Facebook and Salesforce Hunt for Talent, Bing Rolls Out New Features, UW’s Drone Races, & More in Seattle-Area Tech News

3/8/11Follow @curtwoodward

Visits with some of Seattle’s big-name Silicon Valley invaders, details from some emerging startups, and new features for Microsoft’s underdog search engine are among the highlights in this wrap-up of the past week in Xconomy’s Seattle tech coverage.

—We stopped in for chats with leaders from both Facebook and Salesforce.com in the past week, checking in with those companies as they continue to scour the region in search of engineering talent.

In a sit-down with Facebook Seattle office lead Ari Steinberg we learned that Facebook has topped its original target of about 30 people and sees no need to slow hiring. Steinberg also said that the Seattle office’s engineers were quickly making a name for themselves back at headquarters in Palo Alto, CA, and in particular were taking a leading role in an update of the social networking powerhouse’s chat feature.

—Salesforce.com officially opened its Seattle office with a downtown charity volunteering event that included Mayor Mike McGinn—an actual Salesforce customer both in his official duties and on the campaign trail (sorry, Microsoft).

Woodson Martin, a senior vice president of the San Francisco-based cloud computing company, indicated that a recent lawsuit challenging a former Microsoftie’s hiring wouldn’t slow down Salesforce’s expansion. He also got in a signature dig against Redmond, saying that engineers “want to be out on the cutting edge and innovating, and not maintaining the status quo.”

—In startup-land, we checked out ShipSweet, a company from serial entrepreneur Ron Wiener of Venture Mechanics. ShipSweet is among the firms out there trying to crack some of the byzantine elements of the commercial shipping industry by using IT prowess and business savvy. ShipSweet’s target is a little different than some others because it’s going after small- and medium-sized businesses by offering discounts through aggregating small parcel loads.

—Another startup making rumblings was King of the Web, an as-yet-unannounced social gaming company that appears (to me) to be going for some kind of entertainment crowd-sourcing mashup/remix vibe. There had previously been speculation that the “social gaming” element was going to be more along the lines of Zynga’s FarmVille and other Facebook-linked games, but it appears to be different.

—We also had news about WaySavvy, a company with bases in Boston and Seattle that recently inked a deal with Bellevue, WA-based Expedia (NASDAQ: EXPE). The partnership gives WaySavvy access to a “global distribution system” for booking and selling airline tickets and hotel stays.

—I stopped by the University of Washington’s computer science & engineering department to check out a demo from some students: Wireless controllers for Parrot AR Drones, slick little “quadricopter” machines that can fly in several directions. Go check out Wednesday’s demo if you’re in the neighborhood.

—Bing appeared on our radar screen with a few tidbits about new features. First, Microsoft’s search underdog announced that it was going to start aggregating and sorting the flood of daily deals offers on the Web, a notable development in that rapidly expanding arena. Bing’s partnership in that venture is with The Dealmap. The technology is being pushed out in the fullest way to mobile devices first—although not Windows Phone 7 devices, a fact quickly noted by commenters on Bing’s own blog post. Bing followed that up by announcing that Connecticut-based Kayak would soon start providing U.S. flight search results on Bing Travel.

—Finally, a little media news: Tech journalists Todd Bishop and John Cook have left the Puget Sound Business Journal’s TechFlash to undertake their own startup, GeekWire. The Seattle area continues to be a workshop for new media enterprises—there are several nationally recognized examples in this town showing how the news business might work in the 21st century.

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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