Seattle Rewind: Ozzie’s Startup, Mobile Predictions, Big Questions

1/6/12Follow @curtwoodward

We’re back in the swing of things after the holidays, which means this is your first weekly rewind of the new year. Read on, especially if you were too busy catching up on e-mails and meetings to pay attention to the Seattle-area headlines the first time around:

—Former Microsoft software chief Ray Ozzie resurfaced this week with a proto-company looking for talented young techies (um, get in line). The only thing said for sure about the new company, called Cocomo, is that it’s in the mobile and social communications realm—the job ad says the startup is building “a new communications product for this new world” and “compelling tools for social interaction.”

—Mobile consultant and analyst Chetan Sharma released the latest version of his year-ahead predictions survey of mobile industry insiders. The 150 or so respondents are looking for big things from Microsoft and Amazon, rating those two companies’ mobile strategies in the top three biggest storylines of the year to come. Sharma says Microsoft’s main phone-hardware partner, Nokia, is on the clock for a must-win year in terms of new devices, while Redmond can afford to play a longer game. Amazon, of course, is still riding the (apparent) sales success of its new media tablet, the Kindle Fire—and has everyone waiting for the next move.

—Reaching back a little more than a week, I checked in during the post-Christmas lull with a list of 12 big questions for Seattle’s tech scene in 2012. It’s a good roundup of the stuff that we think might define the broader industry in these parts in the months ahead, from the moves and missteps by big boys down to the ongoing efforts to fertilize a stronger startup ecosystem and supply good technical talent. Let me know if I booted any of those—and send me tips for how to answer everything!

—The growing team at Startup Weekend had a bit of a setback to end 2011 as it pulled the plug on the ambitious Startup Foundation project. As I first reported last summer, the foundation was seen as a sister organization that could provide a permanent hub and resource center for early stage entrepreneurs and wannabes in cities around the country. It was co-founded by former Startup Weekend marketing chief Jennifer Cabala. But the concept couldn’t find enough money to keep running beyond the pilot project phase, and has ended in the eight original cities (including Seattle). Startup Weekend CEO Marc Nager says the organization plans to fold some of the foundation work back into the larger nonprofit’s mission.

—Seattle interactive learning company Headsprout was featured in Wade Roush‘s latest digital life column, making an appearance at the family holiday retreat via a young tablet user. After watching his 4-year-old nephew in action with one lesson, Wade wrote, “Headsprout claims that kindergartners who complete its 80-lesson course end up with reading comprehension levels typical of 2nd graders, and I can believe it.”

—Guest columnist Bill Lemon of the Northwest Energy Angels checked in with a survey of the regional cleantech investing landscape in 2012. Two big strengths he sees for the Northwest: Boeing’s support of alternative aircraft fuels, and a strong military presence that brings a commitment to energy projects, particularly initiatives that can improve efficiency.

—There were a handful of small-company deals announced, including mobile developer Ubermind‘s sale to Deloitte, new investment cash for  the content licensing company iCopyright, and a polished-off initial fundraising round for Seattle TechStars 2011 graduate Vizify.

—Finally, more shuffling at RealNetworks (NASDAQ: RNWK) as CFO Michael Eggers announced his resignation, effective April 15. Some other longtime Real hands have left in recent months, following the company’s restructuring and transition to a new CEO, former Adobe VP Thomas Nielsen, who was hired in early November.

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

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