News & Views

 

Smartsheet Conference A ‘Jumping Off Point’ For Work Management Company As It Wades Deeper Into Automation

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Qumulo Intros New Highly Scalable File System That Stretches On-Premises Data Infrastructure To The Cloud

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Saykara – Out of Stealth, Alexa for Physicians

At Madrona, we like to invest in the best entrepreneurs in the Pacific NW attacking the biggest technology markets in the world. Beyond this, we love when we find a founding team that understands and is addressing an acute customer pain point in a way that aligns with our key investment themes. Few times in the last decade have we found a company and a team that meets all of these criteria better than Saykara.

Madrona led the Series Seed in Saykara in 2016, and we are excited for the company to now emerge from stealth mode. Saykara provides an AI-powered, voice-activated virtual scribe for physicians. Think of it as an Alexa for doctors. Thematically, this aligns very well with several of our key investment themes: (1) voice and natural language as a key UI for applications and (2) ML/AI applied to vertical markets.

From a customer perspective, we talked to many physicians and health systems during due diligence and the pain point they have with laboriously filling out the electronic health record (EHR) is incredibly high. Physicians today face a dilemma: (a) type away in the EMR during an exam and thus disrupt and de-personalize the physician-patient interaction or (b) spend hours at night dictating or entering information and losing control of their personal lives. Health systems also have a dilemma. They can provide an in-person (human) scribe who follows the physician around and enters notes into the EHR, but this is generally cost prohibitive for all but the highest revenue generating physicians and specialties.

Creating further pressure for health systems, offering human scribes is becoming a competitive factor in determining which health system a physician decides to join or stay. Nevertheless, most physicians still use the old-fashioned approach of after-hours dictation, an $18B market. Not only is this time-consuming, the resulting EHR entry is the equivalent of an appended Word document – unstructured data that is difficult to search and analyze. There are other newer options using specialized equipment such as Google Glass for capturing the full recording audio/video of the patient visit, which is transcribed overseas. This is also an expensive option, and typically results with output data that has similar challenges to traditional transcription. The end result for health systems is not only overworked and frustrated physicians, but an EMR that is insufficiently populated and lacking in structured data that enables the type of patient-outcome improving and cost-saving analytics that were the original promise of the EMR.

Despite this searing pain point, this problem is a tough nut to crack. The technology is non-trivial, to say the least, and healthcare can be a difficult industry. It takes founders and a team who know both the tech and the market intimately. Co-founders Harjinder Sandhu (CEO) and Kulmeet Singh (board member) fit this bill perfectly. Harjinder and Kulmeet are pioneers in this space, founding the first automated medical transcription company (MedRemote) acquired by Nuance. From getting into the business with MedRemote, Nuance Healthcare has grown into a multi-hundred-billion-dollar business, and Harjinder was the VP/Chief Technologist of R&D for 5 years. Earlier in his career, Harjinder was a CS professor at York specializing in distributed computing.

Not only do we love the problem space and founding team, we think Saykara is building a better mousetrap underpinned with AI and ML technologies that are tuned just for this market. Saykara uses a Siri- or Alexa-like hotword (“OK Kara”) or physical tap on their smartphone to start and stop voice capture. The physician can then talk to the patient as they normally would. The Saykara system accurately transcribes the audio to text, parses the information into structured data, and intelligently inserts the structured data into the correct fields in the EHR. They are building ML that comes into play in two general areas: (1) specialized voice-to-text for natural language and medical vocabulary that accurately captures a physician’s natural verbal interaction with a patient and (2) intelligent parsing of the transcribed information and insertion into the correct field in the EHR.

Thus far the reception has been tremendous. Physicians love it because they can interact with patients in the natural way they always have, without using special equipment, typing, or after-hours dictation. Patients love it because they actually hear what and when the physician is capturing in their medical record. Health systems love it because it improves physician satisfaction, is significantly less expensive than a human scribe or other alternatives, and they end up with EHR data that (over time) can be analyzed to improve clinical decision support.

It is also important to note that Saykara’s ML-driven approach leveraging existing smartphone technology enables a price point that is accessible for all doctors, including family doctors for whom other options are generally price prohibitive.

We are excited to see Saykara come out of stealth and continue to help them in their mission to give ALL physicians back control of their lives and address this important pain point for the healthcare industry.

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Amperity Reveals Marketing Data Platform And Microsoft Partnership As It Aims To Become Seattle’s Next Great Startup

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Amazon Board Member Says Company Will Keep Growing In Seattle

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NFL Star Russell Wilson Launches New Seattle Startup To Connect ‘Superfans’ With Celebs, Raises $9M From Amazon, Alibaba, YouTube Founders

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The Epitome of a Day One Entrepreneur

(Jason LeeKeenan and Russell Wilson of TraceMe)

At Madrona we meet many outstanding entrepreneurs and innovators. Sometimes we meet them when they are starting a company, like Sujal Patel from Isilon or Jesse Rothstein from Extrahop. Other times, like Aaron Easterly from Rover or David Shim from Placed, we got to know them as “rising stars” at prior Madrona companies before they became an entrepreneur. But, this year we got to know someone who for so many of us we feel like we already knew. Over the months of working with him and investing in TraceMe, we have discovered how much more there was to learn about this amazing Day One entrepreneur and the company he started.

The entrepreneur is Russell Wilson and the company he founded is TraceMe. You likely know him best as the All-Pro, Super Bowl Champion, starting quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks. And, attributes that have contributed to Russell’s success in pro football are among those that make him the epitome of a Day One entrepreneur. He is customer-centric, passionate about the opportunity, focused, determined and an attractor of complementary talent.

TraceMe Product Showcase. Russell Wislon, Ask Me Anything.

On the talent front, Russell worked with our friends at Pioneer Square Labs to incubate TraceMe and recruited an amazing star in Jason LeeKeenan to be CEO. Jason’s background includes key roles at Hulu in the early years and Zulily. And, while he is warming up to the Seattle Seahawks as a life-long Patriots fan, he deeply understands the TraceMe opportunity and how to build a sustainable company through innovative content. Jason and Russell are building a world class team of software engineers, video producers and content editors at TraceMe to attack this challenge. Madrona is delighted to be partnering with them as the lead investor in TraceMe’s $9 million Series A financing closed in the spring and announced this week.

At the heart of TraceMe is the idea that celebrities and their loyal fans want more direct and engaging ways to interact. We all see clues about this interest in social media experiences that go beyond current channels in platforms including Twitch for gamers and YouTube for live video bloggers. TraceMe is building a platform tuned specifically for celebrities like Russell and their super fans. TraceMe will create meaningful experiences for fans with compelling content, products and experiences.

We hope that fans will download the TraceMe app this week and give it a try. The app is in beta so your feedback will be helpful as the TraceMe team prioritizes new features and content. Similar to how we have gotten to know Russell Wilson better, we hope you will feel closer to him and the things he is passionate about. These include faith, family, football and finding ways as an entrepreneur to help fans more personally connect with celebrities. As opening week of the regular NFL football season kicks off, we look forward to partnering with the great Day One entrepreneurs at TraceMe to help them win big!

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CapitalOne Invests $5M In Snowflake Computing After Trying Its New Data Warehouse For Wall Street

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Rep the Squad, the Latest Madrona Labs Spinout

Bringing innovation to the $18B sports apparel market

After a year in development at Madrona Labs, our fifth company, Rep the Squad, launched yesterday. The response was enthusiastic (ESPN, USA Today, Geekwire) – as the company aims to power sports passion throughout the country and build community in every city. The latest Madrona Labs spinout follows in the footsteps of companies where Madrona partnered from Day One with the founders (Rover, Redfin).

Rep the Squad is a new subscription service that provides fans unprecedented access to a wide variety of licensed sports jerseys for a monthly membership fee. We believe the company speaks directly to the modern passionate fan who is interested in “access over ownership.” These engaged fans number in the tens of millions and they spend thousands of dollars every year supporting the teams and players they love. Rep the Squad empowers them to rep multiple players, jersey styles, and avoid the pitfalls of player trades or even a child’s growth spurt.

We could not be more proud to partner with co-founders Brian Watkins and Alex Berg. They exemplify the best of what we look for in Madrona Labs spinout founders — passion for the market (sports), deep domain experience (ecommerce), and the proven grit and resilience needed to take an early stage startup to the next level. Brian and Alex worked together at both Ritani and Blue Nile and have brought together an exceptional team of ecommerce veterans.

Together, we have been able to assemble a uniquely Seattle startup team across the board. Local venture capital firms Madrona and Maveron were the first to commit to the $1.5M funding round. Seahawks Pro Bowler Doug Baldwin and Mariners legend Edgar Martinez, who’s number 11 jersey was retired earlier this month at Safeco Field, personally invested. Seahawks All-Pro Richard Sherman, who is a big-time jersey collector and swapper himself, signed on as the Rep the Squad brand ambassador.

One of the advantages of operating a startup studio out of a venture capital firm is benefiting from the broader team and ecosystem.  Ryan Metzger, a die-hard Seattle sports fan and Madrona’s director of growth marketing, not only came up with the jersey rental concept, but he also worked with Aaron Wilson and others from our team in the early days to validate the idea and introduced us to CEO Brian Watkins, who he had worked with over a decade ago at Blue Nile.  Our process consisted of market sizing, competitive analysis, hundreds of in-person interviews, ad-driven customer acquisition testing, and an in-season Seattle Seahawks minimally viable product (MVP) to test unit economics and operational assumptions.  The project benefited from Madrona’s existing relationship with Seahawks players and connections to the NFL Players Association, in which Scott Jacobson serves on their OneTeam Collective board of directors.

One of the advantages of operating a startup studio out of a venture capital firm is benefiting from the broader team and ecosystem.

We are thrilled to be a part of the early days of Rep the Squad and invite you to join us. To get started simply choose your favorite jersey and sign up. NFL season kick-off is just one week away, so what are you waiting for?!

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E-commerce Vets Raise $1.5M From Top VCs And NFL Players For Sports Jersey Rental Startup

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IOpipe – A Cloud Native Company

As the cloud increases its footprint in the enterprise, and ‘cloud native’ (aka serverless) development scales up, Madrona is continuing to uncover opportunities that make it easier to innovate and work in this new environment. Today we are proud to announce our seed investment in IOpipe. We co- led this round and teamed up with our colleagues at NEA and Underscore VC to fund the growth of this innovative company. IOpipe has moved its headquarters to Seattle to be near the center of gravity of the public cloud and the company will add team members in the area to support the company’s growth.

We first met Adam Johnson, the founder and CEO of IOpipe, at AWS re:Invent last fall– at TWO different events. After a quick follow-up pitch at the airport, we were hooked. IOpipe is providing important insight into how serverless applications run – and uses that info to diagnose what isn’t going right. AWS Lambda is a strategically important cloud service focused on this market and it has grown substantially into a major piece of how these applications area created. Developers embed IOpipe into their application and can see how functions are performing in realtime via the IOpipe dashboard.

For both developers and operations engineers, this is crucial information that will enable more organizations to develop cloud native serverless applications. IOpipe has already helped analyze and monitor over a billion events from users to date.

IOpipe is also an example of how accelerators are helping drive technology innovation and business. The company was a graduate of NYC Techstars – the founders moved to NYC for the program – which helped them flesh out their ideas, build a product and secure customers. We are supporter of Techstars through the Seattle chapter and love the chance to work with companies early on as they build and find their product market fit.

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Bizible Raises $8.1M To Fuel Growth Of Platform That Analyzes Investment On Marketing Spend

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Pro.com Raises $10M Funding Round To Expand Its Home Improvement Service To More Cities

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GE Spin-out SmartAssist.io Raises $5M Series A For Its AI-based Customer Service Platform

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Welcome SmartAssist To The Madrona Family

It is exciting for me to announce our investment in SmartAssist and to welcome the team to our Madrona family. SmartAssist is applying AI to the business of customer support and is already assisting customers of brands you know including MailChimp and Twilio.

Application development and applications the last 10 years were primarily defined by movement to the cloud, SaaS delivery and touch as an interface. Looking ahead, we strongly believe that applications are going to be defined as intelligent applications with a broader set of natural user interfaces including voice/speech and vision. In our opinion, any application of consequence that is getting built now is an intelligent application. What differentiates the intelligent applications is the use of ML/AI and other techniques to apply on the ever-increasing data sets that enable applications to continuously learn and deliver more relevant and appropriate experience for the customers.

Applying ML/AI to intelligently automate use cases and workflows in enterprises is an area where we see a tremendous amount of opportunity and some of our recent investments reflect that investment thesis. As we think about beachhead use cases of ML/AI within enterprises, customer support stands out as one of the most tangible areas that could be fundamentally disrupted through technology.

By using intelligent routing, automated responses, and predictive modeling, SmartAssist helps enterprises significantly increase the efficiency and quality of services while decreasing customer service costs. The company is based on the platform developed by Wise.io which was acquired by GE in 2016. The team of Pradeep Rathinam and Prashant Luthra had a passion for this business and are taking that core business and building it into SmartAssist. Already they have secured some name brand customers. GE has an interest in the company and we expect to work with them as the company grows.

Another big reason for why we are excited about this investment is the entrepreneurial strength of the founding team. Both Pradeep and Prashant have led and been a part of successful start-ups in the past. Their focus and passion to make a difference in this space makes it a delight to partner with them.

We are thrilled to back the compelling vision of this leadership team and be part of a Seattle area start-up that is focused on driving customer success using ML/AI. All of us at Madrona are jazzed at the potential of what is possible here.

Looking forward to helping realize the potential with the SmartAssist team!

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Booster’s Focus on Customer and Unit Economics Pays Off

Madrona has been celebrating successful IPOs and M&A transactions recently, with several companies we partnered with from the earliest days. In fact, Redfin (RDFN) went public last week and the Placed acquisition by Snapchat closed two weeks ago. These companies combine digitally-driven and physically-driven capabilities to deliver real value to customers. Some of our youngest portfolio companies have applied this combined digital and physical world approach to other categories including Booster’s in the world of mobile fueling.

Booster was founded by Frank Mycroft a couple years ago, and Madrona was there at Day One to lead the company’s seed round. Frank and the early team were some of the first entrepreneurs to use our innovation space at Madrona’s current offices. Booster enables consumers to have their car filled with fuel while at work. This mobile fueling service is offered at a market fuel price along with the convenience and environmental friendliness of professional delivery. Many major corporate campuses in Silicon Valley use the service today, including titans such as Cisco and Oracle who benefit from Booster as a strategic employee benefit. The amazing Booster team have thoughtfully balanced four key areas: understanding the customer (both the consumer and the employer); developing intuitive mobile apps for consumers and drivers; designing efficient and effective physical delivery systems; and navigating federal, state and local regulations and relationships. Blending these elements in to a compelling and economically sustainable offering is hard. But, Booster has done exactly that.

Booster announced their $20 million Series B round today led by Conversion Capital and Madrona is pleased to once again be a major participant in the round. In an era where “on demand” service businesses have mostly been out of favor, we believe entrepreneurs like Frank who are obsessed with customers AND unit economics can build lasting and significant companies. And, Booster’s rapid growth, customer satisfaction, campus economics and substantial up round all indicate that they are well on their way.

We are excited to continue partnering with the Booster team, their customers and our terrific co-investors to build a truly special company.

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Madrona Was An Early Investor In The Last Three Seattle-area Startup IPOs

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The Human Army Using Phones To Teach AI To Drive

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Investors Pour More Cash Into Startup That Operates An ‘Escrow System’ For eSports Tournaments

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Highspot Raises $15 Million To Perfect Your Sales Pitch

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