Seattle Week in Review: Mourning Orlando, While the News Goes On

This is a difficult, tragic week to review, one we will not soon forget. The flow of horrible words and images pouring relentlessly through our screens makes it hard to see the good in the world. I’m going to spend the weekend holding close to family and friends, being grateful for them.

Technology and innovation news, viewed in the broader context, can seem trivial—particularly in weeks like this one—but can also provide a refuge. So can sports, and this is a peak season with a Father’s Day lineup including the final round of the U.S. Open and Game 7 of the NBA Finals. I welcome the distractions.

Leading the local tech news this week (and probably this year, if you go by dollar value) was Microsoft’s largest acquisition. There was a spate of much smaller local deals and partnerships announced too: funding for Planetary Power; Planetary Resources’ new European headquarters and agreement with the government of Belgium; the acquisition of Synapse; and a technology integration between Seattle dataware companies Dato and Tableau Software. Read on for details. Or maybe turn it all off and go be with people you love.

Microsoft is buying LinkedIn for $26.2 billion. That’s about $60 for each of LinkedIn’s 433 million members. I can’t claim to fully grok this deal, but I’m not in the business of making acquisitions of any kind, let alone the $26 billion variety.

As a user of LinkedIn and many Microsoft products and services, I am uneasy with a tighter integration among them, mainly for the reason articulated by Randall Stross, a San Jose State University business professor, writing about the deal in a New York Times op-ed. Stross fears the unwelcome intrusion of suggestions pulled from LinkedIn into the sacred writing space that is Microsoft Word. “Writing on Word may be the only time I spend on my computer in which I can keep the endless distractions in the networked world out of sight,” he writes.

—Meanwhile, it emerged this week that Microsoft is working with a startup called Kind Financial to serve the marijuana industry through cloud-based software for government regulators. Microsoft is including Kind’s government solutions software for tracking and regulating legal marijuana supply chains in its Azure Government cloud. As a result of the agreement, Microsoft is being recognized as one of the first big corporations to delve into the pot business publicly.

—And, in a nod to the importance of Vancouver as a Canadian technology hub, Microsoft unveiled a substantial new office in the metropolis just across the border to the north. The Microsoft Canada Excellence Centre has room for some 800 employees. More than 550 are there now.

Synapse, a Seattle engineering, design, and technology consultancy, is being acquired by Cambridge Consultants, a unit of Altran group. The deal gives Cambridge Consultants—headquartered in Cambridge, U.K., and Boston—a presence on the West Coast, part of a broader expansion plan that could see the product development and services firm grow to more than 1,000 employees by 2020. “Synapse has a rich heritage in developing technology-driven consumer products and strengthens our reach both geographically and in this key market segment,” say Cambridge Consultants CEO Alan Richardson.

—Also expanding in the Seattle region: Magic Leap, the heavily funded, secretive augmented reality company. GeekWire reports on documents indicating the company will take some 7,900 square feet of space in the Brew House in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood.

And, Samba Tech, a Brazilian company that distributes online video in Latin America, launched an app called Kast, designed to help businesses use mobile video. The local tie? Kast uses Microsoft Azure, and the company says it is opening a new U.S. office in Seattle.

Planetary Power, a Redmond, WA-based company making power generators to power off-grid telecom towers, raised a $3.4 million funding round from new and returning investors. The company shares many backers with Planetary Resources, including Ross Perot, Jr., Peter Diamandis, and Eric Anderson. Other investors include Miguel Forbes and Richard Garriott de Cayeux. The company aims to introduce its HyGen hybrid generator technology to the telecom market in the fall.

—Speaking of Planetary Resources, the aspiring asteroid miner (lately also moving into satellite-based Earth observation), says it’s establishing its European headquarters in Luxembourg, and working with the government there and the Société Nationale de Crédit et d’Investissement to “advance technologies and lines of business toward the exploration and utilization of resources from asteroids.” The memorandum of understanding includes a potential equity investment by Luxembourg in a Planetary Resources Luxembourg.

“Luxembourg has a proud history and global reputation in commercial space operations and we are honored to be working with their government, academia, and industry to further develop the limitless potential that awaits in the space resources industry,” says Planetary Resources president and CEO Chris Lewicki in a statement.

—Space will be a hot topic in Seattle next week as the Space Frontier Foundation brings its NewSpace conference to the Jet City. Tune in for more coverage next week.

—To get primed for that, tune in to a planned Blue Origin rocket launch on Father’s Day.

—In Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, machine learning startup Dato is partnering with its neighbor Tableau Software. We reported on a technology integration that will put Dato services in front of Tableau’s thousands of users, enabling predictive analytics such as sentiment analysis and lead scoring.

Photo by Benjamin Romano / Xconomy

Rush at the controls of Cyclops 1. Photo by Benjamin Romano / Xconomy

—Xconomy Boston reported on an expedition by Everett, WA-based OceanGate to the wreck of the Andrea Doria, off the New England coast. Last July, I had an opportunity to dive in Cyclops 1 in Elliott Bay with OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush. (Rush, by the way, is speaking Tuesday at the NewSpace conference on lessons space entrepreneurs can learn from other industries.)

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

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