Spokane Journal of Business

Spokane technology scene grows with investment, acquisition


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As technology becomes increasingly more influential in daily life, the tech industry here is growing, some industry professionals say.

Thomas Simpson, president of the startup investment group Spokane Angel Alliance, says the group invested a total of $15 million into eight new companies across a number of sectors.

That’s compared to four companies and $2 million in 2016, he says.

Although the alliance invests in growing companies across several industry sectors, Simpson contends all eight of the companies the alliance invested in this year could be defined as technology-related companies.

Separately, he says, “I continue to believe the Spokane area is an attractive place for entrepreneurs to start and grow companies, particularly as you look at other labor and real estate-constrained cities around the country.”

Liberty Lake-based Itron Inc., which makes automatic meter reading technology, announced two large acquisitions this year. In June, the company completed its purchase of Peak Holding Corp., the Norcross, Ga.-based owner of energy management company Comverge, for $100 million

Three months later, Itron announced plans to acquire San Jose, Calif.-based Silver Springs Networks Inc. in a transaction valued at $830 million. 

Jeff Aden, founder and executive vice president of marketing and business development with the Liberty Lake office of Seattle-based 2nd Watch Inc., says technology will continue to grow.

Aden describes 2nd Watch as a “cloud-enabling company” that helps clients manage cloud-based computer systems.

Regarding projections for 2018 in Spokane’s tech industry, Aden says, “That’s always a hard one, because the Spokane area may be behind, but there’s a big emphasis in the marketplace around machine learning and artificial intelligence in order to create a better customer experience.”

For customer experience-related machine learning and artificial intelligence, Aden uses the example of an individual purchasing goods on Amazon; artificial intelligence might pick out recommended items based on previously purchased products.

From conversations he’s had outside of Spokane, technology will be even more relevant to all industries.

“Whether you’re in business, or a lawyer, whatever you happen to do, a background in technology will be beneficial in understanding some of the ways we interact and communicate,” he says.

Terry Hoy, vice president and director of sales for Liberty Lake-based Gravity Jack Inc., says augmented reality is something that could make more waves in the future.

“We’re actually seeing companies looking to use augmented reality in their everyday business,” says Hoy, who also co-founded of Gravity Jack, a custom digital production company specializing in augmented reality, virtual reality, and 360 video.

Augmented reality involves injecting computer-generated images into the user’s real world, he says.

The popular phone app Pokémon Go is an example of augmented reality.

Hoy says, “I see (augmented reality as) going from radio to TV. I think it’s going to be that big.”

AR is different from virtual reality, which consists of using a device, like a headset, and experiencing a fictional world, he says.

AR will be used in several industries, such as education, energy, medical, utilities, and engineering, he says.

(UPDATED with corrected information on Spokane Angel Alliance's investment in 2016, at 8:10 a.m. on 12/26/17.)

Samantha Peone
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Reporter Samantha Peone joined the Journal in 2015 as research coordinator before later transitioning into a reporter role. She covers real estate and construction.

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