Seattle Roundup: Dolly, ISB, Machine Learning, & More

Before Monday Night Football gridlocks Seattle traffic (The Seahawks at home against the Lions), let’s catch up on a few interesting items from the last week. Read on for details of Dolly’s Series A funding; a grant for “scientific wellness” to the Institute for Systems Biology; Microsoft Venture’s next startup accelerator topic: machine learning; Dato’s latest machine learning news; another big gift from the Ballmers; and Northwest expansion plans for Lyft and Yahoo.

Dolly, a Seattle-based startup making technology to modernize the moving and hauling business, raised an $8 million Series A, led by Maveron. Dolly is Uber for moving: A mobile app allows people and companies with stuff to move to quickly solicit bids and book moving service from “Helpers,” who arrive with their own trucks to haul it. The company’s co-founders are Michael Howell, formerly of Wetpaint, and Chad Wittman, whose prior credits include EdgeRank Checker, which analyzed Facebook algorithms.

—The Institute for Systems Biology (ISB) is revving up its “scientific wellness” research with $2 million in funding from the Washington Research Foundation (WRF). Leroy Hood, co-founder of ISB and of Seattle-based scientific wellness startup Arivale, wants to see Seattle become a center of what he sees as a new industry. The idea is to emphasize quantifying and maintaining wellness, rather than the current healthcare industry approach of treating disease. It is the outgrowth of ongoing research at ISB toward “P4 medicine”—medical practice that is predictive, preventive, personalized, and participatory.

[Hood along with his Arivale co-founder Clayton Lewis will speak at Seattle 2035, an upcoming Xconomy conference on the future of Seattle’s innovation ecosystem. Learn more here.]

The $2 million from WRF, which helps research institutions in the state with technology transfer and invests in basic research and technology development, will support a new research group focused on computation and analytics to handle the huge flow of data expected from ISB’s 100K Wellness Project, which seeks to enroll 100,000 people and measure their wellness through a variety of scientific measures.

—The next class of Microsoft’s startup accelerator program in Seattle will focus on machine learning and data science. The company is accepting applications . It’s a hot—too hot?—space, as Hanan Lavy, director of the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator in Seattle notes in a blog post: “Startup investments in data science have been doubling every 2 years since 2006; in the last 7 years alone, over $4.9B has been invested in 523 companies.” Applications to the startup accelerator are open until Nov. 20. The company will select 10 to 15 startups in December for the four-month program beginning in February 2016.

—Speaking of machine learning, Dato, the company making tools to help its customers incorporate machine learning capabilities into their products and services, is developing a six-course curriculum in partnership with the University of Washington and Coursera. The cost for the courses starts at $79.

The company also released toolkits to help developers more-easily implement machine learning for specific tasks such as making recommendations, searching images, and predicting churn.

—Steve and Connie Ballmer have donated $32 million to the University of Washington School of Social Work in the last five years, including a $20 million gift announced last week. Half of the money will support graduate student scholarships, which helps reduce student loan debt so students can stay in the relatively low-paying field. The Ballmers last month contributed $11 million to the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship program.

—Add Lyft to the list of tech companies looking north to Seattle for room to grow and talent to grow with. The on-demand transportation company announced an engineering center and local operations office in Seattle.

—The clean low-cost power coursing through the Pacific Northwest continues to be a boon to another generation of businesses. Yahoo plans to double its data center in Quincy, WA, adding about 300,000 additional square feet in an expansion set to be completed next summer. It’s one of three the Internet company owns and operates in the U.S. The company cites renewable energy, local talent, and business incentives as reasons to expand in Washington.

Benjamin Romano is editor of Xconomy Seattle. Email him at bromano [at] xconomy.com. Follow @bromano

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