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Tech Moves: Seattle AI experts join national task force; Boundless co-founder departs; and more

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Daniela Braga (left) and Oren Etzioni. (DefinedCrowd and AI2 Photos)

— DefinedCrowd founder and CEO Daniela Braga and Allen Institute for AI CEO Oren Etzioni are part of the newly formed National Artificial Intelligence Research Resource Task Force. The task force, created by The National Science Foundation and the Biden administration, includes ten other technical experts from academic institutions, government agencies and technology companies across the U.S.

The task force will be responsible for developing a roadmap for AI researchers and students, making recommendations for the National AI Research Resource, and providing two reports to Congress by 2022.

— Boundless co-founder and CTO Serdar Sutay has left the Seattle immigration startup. His last day was Friday.

“He left for personal reasons and will be spending the summer with his family in Turkey and helping with the startup scene in Ankara,” said Boundless CEO Xiao Wang.

Serdar Sutay. (Boundless Photo)

Sutay immigrated from Turkey and previously led engineering teams at Microsoft and Chef. He co-founded Boundless with Wang and Doug Rand in 2017 after spinning out from Seattle-based Pioneer Square Labs. Rand previously served as president and is now an advisor.

The company also announced the addition of Heba Williams as its new vice president of people. Boundless now has more than 150 employees across offices in Seattle, Las Vegas, Manila, and Cebu City, Philippines.

Earlier this year, Boundless raised $25 million and consolidated its customer service team following its first acquisition.

Clara Siegel. (Dance Church Photo)

— Seattle-based Dance Church announced former Facebook Product Manager Clara Siegel as CEO and a partnership with Pioneer Square Labs for the launch of its Dance On Demand offering.

Siegel previously was previously a senior product manager at Tableau and Amazon. At Facebook, she managed products on the Messenger and Gaming teams.

“PSL has helped us set up the infrastructure of the company down to its core in a way that is true to the mission, vision and values, and Clara brings product and execution expertise to carry us forward in a supported way as we scale,” said Kate Wallich, Dance Church founder and chief creative officer.

Founded in 2010, Dance Church is a non-religious, high-energy dance workout set to pop music that attracted thousands to its livestreams during the pandemic. In partnership with another local brand, Nordstrom, Dance Church returned to its live format with a national tour. The tour will make a stop at The Seattle Center on July 10.

Harshit Shah. (Spring Health Photo)

— Microsoft veteran and former Amazon Web Services (AWS) leader Harshit Shah joined New York-based Spring Health as chief technology officer. Shah was most recently head of engineering at AWS.

Employers subscribe to Spring Health’s mental health benefits platform as an addition or replacement to traditional employee assistance programs (EAP). Its data and machine learning technology helps assess employee needs and creates a personalized care program for employees.

“The social, political and health factors in the last year have affected every single individual in one way or another,” said Shah. “I’ve seen a clear need for better mental healthcare in the world.”

— Former Smartsheet Distinguished Engineer Bruce Leban has joined San Francisco HR management startup Rippling as chief architect. He will be based in Seattle.

Prior to joining Smartsheet, Leban was founder and CTO of healthcare startup CadenceMD. He previously held engineering roles at Bocada, Google and Microsoft.

— Portland, Ore.-based SheerID announced John Ewert as its new chief financial officer. Ewert was most recently chief financial and operating officer at Nvoicepay and previously in the same role at AWS Elemental.

Formerly known as Elemental Technologies, AWS Elemental is a video processing company that was acquired by Amazon in 2015 during Ewert’s tenure. He also was vice president of finance at Palo Alto Networks during the company’s path to an IPO.

SheerID’s platform allows companies to verify customers’ communities for special deals. The company’s identify verification tool is used for military, student, teacher, medical and employer-specific discounts.

— Social media management platform Hootsuite named Manish Kamra senior vice president of software development and head of CENX product development. Kamra was most recently vice president of software development at Ericsson and previously led engineering teams at Wind River and BlackBerry.

— Microsoft Chief Digital Officer Jacky Wright joined the board of global consultancy Russell Reynolds Associates. She also currently serves on the Board of Trustees for Harvey Mudd College and the MxD Manufacturing Council.

Uzo Akotaobi. (Glowforge Photo)

— Seattle 3D laser printing startup Glowforge announced Uzo Akotaobi as its new vice president of people, inclusion and diversity. Akotaobi was most recently vice president of human resources, talent acquisition, inclusion and diversity at real estate investment trust Prologis. He previously held HR roles at Comcast and Zulily.

— JLL, a global commercial real estate company, announced Andrea Lerum as senior vice president of retail for the Seattle market. A former sales and leasing broker at West Coast Commercial Realty, Lerum will work exclusively with an undisclosed client described as a “Seattle-based Fortune 500 tech company.”

— Vancouver, B.C. startup Dooly added four new executives to its leadership team:

  • Former Trello Produce Manager Nikita Miller as vice president of product.
  • Michelle Pietsch, a former sales executive at Drift and Datadog, as vice president of revenue.
  • Former Intiveo Director of People and Culture Candace Bajgoric as head of people and culture.
  • Gigi Wong, who spent five years at Vancouver, B.C. startup Unbounce, as director of finance.

Dooly is developing an artificial intelligence plugin to automate manual data entry tasks for sales team, especially those using Salesforce. The company closed an $80 million Series B funding round led by Spark Capital last month. Spark Capital’s Will Reed also joined the Dooly board.

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Source: https://www.geekwire.com/2021/tech-moves-seattle-ai-experts-join-national-task-force-boundless-co-founder-departs/

Start Ups

Telehealth giant Amwell to acquire Portland healthtech startup Conversa

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National telehealth provider Amwell said it will acquire Portland, Ore.-based healthtech startup Conversa and SilverCloud Health.

Conversa, founded in 2014, sells platforms tailored to different medical conditions that allow medical teams to communicate with patients remotely. The company raised $8 million at the beginning of this year, after COVID-19 generated increased need for the service.

Conversa also helps medical providers automate text-based conversations and other administrative tasks before, during and after patients check in to medical care.

Amwell said it will use Conversa’s patient profiling and engagement tools to boost client experience and outcomes.

Murray Brozinksy, CEO of Conversa Health, said the deal will help “usher in the hybrid care delivery model of the future.”

Amwell said it paid approximately $320 million in stock and cash to acquire Conversa and SilverCloud, a digital platform that caters to mental healthcare. The transaction is expected to close at the end of the third quarter.

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Source: https://www.geekwire.com/2021/telehealth-giant-amwell-acquire-portland-healthtech-startup-conversa/

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Egyptian ride-sharing company Swvl plans to go public in a $1.5B SPAC merger

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Cairo and Dubai-based ride-sharing company Swvl plans to go public in a merger with special purpose acquisition company Queen’s Gambit Growth Capital, Swvl said Tuesday. The deal will see Swvl valued at roughly $1.5 billion.

Swvl was founded by Mostafa Kandil, Mahmoud Nouh and Ahmed Sabbah in 2017. The trio started the company as a bus-hailing service in Egypt and other ride-sharing services in emerging markets with fragmented public transportation.

Its services, mainly bus-hailing, enables users to make intra-state journeys by booking seats on buses running a fixed route. This is pocket-friendly for residents in these markets compared to single-rider options and helps reduce emissions (Swvl claims it has prevented over 240 million pounds of carbon emission since inception).

After its Egypt launch, Swvl expanded to Kenya, Pakistan, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The company also moved its headquarters to Dubai as part of its strategy to become a global company.

Swvl offerings have expanded beyond bus-hailing services. Now, the company offers inter-city rides, car ride-sharing, and corporate services across the 10 cities it operates in across Africa and the Middle East.

Queen’s Gambit, the women-led SPAC in charge of the deal, raised $300 million in January and added $45 million via an underwriters’ overallotment option focusing on startups in clean energy, healthcare and mobility sectors.

The statement also mentions a group of investors — Agility, Luxor Capital and Zain Group — which will contribute $100 million through a private investment in public equity, or PIPE.

Per Crunchbase, Swvl has raised over $170 million. From an African perspective, Swvl features as one of the most venture-backed startups on the continent. The company has been touted to reach unicorn status in the past and will when this SPAC merger is completed.

The company will aptly trade under the ticker SWVL. The listing will make it the first Egyptian startup to go public outside Egypt and the second to go public after Fawry. It will also make the mobility company the largest African unicorn debut on any U.S.-listed exchange, beating Jumia’s debut of $1.1 billion on the NYSE. Swvl joins music-streaming platform Anghami as the second startup in the region to go public via a SPAC merger in the Middle East.

Swvl had annual gross revenue of $26 million in 2020, according to the statement, and the company expects its annual gross revenue to increase to $79 million this year and $1 billion by 2025 after expanding to 20 countries across five continents.

On why Queen’s Gambit picked Swvl for this deal, Victoria Grace, founder and CEO, said in a statement that the company fit the profile of what she was looking for: “a disruptive platform that solves complex challenges and empowers underserved populations.”

“Having established a leadership position in key emerging markets, we believe Swvl is ready to capitalize on a truly global market opportunity,” she added.

In May, TechCrunch wrote that SPACs didn’t target African startups for several reasons, including a lack of global appeal and private capital and market satisfaction. Judging by Grace’s comments, Swvl has that global appeal and is ready to venture into the public market despite being in operation for just four years.

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/07/28/egyptian-ride-sharing-company-swvl-plans-to-go-public-in-a-1-5b-spac-merger/

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Crunchbase

Egyptian ride-sharing company Swvl plans to go public in a $1.5B SPAC merger

Published

on

Cairo and Dubai-based ride-sharing company Swvl plans to go public in a merger with special purpose acquisition company Queen’s Gambit Growth Capital, Swvl said Tuesday. The deal will see Swvl valued at roughly $1.5 billion.

Swvl was founded by Mostafa Kandil, Mahmoud Nouh and Ahmed Sabbah in 2017. The trio started the company as a bus-hailing service in Egypt and other ride-sharing services in emerging markets with fragmented public transportation.

Its services, mainly bus-hailing, enables users to make intra-state journeys by booking seats on buses running a fixed route. This is pocket-friendly for residents in these markets compared to single-rider options and helps reduce emissions (Swvl claims it has prevented over 240 million pounds of carbon emission since inception).

After its Egypt launch, Swvl expanded to Kenya, Pakistan, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The company also moved its headquarters to Dubai as part of its strategy to become a global company.

Swvl offerings have expanded beyond bus-hailing services. Now, the company offers inter-city rides, car ride-sharing, and corporate services across the 10 cities it operates in across Africa and the Middle East.

Queen’s Gambit, the women-led SPAC in charge of the deal, raised $300 million in January and added $45 million via an underwriters’ overallotment option focusing on startups in clean energy, healthcare and mobility sectors.

The statement also mentions a group of investors — Agility, Luxor Capital and Zain Group — which will contribute $100 million through a private investment in public equity, or PIPE.

Per Crunchbase, Swvl has raised over $170 million. From an African perspective, Swvl features as one of the most venture-backed startups on the continent. The company has been touted to reach unicorn status in the past and will when this SPAC merger is completed.

The company will aptly trade under the ticker SWVL. The listing will make it the first Egyptian startup to go public outside Egypt and the second to go public after Fawry. It will also make the mobility company the largest African unicorn debut on any U.S.-listed exchange, beating Jumia’s debut of $1.1 billion on the NYSE. Swvl joins music-streaming platform Anghami as the second startup in the region to go public via a SPAC merger in the Middle East.

Swvl had annual gross revenue of $26 million in 2020, according to the statement, and the company expects its annual gross revenue to increase to $79 million this year and $1 billion by 2025 after expanding to 20 countries across five continents.

On why Queen’s Gambit picked Swvl for this deal, Victoria Grace, founder and CEO, said in a statement that the company fit the profile of what she was looking for: “a disruptive platform that solves complex challenges and empowers underserved populations.”

“Having established a leadership position in key emerging markets, we believe Swvl is ready to capitalize on a truly global market opportunity,” she added.

In May, TechCrunch wrote that SPACs didn’t target African startups for several reasons, including a lack of global appeal and private capital and market satisfaction. Judging by Grace’s comments, Swvl has that global appeal and is ready to venture into the public market despite being in operation for just four years.

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
Click here to access.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/07/28/egyptian-ride-sharing-company-swvl-plans-to-go-public-in-a-1-5b-spac-merger/

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Start Ups

Microsoft acquires Seattle startup Suplari, which uses AI to analyze corporate spending

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Suplari co-founders Jeff Gerber, Brian White, and Nikesh Parekh. (Suplari Photo)

Microsoft has acquired Suplari, a Seattle startup that uses artificial intelligence to help companies understand and get a handle on their spending.

Founded in 2016, Suplari analyzes procurement and spending data flowing into various enterprise systems. It can provide recommendations for cost savings, risk exposure, and other efficiency gaps. The software serves as an alternative to compiling data in an app such as Excel or Tableau and having a team of analysts comb through the information themselves. Suplari manages more than $180 billion in spend across millions of transactions per month.

Microsoft said it will pair Suplari with Microsoft Dynamics 365 “to help customers maximize financial visibility by using AI to automate the analysis of current data and historical patterns from multiple data sources.”

“Today’s announcement also signals our continued commitment to enabling organizations to move beyond transactional financial management to proactive operations that enhance decision making, mitigate risks, and reduce supplier costs through our data-first approach,” Microsoft vice president Frank Weigel wrote in a blog post.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Suplari said its “Suplari Spend Intelligence Cloud” will continue to remain available for existing customers.

Suplari is among a bevy of startups using artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate manual processes involving tons of data, and provide recommendations based on the computer-aided number crunching. There are several companies in Seattle applying similar technology in various industries, such as AttunelyLexionSigma IQ, and others.

Suplari had raised $18 million to date, according to PitchBook. Investors include Amplify Partners, Madrona Venture Group, Shasta Ventures, Two Sigma Ventures, and Workday Ventures.

The company was co-founded by Jeff Gerber, Brian White, and Nikesh Parekh, Suplari’s CEO.

Parekh is a real estate technology veteran who previously held leadership positions at Market Leader and Trulia. Gerber is a long-time engineering leader who co-founded startups including iConclude (acquired by Opsware and later by HP) and helped lead Apptio’s machine learning and intelligent app development. White worked with Gerber at iConclude as an early employee and did stints at Amazon Web Services and Skytap.

Parekh said Microsoft and Suplari have had partnership discussions over the past several years.

“Given Microsoft’s AI, cloud and data investments, customers can expect that Suplari will continue to deliver more AI-driven, predictive & prescriptive insights and integrated workflows for finance, procurement, & supply chain teams,” he wrote in a blog post.

The deal is the latest in a string of IPOs, fundings, and acquisitions across the Seattle startup ecosystem. Earlier this week Seattle startup Algorithmia was acquired by DataRobot.

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
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Source: https://www.geekwire.com/2021/microsoft-acquires-seattle-startup-suplari-uses-ai-analyze-corporate-spending/

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