Climate Pledge Arena: Here’s what Seattle Kraken fans think of the new arena name

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Climate Pledge Arena doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. But Seattle Kraken fans we spoke with on Saturday seemed indifferent or in some cases excited that the name of their new hockey arena is all about combating the climate crisis.

GeekWire was on the ground this weekend in Seattle for the Kraken’s inaugural NHL home game at Climate Pledge Arena, a new redeveloped $1 billion sports and entertainment venue.

Seattle-based Amazon last year bought the naming rights and used the deal to promote its Climate Pledge initiative announced in 2019 that sets ambitious greenhouse gas emission goals for the tech giant and urges other companies to do the same.

(GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)
(GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper)
The Climate Pledge Arena features 12,500 live plants and trees, including this large living plant wall that is reminiscent of the company’s Spheres at its nearby headquarters. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper)

The arena itself is expected to be the first net zero carbon certified arena in the world, generate zero waste from operations and events, and be powered with 100% renewable electricity. It will also create the “greenest ice in the NHL” by using reclaimed rainwater for its ice system stored in a giant tank next to the arena.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was in attendance on Saturday and we asked him about the arena’s name. He noted the awareness aspect of naming the arena for the Climate Pledge.

The arena name is also on the Kraken helmets.

Lynn Lashbrook, a sports business expert and president of Sports Management Worldwide, said he loves the name.

“It will send a message around the world,” he said.

“It’s perfect for Seattle,” added Kraken fan Kelly Ginn.

Check out what others had to say about Climate Pledge Arena and Amazon itself in the video above.

Climate Pledge Arena
Climate Pledge Arena at night. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

More coverage: 

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Blue Origin teams up with Sierra Space, Boeing and others on ‘Orbital Reef’ space station project

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Orbital Reef
An artist’s conception shows a Boeing Starliner capsule at the Orbital Reef station. (Orbital Reef Illustration)

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture is joining forces with Colorado-based Sierra Space and a host of other partners, including Boeing, to propose building a space-based “mixed-use business park” called Orbital Reef.

The plan, announced today at the International Astronautical Congress in Dubai, is among about a dozen proposals being submitted to NASA for a share of development funds under a program that’s aimed at preparing the way for replacing the International Space Station.

If Blue Origin and its partners follow through on the plan, the basic version of Orbital Reef would be in low Earth orbit sometime during the latter half of the 2020s — in time for an orderly transition from ISS operations. That version would include power-generating capability, a core module with picture windows looking down on Earth, an inflatable habitat provided by Sierra Space and a Boeing-built science lab.

Blue Origin’s senior vice president of advanced development programs, Brent Sherwood, told GeekWire that Orbital Reef would cost “at least an order of magnitude less” than the International Space Station. The development cost for the International Space Station is typically estimated at $100 billion, which would imply a cost in the range of $10 billion for Orbital Reef.

Sherwood declined to say how much each of the partners would be willing to pay toward development, but Sierra Space President Janet Kavandi noted that her company has already put $1 billion into the development of a Dream Chaser space plane capable of ferrying crew to and from Orbital Reef. (An uncrewed version of the Dream Chaser is due to start delivering cargo to the International Space Station within the next year or so.)

Other partners in Orbital Reef include Redwire, which specializes in on-orbit manufacturing; Genesis Engineering Solutions, which would build a “single-person spacecraft” for extravehicular activities; and Arizona State University, which will lead a global research consortium.

Sherwood said Orbital Reef could serve as a base for activities ranging from research to manufacturing, media projects and space tourism. Mike Gold, Redwire’s executive vice president for civil space business development and external affairs, emphasized that the proposed station will be designed to be expandable over time.

“Like real reefs, the Orbital Reef will touch many, many countries throughout the world,” Gold said. “This isn’t an American station. This will be a global station that will carry on the proud international legacy of the ISS.”

NASA is due to distribute up to $400 million to as few as two and as many as four industry teams to work on the initial stages of development for new orbital destinations — but it’s not guaranteed that Orbital Reef will be chosen.

Most of the spacecraft that would be used to build and service Orbital Reef — ranging from Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser and Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule to Blue Origin’s orbital-class New Glenn rocket — are still under development and behind schedule.

Even if Orbital Reef is chosen for the first round of funding, there’s no guarantee that it’ll will win full funding from NASA as an anchor tenant in the late 2020s. A different industry team led by Blue Origin found that out earlier this year when it lost out to SpaceX in a competition for lunar lander funding — an award that’s currently the subject of a legal dispute.

Among the other teams proposing space station concepts are Axiom Space and a consortium including Nanoracks and Lockheed Martin. Axiom Space has already won NASA’s go-ahead to build a commercial habitat for the International Space Station that could spin off to become part of a new orbital outpost when the time is right.

There’s also a chance that SpaceX could proposed a modified version of its Starship spaceship as an orbital outpost, just as it proposed a modified Starship as a lunar lander.

NASA is due to make its initial selections for funding next year.

Would the Orbital Reef partners proceed without NASA funding? Sierra Space’s Kavandi, for one, was clear about that.

“Our company is very dedicated to making this happen, with or without additional funding,” she said. “We have committed to Blue Origin to be principal partners, and we are committed to making this happen regardless.”

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Earnings preview: Microsoft’s cloud era takes hold, further reducing reliance on Windows PC sales

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Microsoft’s big cloud businesses, Azure and Office 365, are driving much of the company’s growth.

If ever there was a quarter to illustrate that Microsoft’s growth doesn’t depend on Windows PC sales anymore, this is shaping up to be it.

Worldwide PC shipments grew just 1% in the September quarter, down from a peak of 32% growth earlier this year. The global semiconductor shortage and supply chain bottlenecks combined with weaker demand for computers to undercut a market that has traditionally been Microsoft’s bread-and-butter.

Yet Wall Street is predicting significant growth for Microsoft — driven by increased demand for Microsoft Azure, Office 365 and other cloud services.

Microsoft reports earnings Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 26, for the three months ended Sept. 30, the first quarter of its fiscal 2022. The average estimate from Wall Street analysts is $43.97 in revenue (up 18%) and 2.07 in earnings per share (up 14%).

The company’s cloud business is “hitting its next gear of growth,” wrote Wedbush Securities analyst Daniel Ives in a note to clients, citing the firm’s latest checks on enterprise software deals.

“We are seeing deal sizes continue to increase markedly as enterprise-wide digital transformation shifts are accelerating with CIOs all focused on readying their respective enterprises for a cloud driven architecture with MSFT poised to beat Azure whisper growth numbers of ~45% this quarter,” Ives wrote. “We believe the Street’s view of moderating cloud growth on the other side of this WFH cycle is contrary to the deal activity MSFT is seeing in the field.”

The company’s Office 365 price increase is also expected to help.

Microsoft should “handily exceed Street estimates,” he predicted.

Continued cloud growth would continue the trend (see chart at top) of Microsoft experiencing steady growth in the productivity software businesses where it has made the transition from traditional sales and licensing to cloud-based services and subscription-style billing.

One question long-term is whether Microsoft can lift its Windows business in a similar way through the launch of Windows 365, a subscription-based service that’s part of its larger vision for “Cloud PCs.”

Windows 11 and Microsoft’s new Surface devices didn’t launch until after the quarter ended. Unless there was a surprise increase in people buying new Windows 11-ready PCs to prepare for the beefier system requirements, the impact of those launches won’t be reflected in the Microsoft’s results on Tuesday.

Regardless, it’s a free upgrade, and we may be past the days when a new Windows version generated enough excitement and interest in new PCs to significantly boost Microsoft’s revenue following a launch.

Check back with GeekWire for full earnings coverage on Tuesday afternoon.

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With mandate in effect, CLEAR app gets official OK in Seattle area as vaccine verification method

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The CLEAR app features a Health Pass, left, that is used to verify COVID-19 vaccination. (CLEAR App images)

As the new Public Health – Seattle & King County policy requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter certain businesses goes into effect today, digital methods of verification are expected to gain in popularity.

Customers age 12 and older will be required to verify full vaccination or proof of a negative COVID test to attend outdoor public events of 500 or more people and gain access to indoor establishments such as bars, restaurants, gyms and more.

Rather than fumbling through a wallet for a paper proof of vaccination card or scrolling through a smartphone photo library for a photo of such, some apps are streamlining the process.

CLEAR, the New York-based identity company, has been approved by Public Health as a trusted vaccine verification tool in the Seattle area. A digital vaccine card can be created through the free CLEAR app (iOS and Android). The company has already established partnerships with Seattle professional sports teams, including the Seahawks, Sounders FC and Kraken. 

Fans lined up at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle where the CLEAR app was allowed as a method of vaccination verification. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

CLEAR is also available for travelers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, using biometrics such as eye or fingerprint scans for speedier movement through security. And at T-Mobile Park in Seattle fans can use CLEAR in certain concession lines.

“The Seattle Metro Chamber strongly and actively supports vaccination because we know it is the path out of this pandemic and toward an equitable economic recovery,” Rachel Smith, Chamber president and CEO, said in a news release. “Tools like CLEAR’s Health Pass are a critical part of how we can safely do many of the activities we love, whether that’s eating in a restaurant, working out at the gym, or supporting our local sports teams.”

New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles are among major U.S. metropolitan areas that have also named CLEAR a trusted tool.

Users who download the CLEAR app can create a digital vaccine cared by verifying identity by uploading images of a document such as a Washington state driver’s license and then snapping a selfie. The app’s tech matches the selfie to the ID image.

David Geller, a Seattle technology entrepreneur and investor, has created his own digital solution for vaccine verification called MyQRCard.

“I needed a way to keep track of business cards and share them easily,” Geller told GeekWire. “And I started seeing lots of Facebook ads for NFC business cards — the kind you tap to reveal contact info. So I created my own solution.”

Geller, who administers vaccines as a volunteer with Eastside Fire and Rescue, also added a vaccine template. He’s used it to do such things as successfully board an international flight and have breakfast in Seattle.

“The couple in front of me had to produce their CDC cards and then pull out their wallets to confirm identity,” Geller said of his restaurant experience. “When I shared my card with MyQRCard.app the hostess saw the card along with my name and photo and just said ‘cool’ and I was set!”

Geller made a feature that makes the QR code associated with the card work for only 5 minutes at a time. If someone were to share their vaccine info by QR code, the link would self-destruct automatically.

A blog post about Geller’s creation is here, and users can sign up to create a digital card here.

King County’s Department of Health first announced the proof of vaccination plan on Sept. 16. Health officials said they will revisit the policy within six months to see if it remains necessary and extend it based on future outbreak conditions.

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How pandemic-driven talent migration will change where biotech companies are located

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Read Time:4 Minute, 45 Second
Alexandria Executive Chairman Joel Marcus. (Alexandria Real Estate Equities Photo)

Joel Marcus’ fortunes have risen with those of the life sciences industry. The executive chairman of life sciences builder Alexandria Real Estate Equities first bought laboratory space in Seattle in 1996, two years after founding the company when biotech was still emerging as an industry.

Alexandria is now a publicly traded giant with a market cap of more than $30 billion, millions of square feet of lab space throughout the U.S. and a venture capital arm, Alexandria Venture Investments. And his Pasadena, Calif.-based company has helped make the Seattle area one of the country’s top ten biotech clusters.

Just as Marcus saw the rise of biotech and capitalized on it, he is reading the tea leaves as the pandemic fuels investor interest in biotech and upends business models. He talked about the future of the industry in Seattle and beyond in an interview with Life Science Washington CEO Leslie Alexandre, at the trade group’s annual summit last week.

In Seattle alone, the company’s buildings house Sana Biotechnology, the new headquarters of Adaptive Biotechnologies, and labs for Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, to name a few. It built the headquarters for Juno Therapeutics, the cell therapy biotech acquired by Celgene for $9 billion in 2018, and is developing a life sciences hub at Seattle’s almost three-acre Mercer Mega Block. And its venture arm has backed Seattle companies such as Silverback Therapeutics and cell therapy startup Umoja Biopharma.

Alexandria is also snapping up real estate in nearby Bothell, Wash., where it houses the headquarters of global biotech Seagen.

Marcus spoke with Alexandre about the rise of a “spoke and hub” model of business, the growth of biotech clusters, and the need to shore up supply chains. The pandemic also revealed the need for complex therapeutics, making the Seattle area well positioned to forge the next generation of medicines.

Read one for highlights from the interview below, edited for clarity and brevity.

Biotech clusters will strengthen

Joel Marcus: “The war for talent is where it’s all at. If you’re starting a company, you’re not going to start in a place that doesn’t have a talent pool. You can’t build a company in a new city. You can put a small company together and you can grow it to a certain extent, but you can’t scale it in any meaningful fashion. I think the existing clusters are going to become even more dominant.”

New company structures will rise

Related: Biotech boom: How life sciences emerged from the doldrums in Seattle and Washington state

“Given that talent is moving around with COVID, I think there are going to be more spoke and hub situations with companies. So you could have a Seattle company that has a San Francisco presence, and maybe a Boston presence. We already see that with a number of companies, Sana is a great example.” (Sana is headquartered in Seattle but is hiring in the Boston and San Francisco biotech clusters, and is building a manufacturing facility in the Bay Area.)

Seattle has brains and talent 

“We’ve always felt Seattle was a truly remarkable place and I think today we see it as an amazing region. This intersection of technology and life science is pretty big. It’s a world class location with great science.

Risk capital, there’s a lot of it — but it’s probably not nearly as strong as some of the other regions, so that’s something that needs enhancement.

And then you’re seeing some great waves with management talent creating new companies. People who started and grew up at Juno and so many other companies have now helped seed and start other companies. And that’s a really good thing. But I think governance in Seattle today is a big question.”

Workers are looking beyond urban areas

Related: Are tech employees coming back to downtown Seattle? Here’s what companies are planning for.

“When you look at the greater Puget Sound area, I think you have to recognize that people are nervous about living in urban areas today that are not well governed. And there are some parts of Seattle, you go down to Pioneer Square and it’s a pretty rough area down there, and that’s true of a number of locations.”

Bothell, Wash. has room to grow

“Seagen has been an anchor up there for decades and has done a great job of growing this ecosystem. Bothell’s been an important place. I think today in the world of next-gen manufacturing for gene and cell therapy, Bothell represents a great place for these companies to expand and create these critical facilities that are really needed.”

Shoring up supply chains for the 21st century

“We’re seeing it across the board, supply lines are a problem, and it’s important that we manufacture and keep critical industries here. The infrastructure bill in front of Congress, which was the first bill that seemed somewhat bipartisan oriented … if you look at it, the infrastructure is really is a 20th century infrastructure. It’s not aimed at the 21st century. It doesn’t really go in big ways at next-gen manufacturing for biotech products, or semiconductors.”

Preparing for developing complex therapeutics

“The second part, in addition to what COVID exposed with supply chain issues, is that the future of medicine is complex medicines, next-gen medicines. And it’s in gene therapy, cell therapy and beyond. And we need to have that control [of the supply chain], and I think Washington, and particularly the Puget Sound region, has a great opportunity there.”

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