Decide, Avalara, Brad Feld: Pre-Turkey Gems from the Seattle Tech Scene

11/23/11Follow @curtwoodward

In a remarkable test of will, I’m going to avoid any Thanksgiving-related puns and just dive straight into this wrapup of the past week in Xconomy Seattle’s tech headlines, covering everything from Black Friday shopping apps to the latest rumblings of possible doom from a local wireless company.

—The crew at Seattle startup Decide made the obvious leap into a full mobile app, released just as bargain-hunters were warming up for the holiday shopping frenzy. Decide is among several sites that help consumers decide whether to buy electronics, or wait for a better price. But the company, co-founded by University of Washington search expert Oren Etzioni, takes things a significant step further by employing a sophisticated price-prediction technology.

—I profiled Avalara, a Bainbridge Island-based company that sells web-based software to help merchants calculate and pay sales taxes. That’s a complicated task, with some 11,000 taxing districts of all shapes and sizes littered around the country. Avalara’s been posting impressive growth numbers, and the trend could continue as Congress, Amazon, and traditional retailers try to hash out a deal over charging sales tax on more online purchases.

—Xconomy’s Greg Huang brought us the scoop on a speech by all-star investor Brad Feld, who told entrepreneurs and angel investors at Microsoft‘s NERD Center in Cambridge, MA, that product and people should be their main focus. Feld is the co-founder of TechStars, a startup bootcamp program with a branch in Seattle. He’s also a board member and investor, through the Foundry Group, in Seattle startups BigDoor Media and Cheezburger Network.

—I looked at a recent tactical shift made by MiNeeds, a Seattle-based site that pairs users up with local service providers who bid for their business. It’s a relatively active area for Web companies to target, but MiNeeds thinks it found a significant edge in the wedding market when it decided to break those services out from the plumbers and carpenters and house painters on the main site. That was something the co-founders resisted—but, as good data geeks, they changed their minds after testing showed it was the right move.

PaperShare opened up its doors to the public—or at least the cloud computing and virtualization slice of the public. The startup, headed by longtime server computing consultant Doug Brown and former Microsoft virtualization director David Greschler, is a new twist on the sometimes ancient websites that many professionals still use to spread technical info and industry insights.

—And finally, we had some contrasting bits of news: Clearwire, which is trying to simultaneously slow its losses and raise money for a network overhaul, publicly said it would consider delaying a big debt payment. Shares, of course, took a beating. On the other hand, Ignition’s Frank Artale led a $15 million investment in ServiceMesh, a cloud platform company in Santa Monica, CA.

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

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