Seattle Roundup: Icertis, Blue Origin, UW President Search, & More

This week, we’re following funding news for a Bellevue, WA-based cloud contract management company, Icertis; Blue Origin’s successful test flight of its New Shepard space vehicle; the search for a new University of Washington president; a new class of students at the Ada Developers Academy; Smartsheet’s integration with Microsoft Outlook; and university business plan competitions. Read on for details:

Icertis, a Bellevue-based company focused on cloud-based contract management software, announced a $6 million Series A funding round led by Greycroft Partners and Fidelity Growth Partners India. The company, founded in 2009 by Samir Bodas and Monish Darda, said it previously raised a seed funding round in 2012. Its main product is designed to manage all aspects of sell-side, buy-side, and corporate contracts in the cloud—specifically, Microsoft’s cloud. Icertis customers include Roche, Hyundai AutoEver Telematics America (HATA), Chemonics, and SunEdison. It also announced the spin-off of its enterprise resources planning arm as a separate company, CloudMoyo, focused on cloud and data analytics.

—Jeff Bezos’ space exploration company Blue Origin, based in Kent, WA, launched a test flight of its New Shepard vehicle. Bezos, in a blog post, declared, “Any astronauts on board would have had a very nice journey into space and a smooth return.”

One of several contenders in the commercial space business, Blue Origin is a few steps behind SpaceX, which earlier in April successfully delivered cargo to the International Space Station after five previous unsuccessful attempts.

The New Shepard test flight reached 307,000 feet—or just over 58 miles—where a crew module separated from the propulsion module, designed to be recovered and reused. The vertical landing part of the vertical takeoff/vertical landing model, which both SpaceX and Blue Origin are pursuing, is proving difficult to master in these early attempts.

Bezos blamed the failure to recover New Shepard’s propulsion module on a pressure loss in the hydraulic system on descent, an issue he says the company is already working on improving.

—The University of Washington is advancing its search for a new president with a series of public forums beginning Monday. The UW Board of Regents is seeking input from students, faculty, and the broader community on characteristics of the next UW president, and the most important opportunities and challenges he or she will face. (In February, we asked what should be on the next UW president’s commercialization agenda.) Mike Young abruptly left the UW earlier this year to take the top job at Texas A&M. UW Provost Ana Mari Cauce was named interim president. The Presidential Search Advisory Committee, appointed by the UW Board of Regents, is chaired by Kenyon Chan, emeritus chancellor of UW Bothell, and includes regents Kristi Blake, Joanne Harrell, Jeremy Jaech, and Rogelio Riojas. The Board of Regents is also seeking nominations of UW faculty, students, staff, and community members to join the search committee, and plans to hire a search consultant.

The Ada Developers Academy (Ada), a Seattle software development school for women, kicks off its third class, with 24 students, on Monday. The nonprofit Ada, which earlier this year spun out from the Technology Alliance, launched an Indiegogo campaign to fund loans to its students for help with living expenses. The program charges no tuition thanks to support from tech companies—including new backers Microsoft, Concur, and Getty—but has found students still struggle to make ends meet as they go through the full-time training. Ada says it has now placed nearly 40 graduates in software jobs locally and expects to more than double that total by the end of the year.

Smartsheet, which makes collaboration and project management tools inspired by spreadsheets, landed an important integration with Microsoft Outlook. The Bellevue-based company announced that Smartsheet for Outlook, out in beta, allows users to create and work on Smartsheet items within the confines of their Outlook inboxes. “By using Microsoft’s newly announced unified API as the single interface to all of the Office products, Smartsheet for Outlook streamlines the process of creating or editing tasks in Smartsheet, directly from within Outlook,” said Smartsheet CEO Mark Mader in a news release. He called it “one of many initiatives” the company is working on with the software giant.

—Speaking of Microsoft, check out this deep-dive on the company’s effort to reinvent itself under the leadership of CEO Satya Nadella by New York Times reporter Nick Wingfield. The story focuses on the central role Microsoft Research is playing in the 40-year-old company’s quest to identify the next blockbuster product, with HoloLens and Skype Translator as exhibits one and two.

Go KEFI, a travel-planning Website that suggests itineraries based on a traveler’s budget and desired experiences, took first place in Washington State University’s Business Plan Competition, collecting $15,000. Co-Optical, making a non-invasive continuous blood glucose monitor, came second. Third is Salud!, a countertop cocktail mixing machine.

—Meanwhile, the University of Washington Business Plan Competition is down to the sweet 16, after 37 teams pitched judges for four hours earlier this week. Go KEFI and Co-Optical are among the 16 teams advancing. The full list is here.

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