Seattle Rewind: AT&T-Mo, Google, Amazon, Angels & More

12/23/11Follow @curtwoodward

AT&T shook up a potentially drowsy holiday week with the news that it was abandoning its $39 billion bid for Bellevue, WA-based T-Mobile. Ma Bell and T-Mo’s parent, Deutsche Telekom, telegraphed the end of their deal a week earlier when they got a federal antitrust lawsuit suspended. It seemed for a while like maybe there was some hope of an alternate deal, but apparently the Obama administration wasn’t having it.

We got some insights on what the future might hold for the fourth-place carrier from entrepreneur Giri Sreenivas, VC Tom Huseby, and state Rep. Reuven Carlyle. For now, it seems, T-Mobile and Deutsche Telekom might take the significant spectrum it got from AT&T for the breakup and get back to work on the core business—while keeping an eye out for new suitors. I guess that makes this holiday season one of slightly less anxiety for T-Mobilers in the region.

Here’s the rest of this week’s tech headlines from Xconomy Seattle:

—I found out that Google had appointed senior cloud engineer Doug Orr as the new director of its Seattle offices, replacing Brian Bershad. Bershad is still with Google, but is focusing on a new job in Russia, where his broad task is finding ways to increase Google’s market share in that country’s burgeoning economy. Orr has been with Google for about five years, and was most recently working on internal and external cloud-computing software projects. Scott Silver remains director of Google’s nearby Kirkland offices.

—We saw reports that Amazon.com is hunting for an office in the Boston area, with at least four research scientist jobs posted on its internal board. The move isn’t a huge surprise, since tech companies of all kinds are racing to acquire talent wherever they can find it. One interesting angle is that the Amazon subsidiary apparently involved here, a software development shop called A2Z, is primarily based in California—where the market for engineering talent is the hottest around.

—Seattle’s Voyager Capital, a technology VC firm that also has offices in Portland, OR and Silicon Valley, filed paperwork with the SEC for a new fund that could be worth up to $125 million. Voyager wouldn’t comment on its new fund, which is the firm’s fourth, and its first new fund since 2007. It will be interesting to see what kind of appetite there is out there for new VC activity, since we’ve seen reports of a tougher market for high-risk investments in the current climate.

—On the smaller end of the investing spectrum, I also reported on a fledgling project to draft new angel investors in the region. The idea, called the Seattle Angel Conference, is being spearheaded by tech-business and economic development veteran John Sechrest. The idea is taken from a series of events in Oregon, which get angels to chip in a small amount of money for a prize pool, which goes to a startup that makes it through several weeks of due diligence.

—We stopped by the offices of Seattle’s Stratos Product Development, an engineering and design shop that other companies turn to when they need help turning out a novel new product. Stratos president Sean MacLeod and former WTIA president Ken Myer gave us a run-through of some of the common elements, and even more common mistakes, that you see when companies try to build an innovative culture.

—I’ve seen some pretty humble startup offices—mine included—but Redmond’s Digital Lifeboat may take the cake for locations at its spot “between the cemetery and the trailer park.” The company, founded by two veterans of iShip.com, is an online consumer PC backup service. But instead of owning lots of big iron, Digital Lifeboat relies on a distributed network that uses its customers as storage nodes. We’ve seen this before in town from Symform, a cloud startup that is taking a similar approach to IT customers.

—And finally, our friends in Boston reported on the formal split of TripAdvisor from Bellevue-based Expedia, which leaves TripAdvisor as its own public company. This spinoff was announced back in the spring. TripAdvisor has more than 1,000 employees and is on pace to top the $486 million in revenue it made in 2010.

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

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