OnePlus CEO confirms company is in talks with US carriers

OnePlus has found tremendous success in a stalling smartphone market. But it’s always had one major limitation stateside: it’s not available through any US carrier. That could soon be a thing of the past. During an interview with PCMag, OnePlus CEO Pete Lau said the company was in discussion with US carriers, though he didn’t specify which. Lau also confirmed OnePlus aims to produce a 5G phone next year. Though buying phones unlocked is common practice around the world, it’s still a rarity in the US, where most people purchase devices via carrier subsidies. OnePlus has been successful with its…

This story continues at The Next Web

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Review: Vivitar’s Follow Me Drone is a refined quadcopter with a sweet 360 camera

Vivitar recently released its 360 Skeye View Follow Me Drone, a quadcopter sporting a built-in 360 degree camera and some nifty GPS features. I spent a few weeks putting a review unit through the paces. Turns out, Vivitar makes a quality product, but it could use a bit of help in the app department. Having never piloted one of the company’s quadcopters before, I was eager to try my first. And upon unboxing the drone I was immediately impressed. Vivitar packs everything you need in the box, down to a screwdriver for the battery compartment on the remote. But what…

This story continues at The Next Web

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Facebook and Twitter’s new focus on ad transparency is a welcome, flawed improvement

Facebook and Twitter have, within a few hours of each other, revealed new ad transparency measures this week. In both cases, the company in question reveals more details about what ads each account or page is running. It’s also offering further insights on political ads. Trouble is, it all depends on how much effort the users are willing to put into doing the research. Twitter opened its Ad Transparency Center, which allows anyone to look up a particular Twitter handle to see which ads the account has run in a massive public archive. You don’t need to be logged into…

This story continues at The Next Web

Or just read more coverage about: Facebook,Twitter

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Report: Microsoft really is working on a ‘pocket-sized’ folding Surface

Ah, the Surface Phone. A quasi-mythical device we’ve been hearing about for years, it’s finally starting to materialize into something more than the tech equivalent of bigfoot. A new report from The Verge suggests the device, codenamed Andromeda, will be a pocketable device that will “blur the lines between mobile and stationary computing.” That’s about what we’ve expected since some of the earlier rumors, but it’s how Microsoft describes it in an internal document obtained by The Verge. The document also says: It’s a new pocketable Surface device form factor that brings together innovative new hardware and software experiences to create…

This story continues at The Next Web

Or just read more coverage about: Microsoft

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Review: Unravel 2 is a delightful local co-op experience

Unravel 2, from developer Coldwood and publisher EA, is a beautiful platforming game that invites players to control a pair of adorable creatures made of yarn through a series of stages featuring fantastically rendered photo-realistic environments. It’s also one of the best local co-op experiences I’ve seen. In the game you’ll take the role of two Yarnys, creatures that could be described as tiny string-golems. You run, swing, jump, flip, push, pull, and tumble your way through various colorful environments as part of a loose narrative involving childhood. The first thing you’ll notice is the amazingly immersive graphics. Yarny is…

This story continues at The Next Web

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Nintendo’s NES Classic returns to stores after massive hype in limited run, and it’s going fast

If you missed out on the Nintendo NES Classic craze in late 2016, you’re in luck. Friday’s relaunch of the console has been long anticipated, and there might still be a chance for you this time around.

The NES Classic is a modern and mini version of the original home console. When Nintendo first launched the revival in 2016 for a limited production run, it was almost instantly sold out. In 2017, Nintendo announced it was halting production after it sold more than 2 million units in six months.

Polygon said there would probably be similar hype for the re-launch of the console, which hasn’t been on retail shelves since April of 2017. And it seems like that’s true.

The bad news is you might be out of luck if you’re shopping online. According to IGN, as of 12:21 p.m. PST, the console was sold out at all major retailers online, including Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, ThinkGeek, and GameStop.

But the good news is you might have some luck heading to a brick-and-mortar store. For instance, Amazon said it would have a limited supply of NES Classics available at Amazon Books retail stores, according to Ars Technica. And if there’s a GameStop, Best Buy, Walmart, or Target near you, it’s worth giving your local store a call to see if the NES Classic is still in stock.

And you might have more of a chance if you can wait just a little bit longer for the first-day craze to die down. Redmond, Wash.-based Nintendo of America said in May that it expects that the console will be in stock until the end of the year, in an attempt to alleviate worries that the supply would not be able to meet the demand, as in the previous production run.

The NES Classic comes pre-loaded with 30 — dare I say it — classic games, including Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and Donkey Kong. The console is optimized for gameplay in this decade with an HDMI port, though it’s definitely a dose of nostalgia.

The relaunch of the retro console also brings along updates of matching controllers, like 8BitDo’s, whose 2016 controller Gizmodo deemed the best alternative for the console. The new wireless controller is almost the same, but with a few changes. The Verge says this edition has a dedicated home button, which even Nintendo hasn’t added.

You can preorder 8BitDo’s controller now, but it won’t be released until Aug. 20.

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Geek of the Week: Arborist Brian Holers uses technology to get to the root of tree preservation

Brian Holers
When Brian Holers set out to start his own business, taking care of trees seemed the logical choice. (Photo courtesy of Brian Holers)

When he was growing up, Brian Holers had a love for the outdoors — fishing, playing baseball, running through corn fields and climbing trees. That last passion eventually led him to where he is today.

“My father was a forester and I developed an appreciation for trees at a young age,” Holers said. “In college I studied philosophy, literature, religion — nothing to do with horticulture. But I mentioned to a professor friend once how I had grown up climbing trees and how I still liked to do so, and he asked me to come to his house and cut some small limbs from a large tree and offered to pay me $100. This was 1987. I thought it was a joke. Pay me money to climb a tree? I was hooked.”

Holers, who is our latest Geek of the Week, spent years kicking around in various jobs before figuring at age 27 that he wanted to start his own business.

Porous pavement is shown being installed around a tree in downtown Seattle. (Root Cause Photo)

“Taking care of trees seemed the logical choice. “I operated my first business, a traditional general tree service, for 11 years. In that time I saw the same problems over and over; we as educated professionals knew a great deal about how to manage and care for trees above ground, but the root system — the part we can’t see — was an altogether different animal, and the problems there required a completely different set of solutions.”

As an arborist certified by the International Society of Arboriculture, Holers now runs Root Cause from his home base in Mercer Island, Wash. He provides services using modern technology aimed at preserving trees and tree roots, and has even installed “porous pavement” on Microsoft’s Redmond campus.

Learn more about this week’s Geek of the Week, Brian Holers:

What do you do, and why do you do it? I’m one of region’s only certified arborists to focus on the health and welfare of trees beneath the ground: its roots. I use two of my industry’s technologies to do so: air excavation — which uses high pressure air to expose a tree’s roots, so they can be analyzed for pruning and/or moving (rather than destroying roots or killing a tree!), and porous pavement, which is a solid and stable walking surface that still allows a trees roots to breathe and receive water and nutrients. I’ve been working with the city of Seattle to replace the metal grates along numerous tree-lined streets downtown. I also installed porous pavement between the new treehouses on Microsoft’s Redmond campus.

What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? With underground tree service there is a balance in a tree above ground and below ground; arborists call this the “root/shoot ratio.” A change in one brings about a change in the other. Humans need, love and value trees, but trees that grow well cause problems. They grow into buildings, obscure views, and damage sidewalks. Yet the simple act of breaking a limb, or cutting a root with a shovel, has consequences. Fortunately, there are professionals trained to deal with all aspects of tree care and management.

Where do you find your inspiration? I find my inspiration in mature trees. I always put my hands on trees. This keeps me connected to this earth.

What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? A baseball bat. I spend a lot of free time playing baseball (not softball), and practicing in the offseason. You’re never too old for the greatest game on earth.

The work truck Brian Holers uses at Root Cause serves as his mobile desk. (Photo courtesy of Brian Holers)

What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? I don’t have a desk. My truck is my workspace.

Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life. (Help us out, we need it.) Never procrastinate. Deal with things immediately. Phone calls, emails, bookkeeping. I constantly update my schedule over the course of a day.

Mac, Windows or Linux? Windows.

Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? I hear this has to do with “Star Trek.” I know some are obsessed with that show, I never got it. Now “Hee Haw” — I have 17 episodes on my DVR waiting for me right now — season 11, 1979 — the good stuff. Now that there is some entertainment!

If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … I would commit the money to the preservation of mature city trees. A mature tree is worth a lot of small trees, and we have to work to protect them from their greatest enemy — which is us.

I once waited in line for … Heart concert tickets all night in college.

Your role models: My father, who taught me to appreciate little things and never had the slightest appreciation for anything hollow. My mother — I only hope to be as feisty as she is one day, and to get as fired up over a baseball game on TV as she does.

Greatest game in history My 50th birthday, last fall. A group of parents traveled on a bus to Vancouver, Wash., to watch our sons’ football playoff game. With no time left in the game, the opponent scored a touchdown to bring them within an extra point of sending the game to overtime. But our guy blocked the extra point and the day — and my milestone birthday — was saved.

Best gadget ever: iPhone.

First computer: 386.

Current phone: iPhone.

Favorite app: iPhone maps. I have a terrible sense of direction and need to drive all over the county all the time.

Favorite cause: Protecting mature trees.

Most important technology of 2018: Air excavation tools which allow us to dig in root zones without damaging tree roots.

Most important technology of 2020: An X-ray system so we can see tree roots so we know where to go in for surgery.

Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: Work hard, prepare, do the little things, then trust your gut. The luckiest people in life are those who work the hardest, and you can never be overprepared. Plenty of people told me working on tree roots would never be a viable business. And building Root Cause, LLC has been hard. But I’ve always believed.

Website: Root Cause

LinkedIn: Brian Holers

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Funko stock returns to pre-IPO price in rebound from rocky start as a public company

Funko’s new Everett, Wash. headquarters. (GeekWire Photo / Tim Ellis)

Shares in Funko — the Everett, Wash. maker of Pop! figurines — hit an important milestone Friday, continuing a rebound from one of the worst starts for a public company in recent memory.

Funko stock closed the day at $12.55 on Friday, marking the first time the closing price has exceeded the company’s original IPO pricing of $12 per share, set last year. Funko’s stock turnaround has been several months in the making, reversing a rough reception from Wall Street out of the gate.

When the company debuted on the Nasdaq stock market last November, its stock dropped 44 percent. Renaissance Capital called it the worst first day for a public company in 17 years. Following the IPO, Funko CEO Brian Mariotti said that investor reactions, whether positive or negative, won’t make the company change direction overnight.

“I told our employees, no matter what happens, whether the stock goes up, or the stock goes down, it’s kind of irrelevant because we haven’t changed anything that we said we are going to do in the future or what we are currently doing now,” Mariotti said last year. “If you pay attention to something like that and it changes what you are, all of the sudden you have a risk of being unsuccessful.”

Funko President Andrew Perlmutter. (Funko Photo)

Funko President Andrew Perlmutter addressed the Wall Street disconnect in a recent interview with GeekWire, saying, “we are not a straightforward company as far as our story is concerned.” Funko isn’t exactly a toy company or a collectibles company. The company aims to be at the center of pop culture with licenses for everything from Dr. Seuss to Game of Thrones to the NFL.

“We see ourselves as the purveyors of pop culture,” Perlmutter said. “We are trying to deliver solutions because we believe everyone is a fan of something.”

Investors have responded to this characterization of the company as a pop culture fixture. Growth in sales from popular product lines like Avengers Infinity War, Star Wars, Harry Potter and more have some investors excited about the company. Others see potential in the company because “millennials don’t want to grow up,” extending the target demographics of Funko’s products.

Perlmutter touted the company’s international growth. In January 2017, Funko acquired London-based Underground Toys Limited, which develops and manufactures merchandise from geeky brands like Star Wars, Marvel, DC Comics, and Doctor Who. This acquisition gave Funko a beachhead in Europe as part of an international expansion.

The Funko team after the company kicked off a new era as a publicly traded company. (Nasdaq Photo)

Funko’s Wall Street rebound is clouded somewhat by a series of lawsuits the company is facing related to the run-up to its IPO. The company has been sued by investors alleging Funko overstated its growth and prior to going public last year, with the latest coming just this week from shareholder rights law firm Robbins Arroyo LLP.

Perlmutter said the lawsuits will have no impact on how the company operates. He added that all its financials have been audited by global professional services firm Ernst & Young, are within generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) and are watched closely by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

“We believe these are wholly without merit,” Perlmutter said of the lawsuits. “And we think it’s an opportunistic attempt to misrepresent the facts.”

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GeekWork Picks: Mechanic service mobile app Wrench searches for software engineer

Long ago, people flipped through the yellow pages to find a mechanic. Now, there’s Wrench, and the team is looking for someone to dive in and support its app service. 

Wrench is a platform that connect mechanics with customers. Mechanics can offer services through the app, and customer can book appointments. To add convenience for customers, mechanics bring their tools with them to meet the customers at their home or workplace.

The new software engineer at Wrench will be required to communicate frequently and clearly with the team and turn around projects quickly to make improvements to the suite of web and mobile applications. The position requires a background in UI engineering in AngularJS and Angular using Javascript or TypeScript and CSS. UX experience is a plus as well.

Learn more about the position and apply on GeekWork, and also check out more job openings at Wrench.

That’s one of the current highlights from GeekWork, GeekWire’s job site. Continue reading for more of this week’s top openings, hand-picked from GeekWork’s featured listings, and search for more open positions here.


Position: Product / Program Manager

Summary: “We are looking for a Sr. Product Manager, located in Seattle, who will be responsible for building out and improving Hiya’s Directory Service, which serves millions of users around the globe and it’s growing by nearly a million new users a month. You’ll own the Search functionality, the data federation and aggregation, data partnerships, analytics, autocomplete, and a lot more from vision to customer feedback.”

Learn more and apply on GeekWork.

Guidant Financial

Position: Content Strategy Manager

Summary: “This is a highly visible role that combines content strategy, story-telling, and communications. We’re looking for a world-class writer experienced in many forms of communication from whitepapers to website, emails to executive speeches and someone who can formulate creative strategies to attract our target buyers, differentiate from our competition and position Guidant as an industry thought leader.”

Learn more and apply on GeekWork.

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GeekWire 200 June update: Bezos’ Blue Origin is No. 1 as dust settles following another IPO

Jeff Bezos
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and one of his Blue Origin rockets. (Blue Origin Photo)

For all of Jeff Bezos’ accomplishments, one accolade he hadn’t attained was leading a company sitting atop the GeekWire 200, our ranking of privately held Pacific Northwest tech companies. Until now.

The Amazon CEO’s other company, Blue Origin, has ascended to the top spot, following former number one Avalara’s departure from the list due to its IPO this month. Blue Origin is the first space company to hit number one on our list, and it is also the third different company to claim the top spot this year.

The GeekWire 200 has never before seen this level of turnover at the top, as DocuSign maintained the top spot for much of the last few years, before graduating thanks to an IPO of its own in April. All the movement speaks to an increased pace of IPOs and an appetite from Wall Street for enterprise software companies, one of the Seattle region’s core tech strengths.

DocuSign and Smartsheet both debuted on the public markets on the same day, April 27. Avalara joined the ranks of publicly traded companies in June. All three stocks started trading well above their IPO prices and have stayed there.

Today DocuSign stock is trading at about $53, an 83 percent premium on its initial price of $29. Smartsheet priced its shares at $15, and the stock has risen about 60 percent since. Avalara set its share price at $24, and its stock is up about 87 percent since then.

Click for the full June update to the GeekWire 200 and continue reading for highlights and an explanation of the GeekWire 200 methodology.

With the dust settled from all the recent IPO activity, here’s where the rest of the top five stands behind Blue Origin: vacation rental company Vacasa comes in at number two, followed by compensation software maker PayScale, Portland-based DevOps startup Puppet and marketing technology company Moz.

( Photo)

It’s been more than two years since shifted its business model from a marketplace focused on contractors and home improvements to being a general contractor itself with a full roster of in-house construction personnel. The company has been steadily climbing up the list as its new focus takes hold, and this month rose 10 spots to number 107.

Founded by former Digg CEO and Amazon manager Matt Williams, has contractor licenses in Washington, California and Colorado. It looks like the company will soon expand into Arizona as well, as is looking for a construction manager in Phoenix. 

Williams told GeekWire last year the company’s goal is to establish presence in the top 10 or 15 U.S. markets, starting with major West Coast cities. It has raised $27 million in its lifetime from a list of high profile investors that includes DFJ; Andreessen Horowitz, where Williams did a stint as an entrepreneur in residence; Bezos Expeditions, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ capital investment firm; Madrona Venture Group; Maveron and Two Sigma Ventures.

Late last year Wrench, which brings car mechanics directly to customers, made another prestigious GeekWire list: the Seattle 10 collection of the most exciting and groundbreaking startups from the Seattle region. Now it is climbing up the GeekWire 200 list, rising 12 spots to number 167 this month.

Wrench CEO Ed Petersen told GeekWire that in 2018 “we want to grow, and we want to grow really fast.” Wrench certainly seems to be on track there.

Wrench has dramatically expanded its reach from four main cities — Seattle, Portland, San Diego and Phoenix — to establish a significant presence in eight states. GeekWire’s own Clare McGrane tried out the service on a rainy February day and had a positive experience. The mechanic even fixed a few mistakes from a previous repair.

An overview of how Igneous Systems’ storage product works. (Igneous Photo)

Coming off our second GeekWire Cloud Tech Summit, it feels right to highlight a cloud startup this month. Igneous Systems was among the fastest moving cloud companies, climbing 15 spots to number 171 on our list this month. Igneous is coming off a $15 million raise in January, bringing its total funding to $41.7 million.

Igneous makes a hardware appliance designed to store massive amounts of unstructured data that it installs and manages inside customers’ data centers, promising better performance and simpler maintenance. The company said earlier this year it plans to increase its current headcount of around 50 employees by 50 percent in 2018, mostly in sales and marketing.

Here are the other big movers in June:

Nine startups made their debut on the GeekWire 200 or returned to the list in June. They are: StormKollective Technology, and TraceMe.

The GeekWire 200 — sponsored by our partners at EY — is derived from our broader list of more than 1,200 Pacific Northwest tech startups. The list is designed to provide a better understanding of the startup landscape in the Northwest. The rankings are generated from publicly available data, including social media followings, approximate employee counts (via LinkedIn) and inbound web links.

To make sure your startup is eligible for inclusion in the GeekWire 200, first make sure it’s included in the broader Startup List. If so, there’s no need to submit it separately for the GeekWire 200. If your Pacific Northwest startup isn’t among the companies on that larger list, you can submit it for inclusion here, and our algorithm will crunch the numbers to see if your company makes next month’s GeekWire 200. (Please, no service providers, marketing agencies, etc.)

Thanks to everyone for checking out this month’s ranking. And, just a reminder, if you value resources like these, be sure to check out our list and map of out-of-town tech companies with Seattle engineering outposts as well as our list of startup incubators, co-working spaces and accelerators in the region, and our GeekWork job board.

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