— WestRiver Group is adding some firepower to its leadership team as the investment firm looks to put more dollars behind startups across the Pacific Northwest.
The Kirkland, Wash.-based firm just hired Laurel Buckner as its newest managing director. Buckner is a tech industry veteran who has worked closely with startups in the past, including stints as a general counsel for SonicWall and most recently as a managing director at ATN International. She also has experience running corporate VC funds.
Buckner will help co-lead WRG’s $150 million fund allocated for Pacific Northwest-based startups that launched last year. WRG has a broad portfolio of investments that includes companies such as Topgolf and Singularity University, along with Seattle-area startups such as Igneous, Pro.com, Wicket Labs, Madrona Venture Labs, The Riveter, and more. It employs 25 people.
WRG has already made seven investments out of the Pacific Northwest fund and expects to back another dozen or so early-stage B2B companies that are primarily in the “post-revenue, pre-scale” stage, said Anthony Bontrager, managing director at WRG who co-leads the fund.
Buckner, who previously invested in Seattle startups such as Blue Box (acquired by IBM) and Zipwhip, said she’s bullish about the opportunity for more tech startups to blossom in the region. WRG believes there is a disparity between available capital in the Pacific Northwest and existing talent.
“The confluence of people spinning out of large companies; people wanting to create companies based on the infrastructure offered by large providers here; and the incredible talent at the UW — it makes for an interesting place to be an investor, and a lot of opportunity,” Buckner told GeekWire.
Bontrager noted that WRG purposefully appoints a man and woman to co-lead each of its funds.
“We believe that gender diversity ultimately leads to better outcomes,” he said. “You get a different set of viewpoints and it forces us to think very critically about the investments we go into and how we help these companies scale.”
— Former PayScale CEO Mike Metzger has a new gig. The tech industry vet is now CEO at MediaPro, a Bothell, Wash.-based cybersecurity training company.
“As I evaluated my next career move, I was very intrigued with the opportunities to use technology to help customers with their cybersecurity and privacy challenges,” Metzger said in a statement. “So, I looked for a company that had a proven technology, a proven go-to-market model, a proven team and a strong market position. MediaPRO fit the bill.”
Metzger stepped down from PayScale last month after leading the Seattle-based salary data firm for 15 years. He was replaced at PayScale by SAP Concur vet Scott Torrey.
Metzger, a finalist for Big Tech CEO of the Year at the GeekWire Awards 2019, replaces former MediaPro CEO Tyler Winkler, who joined the company in November 2017 and left in April to take a gig with Atlanta, Ga.-based UserIQ.
MediaPro educates employees at major companies about security risks through training courses as well as games, videos, posters and simulations. Its customers include Expedia, T-Mobile, Oracle and Microsoft. Founder Steve Conrad started the company in 1993 and remains on the company’s board.
Last year, MediaPRO raised an undisclosed investment from Frontier Capital. It laid off an unspecified number of employees this past January.
— Impinj added Cathal Phelan to its board of directors. Phelan is CEO of Rapt Touch, a touchscreen technology maker. He was previously CEO of Ubicom and was a longtime employee at Cypress Semiconductor Corporation.
“Cathal’s deep understanding of radio technologies and solutions, as well as his history leading advanced technology businesses, will serve us well,” Impinj CEO Chris Diorio said in a statement. “We will also benefit significantly from his extensive experience managing all aspects of intellectual property.”
Seattle-based Impinj makes connected RFID chips. The company beat expectations for its most recent quarterly results, posting a record $38.2 million in revenue.
— Zillow Group hired Rian Furey as its president of Zillow Home Loans. Furey was previously chief operating officer of Impac Mortgage; chief administrative officer of loanDepot; and chief operating officer of LendingTree Loans. He’ll also oversee Zillow’s Mortgage portfolio.
Zillow launched its Home Loans business in April, building off its acquisition of Mortgage Lenders of America last year. It’s part of the company’s push to grow Zillow Offers, the service that lets customers request cash offers for their homes directly from Zillow on its website.
Zillow also announced four other Home Loans hires:
- Libby Cooper as vice president of strategy and operations
- Darren Apfel as senior director of product development
- Jeff Kibbey as vice president of compliance
- Paul Thomas as vice president of finance
— Longtime Amazon exec Melissa Eamer is joining online beauty company Glossier to become its chief operating officer. She spent nearly two decades at Amazon, most recently as vice president of sales and marketing for Amazon Devices.
— Josh Carter is taking over as lead organizer for Portland Startup Week 2020. Carter is a Portland tech scene veteran who is manager of WeWork Labs in Portland. He’ll take the Startup Week reins from Rick Turoczy, co-founder of the Portland Incubator Experiment.