In partnership with Microsoft for Startups, over a year in the making, Create33 is grateful to launch the Startup Success Program, designed to support and accelerate the progress of tech startups founded by entrepreneurs of color.

“Over the past months, we have experienced the pandemic known as COVID19, but this country has been in the grips of a pandemic for centuries: racism and anti-blackness. These crises have highlighted and exacerbated the existing institutional barriers around access to resources for communities of color. Though it is an incredibly raw moment to launch this effort, with an inspiring cohort of startups and experts engaged in the work, we are thankful to do so,” says Rebecca Lovell, Executive Director at Create33.

The program, which will provide content, connections, coaching and community for 27 BIPOC-led technology startups, launched virtually on June 10. Online programming includes interactive workshops, 1:1 office hours, mentorship, and peer support and accountability groups, and will culminate in a demo day for financial institutions and investors: angel and venture capital, lenders, community capital and credit unions. Featured experts include Claudius Mbemba, Sara Itucas, Kim Vu, Kwame Boler, Aparna Rae, Luis Ceze, Aniyia Williams, Donte Parks, Richelle Parham and Carlos Vega.

The inaugural cohort is a showcase of Pacific Northwest innovation: 2/3 B2B, and 1/3 B2C startups, and verticals represented include fintech, devops, edtech, wellness, e-commerce and the creative economy.

“At Microsoft for Startups, we’re focused on helping to create much greater diversity within the startup ecosystem, in Seattle and around the world. The startups who have been chosen to be a part of Create33’s inaugural cohort have innovative businesses with fantastic potential and we’re excited to contribute support.” said Ian Bergman, Global Managing Director, Microsoft for Startups.

Create33 is a membership organization of over 250 high-growth technology startups, launched in 2018 with the support of Madrona Venture Group and key partners to elevate the technology ecosystem in the Pacific Northwest. For more information on Create33, visit

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Meet our Resident Members

Create33 serves as a showcase for Seattle’s innovation economy, and the seed-funded teams that call Create33 home represent both enterprise- and consumer-facing businesses, many powered by AI and machine learning.  They span industry verticals including fin-tech, proptech, HR tech, wellness, productivity, gaming, interior design, media, cell therapeutics, and e-commerce. We host three graduates from Techstars, three spinouts from Madrona Venture Labs, and one from the Real Networks incubator.  Fourteen teams have been a part of our journey in our first year of operation (one is still in stealth mode so not covered here, but you’ll be hearing about them soon!)

Adaptilab is a technical screening platform that helps companies hire machine learning talent. The aim is to reduce the time managers spend screening potential candidates. These Techstars grads recently raised $1.8 in funding for their growth and use machine learning to power the machine learning recruiting process.


Airlift is a self-service market of local, fresh food, snacks and beverages. Airlift serves smaller to medium-sized offices, giving companies the option to offer affordable and nutritious snacks to their employees (including the teams at Create33 as one of our member perks).  They were covered in GeekWire’s Startup Spotlight when they launched in 2016.

Domicile combines modern luxury apartments with all the services of a hotel. Domicile launched in 2016 out of the Madrona Venture Labs, and last September raised $5 million in seed funding.


Downstream allows brands and agencies to use automation to manage, scale, and optimize their Amazon advertising strategies. The company was co-founded in late 2017 by Connor Folley and Salim Hadid, both ex-Amazon employees. These Techstars grads have secured $4 million in funding.

Kavout is a global investment technology company that utilizes AI and big data to power investment decisions for wealth management institutions. They have recently released K score for the United Kingdom and Germany stock markets and are growing their domestic presence.


Create33 resident team Oisin Biotech recently spun out OncoSenX, to redefine the way we target and kill cancer cells. OncoSenX targets solid tumors based on transcriptional activity using a unique lipid nanoparticle and plasmid DNA. This past July they raised $3 million to support their preclinical research. 


Pyron utilizes the power of AI to increase productivity for every employee. The team that sold their last startup to Amazon recently closed a $20 million in Series A.


Techstars graduate Rainway is a video game streaming service enabling player to run PC games on any mobile device, and “play anywhere.” They’ve racked up over two million hours in gameplay, and just closed a $3.5M round of funding, with Madrona Venture Group participating in the round.



Offering security without the deposit, Rentline is a fintech company that unlocks capital and redeploys it to help renters save money. Led by four co-founders with deep backgrounds in commercial real estate, consumer products, and technology, they spun out of Madrona Venture Labs in August.


Want to seamlessly watch Netflix with your friends, wherever they are? Install Scener‘s chrome extension, and you’ll be able to video and text chat with your friends in real-time while your favorite show is playing. 


Simply Augmented empowers sales teams by enabling prospects to easily visualize enterprise solutions, place products in a spatial environment and track engagement analytics via the cloud. Check out their elevator pitch on GeekWire.


Spruce Up is an AI-powered personal shopping service for all things home and design.   They recently raised $3 million in seed funding; read more in our interview with their Lead Designer, Anne Vigianno.


WEconnect Recovery is transforming addiction recovery for the modern world through the power of technology and community.  Those in recovery can stay connected to their recovery team and receive supportive messages, incentives and rewards through the WeConnect app. Last year, they raised an additional $6 million in Series A funding.  Co-founder and CEO Daniela Luzi Tudor is a 2019 40 Under 40 honoree– congratulations, Daniela! 

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The SpruceUp team has been a member of Create33 from day one– when we still had construction tape on the floors! Less than a year later,  we have been delighted to see their progress (you may have read about their most recent $3M raise in GeekWire). SpruceUp is a digital boutique for home goods that are curated for each user, powered by AI and home styling experts.  We had the opportunity to sit down with Anne Viggiano, SpruceUp’s lead designer.


How did you get your start in the digital design world? 

“I’m a trained artist, and years ago, started helping architects with color palettes. This led to interior design, and even starting my own business.” 


“I met Mia (CEO of SpruceUp) through one of my customers who happened to work at Madrona Venture Labs, another Create33 member. Mia was looking for someone with experience in interior design, so we got lunch and just hit it off. I’ve been with Spruce Up for almost a year and a half, and this is really my first time in a technology environment.” 


How do you believe AI is changing the design market space?

“AI is speeding up the work of connecting people with products they like. That’s the positive; a downside is that without human touch it can be homogenized design. Right now, people get bucketed too quickly into a style, and end up with the same look. That’s where SpruceUp comes in: we’re making shopping for home  hyper-personalized, helping you to mix and match styles, colors, and materials within your budgets and needs and create a look that’s uniquely you. Once you put together the AI and have a human training and filtering the information, that’s when the truly deep level of personalization happens.” 


Do you foresee a future where AI has taken over the design space, and there is no need for human interaction? 

“That’s a really interesting question, because over at Spruce Up we have a tech team and we have a design team. The whole purpose of the tech team is to get the AI to choose exactly what the interior designer would choose, but there are bits of a person’s life that AI will never be able to take into consideration. I think it will get really close, but to get that feeling that something was made just for you, you still need an interior designer. At Spruce Up, we combine the best of both: our interior designers are training our AI and style prediction algorithms, and we layer in the more nuanced and personalized support from an interior designer to give you the confidence to pull the look together.” 


Does the idea of AI growing within the design space make you excited or nervous as an interior designer?

“I think it’s important to differentiate that interior design only physically happens in people’s homes. That is an industry that will never be online. There are customizations, quality, and beauty of things that can never be sold on ecommerce. 


SpruceUp is not trying to bring interior design online, but rather leverages interior design expertise to train AI to provide hyper-personalized eCommerce to help you find just the right items and create a look that’s uniquely you. It excites me as an option for people who may not have the means to hire an interior designer, or have more of a transient lifestyle. It can be difficult for interior designers to accept that this market opportunity exists. As long as these two markets stay distinct, they can really help each other. It also helps separate the physical market, I think helping people shop online for quality things is important. People have a hard time differentiating and sorting through the clutter of what’s online.” 


How do you see SpruceUp growing within the next 6 months?

“Each week, our AI gets smarter, so our data will become cleaner and more precise. We want the data to really reflect people’s lifestyle and deliver even more relevant recommendations to customers.  And of course, we want even more people to know about us!.”


Is there an ideal number of consumers/ feedback you would like to achieve in order for the AI to become smarter?

“The more data, the better. We launched Style Tuner in July to gather learning data and to better map style preferences to create 100% unique style profile for each customer. Our initial goal was to have 10,000 feedbacks, and we’ve actually 10X it to have over 100,000 feedbacks in just the first month.What’s exciting is that people have been enjoying our style tuner, which gamifies providing product feedback. This is just one way we’re trying to take the seriousness out of home decor shopping and make it fun for consumers .”


What impact do you see SpruceUp making within the Seattle startup space?

“Our company is 75 percent women. And that’s partly because  Mia is committed to getting women interested in tech who haven’t necessarily had the opportunity, or hadn’t previously considered it (like me). She has a genuine passion for people doing what brings them joy. 


For many women, people expect you to play the part of superhero; have a baby and put on an amazing event in the same day, but that’s completely unrealistic. We’re encouraged to have a balanced lifestyle, where we can be passionate about things both in and outside of work, and I hope that other startups will follow suit.” 


This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity, and conducted by Create33 intern Sarah Jacob.

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We’ve all heard of “up and to the right” – what every investor wants to see across all of your growth metrics. But this isn’t always the story for even the most successful startups. Scott Jacobson and Tim Porter, Managing Directors at Madrona Venture Group, came by Create33 to give us some insight on what they look for prior to making Series A investments in SaaS companies, and how founders can use metrics to tell a company’s story.

Do you have a product that will sell for years to come?

Net ARR Growth is a great metric to use when showing that you have product-market fit and a repeatable sales strategy. A good target for seeking a Series A funding round is to have $1 million in net annual recurring revenue (ARR), but this isn’t an absolute. It can be just as compelling for investors to see that you have a list of customers who are discerning buyers, even if your net ARR is below the million dollar mark.

Are your customers happy?

Net Retention Rate helps tell the story of customer satisfaction. Are your customers delighted and renewing, or expanding the scope of their contracts? Or are they churning or decreasing their contract scope? While gross retention rate can help showcase how excited customers are about your product, showing that you’re able to bring in and keep more accounts than you’re losing builds a strong case for investment.

Depending on the product, layering Transaction Repeat Rate can show that customers are so delighted, they’re purchasing multiples of your product.

Are you making money?

Gross Margins is critical, as investors look at the financial value of a company based on the margin. After all, that’s the amount that you’re making.

If your young company doesn’t have the historical numbers necessary to calculate Lifetime Value (LTV), you can use payback. Payback is the amount of time it takes to recuperate the cost of acquiring a customer, and thus another indicator that you are, or can, make money.

How efficiently are you running?

Overall Burn Rate tells investors how efficient you’re able to be with your resources. Other useful metrics include Payback on sales and marketing, as well as sales representative productivity in your first year, and how that’s changed leading up to your Series A.

Investors like efficiency so much that they will often give the advice to bootstrap your company for as long as you can before taking investment. This generally means that you’ll have better numbers when you’re raising and will continue to be efficient with any investment dollars.

And of course…

How are you starting to scale?

Win Rate of leads, New Revenue over each quarter, and Sales Efficiency are all metrics that tell the story of how you’re continuing to add new customers. Showing what companies are signing onto your product can make this an even more compelling investment story. With Series A being known as the “scaling round,” it’s critical to show that you’re off to a good start and that you have a strong strategy for how to lean into it as you obtain more resources.

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