Startups, superheroes, and the financial system at a crossroads: Voices from Seattle’s tech group

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Clockwise from upper left: Yoodli co-founder Varun Puri; Dave Cotter, WTIA chair and Leafly chief product officer; Tech Alliance CEO Laura Ruderman, and Mo Bhende, Co-Founder & CEO at Karat, talk with Todd Bishop at the GeekWire Awards. (Jordan Curtis Photos)

After holding the GeekWire Awards virtually for the past two years, there was a feeling of real catharsis Thursday evening as hundreds of people streamed through the doors of the Showbox Sodo in Seattle for our annual celebration of the Pacific Northwest’s top tech startups, leaders, and innovations.

For the finalists in the 2022 GeekWire Awards, recognition at the superhero-themed show came with the added bonus of knowing that their companies made it through a period of unprecedented challenge and change.

But the week also brought a new sense of uncertainty about what’s to come.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s widely cited memo on Monday was a flashpoint for the tech industry, adding to existing concerns by warning of a “seismic shift” in the markets, signaling tougher times and tighter belts ahead. Some of the startup CEOs in attendance acknowledged reading his message closely.

So we took our cues from the backdrop, literally and figuratively — taking tech leaders aside at the event to ask questions such as:

  • What’s your take on the possibility of new economic realities?
  • What are your biggest challenges and priorities for the rest of the year?
  • And, of course: which superhero best reflects your company’s ethos?

The result was a glimpse into the collective psyche of the tech community in a key U.S. innovation hub, at a pivotal moment for the country and the world.

Guests on this episode, in order of appearance:

  • Xiao Wang, CEO of Boundless Immigration, finalist for CEO of the Year.
  • Maria Karaivanova, co-founder & COO of WhyLabs, finalist for Startup of the Year.
  • Varun Puri, co-founder of Yoodli, winner of Young Entrepreneur of the Year with his co-founder Esha Joshi.
  • Lisa Gurry, COO of Truveta, winner of Health Innovation of the Year.
  • Dave Cotter, chief product officer of Leafly, and chair of the Washington Technology Industry Association, sponsor of the Public Policy Champion for Innovation Award.
  • Laura Ruderman, Technology Alliance CEO.
  • David Kirtley, founder and CEO of Helion, finalist for Innovation of the Year.
  • Stephanie Winslow, Teacher, South Kitsap High School, one of three STEM Educators of the Year.
  • Grant Goodale, carrier experience officer, Convoy, past winner of Next Tech Titan.
  • Mo Bhende, co-founder & CEO at Karat, finalist for Next Tech Titan.
  • Faisal Masud, CEO of Fabric, finalist for Next Tech Titan.
  • Kiana Pan, president of CodingDojo, honoree in the Geeks Give Back category.
  • Tushar Garg, CEO of Flyhomes, finalist for Workplace of the Year.
  • Byron Baker, head of design at Blink UX, judge for UX Design of the Year.

Listen above, or subscribe to GeekWire in Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen.

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Read about all of the GeekWire Awards finalists and winners in our special coverage.

Thanks to the tech leaders who answered our questions, to our GeekWire Awards attendees, finalists, and sponsors, and to our social media partner Jordan Curtis of Line Leader Media for his help with this episode. 

Opening GeekWire Awards performance: Robert McPherson, the Drunken Tenor.

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  • Ungrading? Letting kids teach IT? GeekWire Award-winning STEM teachers share innovative strategies

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