Spokane Journal of Business

Inland Northwest tech industry observers see growth


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The CEO of a nonprofit business technology incubator here says he sees an opportunity next year to help small businesses begin partnerships with Washington State University’s Elson S. Floyd School of Medicine as it prepares to host its first medical school class in the fall.

Bill Savitz is the CEO of Ignite Northwest, formed in 2015 to help mostly young tech startups overcome early startup challenges mostly related to secured funding.

“All of them have had some level of a technology base,” Savitz says of the 40 businesses that have completed three 13-week cohorts since the fall of 2015.

He says 95 percent of the tech-based businesses—primarily from Spokane—are active and appear to be continuing to grow.

While Savitz expects chances for area businesses to begin developing opportunities with the medical school, other area business leaders predict 2017 will be a year in which artificial intelligence and connectivity across already developed software will proliferate.

Reed Jessen, of IP Street Holdings LLC in Spokane, says the company has experimented with a Google Inc. software, called TensorFlow.

The software uses a powerful form of artificial intelligence called deep learning. Instead of selling the software to developers, Google open-sourced the software and made it available to developers around the world, Jessen says.

 “That was huge,” says Jessen. “To make advanced machine learning available to the average developer is going to accelerate the development of artificial intelligence at an astonishing rate.”

Jessen is no stranger to software development with IP Street, which is co-owned by Lakeside Capital Group LLC, of Spokane, and the Cowles Co., which owns the Journal of Business.

IP Street’s software is designed to provide inventors, attorneys, and business executives the ability to analyze complex data and make sense of what can be densely-worded patent documents that are frequently hundreds of pages long.

Since taking over at IP Street in February, Jessen and developers have adopted the company’s software for use in Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel programs.

Another member of the tech industry here who expects the sector to continue its rapid march forward into artificial intelligence and connectivity is Steven Tabacek, the president and co-founder of Spokane-based RiskLens Inc., a software company built to help businesses and organizations analyze their exposure to cyber risk.

RiskLens uses its software as a service delivery model in which its software is licensed on a subscription basis and is centrally hosted on its secure, cloud-based server.

Tabacek says the five-year-old company will be working next year to make its analytical engine work more effectively for its customers.

“We’ll be designing our software to where we can connect with even more data from other cyber security software so the machines can learn more and better analyze threats,” Tabacek says.

Itron Inc., based in Liberty Lake at 2111 N. Molter Road, is a maker of automated meter reading technology and one of Spokane’s largest tech-sector employers. It recently reported a third-quarter net loss of $10 million compared with net income of $13 million in 2016. Restructuring charges and a higher tax rate as a result of the charges drove the net loss.

The company has 75 offices in 35 countries worldwide, with about 8,000 employees. About 500 of those employees work in its 200,000-square-foot building in Liberty Lake.

Imprezzio Inc., a Spokane-based company that specializes in providing proprietary software designed for use in areas such as contract management to insurance and financial services industries, says it expects to top $30 million in annual revenue this year and anticipates strong growth in 2017.

As of early October, Imprezzio and its DaRK Capital affiliates employed 218 people, including 75 people here and 15 in the Seattle area.

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