Seattle Roundup: AWS to Clean Cloud, Pitch Winners, Techstars, & More

Amazon isn’t providing a lot of details—surprise, surprise—on its commitment to power its data centers with 100 percent renewable energy.

Meanwhile, Northwest startups working on energy storage and water management won the Seattle Angel Conference and the Washington Technology Industry Association’s (WTIA) First Look Forum, respectively. Also, DocuSign named new investors; Placed released the top 100 businesses by foot traffic; and Dow Jones VentureWire took a close look at accelerator startup success rates. Read on for details:

—Amazon pledged to power its cloud computing business, Amazon Web Services, with 100 percent renewable energy, though it did not disclose a timeline for this ambitious target. The company quietly unveiled the “long-term commitment” on its website this week, noting, “Cloud computing is inherently more environmentally friendly than traditional computing. Today, individual companies often operate one or many corporate data centers to meet their internal IT requirements. Even with broad adoption of virtualization technology, most enterprises still struggle to achieve high utilization rates for their data center infrastructure. The result is a significant amount of unused server capacity and wasted energy consumption to power all of this unused or underutilized infrastructure.”

The company, a target of scrutiny from environmental groups including Greenpeace, says its AWS data centers use less than an eighth as much energy as a typical corporate data center.

It already has carbon-neutral options for its cloud computing customers in three regions: US West (Oregon); EU (Frankfurt, Germany), and AWS GovCloud (U.S.).

Energy Storage Systems, a Portland, OR-based startup making an iron electrolyte flow cell battery, won the sixth Seattle Angel Conference, which came with a $135,000 investment. The Seattle Angel Conference, which we profiled this spring, has now invested more than $1 million in seven companies since it began three years ago. Investments have come from about 100 investors, many of whom receive a first introduction to angel investing through the conferences and associated education program.

Kirkland Analytics, a Spokane, WA-based startup helping companies manage and conserve water, won the WTIA’s First Look Forum, collecting a $10,000 prize. The other finalists were MetricStory, Proactive Immune Sciences Corp., React Mobile, and VanAir Design.

—DocuSign, the digital signatures company started in Seattle and now based in San Francisco, named three new investors to its previously announced $115 million Series E funding round. They are BBVA Ventures, Samsung Ventures, and the Singapore Economic Development Board. Total funding for the company is in excess of $230 million.

—Lots of people flocked to Party City in October, perhaps not surprising for a costume purveyor ahead of Halloween. That was one of the top 100 most-visited businesses in the U.S. as measured by Placed, the Seattle-based location analytics company. The company used its panel of more than 500,000 people who allow their movements to be anonymously tracked, creating the physical-world equivalent of Nielsen ratings. The Placed 100, a new free service the company is rolling out, was led by Walmart, followed by McDonald’s, Subway, Starbucks, Walgreens, Target, CVS, Burger King, Taco Bell, and Wendy’s.

—Dow Jones VentureWire’s Venture Capital Dispatch picked through the publicly available track records of startup accelerators Techstars and Y Combinator and found that the programs’ growth in recent years may mask higher company failure rates. Techstars reports 78 percent of its startups remain active; Y Combinator says 68 percent of its companies are still active.

But 121 companies participated in Techstars accelerators this year, compared to 70 for its first four years. “The program’s growth skews the overall stats toward the most recent program entrants—those that have had little chance to either fail, be acquired, or prove their independent staying power,” writes Yuliya Chernova. Looking at just those Techstars companies from its first four years, 33 percent have failed, a record slightly better than the 40 percent failure rate for all venture-backed startups as estimated by the National Venture Capital Association.

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