From a growing IT automation company to a developer of a 3-D laser printer, a number of companies are leading the Seattle area’s vibrant startup scene.
Amazon.com, Expedia and other local technology giants are growing with such increasing speed in the past several months that it’s sometimes easy to forget that the Puget Sound region’s scene of smaller companies is booming as well.
Companies in the area raised $1.95 billion in investments during 2015, according to data from Pitchbook Data. A study last year found there are 700 startups just within Seattle.
Many fall into the software category — a well-established area here — though gadgets and biotechs are picking up steam, too.
We reviewed 2015’s big tech announcements, funding rounds and new companies emerging to pick out some of the most promising stars among startup companies.
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Here it is, our unscientific list of companies that achieved something great in 2015 and should be watched in 2016.
Total funding raised: $90 million
Number of employees: 67
Although the company arguably falls into the “larger” startup category after raising a huge $73 million round announced in November, the buy-sell Craigslist competitor has remained nearly silent about its plans until 2015.
Founders Nick Huzar and Arean van Veelen broke that silence in the fall to talk about the massive plans for OfferUp. The biggest goal? Create something so great that no one has to use Craigslist again to buy or sell stuff.
OfferUp is hyperlocal, hypermobile friendly and growing like crazy. The startup said $2.9 billion of transactions were made on the site between January and November.
Next: It needs to execute a plan to capture some of that as revenue.
Location: Seattle, Sodo District
Funding raised: $10.3 million in venture capital, $27.9 million from preorders
Number of employees: 17
It was a big year for the “maker movement,” which celebrates those who create and work with their hands.
Glowforge burst onto the scene in 2015 with a “3-D laser printer” priced for individuals rather than businesses. The printer raised $27.9 million during its monthlong preorder phase, shattering crowdfunding records.
The small Glowforge team is slowly growing inside a Sodo warehouse chock full of engraved spice jars, intricately cut game pieces and computer stands made on a laser-cutter device.
Next: The real test of the Glowforge will come early in 2016 when preorder customers get their hands on the machine.
Location: Seattle, Pioneer Square
Funding raised: More than $100 million
Employees: More than 230
The word “startup” is hard to define, but Chef is pushing its way out of the category. The IT automation company raised a $40 million round in September, bringing its total funding to more than $100 million, and its employee count to more than 230 people.
What makes its trajectory even stronger? Chef didn’t even need $40 million immediately. It still had most of its last funding round in the bank. In 2015, the company took over a large office space in Pioneer Square as its new headquarters.
Next: Chef is rumored to be an IPO possibility in the next few years, and CEO Barry Crist has said that is the eventual plan.
Location: Downtown Seattle
Funding raised: $39 million
Number of employees: 55
Companies that aim to personalize health care have been cropping up for several years, and Seattle’s newest has some big name backers behind it, including Arch Venture Partners, Polaris Partners and Maveron.
Lee Hood, a renowned biologist who formed the Institute for Systems Biology, announced in July that Arivale had raised a $36 million round when it was barely out of the gate.
Arivale looks at members’ general health, then pairs them with a coach to develop a wellness plan. Its early traction and its successful founders and investors make it one to watch.
Next: Arivale opened to the public in July, so initial reviews should be rolling in soon.
Location: Seattle, South Lake Union
Funding raised: $2.6 million
Number of employees: 16
Trucking — not a super sexy industry, but it’s a big one, worth about $800 billion and fraught with logistical challenges. Convoy emerged in 2015 with app and online software to connect truck drivers with freight that needs hauling.
The tiny company raised a $2.5 million seed round in 2015 to get going, and the most impressive part is its investors — everyone from Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff to Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi to Jeff Bezos’ personal investment company got in on the deal.
Next: Convoy is starting with Washington state and slowly expanding across location and industries.
Location: Downtown Seattle
Funding raised: $23 million
Number of employees: 60
Finance has not traditionally been one of Seattle’s strongest industries, but one of the most interesting startups making news in 2015 was a tech-finance company, Remitly.
The company created an app that makes it easy for people to transfer money from the U.S. to friends or relatives in different countries. It aims to take on entrenched high-fee players such as Western Union.
Remitly raised $12.5 million in March and counts Jeff Bezos’ personal firm as one of its backers.
Next: Remitly lets users send funds to Mexico, Philippines and India and is working on expanding globally.
Location: Seattle, Fremont
Funding raised: $26.75 million
Number of employees: 45
Machine-learning startup Dato, which changed its name from GraphLab in January, inked a funding round worth $18.5 million in 2015, led by Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital
The startup is headed by University of Washington professor Carlos Guestrin, who was recruited to the region by Jeff Bezos. Dato helps big companies such as Pandora and Zillow make sense of the massive amount of user data they collect.
Next: More than 50,000 developers use the Dato platform, and the company is working on features to make machine learning easy for companies to implement.