Startup funding news: ‘Plaid for e-commerce,’ crop yield optimization, energy marketplace, more

Here’s a rundown on recent rounds raised by Pacific Northwest companies.


FruitSource CEO Matt King puts his crop optimization tech to the test in an apple orchard. (FruitSource Photo)

Yakima, Wash.-based FruitScout landed $4 million to develop technology that uses artificial intelligence to take the guesswork out of crop yield optimization. Bowery Capital and TFX Capital led the seed round.

FruitScout is tackling “precision crop load management” — a term that lacks sizzle, but is essential in agtech innovation according to those in the space. The startup created an app that allows users to photograph fruit trees in order to measure trunk size and calculate optimal crop the tree can bear. The tool also analyzes images of buds, flowers and fruit to estimate a tree’s predicted yield and pruning needs to reach the ideal volume.

CEO and founder Matt King says that he was inspired to apply to agriculture the computer vision instrumentation that he used while working on manufacturing challenges for Boeing, Intel and others.

The company launched in 2019 and began with a focus on apple growers in Washington state. Thanks to deep-pocketed tequila manufacturers, FruitScout is also applying its technology to agave crops in Chile.


Violet co-founders Rhen Zabel (left) and Brandon Schulz. (Violet Photo)

Seattle e-commerce startup Violet landed a $10 million Series A round led by Klama. The company’s “universal commerce API” enables online retailers to sell products directly inside apps on various content platforms, including videos, voice devices, augmented reality glasses, and more. The startup describes itself as “Plaid for e-commerce.” It’s somewhat similar to Fabric, another “headless” e-commerce startup based in Seattle that raised $100 million in July.

Violet is led by CEO and co-founder Brandon Schulz, a retail vet who previously launched, a now-defunct Seattle startup that was similar to Violet and helped brands power native transactions directly within social streams. The company’s other co-founder, Rhen Zabel, also worked at and was a lead engineer at Target.

The company just raised a $3 million seed round three months ago. Other backers include Sugar Capital, Lachy Groom, and Red Sea Ventures.

“These recent funding rounds support our mission to decrease the barrier of entry for innovative e-commerce apps and initiatives to get to market, scale quickly, and achieve escape velocity, without massive amounts of capital,” Schulz said in a statement.


Naman Trivedi, CEO and co-founder of WattBuy. (Photo via LinkedIn)

WattBuy, an online energy marketplace for consumers, has raised an additional $10 million after extending its Series A round. Founded in 2017, WattBuy collects and shares energy rates in unregulated states where residents and businesses can shop around for their electricity providers. The platform includes information for consumers eager to support clean energy like solar and wind.

The startup has raised $16 million to date. It has 23 employees. Customers include Samsung SmartThings, Intuit Mint and Updater. Its competition includes Choose Energy.

WattBuy has Pacific Northwest roots, but in the era of COVID, the formerly Seattle-based company has become dispersed nationwide — though the startup says the region “remains a priority for hiring talent in engineering, data analytics, etc.”


Croatian compatriots Matej Ferencevic (left) and Marin Smiljanic co-founded Omnisearch. (Omnisearch Photo)

Omnisearch, a tool for searching audio, video, images, presentations, PDFs and documents, raised a $450,000 pre-seed round from Silicon Valley’s GoAhead Ventures. 

CEO and co-founder Marin Smiljanic knows a little something about sniffing out hard to find items. He was an Amazon engineer for nearly three years working primarily on AWS Simple Storage Service, the largest object storage system in the world. His team relied on internal training videos to understand the massive system, but searching the instructional videos for relevant content was tough: there was no way of finding anything inside of them beyond title and description.

That experience drove Smiljanic to launch Vancouver, B.C.-based Omnisearch last year. His co-founder is Chief Technology Officer Matej Ferencevic. Years before taking the entrepreneurial leap, the two were programmer friends in Croatia. Ferencevic, who still lives in Croatia, is also a competitive programmer.

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