Seattle Roundup: Kymeta, Tableau, Avalara, Syntonic, Cleantech
[Corrected, 8/21/15, 1:53 p.m. See below.] The week began with an acquisition deal for Zulily, the flash sale retailer for moms. Zulily rode the IPO roller coaster and ended up selling to QVC for $2.4 billion in cash and stock. Also, food tech startup Peach raised $8 million to expand to Boston and Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, we’re tracking a manufacturing partnership with SHARP for Kymeta, a China expansion for Tableau Software and headquarters move for Avalara, a new product from Syntonic Wireless, and news on the $40 million Washington Clean Energy Fund. Read on for details:
—Kymeta, the Intellectual Ventures spinout making satellite antennas with metamaterials, will work with SHARP, the Japanese electronics giant, on new product development. After three years of collaboration, the companies announced a development agreement that will put SHARP’s liquid crystal display manufacturing technology to work—with few modifications—building flat-panel satellite antennas.
Redmond, WA-based Kymeta is building mobile satellite antennas that are lighter and smaller, and can be steered electronically, making them a better fit for yachts, cars, jets, and other vehicles. The company’s antenna design employs the same techniques and materials SHARP uses to make flat-panel displays. “By using a production technology that is already widely deployed in consumer devices, with over $250 billion of industry-wide investment in infrastructure and R&D, we will be able to mass-produce antennas on a scale previously unattainable,” Kymeta CEO Nathan Kundtz says in a news release. Bill Gates is among Kymeta’s investors. The company raised $50 million in 2013.
—From Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood—the Center of the Universe—to the world: Tableau Software opened an office in Shanghai to support sales of its data visualization software in China. The international expansion comes on the heels of Tableau’s announcement last month that it signed a long-term lease for a new building near Seattle’s Gasworks Park, making space for up to 1,300 employees.
—Avalara, the sales tax software company on an acquisition tear in recent years, is giving up its island home and heading to the big city. The company informed Bainbridge Island officials last week that it will be moving its headquarters to Seattle in early 2016, taking about 150 employees with it, according to local news reports.
—Syntonic, a Seattle startup, is out with its solution to the billing headaches inherent in the bring-your-own-device era. The company says its DataFlex software allows split billing of device data plans to help companies calculate more accurate reimbursements to employees who use their personal mobile phones for work. Syntonic says DataFlex integrates with expense management software and works on any operator’s mobile network. The company was co-founded by Real Networks alumni Gary Greenbaum and Rahul Agarwal. It raised a little over $1 million from angel investors in 2014. [An earlier version of this paragraph gave the old name and location of the company. We regret the error.]
—Cleantech was one of Washington’s innovation industries that came out of this year’s legislative session with a win: Lawmakers doubled-down on the Clean Energy Fund, channeling $40 million during the next two years toward the development, demonstration, and deployment of new clean energy technologies in the state. The fund helped put Washington on the map as a place for grid-scale energy storage innovation. So what will the new money be used for? The CleanTech Alliance posted a Q&A with Tony Usibelli, director of the energy office in the Washington State Department of Commerce, which oversees the fund. One of the biggest changes from the $36 million first iteration of the Clean Energy Fund is a new funding category to provide credit support for renewable energy equipment manufacturing. There are also new requirements for a competitive selection process, and a language change allowing state funds to be matched by any non-state source—not just federal funds as in the past. Read the whole Q&A for more details.