The Future 5 of Seattle’s Tech Scene, Q1 2022
Sure, the latest initiatives from the Teslas, Apples and Googles of the industry tend to dominate the tech news space — and with good reason. Still, the big guns aren’t the only ones bringing innovation to the sector.
In an effort to highlight up-and-coming startups, Built In is launching The Future 5 across eight major U.S. tech hubs. Each quarter, we will feature five tech startups, nonprofits or entrepreneurs in each of these hubs who just might be working on the next big thing. You can check out last year’s round-ups here.
Seattle might be best known as the home of major corporate players like Starbucks, Amazon and Nordstrom, but there’s a lot more to the city than coffee, e-commerce and luxury department stores. Seattle is bustling with large and small tech companies ranging from game development to marketing tech to machine learning. In fact, 11 percent of the city’s workforce is employed in the industry, according to Statista.
An environment like Seattle is bound to produce new tech innovations. We spoke with leaders at five up-and-coming companies in Seattle’s tech scene to learn how they’re innovating in their field and solving problems creatively. Read on to get a glimpse into the future of Seattle tech.
BUILT IN’S FUTURE 5 UP-AND-COMING SEATTLE STARTUPS, Q1 2022
- Clearbrief (Legal Tech)
- Game Jolt (Social Media)
- Give InKind (Fundraising Tech)
- Peer (Metaverse)
- Yohana (Wellness Tech)
Clearbrief (Legal Tech)
Contrary to what you might see in movies or on television, much of America’s justice system still runs on paper. Cases are won and lost based on writing filed with the court and the evidence and sources contained inside those documents. Writing those documents, making sure sources are cited correctly and statements are backed up by evidence takes a lot of time and creative thinking. It’s a tedious process with high stakes if not done correctly. And all that time legal teams spend on the administrative tasks involving those documents? Much of that time is not billable hours, meaning those writing them spend a lot of time on work they can’t even charge a client for.
Jacqueline Schafer, a litigator and former assistant attorney general to Alaska and Washington wanted better tools for writing legal documents. She wanted a way to catch mistakes, better connect the dots between evidence and statements, and to never have to write a table of authorities again. With the help of CTO Jose Saura and Schafer’s husband Tovi Newman as frontend developer, her solution Clearbrief was born.
Clearbrief is a legal writing platform that uses AI to make streamlined, interactive legal documents. It automatically finds and displays source documents referenced, scores and flags statements based on whether they’re backed up by evidence cited, and suggests better factual sources for legal writers to use. Clearbrief also takes care of the tedious relic of writing table of authorities and creates a shareable, web-based, hyperlinked version of documents.
“From a justice system perspective, courts are facing growing backlogs of cases and trials as a result of the ongoing pandemic. Courts and court staff are being asked to do more with less,” Schafer told Built In in an email. “Clearbrief helps our court system users cut through the noise and get to the heart of complex cases, allowing judges and their staff to focus on the information needed to write fair and clear decisions more efficiently.”
Clearbrief says its platform saves users on average seven hours of non-billable time each week, which roughly translates to $91,000 of income a lawyer could earn if they redirect that saved time toward billable work. That’s a breath of fresh air for many legal teams.
The company experienced a lot of success last year. Clearbrief was named the 2021 Legal Tech Startup of the Year by the American Legal Technology and Schafer also won the WA State Bar’s 2021 APEX Award for Legal Innovation. The company is also a finalist for the 2022 New Company of the Year Awards given at the LegalWeek annual conference. Schafer says while the awards are a big honor, she and her team are most proud of attracting government users including state court systems and attorney generals’ offices.
In 2022, Clearbrief plans to continue to expand its suite of collaboration features to allow for seamless editing among legal teams as well as their in-house clients. Schafer told Built In Clearbrief gets a ton of referrals from in-house attorneys who tell their outside counsel, “I want you to send me the Clearbrief version of your draft for review so I can see all the sources!”
Game Jolt (Social Media)
Seattle is known for its indie gaming community. With gaming giants like Twitch and Niantic based in the city, it is no surprise the video game industry would attract talent to the area. However, as big as the industry is, bringing in approximately $180 billion in revenue last year, there aren’t many social media platforms designed specifically with Gen Z’s gamers in mind. That’s why Yaprak and David DeCarmine created Game Jolt, an online community designed by gamers for the next generation of gamers.
“[David] grew up creating games and I learned English playing games when my family and I moved to the U.S. from Turkey,” Yaprak told Built In in an email. The two founders met in Seattle while working for Zulily and bonded over their shared love of gaming. “After a few years at Zulily, we were itching to do another startup and this time quit our jobs and built an incredible team made up of gamers, creators, publishers and people that are passionate about gaming.”
Game Jolt is a content sharing and online community platform. Like other social media platforms, users can follow their favorite online creators such as developers, Twitch streamers and fan artists to have content from these creators then show up in a user’s feed. What makes the platform unique is its incorporation of online communities, allowing users to join specific community forums based on their interests.
“Once you download the app and choose communities that pique your interest, our algorithms match you with content created by incredible artists, hilarious streamers and viral content trendsetters on Game Jolt,” Yaprak explains. “You can browse videos, livestreams, images and articles all in your personalized feed and discover new creators in our recommendation feed, called ‘For You.’”
2021 was a big year of growth for the company, raising $2.6 million in seed funding from some of the industry’s largest players. Leaders from Twitch, Rec Room and Mod.io contributed to the round, validating the company as a platform to watch in gaming tech.
While the app hasn’t officially launched yet, Game Jolt is already seeing positive response from its 100,000+ users who have downloaded the beta version on iOS and Android. The company says its userbase is primarily Gen Z who “appreciate being able to stay connected to their gaming communities, friends and followers on the device of their choice.”
Game Jolt plans to launch its official app in the first quarter of 2022. For now, the app is available to download through Google PlayStore and TestFlight for iOS. The Game Jolt platform can also be accessed through its desktop site.
Give InKind (Fundraising Tech)
It’s not always easy to ask for help even during our toughest moments. It might be clear that we need support to get through a difficult time but actually asking for it can feel paralyzing. Likewise, when we see someone suffering, it can be difficult to know what to do or how to help. For donating money towards someone’s medical expenses, there’s GoFundMe, but not everyone can afford to give and financial help isn’t always what someone needs.
Give InKind is a social support platform that allows people to ask for help when they most need it. Give InKind is similar to other personal fundraising platforms but goes the extra mile by allowing users to ask for different kinds of support. Instead of just receiving money, Give InKind pages can also post requests for help like picking up and delivering meals or rides to the doctor’s office. The platform also offers gift card integrations page owners can add to their wishlists.
Founder and CEO Laura Malcolm started the company to solve a problem her family experienced personally. After her and husband went through a big loss in 2013, Malcolm’s family didn’t know how to help from across the country.
“We don’t live in the same tight-knit communities we once did; our support systems are spread around the world. When someone is going through a challenge — whether it’s surgery recovery, cancer treatment, losing a loved one, or even just bringing home a new baby — there are many different ways they may need help,” Malcolm told Built In in an email.
We want to make it normal to say, ‘Hey, you said to let you know how you could help. Here it is!’”
Each Give InKind page is customizable, allowing users to add features like a care calendar, a wishlist, fundraising links and updates to their page. Loved ones can then decide how they want to help. This allows people to give support in multiple ways. For example, someone might not be able to donate money to a friend’s cancer medical bills but after seeing a request for transport to weekly chemotherapy appointments could lend their support in that way.
“Give InKind is on a mission to normalize support… Give InKind isn’t about money, or who needs help more than someone else, because the fact is, we all need help. We want to make it normal to say, ‘Hey, you said to let you know how you could help. Here it is!’” Malcolm says.
The company has several plans to grow its platform over the next year. The first is to increase the user engagement abilities by adding new communications features.
“A lot of our users are sharing updates through Give InKind as an alternative to Facebook or other social media channels. They’re much more likely to share updates on their recovery, or their child’s illness, for example, on Give InKind than they are on Facebook,” Malcolm explains. “We want to make sure that all of that feedback and emotional support can thrive on Give InKind.”
Give InKind also plans to expand its B2B offerings, as many churches, schools and employers are already using the platform. This year the company also plans to partner with Blackbaud to get the fundraising and support platform in front of the software for nonprofit providers’ users.
Ever since Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement of Facebook’s rebrand as Meta, many have turned their attention to what new capabilities and opportunities may lie in the metaverse. Theorized as a kind of Web 3.0, the metaverse will allow users to more seamlessly integrate into an online world. While the metaverse isn’t here quite yet, it’s anticipated to completely change the way we interact online.
There’s a ton of companies all racing to create the metaverse, including one up-and-coming startup in Seattle. Peer, which launched out of stealth last year with $12 million in pre-seed funding, is building the software and hardware needed to create the metaverse.
“Peer is one of the most consequential projects in this space. It expects to drive rapid innovation at a pace unseen by the industry to expedite the metaverse’s development,” Peer CEO Tony Tran told Built In in an email, adding that Peer’s aim is to make today’s “centralized human-computing experience paradigm obsolete.”
The company plans to launch its version of the metaverse in three stages. The first stage of Peer’s plan, “The Social Metaverse,” is to develop software to connect people to each other through metaverse platforms. The company plans to launch this software sometime this quarter and expects it to generate money and interest in the metaverse.
The second stage is “The Ambient Metaverse,” which will allow users to interact with the metaverse in different ways depending on where they are geographically in the physical world. Peer has also begun developing the hardware for this phase, which the company says will go beyond today’s tablets and smartphones in order to support this kind of virtual world.
The third and final stage is a little farther out, though not as futuristic as it might seem. “The Singularity Metaverse,” one in which digital and physical realms are hyper-connected, isn’t expected to happen until 2047 according to SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son, a prediction Tran agrees with.
This focus on the connection between the physical world and the metaverse is something that Trans believes sets Peer apart from other companies building the metaverse.
“By mapping the digital world to the real world, Peer enables the development of a decentralize[d] and boundless metaverse of infinite possibilities. Others are developing closed-off centralized experiences that neither bring people closer to technology nor the natural world,” Tran told Built In.
Peer plans to launch its flagship software products each quarter of this year and expects to monetize them by Q4 of 2022. These products will establish the foundational technology needed to drive the metaverse and include a high-speed blockchain, decentralized exchange, crypto wallets and a decentralized social experience. Next year, the company hopes to launch its hardware, services and operating system to further boost the public’s adoption of the metaverse.
Yohana (Wellness Tech)
The pandemic introduced new challenges to parenting. The sudden shift to working at home coupled with school shutdowns, shrinking childcare options and the overall stress of living in uncertain times left many parents feeling burnt out. This is especially the case for mothers, who historically have taken on more invisible labor than fathers, something further exacerbated by the pandemic.
In 2020, 74 percent of mothers reported feeling mentally worse since the start of the pandemic according to a survey by motherhood lifestyle brand Motherly. The increase of invisible labor mothers have taken on have also meant many mothers don’t have time to rest; 68 percent of mothers surveyed said they got less than an hour of alone time a day.
As a working mother of four, wife, and daughter to elderly parents, Yoky Matsuoka was struggling with parenting burnout herself in 2020.
“Managing the kids’ school on Zoom, while I was in back-to-back meetings on Zoom, plus the household chores, and caring for my aging parents — from more than 6,000 miles away — became unmanageable. I lost sight of my personal well-being and I was not being the best version of myself,” Matsuoka told Built In. “I felt like I was failing. But the more I talked to other working moms and families, the more I realized I wasn’t alone. Then I started thinking about how I could help.”
We want to help families who are dealing with age-old issues navigate and overcome these challenges in a modern way.”
With an already impressive tech resume — Matsuoka co-founded Google X, developed the Nest Learning Thermostat, and was a senior executive in healthcare tech at Apple and Google — Matsuoka founded Yohana, a family-focused wellness company. The company’s Yohana membership allows busy parents to offload some of their to-do list to “Yo Assistants,” professional problem solvers.
Through the Yohana App, parents can communicate with their Yo Assistants — who are real people, not bots — about what support they need to lighten their load. Yo Assistants are like personal assistants for families. They organize parents’ to-do lists, anticipate their needs and connect with a network of local professionals to get projects done.
The platform’s secure data systems and AI tools allow Yo Assistants to learn from each task and tailor their support to each member’s preferences without compromising member privacy. Users can even track their Yo Assistant’s progress and get notified when tasks are complete.
The membership is currently only available to those in the Seattle area, but Yohana plans to launch in additional cities in near future. To join, parents first sign up on a waiting list and fill out some information about their family, daily activities and lifestyle. Next, parents create an account and meet virtually with a Yohana matching ambassador who then pairs members with a Yo Assistant based on their specific needs.
“Our vision is to help families across the globe. We are a new wellness brand that puts people first and is creating technology that takes care of you — instead of you taking care of it. We want to help families who are dealing with age-old issues, from childcare to eldercare, navigate and overcome these challenges in a modern way,” Matsuoka says. “Yohana is combining support and expertise from real humans, with the best technology to help families be more present for each other, and make room for what really matters.”