The Future 5 of Seattle Tech, Q2 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 tech titans aren’t the only ones bringing innovation to the sector.
In an effort to highlight up-and-coming startups, Built In has launched The Future 5 across 11 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 quarter’s Seattle round-up here.
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Seattle has one of the oldest and most diverse tech scenes in the country and has fostered many tech businesses over the years. It has been the birthplace of Amazon and Microsoft, however, the area is also home to unique innovations from smaller startups that don’t yet have the same recognition as the giants.
This quarter, Built In sat down with five local startups who have yet to raise a Series A funding round to talk about their innovations.
BUILT IN’S FUTURE 5 UP-AND-COMING Seattle STARTUPS, Q2 2022
- Game Jolt (Gaming/Social Media)
- Proxi (Software)
- PTO Exchange (HR Tech)
- Seashell (Fintech)
- Stack (Blockchain/Cryptocurrency)
Seattle is the birthplace of many popular video games and gaming software companies, and while Game Jolt is not a game developer it is winning the support of the Seattle gaming community with its gaming-specific social media platform.
The platform was launched in 2020 by Yaprak DeCarmine, a Turkish immigrant who moved to Seattle and learned English by playing video games. It has grown to over 4 million monthly users in under two years.
Game Jolt features community spaces based around specific video games where users can connect with other fans, get game help or share fan art they made about the game. The platform also helps users discover new games through a store page. Since launching, the company has raised $2.6 million in funding and has doubled its headcount.
According to DeCarmine, the social media platform is popular because it groups together similar-minded people in a community that supports their interests.
“Our goal is to support everything gamers are creating while giving them a dedicated space to share it with their friends and followers,” DeCarmine told Built In.
From launching as a trick-or-treating map to raising $1.2 million in funding, female-founded Proxi has quickly risen to the top of the startup scene. The company launched in 2020 and after releasing a few holiday maps, it opened its platform for everyone to create maps and share recommendations.
Proxi’s platform uses geospatial tech to create visual maps that others can use to navigate and find eateries, coffee shops, retail stores and a bevy of other recommendations in an easy to use manner. The platform also provides analytics on how much activity certain maps generate, which has made it a popular tool for influencers and news outlets.
“Local influencers and local news organizations were already sharing lists of the best sushi places in Seattle, the best places to get boba or the best places to take Instagram photos. They were already sharing that information, but it was really hard for their followers or fans to use,” Melinda Haughey, CEO of Proxi, told Built In.
PTO Exchange is helping employees understand their paid time off (PTO) benefits and also giving them flexibility on how they use it.
Once partnered with an employer, the PTO Exchange platform tracks how much PTO an employee has accrued and gives them the option to exchange their PTO for things such as hotel stays, flights, cash, donations to nonprofits or contributions to HSAs, retirement accounts or student loans. Based on the plan an employer selects, there are different exchange options, and the employer can also limit the amount of PTO someone can exchange.
“We’re solving a real problem for the workers of the future. We see things turning flexible, and the ability to take this benefit that you already budgeted [for] and build flexibility around it is important for the employees and employers,” Rob Whalen, PTO Exchange CEO and co-founder, told Built In.
Since launching, the company has raised $8.4 million in funding and has seen wide adoption by the medical industry, according to Whalen.
With staggering inflation across the country, keeping money in standard bank accounts can at times seem pointless. Seattle-based Seashell is creating an alternative banking solution to help users grow their money faster than traditional alternatives, according to the company.
The fintech startup offers higher interest rates than traditional banks and does so through diversified investments. The platform also panthers with financially-regulated digital lending institutions to give users access to higher yields.
Since launching, Seashell has attracted top talent from other fintech startups and also has the financial backing of Mark Cuban.
“Seashell’s mission is to build a secure and accessible ecosystem where money grows and moves freely. Current companies and products in traditional finance, and even within fintech, restrict the flow of money,” Daryl Hok, CEO and founder of Seashell, told Built In over email.
Crypto was once only assessable to tech-savvy individuals. Today, it is more easily attainable, but it is still out of reach for teens as most trading platforms require users to be 18 years of age or older. However, Seattle-based Stack is creating mobile solutions for teens to get in on the crypto rush and recently launched its mobile app.
Through Stack, teens can open custodian brokerage accounts and buy crypto. According to the company’s founder and CEO Will Rush, the main goal of the app is not to get teens to buy crypto, necessary, but for them to learn about investing and to do so in a safe environment.
Besides trading, the app features educational challenges that reward users after they complete them. Users are rewarded with crypto or with new accessories for their avatars that get built out the more challenges are completed.
“Technology moves so quickly now. The curriculum always falls behind,” Rush told Built In. “I think there is a really cool opportunity for private sector companies like us to go educate, but to do it in a really fun way.”
Besides creating an investment for teens, Rush also hosts financial literacy classes at schools and at the Boy and Girls Club in Seattle. With Stack, he also launched an internship program for high school students to gain experience working in tech.