Edward Jung on Innovation, Startup Weekend Branches Out, Nuance’s Innovation Hub, & More in the Seattle-Area Tech Roundup

6/21/11Follow @curtwoodward

I’m still re-adjusting to Pacific time after spending most of last week back in Boston for XSITE 2011, the latest installment of our annual conference that brings together entrepreneurs, investors, academics, and more for an all-day confab on innovation. Among the top-notch speakers and presenters was Edward Jung, a Microsoft veteran and co-founder of Bellevue, WA’s Intellectual Ventures.

Xconomy’s Bob Buderi put together this preview of Jung’s keynote, which centered on ideas for a new approach for solving enormous societal problems, including health care, education, and energy. Jung’s thesis counts on involving government as a key partner, providing long-term, stable financing and finding a big private sector entity to integrate the moving parts.

Even though I was out of town, we still had a good bit of news from the past week on the Seattle-area technology beat:

Startup Weekend told us about its plans to establish a sister organization that sets up permanent, staffed offices that will give entrepreneurial communities a central place to organize their efforts with academics, investors, non-profits, and the public sector. Called the Startup Foundation, the project is funded by a new grant from the Kauffman Foundation and is kicking off next month in seven cities, including Xconomy hubs Seattle, New York, Detroit and Boston. The Seattle office will be run by current Startup Weekend marketing honcho Jennifer Cabala, a familiar face around the Seattle scene.

—We had two entries in one day from Nuance (NASDAQ: NUAN), the Boston-based speech-recognition and mobile software company with a big Seattle presence. First off was an acquisition of SVOX, a Zurich-based embedded speech software company, for $125 million.

We followed that up with this in-depth interview with Brad Bargen, a veteran of Tegic Communications who now oversees customer-care and text-input product development at Nuance’s Seattle office. We talked about all kinds of interesting things, including Nuance’s friendly rivalry with hot crosstown startup Swype, also made up of former Tegic folks, and Nuance’s efforts to make language recognition of all kinds more natural and intuitive.

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) took the next step in trying to capitalize on the success of the motion- and sound-sensing Kinect controller for Xbox by opening the device’s software for hackers and modders to play with. This first go-round of the software development kit is limited to noncommercial uses, but encouraging a for-profit developer corps is on the roadmap. I was particularly impressed with Microsoft Research scientist Anoop Gupta’s quick mention of videoconferencing when I asked him where this technology could go next—that has big implications for Microsoft’s $8.5 billion acquision of Skype.

—Seattle social-game startup Giant Thinkwell, part of the first class of Seattle TechStars companies, started building up to today’s rollout of its first official celebrity-endorsed game: Mix-N-Match, a collaboration with Seattle hip-hop legend Sir Mix-A-Lot. Mix-A-Lot has always shown a humorous bent in his music, so it’ll be fun to see what he and Giant Thinkwell have up their sleeves. It’s a big step for the startup, which has been searching for celebrity partners as it tries to build a business around personality-branded Facebook games.

—Finally, we saw stealthy consumer electronics shopping startup Decide throw open the curtains on its site, which hopes to help shoppers save money and avoid new-model buyer’s remorse by synthesizing a ton of market information in one place. Others are playing in this sector, but Decide does boast co-founder Oren Etzioni, the University of Washington professor who was also behind airfare-shopping prediction site Farecast, which was purchased by Microsoft for $115 million in 2008.

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

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