Startups to watch: 12 venture capitalists offer their picks for the next Pacific Northwest unicorns


CEOs of Pacific Northwest startups, clockwise from top left: Flexe CEO Karl Siebrecht; Syndio CEO Maria Colacurcio; Flyhomes CEO Tushar Garg; OctoML CEO Luis Ceze; Dooly CEO Kris Hartvigsen; Fabric CEO Faisal Masud; Glowforge CEO Dan Shapiro; Logixboard CEO Julian Alvarez; DexCare CEO Derek Streat; Wyze CEO Yun Zhang; Textio CEO Kieran Snyder.

Unicorn startups are everywhere these days.

CB Insights’ unicorn tracker — keeping tabs on privately-held companies valued at $1 billion or more — is quickly approaching 1,000 companies. And earlier this month, GeekWire identified 16 startups in the Seattle region that have already reached this status.

As we kick off the new year, startup valuations continue on the upward trajectory. In fact, the average pre-money valuation for later-stage venture-backed companies hit $750 million last year, up from $431 million in 2020, according to the Venture Monitor report.

Since we’ve already identified the Seattle area startups that have achieved unicorn status, we thought it would be fun to think about which Pacific Northwest companies might be donning a horn this year. This is more of a speculative exercise, so to help us pick the up-and-comers we surveyed a dozen venture capitalists from the Seattle area to get their picks.

One important caveat: In order to eliminate the biases of the VCs — who not surprisingly often shamelessly tout their own startups — we requested that each deal maker choose a company that’s outside of their individual portfolios.

Amazingly, and speaking to the vibrancy of the Pacific Northwest startup scene, only two venture capitalists picked the same company.

Here’s who the venture capitalists chose, with quotes on why they think each company is destined for big things. Pay attention to this group of startups.

The Flexe team, pre-pandemic.

Future unicorn: Flexe

Prediction made by: Anthony Bontrager, managing director at WestRiver Group.

Quote: “As I noted in my predictions blog post for 2022, the pandemic shined a very bright light on the fragility of global supply chain and logistics and its underlying technological infrastructure. Creating more resiliency and intelligence in this area has never been more important and companies such as Flexe are solving the need for both predictability and flexibility.”

Co-founder and CEO: Karl Siebrecht, former president of aQuantive’s Atlas unit and ex-CEO of AdReady.

Founded: 2013

Headquarters: Seattle

GeekWire coverage: Seattle startup Flexe raises $70M as e-commerce rise fuels demand for flexible warehousing platform

Logixboard co-founder Julian (left) and Juan Alvarez. (Logixboard Photo)

Future unicorn: Logixboard

Prediction made by: Kellan Carter, founding partner at Fuse Venture Partners.

Quote: “Logixboard is quickly transforming the massive freight forwarding industry by bringing real-time transparency and visibility to a market that has historically made money through opaqueness. Julian is a relentless founder that always exceeds an already high bar.”

Co-founder and CEO: Julian Alvarez, former partner at AIOS.

Founded: 2017

Headquarters: Seattle

GeekWire coverage: Freight forwarding software startup Logixboard lands $13M

Future unicorn: OctoML

Prediction made by: Aviel Ginzburg, general partner at Founder’s Co-op.

OctoML’s Luis Ceze. (Photo courtesy of Luis Ceze)

Quote: “It is an extremely strong team … in an emerging and extremely important category. They have a very unique set of technology … (and) there is really just no solid competition. Especially as supply chain speeds up post-pandemic, the more need for ML on edge and things like that, they are just in an extremely enviable position.”

Co-founder and CEO: Luis Ceze, a University of Washington computer science professor.

Founded: 2019

Headquarters: Seattle

GeekWire coverage: University of Washington machine learning spinout OctoML raises $85M to expand its partnerships

The Wyze Cam and Wyze Lamp Socket. (Wyze Photo)

Future unicorn: Wyze

Prediction made by: Andy Liu, partner at Unlock Venture Partners.

Quote: “They’ve executed really well on building low-cost consumer hardware devices with a strong onramp to consumer adoption of computer vision and subscription services.”

Co-founder and CEO: Yun Zhang, former instock manager at Amazon.

Founded: 2017

Headquarters: Kirkland, Wash.

GeekWire coverage: Smart-home device maker Wyze raises $110M as it plans to inject AI heavily into camera products

Future unicorn: DexCare

Prediction made by: Yuval Neeman, managing director of Trilogy Equity Partners.

DexCare’s Derek Streat. (C-STATS Photo)

Quote: “A company we really like is DexCare, marrying modern digital technology with the arcane EMR systems to orchestrate demand and capacity within existing large health care providers. We have tremendous respect for its CEO Derek Streat, a 6X local entrepreneur.”

CEO: Derek Streat, former CEO of C-SATS.

Founded: 2020

Headquarters: Seattle

GeekWire coverage: Providence health-tech spinout DexCare raises $50M

(Glowforge Photo)

Future unicorn: Glowforge

Prediction made by: Yi-Jian Ngo, managing director at the Alliance of Angels.

Quote: “My pick is Glowforge, because of their successful partnership with Michaels and foray into NFTs.”

Co-founder and CEO: Dan Shapiro, former CEO at Ontela and Sparkbuy and ex program manager at Microsoft.

Founded: 2014

Headquarters: Seattle

GeekWire coverage: Glowforge cuts deal with Michaels to expand retail reach of its 3D laser printers

Maria Colacurcio of Syndio at the 2019 GeekWire Summit. (GeekWire Photo)

Future unicorn: Syndio

Prediction made by: Heather Redman, managing partner at Flying Fish Partners

Quote: “It is early days for them still, but the big vision of using data to unleash the true potential of all workers and their families is powerful especially in a world where talent is scarce and increasing inclusion is low hanging fruit for employers.”

Co-founder and CEO: Maria Colacurcio, former vice president of marketing at Smartsheet.

Founded: 2017

Headquarters: Seattle

GeekWire coverage: Pay-equity startup Syndio raises $50M as more companies broaden analysis of workplace fairness

Future unicorn: Fabric

Prediction made by: Austin Guyette, partner at Voyager Capital, and Julie Sandler, managing director at PSL

Fabric CEO Faisal Masud. (Fabric Photo)

Quote from Guyette: “Fabric is a key component of the modern commerce stack. By democratizing access to best-in-class digital commerce tooling, Fabric allows merchants who aren’t served well by Shopify, Oracle, or Salesforce (and other hosted platforms) to thrive in an e-commerce world.  Why does this matter? For all Shopify’s success — and they’ve been really successful! — the reality is that commerce is incredibly large and complex. If you’re an omni-channel retailer, if you deal with B2B payments, or even if you simply grow large enough – Shopify might not work well for your business and the alternatives aren’t much better. Fabric gives scaling merchants additional speed, customization, and portability in their quest to deliver the best customer experience possible. Commerce is gigantic, continues to move online, and this world is rebelling against Amazon to stay relevant. Both Shopify and Fabric are arming the rebels – as it turns out, there are many different types of rebels that need help.”

Quote from Sandler: “Great team, timely value proposition for online brands and retailers. E-commerce has been redefined as much as it has been supercharged by the pandemic. Brands and online retail companies need to compete not only on price and selection, but more than ever on end-to-end experience. All that requires a robust tech stack which too many online brand/retail tech teams are ill-equipped to build from scratch, especially as they outgrow Shopify. We’re quite bullish on several companies in the region addressing this theme, and Fabric’s true “headless commerce” offering speaks to it beautifully.”

CEO: Faisal Masud, former chief technology officer at Staples and former manager at Amazon.

Founded: 2017

Headquarters: Seattle

GeekWire coverage: E-commerce startup Fabric raises $100M in latest giant funding round for a Seattle startup

Flyhomes CEO Tushar Garg. (Flyhomes Photo)

Future unicorn: Flyhomes

Prediction made by: S. Somasegar, managing director at Madrona Venture Group

Quote: “Real estate is consistently an important part of the economic landscape, it is very unique in that it blends emotion and investment in a very lasting way for many people – and reaches a diverse audience.  And despite news around how renting makes more sense, in many cases, people have a desire to own a home and go to great lengths to do that.  Flyhomes addresses this desire directly and speaks to the new home buyer. They recently hired a CRO showing a real focus on growing their audience. We have also seen many startups in the real estate tech arena indicating a big opportunity for both market and technological growth.”

CEO: Tushar Garg, former program manager at Microsoft.

Founded: 2015

Headquarters: Seattle

GeekWire coverage: Flyhomes raises $150M as it expands across U.S. and aims to change the way people buy homes

CEO Kieran Snyder and members of the Textio team accept the Innovation of the Year award at the 2019 GeekWire Awards in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Future unicorn: Textio

Prediction made by: Martina Welkhoff, founding partner at WXR Fund.

Quote: “I’ve been really impressed with how Textio has expanded their product offering and adjusted their positioning to respond to the increased emphasis on DEI in the last few years. Under Kieran Snyder’s fantastic leadership, I’m confident they’ll be joining the unicorn ranks soon.”

Co-founder and CEO: Kieran Snyder, former group program manager at Microsoft.

Founded: 2014

Headquarters: Seattle

GeekWire coverage: Textio brings inclusive writing guidance to LinkedIn, and Seattle startup bounces back after pandemic

Future unicorn: Dooly

Prediction made by: Kirby Winfield, founding general partner of Ascend.vc.

Quote: “Dooly’s position at intersection of applied AI and sales enablement couldn’t be more timely. Modern workers are overwhelmed with SaaS apps and need help making multi-app workflows more efficient; nowhere more so than in sales and revenue ops.”

Co-founder and CEO: Kris Hartvigsen, former EVP of Strategic Alliances at Vision Critical.

Founded: 2016

Headquarters: Vancouver, B.C.

Recent coverage: Dooly raises $80M more for its AI tools to help salespeople manage their busywork

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