Praveen Seshadri, left, and Brian Sabino of AppSheet. (AppSheet Photo) Seattle startup has raised $15 million to fuel growth of its platform that helps businesses develop their own data-based apps without requiring a team of developers. Shasta Ventures led the round, with participation from existing investor New Enterprise Associates. Total funding to date is $19.3 million. Founded in 2014, AppSheet sells software that enables nearly 6,000 customers such as Husqvarna Group, Solvay, Tigo Guatemala, American Electric Power, M&O Partners, Boom Technology, and others to build “no-code” apps. More than 200,000 apps have been deployed using AppSheet and more than 18,000 “active app creators” build apps with AppSheet each month. Use cases include inventory management, CRM, and field service, and span across industries such as manufacturing, construction, scientific, and others. Examples of include those designed for requesting and tracking equipment maintenance; generating daily construction reports; or completing a pre-surgery checklist. AppSheet has been and natural language processing technology to further speed the creation of apps. AppSheet CEO launched AppSheet with , a former student in his database systems class at Cornell University. They had been exploring how mobile apps can make businesses more productive and discovered that businesses were hungry for modestly priced custom-built apps. AppSheet is among a number of platforms touting themselves as quick and easy app development platforms. The startup competes against products built by other Seattle-area companies such as Microsoft and K2 Software, as well as Siemens-owned Mendix, OutSystems, Betty Blocks. Asked about AppSheet’s secret sauce and differentiators, here’s what Seshadri shared with GeekWire: We disrupt traditional business software development across three dimensions: 1. Access: Our true no-code model allows every business user to create and innovate with apps without writing any code to build them. 2. Agility: Deployment of apps from the AppSheet intelligent no-code app platform is lightweight and instant. It is an order of magnitude more agile than a low-code solution, significantly more powerful, and comes at a fraction of the cost of using mainstream programming languages that convert a desired program into a sequence of low-level instructions computer hardware can execute. 3. Ambition: The expressive power of the AppSheet intelligent no-code platform is constantly improving. Our current generation of apps includes machine learning, rich integrations, micro-services, and are not limited to mobile/web apps. The fresh investment will be used to increase marketing spend and platform enhancements. AppSheet will also open a “center of machine learning excellence” in Portland, Ore. The company employs 20 people and expects headcount to grow to 50 over the next year. “We believe AppSheet’s demonstrated success with a broad horizontal customer base is a key indicator of its expected impact,” Ravi Mohan, managing director at Shasta Ventures, said in a statement. “There is no doubt that we are at the start of a technology revolution that will allow business users to create their own software solutions, and there is no doubt that AppSheet is the market-leading platform that will drive this transformation.” Other recent Shasta investments in Seattle-area companies include ; ; ; ; ; and . The firm is among a crop of Bay Area investors .
— When he invented the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee had a specific vision for how it would evolve, and things haven’t gone exactly as he planned. At its inception, the web was supposed to be a place to create as much as receive information. But web browsers quickly eliminated the ability to edit pages, essentially cutting out half of Berners-Lee’s vision. While things have been moving in the right direction, Berners-Lee, working with MIT, is looking to continue the trend with a new open-source technology called Solid. The Solid community is hosting a May 2 where developers and anyone interested in the new technology can learn what it’s all about. — For most entrepreneurs, figuring out exactly what you want to do with your business can be the easy part. But bringing that business into reality often takes outside investment. And that’s where it gets tricky. Perfecting your pitch and getting your idea in front of the right people at the right time can be not only a challenge but a frustrating process of trial and error. Odds are, you’re going to need some help along the journey. Volition Events is hosting the inaugural on April 26. Part of the Women in Tech Regatta, the event offers a place where you can practice your 3-minute pitch and get valuable feedback on how to improve it. Here are more highlights from the GeekWire Calendar: : A conference to discuss technology’s future in various life science fields at the Washington State Conference Center in Seattle; Wednesday, April 24 – Thursday, April 25. : An event where five startups pitch their companies to the audience at The Collective in Seattle; 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, April 25. : A shark-tank style event where local entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to earn capital at New Holly Gathering Hall in Seattle; 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, April 25. : An event focused on the preservation of physical as well as digital properties in the event of a disaster at the Living Computers: Museum and Lab in Seattle; Friday, April 26 – Saturday, April 27. : A talk about technology as it applies to air travel at the Sheraton Seattle; 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, April 26. : A presentation for startups about how to cope with business challenges at CoMotion Labs at the University of Washington in Seattle; 12 to 1 p.m. Friday, April 26. A presentation about tactics to have a successful interview for engineering careers at Code Fellows in Seattle; 12:15 to 1 p.m. Friday, April 26. For more upcoming events, check out the , where you can find meetups, conferences, startup events, and geeky gatherings in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Organizing an event? .
Researchers at have built a web app that lets you (and them) spy on your smart home devices to see what they’re up to. The open source tool, called IoT Inspector, is available for download . (Currently it’s Mac OS only, with a wait list for Windows or Linux.) In a about the effort the researchers write that their aim is to offer a simple tool for consumers to analyze the network traffic of their Internet connected gizmos. The basic idea is to help people see whether devices such as smart speakers or wi-fi enabled robot vacuum cleaners are sharing their data with third parties. (Or indeed how much snitching their gadgets are doing.) Testing the IoT Inspector tool in their lab the researchers say they found a Chromecast device constantly contacting Google’s servers even when not in active use. A Geeni smart bulb was also found to be constantly communicating with the cloud — sending/receiving traffic via a URL (tuyaus.com) that’s operated by a China-based company with a platform which controls IoT devices. There are other ways to track devices like this — such as setting up a wireless hotspot to sniff IoT traffic using a packet analyzer like WireShark. But the level of technical expertise required makes them difficult for plenty of consumers. Whereas the researchers say their web app doesn’t require any special hardware or complicated set-up so it sounds easier than trying to go packet sniffing your devices yourself. (, which got an early look at the tool, describes it as “incredibly easy to install and use”.) One wrinkle: The web app doesn’t work with Safari; requiring either Firefox or Google Chrome (or a Chromium-based browser) to work. The main caveat is that the team at Princeton do want to use the gathered data to feed IoT research — so users of the tool will be contributing to efforts to study smart home devices. The title of their research project is Identifying Privacy, Security, and Performance Risks of Consumer IoT Devices. The listed principle investigators are professor Nick Feamster and PhD student Danny Yuxing Huang at the university’s Computer Science department. The Princeton team says it intends to study privacy and security risks and network performance risks of IoT devices. But they also note they may share the full dataset with other non-Princeton researchers after a standard research ethics approval process. So users of IoT Inspector will be participating in at least one research project. (Though the tool also lets you delete any collected data — per device or per account.) “With IoT Inspector, we are the first in the research community to produce an open-source, anonymized dataset of actual IoT network traffic, where the identity of each device is labelled,” the researchers write. “We hope to invite any academic researchers to collaborate with us — e.g., to analyze the data or to improve the data collection — and advance our knowledge on IoT security, privacy, and other related fields (e.g., network performance).” They have produced an extensive which anyone thinking about running the tool should definitely read before getting involved with a piece of software that’s explicitly designed to spy on your network traffic. (tl;dr, they’re using ARP-spoofing to intercept traffic data — a technique they warn may slow your network, in addition to the risk of their software being buggy.) The dataset that’s being harvesting by the traffic analyzer tool is anonymized and the researchers specify they’re not gathering any public-facing IP addresses or locations. But there are still some privacy risks — such as if you have smart home devices you’ve named using your real name. So, again, do read the FAQ carefully if you want to participate. For each IoT device on a network the tool collects multiple data-points and sends them back to servers at Princeton University — including DNS requests and responses; destination IP addresses and ports; hashed MAC addresses; aggregated traffic statistics; TLS client handshakes; and device manufacturers. The tool has been designed not to track computers, tablets and smartphones by default, given the study focus on smart home gizmos. Users can also manually exclude individual smart devices from being tracked if they’re able to power them down during set up or by specifying their MAC address. Up to 50 smart devices can be tracked on the network where IoT Inspector is running. Anyone with more than 50 devices is asked to contact the researchers to ask for an increase to that limit. The project team has produced a video showing how to install the app on Mac:
LeoStella technicians work on the first of 20 satellites to be produced by the Tukwila, Wash.-based startup. (GeekWire Photo) When you hear the words “satellite factory,” ‘s operations in a nondescript office park south of Seattle probably isn’t the image that comes to mind. But that’s exactly what it is. By the middle of summer, the Tukwila, Wash.-based startup aims to pop out the first of a run of 20 small satellites. That initial production will go to in Seattle, which operates a constellation of Earth-imaging satellites and sells the insights to business clients. LeoStella CEO said the Tukwila location fulfilled three main criteria: it was close to BlackSky, affordable, and easy to get a building permit. Chris Chautard will step down as LeoStella CEO next month when Mike Hettich will take over. (GeekWire Photo) The startup, which launched less than a year ago, will manufacture small, low-cost satellites for Earth observation and telecommunications. Chautard said the satellites were designed to be simple and flexible. Chautard will step down as CEO next month, when , a vice president at Kirkland, Wash.-based aerospace firm Astronics, will take over. LeoStella’s structure is a 50-50 transatlantic joint venture between two entities: Seattle-based , which owns BlackSky. , an aerospace venture between France’s and Italy’s . Thales in Spaceflight last year as part of a $150 million fundraising round. The companies said a “big chunk” went to forming LeoStella. The basic pitch around small satellites is that they’ll let more companies get to space cheaper. With its purchase of LeoStella’s satellites, BlackSky is betting that what’s most important isn’t the size of your satellites that counts. It’s how you use them. “The economics of a high performing small satellite constellation are going to unlock a whole world of new data and information services for a much broader global market,” said BlackSky CEO . “Satellites are a great enabler. But ultimately, this is about delivering timely information so people can make relevant decisions that are going to impact their business,” he added. A satellite developed by BlackSky sits on the floor of LeoStella’s manufacturing room. (GeekWire Photo) LeoStella is actively looking for customers outside of BlackSky. The company has 34 employees and lots of empty desks, though it did not elaborate on hiring plans. LeoStella is already working on the design of its third-generation satellite. Once it is at full capacity, the startup will produce 30 small satellites per year and will add telecom satellites to its offerings. LeoStella uses parts from 20 different suppliers, including L3 GCS, Aitech Defense Systems and Seattle’s Jemco. When it comes to satellites, small is a relative term. LeoStella’s initial satellites will weigh between 50 to 150 kilograms (110 to 330 pounds). Other satellite makers are investigating tough scientific questions with . LeoStella’s Earth-imaging satellites were created to revisit heavily populated mid-latitude regions frequently, taking in 4×6 kilometer images. They have a 36-month service life. LeoStella’s first satellite should launch in late 2019. BlackSky said it will have 16 satellites in its constellation by early 2021 and hopes to eventually grow that number to 60.