Remitly is among a flurry of companies going public in September. This year is expected to be the biggest ever for IPO proceeds, MarketWatch reported.
Around half of this year’s IPOs are trading below their offering price, CNBC reported. Toast and FreshWorks both saw shares jump this week in their public debuts despite some macroeconomic concerns including the situation with China’s Evergrande.
Founded in 2011, Remitly’s mobile technology lets people send and receive money across borders, including immigrants in the U.S. and U.K. who support families back home in countries such as the Philippines, India, El Salvador, and others. The service eliminates forms, codes, and agents typically associated with the international money transfer process.
The company posted $202 million in revenue and a $9.2 million net loss in the first six months of this year. It generated $257 million in revenue and a $32.5 million net loss in 2020, doubling its annual revenue and cutting its loss nearly in half.
Remitly competes against a number of other cross-border money transfer companies, including Wise (formerly TransferWise), which was valued at $11 billion after going public via direct listing in July, and Zepz (previously WorldRemit), which raised $292 million in a Series E funding round earlier this month.
We’ll have additional coverage of Remitly’s IPO on Thursday, so check back on GeekWire for updates.
Kizilbash is a recent hire at the Seattle-based company, joining in June as vice president of corporate development. He was previously an executive at Varsity Tutors and Sears, where Coyle also worked.
Coyle, who was appointed CEO a year ago, departed for personal reasons, according to RealSelf Chairman and Founder Tom Seery. Coyle also stepped down from the board of directors.
“We thank James for his commitment to RealSelf these last few years. Under his leadership, RealSelf swiftly responded to the impacts of COVID-19, expanded globally, and recruited exceptional talent,” said Seery in a statement.
— Vancouver, B.C.-based social media management platform Hootsuite announced Tiziana Figliolia as its new CFO. She was most recently VP of finance at InterDigital, a mobile and video technology company.
Figliolia was previously based in Shanghai where she held senior roles at software companies PTC and Autodesk. She is currently based in Boston and the co-founder of science education non-profit Full STEAM Forward.
— E-commerce startup Fabric hired Val Rupp as the Seattle company’s first chief people officer. She was most recently head of HR for HPE Greenlake.
Rupp previously held senior HR roles at Microsoft and Amazon, where she worked with Fabric CEO Faisal Masud.
— Former Tune CEO Peter Hamilton is now head of television commerce at streaming media player Roku. He moved into an advisory role at Tune last year, following the Seattle marketing startup’s acquisition by Constellation Software.
Hamilton spent nearly a decade at Tune. He invested and advised startups before taking the new gig at Roku.
“As I thought about my next operating role, I hoped that my background in performance marketing could somehow bring me closer to the media and entertainment industry that is unfolding today,” said Hamilton, who earned a bachelor’s degree in Radio Television Film and performed professionally in the opera. “As our Televisions become more like our phones and other smart devices, with content on demand and interactive experiences, perhaps there is an opportunity to be part of the future of Television. It just so happens that opportunity is definitely at Roku.”
Ries was most recently general manager of demand generation at contract management startup Icertis. Yost joins Outlier AI from Skytap where she was senior director of marketing. Both are based in the Seattle area.
Oakland, Calif.-based Outlier offers an automated business analysis platform using AI and data science.
— Seattle non-profit PATH appointed Levis Nderitu as its first-ever global diversity, equity and inclusion director. He is based in Nairobi, Kenya.
Nderitu has served as a DEI consultant for nonprofits Doctors Without Borders and One Acre Fund. He will serve as the primary DEI advisor for PATH’s executive team.
A global health organization, PATH has more than 1,600 employees and offices across 20 countries. Its staff developed a diagnostic test dashboard for health officials to help low-income countries during the COVID-19 pandemic.
— Bothell, Wash.-based BioLife Solutions announced Illumina Chief Strategy and Corporate Development Officer Joydeep Goswami will join its board in October. He will succeed Andrew Hinson who has retired.
— Software development consultancy GenUI promoted Shane Delamore to chief technology officer. He was most recently head of technology at the company.
— Attorney Whitney McCollum joined the Seattle office of K&L Gates as a partner. She joins the international law firm’s technology transactions and privacy practice.
— Seattle-based product development firm Igor Institute announced three new director-level hires:
Amazon Games has partnered with the independent studio Glowmade, headquartered in Guildford, England, to publish an original video game.
This expands Amazon’s third-party publishing efforts, where its games division brings other companies’ projects to market, in addition to creating its own games such as New World in-house.
Glowmade’s untitled project is the second game that Amazon plans to publish, after the news earlier this month that Amazon is bringing the South Korean multiplayer action-RPG Lost Arkto North America and Europe in 2022.
The new game from Glowmade is reportedly a “creative online co-op experience” that’s based on an original intellectual property, and has been in the works for a little while. Glowmade is hiring a significant number of people to assist with the project, including gameplay and combat designers, as well as a product manager who’s intended to “craft a long-term player experience.”
Glowmade, founded in 2015, is a 25-person studio with many veterans of the UK’s game development scene, who’ve worked on games such as Fable, Little Big Planet, and Horizon: Zero Dawn. Its debut game, the mobile platformer/level creator WonderWorlds, launched on iOS in 2018 through the Madrid-based publisher Tequila Works.
“The Glowmade team has been working incredibly hard on our exciting new IP, and Amazon Games has been a great partner,” said Jonny Hopper, Glowmade studio head, in a press release via Amazon. “The Amazon Games team’s commitment to helping us deliver on our creative vision has been amazing. We can’t wait to show the world what we’re up to.”
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More importantly, Glowmade is a smaller, relatively low-profile studio, which is suggestive of how far Amazon is going to look for new projects. Lost Ark was a surprise, but not a particularly big one in the wake of the early hype around Amazon’s forthcoming New World. Amazon’s already got the infrastructure in place to support one MMO, so why not publish a second?
It’s arguably been what Amazon’s needed to do for years, particularly when you consider its presence in a city like Seattle that has 200 indie game studios in it at any given time; Amazon has enough games-industry talent in its figurative backyard that it could’ve become a third-party publishing juggernaut at any time it liked without having to leave the local area code.
While the imminent launch of New World will likely command the bulk of Amazon’s attention for the next few months, it’s worth keeping an eye on its publishing efforts. Amazon clearly wants to force its way into the games industry with wholly-owned original IP and market-tested styles of gameplay, but there’s a lot it could do for its efforts by simply backing the Amazon money truck up to a few carefully-chosen third-party studios. It’d be crazy if this was the last we heard out of Amazon Games as a publisher.
In other gaming-centric Amazon news, it also announced last week that its newly-founded Canadian studio, Amazon Games Montreal, has brought Alexandre Parizeau aboard as studio head. Parizeau, like the studio’s four founders, is a longtime games industry veteran who has worked on games in Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six franchise.
At this point, the real surprise out of Amazon Games Montreal would be if its debut game isn’t an online multiplayer modern-day tactical shooter with realistic physics. (Seriously, guys, throw us a curveball here. Make a bouncy cartoon game about neon-pink bunnies exploring the power of friendship.)
In 2011, the world was still recovering from the financial crisis a couple of years earlier. The startup economy wasn’t in full swing yet. SaaS, pre-seed, or even mobile-first weren’t part of the startup vocabulary. Heck, even GeekWire had just launched.
Still, in that year, TechStars Seattle 2011 just had its most remarkable cohort ever, and arguably the most successful accelerator cohort of all time, anywhere in the world, with three startups in that batch becoming unicorns.
I was involved in the early days of GeekWire when it acquired Seattle 2.0 that year, an organization I founded in 2007. I was also lucky to be part of the Techstars Seattle 2011 cohort with my startup, EveryMove, that I co-founded with Russell Benaroya.
It’s easy to look at the unicorns born during that program and paint a rosy picture of the early days and the easy path they took to get here, but you know the punchline: it wasn’t easy, and each of these unicorns found themselves near an early death.
This cohort represents 33% of all unicorns that ever went through the Techstars program. Y Combinator, the gold standard for accelerators, had four unicorns out of 106 startups that graduated through its program in that same year. Its best cohort ever, YC Winter 2016, has an impressive ten unicorns out of 125 startups, an 8% unicorn-rate.
Techstars Seattle 2011 had a unicorn-rate of 30%. Three unicorns!
This story wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Andy Sack and Chris DeVore, the managing directors for that program at the time. Both are accomplished entrepreneurs-turned-investors. They had a long history together. They were also very complementary to each other.
There were ten startups in that cohort. It was a diverse group of founders with a disappointing track record of women in the teams. Only two of the ten companies had a woman.
Five of the teams, including my startup, had modest exits. These included Reveal (Likebright), Vizify, GoChime, and FlexMinder. One of them ceased operations, Bluebox Now. And one of them is still operating, Smore.
We are left with three other companies, all unicorns now: Remitly (originally Beamit Mobile), Outreach (originally GroupTalent), and Zipline (originally Romotive).
The struggles to “unicorn-dom” for these three startups were many, with plenty of co-founder drama, pivoting, near-bankruptcy, plateaus, visa issues, and more. I won’t drill down into the details of those struggles, but it’s worth remembering a bit of their stories.
Remitly is about to go public via an IPO, which marks the second Techstars company to go public and the first for Techstars Seattle. Matt Oppenheimer, Shivaas Gulati, and Josh Hug did a superb job of fundraising, launching the product, iterating, and keeping it as close to their initial vision as possible.
Originally, Remitly was a mobile-to-mobile money transfer service for people to send money from the U.S. to the Philippines. It was clear the Philippines was an initial market to expand from. It wasn’t evident that some of the initial hypotheses of how people would like to receive the money weren’t on target. They had to figure out how to get the recipients hard cash on the other end. That turned out to be a big hurdle. Remitly wouldn’t have been the success it’s today if they didn’t identify and execute on that aspect of its service.
Outreach was the creation of Manny Medina, Andrew Kinzer, Gordon Hempton, and Wes Hather. Manny and Andrew were left hanging when their technical co-founder quit. They were that one team that was struggling to find the right idea. Believe it or not, they started thinking they were doing a flower delivery service.
They ended up joining forces with Gordon and Wes to create GroupTalent, pivoting to team staffing services – instead of hiring a person, a company would hire a team of two or more people at once. That went nowhere.
After being “lost in the wilderness for a while,” as DeVore told me, they pivoted to sales automation, turning into Outreach. This team was phenomenal in its ability to execute.
Romotive is now Zipline. Romotive was originally founded by Peter Seid and Phu Nguyen, two brilliant engineers who just graduated from college. Initially, they had a hand-size robot that you could control with your iPhone. It was a solution in search of a problem and a market, despite a successful Kickstarter campaign. It was going nowhere.
Keller Rinaudo joined them toward the end of the program. Keller did a superb job of pivoting the company into drone delivery of healthcare supplies in remote locations. Zipline, now based in the Bay Area, became a unicorn just a few months ago.
Nature or Nurture (or bias)
I believe there was something different about that cohort. I’ve mentored many accelerator cohorts over the years, and I can say this group of people was not only selected using a different lens, but we also did many things differently throughout the program. Yes, I’m biased.
It was the second cohort for Techstars Seattle, which meant the early kinks of a new program were addressed. I don’t have hard data about it, but this group of people skewed older compared to other cohorts. Some of us had done startups in the past, some of us had significant industry experience.
When I asked DeVore what made this group unique, he said: “The world was just coming out of a dark period and the only people willing to start companies at the time were the deeply committed founders who couldn’t not do what they were doing.”
It seems right. Back then, there was no glamour in building startups. The term “unicorn” hadn’t even been coined by Aileen Lee yet, and capital availability, valuations, and exits weren’t even close to what they are now.
David Cohen, the co-founder and chairman of Techstars, had a similar thought: “I think the key was the people,” he said. “Two of the three unicorns are not doing what they were doing when we picked the company. But the right people, with the right support, get to the right things.”
I vividly remember Sack quipping during our all-hands conversations about how “some of you were chosen to join the program not because of your idea, but despite your idea.”
The purpose of joining an accelerator program is to try to compress as much as you can during those three months. We worked long hours. Putting in the long days and long weeks was an acceptable “3-month sprint” in the startup marathon. Sack brought the tradition of every Wednesday evening, at 11:11 p.m., each of us would take a shot and talk about the highs and lows of the week. Many other Techstars programs around the world adopted this tradition.
We went out weekly for drinks, dinners, or to play poker. We would sit in each other’s pitch practice sessions and provide feedback. We were earnestly supporting each other, even though we were competing for the same investor dollars.
Since I was running Seattle 2.0 at the time, I was writing about Techstars Seattle often, boosting the companies on Twitter, and even providing a truckload of Costco snacks so we could work a few extra hours each day without having to leave the building.
As I reflect on those days, I think a combination of factors made it unique and successful. It was the stewardship of Andy and Chris, the maturity and cooperative mentality of the founders, and the bias of those who applied and those who selected the founders.
Marcelo Calbucci is a technologist and serial entrepreneur and the CTO of Hiya.
Redacted versions of documents relating to Blue Origin’s federal lawsuit against the federal government and SpaceX lay out further details about the dispute over a multibillion-dollar NASA lunar lander contract, but the details that are left out are arguably just as intriguing.
The filings focus on NASA’s April decision to award SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract to develop its Starship super-rocket as the landing system for the Artemis program’s first crewed trip to the lunar surface, planned for as early as 2024.
At the time, NASA said that SpaceX’s proposal was technically superior to the concepts offered by Blue Origin and its partners — Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper — and by another competitor, Dynetics. SpaceX had the low bid, with Blue Origin’s team proposing $5.9 billion for its landing system. Draper’s proposal was even more expensive.
The original hope was that NASA might make multiple awards, in the interest of promoting competition and having a Plan B. But space agency officials said Congress appropriated only enough money to make one award.
In a protest filed with the Government Accountability Office, Blue Origin complained that NASA didn’t evaluate the proposals properly, and that SpaceX was given a chance to restructure its bid to fit NASA’s budget. The GAO largely sided with NASA and SpaceX in a ruling that let the contract award stand, but then Blue Origin took the dispute to federal court.
Blue Origin’s lawsuit touches on the aforementioned talking points, but it primarily focuses on waivers that NASA issued relating to “supporting spacecraft” that are apparently used in connection with SpaceX’s landing system. The details about those supporting spacecraft were blacked out by the court.
The lawsuit argues that issuing the waivers for individual flight readiness reviews and “other review requirements” for the supporting spacecraft gave SpaceX an unfair advantage in the competition. “Blue Origin and Dynetics did not get such a chance to compete with waived requirements the Agency afforded to SpaceX,” it says. “Had it had such an opportunity, Blue Origin would have been able to propose a substantially lower price…”
So what is the supporting spacecraft? References to SpaceX’s moon-landing Starship and a tanker version of the same spacecraft that would be used for in-flight refueling were left unredacted — so those probably aren’t at issue. The redacted document makes no mention of SpaceX’s Super Heavy booster, but guessing whether that’s the sticking point would be pure speculation.
Blue Origin calls on the court to issue an order that would suspend SpaceX’s work on the lunar lander contract and give the competitors an equal chance to discuss their proposals with NASA. If the order is issued as proposed by Blue Origin, the competitors would send “final proposal revisions” to NASA, and space agency officials would make a new award determination.
In one of its responses to the complaint, SpaceX says Blue Origin is relying on a “flawed interpretation” of NASA’s solicitation — an interpretation that was “unfortunately adopted by GAO” in its ruling.
SpaceX also says the unredacted version of Blue Origin’s complaint should remain sealed because it would disclose SpaceX’s proprietary and confidential information. The judge in the case, Richard Hertling, agreed with SpaceX on the redaction issue.
The court is expected to hear oral arguments in October, with an eye toward issuing a ruling by early November. In the meantime, NASA has granted a total of $146 million in fixed-price awards to Blue Origin, SpaceX, Dynetics, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman through a follow-up program aimed at boosting the space agency’s lunar landing capabilities.