Paul Allen Vows to Donate Majority of Estate, Tom Alberg Heads to D.C., Seattle Startup Sectors Grow, and Other Seattle-Area News

7/20/10

After last week’s resurgence of activity surrounding Seattle-area technology companies, I have to say I’m somewhat surprised by how few deals were made this past week. But just because there weren’t very many straight deals over the last few days, doesn’t mean there weren’t any big news stories—or big dollars—being tossed around the local tech scene. This past week we’ve seen a number of key players in local business shuffle in and out of executive positions and a local billionaire pledge the majority of his money to charity, and we’ve gotten a number of interesting glimpses into the future of Seattle-area startup culture and the emerging industries that seem to be taking center stage. Take a look at the highlights:

—Seattle-based energy retrofitting company EcoFab joined the McKinstry Innovation Center, becoming the third cleantech company to set up shop at the still growing “accelerator” for clean and alternative energy startups. This announcement, however, falls into a larger context about the future of northwest industry. Could the emerging green sector become Seattle’s newest boom industry?

—Stealthy Seattle-based startup PhotoRocket hired on its interim president Gary Roshak as the company’s first CEO. Though founder and chairman Scott Lipsky, former Amazon executive and aQuantive co-founder, hasn’t revealed exactly what the company will be doing yet, this recent announcement may be a sign that the company, which says it is planning on “changing the landscape of the photo sharing space,” may be coming out of stealth soon.

—Madrona Venture Group managing director Tom Alberg has been appointed to President Obama’s new National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The 26-person council, which includes co-founders from big web companies including Yahoo!, AOL, and Zipcar, is charged with helping the administration develop policies to foster entrepreneurship, create jobs, and drive economic growth.

—Paul Allen threw some big money around this last week. The Microsoft co-founder commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation by giving $100,000 in special grants to the founders of five local nonprofits and vowing to donate the majority of his own estimated $13.5 billion estate to philanthropy. Allen, 57, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma last fall and said he intends to ensure that his “philanthropic efforts will continue after my lifetime.”

Microsoft Research Redmond named Peter Lee as its new managing director, succeeding Rico Malvar, who will stay on as chief scientist. Lee was previously the director of the Technology Office at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and head of Carnegie Mellon University’s computer science department.

TechStars, a startup mentorship program and seed-stage investment with operations in both Boulder, CO, and Boston, is opening up a Seattle program in August. Before leaving for Boston himself, Greg got a sneak peek at TechStars Seattle’s new 14,000-square-foot South Lake Union space, fully equipped with a bar put in by the former tenant, who had been planning to open a speakeasy of sorts in the basement. What better environment to foster Seattle’s next generation of tech startups?

—Speaking of blossoming startup scenes, Seattle seems to brimming with new group buying deal-a-day sites—from Tippr, DealPop, and Yubit to the national names, Groupon and LivingSocial. And while this may not exactly be a deal, the onslaught of new daily deals and bargain sites in the local sphere definitely makes for an interesting analysis of where this market is going and what it means for consumers seeking new deals in the local marketplace, and merchants looking for ways to draw in new customers.

—In perhaps the only actual deal this week, Portland, OR-based Puppet Labs, a developer of data center automation software, raised $5 million in Series B financing led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a venture firm out of Menlo Park, CA. The completed funding round came at the same time as the open-source software startup rolled out its newest product, Puppet 2.6, which improves upon its flagship product and targets the needs of “enterprise environments.”

Thea Chard is a correspondent for Xconomy Seattle. You can e-mail her at theachard@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/theachard. Follow @

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