Microsoft expands retail efforts to Australia

Friday, April 24th, 2015

By: Lars Adam Akerblom

Microsoft has announced Sydney, Australia as the location of its first branded Microsoft Store outside of North America. The store will be spread over two floors with more than 6,000 square feet of retail space, and is expected to open in “late 2015.”

The Redmond-based tech giant currently has more than 110 such stores in the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico, along with 17 store-within-a-store locations in China. The new flagship store will be located in Westfield Sydney, a leading retail district in the country’s biggest city and economic hub. The Microsoft Store will fronting on to the busy Pitt Street Mall and will be just around the corner from the flagship stores of competitors Apple and Samsung. Occupying the space next door to Microsoft will be cosmetic mogul Sephora, another U.S. company to recently expand to the Australian market.

Microsoft says the new Sydney store will lead the brand’s push into the Asia Pacific region as the ‘centerpiece’ of its retail presence in the region. Alongside Windows PCs, Surface devices, Windows Phones, Xbox consoles and Office products, the store will also feature Microsoft’s variant of a customer service and repairs counter, known as the Answer Desk. The company referred to as a “one-stop shop for questions, troubleshooting, repairs and support.”

The expansion comes at a key time for Microsoft as they are set to launch Windows 10, the next version of is operating system, later this year. The update will bring a number of major changes to the entire spectrum of Microsoft devices, and has the chance to boost sales across the board. A new retail location and the knowledge gained from the expansion process will likely be instrumental in the company’s efforts to globalize their retail presence in the wake of the launch.


Greater Seattle Kickstarts innovation at impressive rates

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

By: Lars Adam Akerblom

A quick glance will tell you all you need to know about how successful Greater Seattle has been as a home to Kickstarter innovators. Notable past successes include Touchfire’s iPad keyboards and cases, Robot Turtles’ board game for young programmers, and Camouflaj’s video game Republique. The impressive track record is further validated by the massive triumph achieved by Arkyd in 2013. The project hold the record to date of the most funded campaign in Seattle with $1.5 million raised to support its space telescope. Even to the uninitiated, it is obvious that Seattle is a crowdfunding hotspot.

Upon closer inspection it becomes clear just how impressive the crowdfunding scene in Seattle is. It ranks fifth in the country for most projects launched. Since the inception of Kickstarter in 2009, Seattle has had just about 1700 projects have come to fruition. Seattle boasts a success rate of 51.3 percent for projects posted on Kickstarter, and this may seem unremarkable, it is 13 percent higher than the global average. The only U.S. cities that topple Seattle are Boston (54.2 percent), New York (53.7 percent), San Francisco (53.7 percent), and Austin (52.2 percent).

Crowdfunding services such as Kickstarter have truly revolutionized the entrepreneurial scene. The virtually unrestricted access to global funding is unlike anything seen before, and consumption, just like funding, is equally global. The platform for promotion and sales that exists through these sites allows otherwise isolated micro-companies to reach a global audience. These are not exactly the type of companies that spring to mind when thinking about State exports, but they are important to consider in thinking about the economic landscape of both Washington and the United States.


Boeing score big with Panama’s Copa Airlines

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

By: Lars Adam Akerblom

A ground breaking deal was recently announced between Boeing and Copa Airlines. The Panamanian company placed an order for 61 Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9 planes to add to its fleet. The deal is reported to be worth $6.6 billion and marks the largest business deal ever between a Panamanian and U.S.-based company.

To commemorate this landmark, both President Barack Obama and Panama President Juan Carlos Varela Rodrigues were in attendance to witness the deal. “It is an honor to be joined by Presidents Varela and Obama on this great day. All of us at Boeing are proud to partner with Copa as it works to remain one of the most progressive airlines in the world,” said Boeing CEO Jim McNerney in a statement.

The order is good news for the Greater Seattle region as the 737 Max planes are all built locally at Boeing’s Renton factory. Employees at the bustling plant will have no problems staying busy with the Oman Airlines recently ordering 20 737s, including some of the new Max planes, and Garuda Indonesia airlines ordering 50 of the 737 Max planes last year. Boeing has ramped up production of the aircraft to try to meet the growing demand, and plans to hit a rate of 52 planes per month by 2018.


Trendy Japanese apparel retailer to set up shop in Bellevue

Friday, April 10th, 2015

By: Lars Adam Akerblom

Uniqlo, a Japanese apparel company that has been taking the world by storm, is opening a location in Bellevue this fall. The store will be the retailer’s first in the Seattle area. The company has grown to massive proportions in Asia and is also gaining ground in France, Germany, the U.K., and Russia. So far, Uniqlo’s U.S. stores have been solely located in the Northeast and California.

Uniqlo is known for its practice of offering only a few styles, but providing those styles in many different colors. Just to name an example, they offer 50 different colors of socks. The company is owned by Fast Retailing, based in Yamaguchi City, Japan. The parent company employs 30,448 people worldwide and is headed by Tadashi Yanai, who according to Forbes is Japan’s richest man, with a fortune of $21.4 billion. Along with the 13,000 square-foot Bellevue Square Mall locale, the company now plans to open stores in Denver and Washington, D.C. as well. To date, the company is operating 39 stores in the U.S.

Uniqlo will face stiff competition in the rapidly expanding Seattle market as it is just the latest of many global apparel empires to try their luck in the Greater Seattle region. Notably, Spanish clothing- giant Zara opened in Westlake Center just last year. Other recent additions to Bellevue Square Mall include Luxury camera store, Leica, and parent company Kemper Development announced that a W Hotel would take up space at Lincoln Square.

The retailer’s international ventures have garnered great results, sales are booming and revenues rose 47 percent for the quarter which ended last November. Sales in China and South Korea have been the driving force behind the growth, while the U.S. “fell short of plan” with higher revenues but shrinking profits. Perhaps the newest addition to the company’s U.S. portfolio will help turn the tide.


Bellevue-based K2 raises $153M in fundraising round

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

By: Lars Adam Akerblom

K2 created waves last month when they issued a statement that they had raised “well over” $100 million in fundraising. In the end, it turns out that this figure was a whopping $153 million. In raising this amount, the company joins only a handful of local companies to surpass the $100 million milestone in recent years. Other companies to achieve this goal are: Adaptive Biotechnologies, PayScale and Avalara. Juno Therapeutics, a Seattle-based biotech company, raised a particularly noteworthy $176 million round shortly before going public in 2014.

K2 offers IT departments worldwide a platform to create business applications without having to write the code in-house. CEO Adriaan van Wyk said that as companies seek to automate internal company processes the demand for this type of service is increasing at an incredible rate. K2 has ridden the wave of their success and the rapidly expanding market to servicing 1.5 million users across 80 countries, while counting companies like Shell and Microsoft among its customers.

The money raised will serve to springboard new K2 offerings and international expansion. With global offices already situated in England, Singapore and South Africa, markets of special interest to K2 will include Europe, Asia, and to some degree Africa. 45% of the company’s business already comes from overseas and this number looks to increase as the expansion plans are implemented. Van Wyk also said that K2 will expand its Greater Seattle-area presence. The company’s employees total 430 across the globe, with just over 80 located in the Greater Seattle area. That local number, along with the amount of office space they occupy in the region, is set to increase in the future.


Chinese e-commerce giant looking to put down roots in Seattle

Friday, April 3rd, 2015

By: Lars Adam Akerblom

It is looking increasingly likely that the Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba is going to establish their U.S. headquarters in Seattle. The company already owns a smaller downtown office since last year, but is reportedly seeking to expand. Rumors have been floating around that the company is looking for up to 80,000 square-feet in real estate.

Alibaba is by some measures the largest e-commerce company in the world. Transactions on its online sites totaled $248 billion last year, more than those of eBay and Amazon combined. Founder and Executive Chairman, Jack Ma, a former English teacher, is reported to be the richest man in China. The company made quite a splash on the U.S. stock market late last year when it raised $25 billion from its U.S. IPO and its stock jumped 38% in the first day of trading.

A Seattle based U.S. headquarters would be an interesting move for both Alibaba and the city of Seattle. For Alibaba, a Seattle location would mean big savings on rent compared to other technology hubs such as San Francisco, and the company would benefit from a flourishing talent pool with both Amazon and Microsoft already attracting high numbers of talented recruits. Meanwhile, Seattle stands to add the feather of yet another corporate heavyweight to its cap. The rapidly growing city is continuing to cement its place in the big leagues of trade and finance.


Echodyne Aims for Self-Driving Cars with Radar Technologies

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

By: Vanessa Kimanga, 3/18/2015

Echodyne Aims for Self-Driving Cars with Radar Technologies

Echodyne, a start-up company backed by investors Bill Gates and Paul Allen, is located just off State Route 520 Bellevue. They are developing radars suitable for drones, robots and self-driving cars; this technology could allow vehicles to operate independently in a variety of conditions.

The company’s current goal is to improve radar systems with regards to cost, size and performance by using sub-wave length geometric configurations of metal. CEO and founder Eben Frankenburg stated “We have this concept of radar vision, where you’re actually using radar as a vision system for autonomous and unmanned vehicles as opposed to an exotic military-grade only sensor”

Echodyne hopes to market its technology to the government and military. However with the co-founders Echodyne has, they will be able to serve commercial businesses. Last year Echodyne received $15 million in funding from Gates, Madrona Venture group, Vulcan capital and other companies.

Echodyne hasn’t launched any true product but Tom Driscoll, Co-founder, clarified that they aren’t squandering time or materials. Prototypes show a 2.6pound quad copter, is capable of lifting over six pounds. Echodyne also modified flight controls allowing drones to autonomously follow a target.  “We gave a tiny quad copter with the ability to see and image the world around it with radar” says Co-founder Driscoll.

Echodyne is the most recent company to spin out if Intellectual Ventures, a patent licensing invention business co-founded by Microsoft chief technology officer Nathan Myhrvold.




Expedia continues its expansion strategy, this time to Latin America

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

Evan Philip, March 10, 2015

Bellevue-based Expedia, Inc. recently announced that they would be making a $270 million minority equity investment in Latin American online travel company According to a press release by Expedia, this investment will strengthen their existing commercial relationship with Decolar and will benefit exiting hotel partners and customers of both companies. This deal will broaden “Expedia’s powering of Decolar’s hotel supply and introduces the opportunity for Decolar to provide Expedia access to its hotel supply in Latin America”. Decolar is the leading online travel agency in Latin America and has an established presence in 21 countries in the region.

The equity investment by Expedia will help both companies become more capable to serve customers’ needs in the highly competitive global travel market. The deal follows a string of rapid acquisitions totaling more than $2.5 billion: Wotif Group in Australia, competitor Travelocity, and a proposed deal to acquire competitor Orbitz. The Puget Sound Business Journal reports that these acquisitions could give Expedia control over 75% of the U.S. online travel agency market.

Expedia’s investment in Decolar demonstrates their determination to surpass their competitor, Priceline, as the number one online travel agency in the world. Expedia is currently in second place, but if their rapid expansion efforts continue, this could change. The company’s annual revenues total $5.8 billion, a significant increase from $4.8 billion in 2013, according to Bloomberg Business. If this Greater Seattle-based company continues their rapid expansion strategies, we do not expect to see their exponential growth come to an end anytime soon!


Seattle real estate looking towards India for investment

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

By Evan Philip, March 3, 2015

As India’s economy and GDP continue to grow exponentially, real estate companies in the Greater Seattle area have begun to focus on Indian investors to further home sales.  According to a report by the Puget Sound Business Journal, 7% of existing U.S. home sales is attributed to foreign buyers. Of this portion, 6% of those buyers are from India, representing $5.8 billion in home sales from April 2013 to March 2014. This is an increase of $1.9 billion from the same period the year before, demonstrating the large potential profit in the years to come.

In the past, China has been one of the main focuses of real estate companies for investment from international sources. However, with the changing international demographics in the region, real estate companies are shifting their focus towards potential Indian buyers. Typically when Indians immigrate to the U.S., they look for property in areas that already have well-established Indian-American communities. In the Puget Sound region, Indian home buyers look towards Bellevue for potential properties. The U.S. Census reported that in 2010 more than 7% of Bellevue’s population was comprised of people from India.

The International Monetary Fund reports that India is currently the 11th largest economy in the world, and is the 3rd largest by purchasing power parity. It is also the second most populous country in the world, with over 1.2 billion people. Additionally, the Migration Policy Institute reports that there were over 1.9 million Indian immigrants living in the U.S. in 2011, the third largest immigrant group by country of origin. With such high levels of immigration and economic growth, real estate companies should not be the only ones looking to India for future investment and business!


Shenzhen Symphony to perform at Benaroya Hall

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

By Vanessa Kimanga, February 25, 2015

On February 25th the Shenzhen symphony in collaboration with the Seattle Symphony and Stanford University, will perform at Benaroya Hall to celebrate the Lunar Chinese New Year.

The concert will have renowned pianist Yin Chengzong, Chinese pipa artist Zhao Cong and conductor Jindong Cai.

Austin Huang, producer of the Chinese new year concert and  president of the Pacific Northwest Cultural Exchange Council, named Yin Chengzong as one of the main attractions. Yin began learning piano at 7 years old and studied piano at Shanghai Conservatory of Music. Although trained as a classical pianist, he is best known for the Yellow River Concerto which he prepared and performed.

Cai is a director for the Gretchen B Kimball of Orchestral studies from Stanford, assistant conductor for Cincinnati Symphony and the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra. He has worked closely with conductors Jsus Lpez-Cobos, Erich Kunzel and Keith Lockhart.

Zhao Cong plays the Chinese pipa, a four stringed instrument referred to as the Chinese lute. Zhao was recruited as a pipa soloist for the central orchestra for Chinese music in Beijing; she has then toured over 20 countries performing for over dozen heads of states.

The concert holds strong cultural significance – western orchestras travel around China but this is the first time a symphony from China will perform in Seattle. This gives American audiences a unique combination of classical music and Chinese artistic traditions, and gain a better understanding of China’s current social, economic and cultural development.

“I am confident the concert will be a success because Western-style symphonies have played Chinese symphonic music in Seattle before, and it was well received,” Huang said.

The orchestra will have about 90 people, making it a full orchestra with brass, percussion, woodwind and string. The symphony will also perform at Stanford University in Palo Alto, San Jose and San Diego.

The Seattle Symphony will be able to return the favor next year. In June 2016, the Seattle Symphony will embark on its first-ever Asia tour, with appearances in Beijing, Shanghai, and Seoul.