Seattle Week in Review: Dreamers, Uber, Harvey, Satellites, & More

Heading into Labor Day weekend, mourning for Houston, here’s a look at this week’s tech news from Seattle and beyond, with updates on several big stories:

—President Donald Trump is reportedly set to decide next week the fate of the Dreamers—young, undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children and registered with the government under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. There are an estimated 780,000 Dreamers.

The tech and business communities—led by several Seattle-area companies including Amazon, Microsoft, and Starbucks—are again speaking out against the Trump administration’s immigration policies. As of midday Friday, some 377 business leaders signed an open letter urging the DACA program be preserved.

“Dreamers are vital to the future of our companies and our economy,” the letter reads. “With them, we grow and create jobs. They are part of why we will continue to have a global competitive advantage.”

—Dara Khosrowshahi, tapped this week to be Uber’s CEO, is himself an immigrant and an outspoken critic of the Trump administration. For the last 12 years, Khosrowshahi has led Bellevue, WA-based Expedia. Our coverage:

Uber Picks Expedia Leader As CEO Over Immelt, Whitman: Reports

Who is Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s Pick to be CEO?

Expedia, meanwhile, promoted CFO Mark Okerstrom to the CEO post, and Alan Pickerill was promoted to CFO.

—Speaking of Uber, Seattle’s law allowing drivers to unionize is back on hold after an emergency injunction from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Here’s coverage from SCC Insight.

—In satellite news, Seattle-based BlackSky, a business unit of Spaceflight Industries, won a two-year, $16.4 million contract with the U.S. Air Force “to develop and deliver a cloud-based geospatial intelligence broker platform.”

The company is developing a network of imaging satellites intended to provide high-resolution pictures of earth, refreshed on a near real-time basis.

—Meanwhile, Kymeta, the Redmond, WA-based metamaterials satellite antenna maker, announced regulatory approval from the Federal Communications Commission for commercial sales of 11,000 of its satellite communications terminals in the U.S., and permission from United Kingdom regulators for unlimited installations.

“This is the first time electronically-steered, beam-forming flat panel antenna terminals have been given blanket authorization by the FCC,” Kymeta CEO Nathan Kundtz says in a news release. “The satellite spectrum has 5,000 times the capacity of all terrestrial networks, and that means that connected cars, construction sites, vessels, rail, buses, and other traditionally difficult-to-connect industries are now going to have the opportunity for uninterrupted access wherever they are, and wherever they go.”

The FCC approval allows Kymeta to operate 5,000 antennas mounted on vehicles, with another 5,000 to be deployed in fixed locations for IoT applications, and 1,000 to be built on maritime vessels.

—A startup with Seattle-area roots, Booster Fuels, saw a surge in business as fuel shortages loomed in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Dallas, one of the markets the on-demand fuel delivery company serves, saw prices jump 15 cents a gallon in 24 hours.

And check out more Harvey coverage from Xconomy Texas:

Harvey Roundup: JLabs, Silicon Labs, Co-Working Refuges, & More

Apps, Textbots, & Web Maps: Tech Ecosystem Aids Harvey Relief Effort

Social Media, Interactive Maps Tapped to Aid Harvey Rescue Efforts

Amplero raised a $17.5 million round to build its artificial intelligence tech for marketers. It’s an active space. Also this week, Taiwanese startup Appier raised a $33 million funding round to pursue a similar A.I. application in Asia.

——Amazon, which began the week slashing the price of avocados at Whole Foods and stocking shelves with farm fresh Echo and Echo dot microphone and speaker arrays—announced a collaboration with Microsoft on a core technology: The companies have been working to allow their intelligent, voice-enabled assistants—Amazon Alexa, the intelligence inside those Echo devices, and Microsoft Cortana—to access each other. A Cortana user will be able to call up Alexa, and vice versa, allowing people to take advantage of the relative strengths of each system.

We’re reading this deep dive on Amazon’s efforts to improve Alexa from Ben Fox Rubin at CNET.

In another Amazon-Microsoft collaboration, Microsoft is making some of its developer tools work better with Amazon Web Services. As CNBC’s Jordan Novet writes:

“Effectively, Microsoft is providing a new source of revenue for AWS, the biggest cloud around and the main competitor to Microsoft’s own Azure cloud. That’s notable because historically Microsoft has advertised the ability for people to use its source code management programs with Azure.

“But if Microsoft is serious about making things as simple as possible for end users, then the move makes sense.”

—Finally, the weather:

Not surprisingly, a burn ban was just put in place for northwest Washington.

Photo credit: Hammering Man by Bridget Coila via Flickr used under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

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

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