie’s Startup & Venture Capital Practice, on behalf of The Black Boardroom Initiative; George Hu, co-founder of COVIDWA.com; and Kiana Pan, president of Coding Dojo, during the Geeks Give Back award acceptance. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

The gist: In less than a month, the all-volunteer effort COVIDWA.com created a platform to help Washington residents efficiently locate highly sought after COVID vaccines. COVIDWA helped serve some 3 million users. | Founded nearly a decade ago, Coding Dojo has trained 11,000 students and awarded $13 million dollars in financial support. Recently, the company created a program benefitting refugee students. | Perkins Coie launched the Black Boardroom Initiative to increase the diversity of S&P 500 corporate boards by training potential candidates.

See this post for more background on this category.

Hardware/Gadget/Robotics of the Year

Winner: Pallet

Amy King, CEO of Pallet, accepts the award for Hardware/Gadget/Robotics of the Year. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

The gist: Pallet is an Everett, Wash.-based social purpose corporation working to end unsheltered homelessness. The company’s shelters are made of easy to assemble hard plastic panels. A single unit can be erected in an hour and a 50-cabin village can be built in a day. The structures are easy to clean and resistant to mildew and water damage.

See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; Carbon Robotics; Wyze; and Picnic.

Next Tech Titan, presented by Fuel Talent

Winner: Highspot

Lucas Welch, VP of marketing at Highspot, accepts the company’s win for Next Tech Titan. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

The gist: Highspot’s enterprise software aims to help make salespeople more efficient, equipping them with technology to improve how they have conversations with prospective buyers, among other features. The company reeled in $248 million as part of a Series F round in January, less than a year after raising $200 million. It is now valued at $3.5 billion, which is up 4X over the past two years.

See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: fabric; iSpot; Karat; and OctoML.

Workplace of the Year, presented by JLL

Winner: Edifecs

Ravi Soin, vice president of SaaS, IT & operations at Edifecs, accepts the company’s Workplace of the Year award. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

The gist: Bellevue, Wash.-based healthcare software company Edifecs offers services that enable interoperability of data across systems, unifying clinical and financial information. The company prides itself on centering its culture “from the inside out,” ensuring each employee has access to health and wellness resources they need to feel happy and productive at work. The company offers a state-of-the-art “Wellbeing Center” complete with yoga classes, bikes for commuting, fresh-squeezed juice, and weekly cooking classes. It also offers virtual dance classes and nutrition support.

See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: F5; Flyhomes; Icertis; and Uplevel.

Startup CEO of the Year, presented by Aon

Winner: Raghu Gollamudi, CEO of Included

Included’s Raghu Gollamudi, winner of the Startup CEO of the Year. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

The gist: Included’s software supports its customers diversity, equity and inclusion efforts with measures like evaluating the diversity of the candidate pool and interview panel. Gollamudi previously launched Integris Software, a privacy tech company, which was acquired by OneTrust Data Discovery for an undisclosed sum. His interest in Included has origins in experiencing a variety of work cultures as an immigrant from India.

See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Justin Beals of Strike Graph; Gaurav Oberoi of Lexion; Linda Lian of Common Room; and Ambika Singh of Armoire.

CEO of the Year, presented by RSM US, LLP

Winner: Anoop Gupta, CEO of SeekOut

Anoop Gupta, left, CEO of SeekOut, accepts the CEO of the Year award alongside GeekWire co-founder John Cook. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

The gist: SeekOut’s AI-powered recruiting technology is used by more than 1,000 companies. The company, which won Startup of the Year honors at the 2021 GeekWire Awards, saw its annual recurring revenue triple in the last nine months of 2021, into the $25-to-$50 million range. Anoop Gupta is a former technical assistant to Bill Gates who previously led Microsoft’s Unified Communications Group. SeekOut raised $115 million in new funding in January at a valuation of more than $1 billion.

See this post for more background on this category. Other finalists: Karl Siebrecht of Flexe; Bill Richter of Qumulo; Sandi Lin of Skilljar; Xiao Wang of Boundless; and Maria Colacurcio of Syndio.

Thanks, everyone!

A big thanks to Astound Business Solutions, the presenting sponsor of the 2022 GeekWire Awards. Also, thanks to gold-level and category sponsors: Wilson SonsiniALLtechJLLDreamBox LearningBlink UXBECUBairdFuel TalentRSMAonMeridian Capital, and WTIA. And thanks to silver level sponsors: J.P. Morgan ChaseMaterial+, and Tomo.

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Zillow Case-Shiller Forecast for May: Slowing House Price Growth

The Case-Shiller house price indexes for April were released this week. The “April” report is a 3-month average including February, March and April closings.  So, this included price increases when mortgage rates were significantly lower than today. Th…

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The Case-Shiller house price indexes for April were released this week. The "April" report is a 3-month average including February, March and April closings.  So, this included price increases when mortgage rates were significantly lower than today. This report includes some homes with contracts signed last December (that closed in February)!

Zillow forecasts Case-Shiller a month early, and I like to check the Zillow forecasts since they have been pretty close.

From Zillow Research: April 2022 Case-Shiller Results & Forecast: Putting on the Brakes
With rates continuing their steep ascent and inventory picking up in months since, April is likely the first month of this deceleration as buyers balked at the cost of purchasing a home and pulled out of the market, leading to slower price growth. While inventory is improving, there is still plenty of room to go before it reaches its pre-pandemic trend. Still, coupled with relatively strong demand, that will continue to be a driver for sustained high prices even as sales volume is dropping in response to affordability constraints. As a result, more buyers will take a step to the sidelines in the coming months, which will help inventory to recover and price growth to slow from its peak, leading the market back to a more balanced stable state in the long run and providing more future opportunities for homeownership for those priced out today.

Annual home price growth as reported by Case-Shiller are expected to slow in all three indices. Monthly appreciation in May is expected to decelerate from April in both city indices, and hold in the national index. S&P Dow Jones Indices is expected to release data for the May S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices on Tuesday, July 26.
emphasis added
The Zillow forecast is for the year-over-year change for the Case-Shiller National index to be 19.5% in May. This is slightly slower than in February, March and April, but still very strong YoY growth.

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Spread & Containment

Airline stocks have been beset by external problems but could now be a good time to invest in a sector many think is in crisis?

It’s fair to say it has been a tough couple of years for the commercial aviation sector and investors in airline stocks. In 2019 the sector enjoyed record…

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It’s fair to say it has been a tough couple of years for the commercial aviation sector and investors in airline stocks. In 2019 the sector enjoyed record passenger numbers and 2020 was expected to be better yet. Low cost airlines were expanding aggressively, as they had been for years, and national carriers, in response, had made strides in cutting costs and introducing other efficiencies.

Then the Covid-19 pandemic struck, devastating the sector. Over the early part of the pandemic when international travel was severely restricted, airlines operated skeleton schedules. Severely reduced capacity, and schedules regularly interrupted by new lockdowns and shifting government policies bedevilled the sector for the next two years.

Even over the past few months which have seen most pandemic-related travel restrictions drop, a spate of new problems has hampered the sector’s recovery. Staff shortages, the result of a combination of the continuing need for those that become infected with Covid-19 to isolate and a tight labour market, have been a major headache. London-listed easyJet recently cut its capacity forecasts as a result of staffing issues.

And last week over 700 Heathrow airport staff voted to strike over the peak summer period, which promises chaos, and hundreds of cancelled flights, if an agreement can’t be reached over pay in the meanwhile. Staff at three Spanish airports are also calling for industrial action this summer and strikes are a threat elsewhere around Europe’s favourite holiday destinations.

Sky high fuel costs will also put pressure on margins this summer and potentially well into next year and a growing cost of living crisis sparked by inflation levels at 40-year highs will not help demand.

Airline share prices have predictably slumped since the onset of the pandemic. EasyJet’s valuation is down over 50% in the past year and over 75% since summer 2018. Its shares haven’t been worth as little as they currently are since early January 2012.

easyjet plc

Hope on the horizon?

But despite the fact the immediate future still looks tough for airlines, there are a number of reasons why investors might consider dipping into their stocks now or in the months ahead.

The first is that the bulk of the problems that have crushed airline valuations over the past couple of years have been external factors outwith control and unrelated to the underlying quality of companies. They are also all problems that are expected to be temporary and will ease in future. Covid-19 restrictions are, with the notable exception of China, no longer a big issue and hopefully won’t return. And even China recently reduced its mandatory quarantine period for anyone arriving in the country from two weeks to seven days.

That’s still problematic but a sign that an end to the dark cloud of the pandemic may finally be in sight. Most airlines were forced to either take on significant new debt or raise cash through equity issues that diluted existing shareholders, or through mechanisms such as selling and leasing back aircraft.

It will take time for that gearing to be unwound and balance sheets brought back to health. But the sector will eventually recover from the pandemic which should see higher valuations return, providing a buying opportunity at current depressed levels.

Airlines that have come out of the pandemic in the strongest positions will also likely gain market share from weaker rivals, improving their future prospects. British Airways owner IAG, for example, currently has access to more than £10 billion in cash after raising capital to cover losses over the pandemic. EasyJet has access to £4.4 billion. That means both should be well placed to cover any continuing short term losses until passenger numbers return to 2019 levels and push their advantage over less well-capitalised rivals.

Both IAG and easyJet have also seen their passenger capacity improve significantly in recent months. Over the all-important summer quarter to September, the latter expects its passenger capacity to reach 90% of 2019 levels despite the ongoing operational challenges. IAG expects to return to 90% of 2019 capacity over the last quarter of the year.

A full recovery to 2019 levels is possible by next year even if higher costs are likely to mean ticket price increases are inevitable. That does pose a risk for near-term leisure travel demand but there is confidence that remaining pent-up demand from the pandemic period will help soften the impact on discretionary spending on international travel that might have otherwise been more pronounced. Western consumers have also, the pandemic period apart, become so accustomed to taking foreign holidays that some analysts now question if they should still be considered discretionary spending rather than a staple.

Despite the transient and external nature of the problems that have hit easyJet’s valuation, not all analysts are convinced the current share price offers good value even despite its depressed level. They still look relatively expensive given the risks still facing the sector at a forward price-to-earnings ratio of close to x160.

iag

IAG could offer better value, currently trading at a price-to-earnings ratio of just x5.8 for next year. It is also expected to reverse return to a healthy profit by 2023. The company also has exposure to the budget airline market through Vueling and Aer Lingus and while it abandoned its move to take over Air Europa late last year it shows it has ambitions to further expand in this area. And it has plenty of capital available to it to make major acquisitions that could fuel growth when the sector recovers.

IAG’s cheap valuation does reflect the risks it faces over the next couple of years but for investors willing to take on a little more risk the potential upside looks attractive.

A dollar-denominated airline stock play

On the other side of the Atlantic, American airlines also suffered during the pandemic but are now recovering strongly. For British investors, dollar-denominated U.S. stocks also offer the attraction of potential gains in pound sterling terms as a result of a strengthening U.S. dollar. The Fed’s more aggressive raising of interest rates compared to the ECB or Bank of England is boosting the dollar against the pound and euro and it is also benefitting from its safe haven status during a period of economic stress.

One U.S. airline that looks particularly interesting right new is Southwest Airlines, the world’s largest low cost carrier. The USA’s domestic travel market has recovered so strongly this year that Southwest expects its Q2 revenues to be 10% higher than those over the same three months in 2019. It’s already profitable again and earnings per share are forecast to come in at $2.67 for 2022 and then leap to $3.84 in 2023. It’s a much more profitable operator than easyHet.

It also, unusually for an American airline, hedges a lot of its oil. That’s expected to see it achieve much better operating margins this year, predicted to reach 15.5% in Q2,  than other airlines being hit by much higher fuel costs. The company isn’t immune to the risk of the impact the inflationary squeeze could have on leisure travel but is seen as one of the most resilient airlines in the sector. It could be a better bet than either of its two London-listed peers.

The post Airline stocks have been beset by external problems but could now be a good time to invest in a sector many think is in crisis? first appeared on Trading and Investment News.

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Falling VIX Spells BIG Trouble For The Bears

If there’s one thing that a bear market – secular or cyclical – feeds on, it’s fear. The further the drop, the bigger the spike we see in the Volatility…

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If there's one thing that a bear market - secular or cyclical - feeds on, it's fear. The further the drop, the bigger the spike we see in the Volatility Index ($VIX). From the CBOE.com website, the VIX "measures the level of expected volatility of the S&P 500 Index over the next 30 days that is implied in the bid/ask quotations of S&P options. Thus, the VIX is a forward-looking measure..." So let's be clear about this. The VIX does NOT measure what's happening now or what just happened last week. Instead, it looks forward to determine expected volatility. High volatility is generally associated with falling equity prices and low volatility typically accompanies rising equity prices.

As fear dissipates, expected volatility drops, and bear markets end. That's the historical formula. Let's start off by looking back to the financial crisis in 2008 and how the spiking VIX unfolded:

The VIX topped in October 2008 and though the S&P 500 hit two lower price points, the bear market ran out of sellers as fear came tumbling down in late 2008 and into the first quarter of 2009.

During the market turbulence in 2014-2016, we saw a somewhat similar pattern:

Q4 2018 was a very short cyclical bear market (less than 3 months), as was the pandemic-led selling in March 2020 (4 weeks), so there really wasn't much time to evaluate the VIX at various low points, but currently we're seeing a similar pattern in the cyclical bear market of 2022:

But the action on the VIX was really strange this week. The S&P 500 saw selling pressure once again, yet the VIX finished very close to a 3-week low. Check out this 1-month 30-minute chart:

From mid-day on Thursday through the early morning Friday, the S&P 500 fell from 3820 to 3750 and the VIX was dropping right along with it. That's extremely unusual behavior. The VIX is looking ahead and it's pricing in less volatility. That suggests that we're being given a signal of a rally ahead. That's the reason the VIX goes down. Less volatility means higher equity prices.

We're heading into a fresh quarterly earnings season and I'll be featuring one company that I believe is poised to make a big run into its quarterly earnings report later this month. To read about it in our next newsletter article, simply CLICK HERE and sign up for our FREE EB Digest newsletter. It only takes a name and email address. There is no credit card required and you may unsubscribe at any time.

Happy trading!

Tom



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