Hey, I'm Dan! I invest in early-stage startups at Madrona and write the DL, a weekly newsletter about tech in the PNW

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What Dan's Talking About

Dan's weekly summary of interesting articles, great books, cool videos, and internet memes

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Quibi Quotes

If you haven’t downloaded Quibi yet… don’t worry about it. No one else has either. Despite raising $1.8B and launching with content from JLo, Lebron, and Steven Spielberg, they only have 1.3M active users...

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The Future of EdTech

Scott Galloway wrote a great piece on the future of education in NY Mag, and instead of just naming startups building personalized education tech, he says:

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Is Tech's Balance of Power Shifting?

Last week, The Economist published an article arguing that the pandemic is shifting the balance of tech power from SF to Seattle because of “a new era of subscriptions, e-commerce, and business infrastructure.”

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List of Seattle Venture Capital Firms

Here's a list of venture capital firms and other investors who are based in Seattle or the Pacific Northwest:

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Founders’ Co-op Deep Dive

Founders’ Co-op was founded in 2008 and has invested in 100+ startups. They target $250-750K seed investments in PNW startups, and last year, they closed a $25M fund. One cool piece of their history is...

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Amazon Engineers on Amazon

Last week, Tim Bray, a VP/Distinguished Engineer at Amazon, quit and wrote a viral blog post explaining his decision:

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Dallas Re-Opening Stats (courtesy of Mark Cuban)

After Dallas reopened last weekend, Mark Cuban paid a team of secret shoppers to find out how many restaurants and stores actually re-opened and how many of them followed safety protocols.

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Why VCs love SaaS Businesses

VCs love SaaS businesses because most public SaaS companies need less than $1 of capital to acquire $1 of ARR. Here's how SaaS capital efficiency compares to other types of businesses

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Disrupt yo self! 💥

It’s really interesting to see corporate strategy play out in this era of technology and innovation because innovators are willing to take gigantic bets and disrupt themselves...

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April 2020 PNW Venture Deals

Here are the PNW startups that announced new fundraising rounds in the month of April. Despite the COVID slowdown, these 28 companies raised $220M+ last month!

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Earnings Highlights from Microsoft and Amazon

Microsoft: “As COVID-19 impacts every aspect of our work and life, we’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months“

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Actual P&L from a Seattle Restaurant

The owner of Some Random Bar posted a very sobering video breaking down his restaurant’s economics during the quarantine and its prospects going forward. Some key stats:

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How Will Tech Change Post-COVID?

Coming out of the last crisis, tech companies have done incredibly well, and COVID is driving every organization (and consumer) to adopt new technologies faster than they would have otherwise. So who is best positioned to win?

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Expedia Raises $3.2B and Gets a New CEO

In Expedia’s announcement about their $3.2B in new funding and new CEO, Barry Diller said, “We are unable to make any predictions as to when travel will rebound but we emphatically believe that it will.”

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SaaS Trends during the Crisis

Last week at the SaaStr conference, ProfitWell shared data on how 10K+ SaaS companies are being impacted by COVID-19. Some of the takeaways:

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How to Close a $10B Deal

A couple weeks ago, the Department of Defense released a 317 page report on the $10B JEDI contract. While the report was meant to investigate misconduct, it’s also a great look at how the digital transformation and procurement pro

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How Seattle Businesses Came Together to Fight COVID-19

Fortune wrote a fantastic article last week on how Seattle came together so quickly to respond to COVID-19 in Washington...

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Billionaires Hate Bailing Out Billionaires

A bunch of tech investors and CEOs are criticizing the COVID bailouts because the funds are going to help shareholders (i.e., the 1% who own 50%+ of all equity) at the expense of employees and taxpayers (who will foot the bill).

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CalPERS Called Out

What a great board room story...

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Stop Buying Stuff on Amazon! -Amazon 😘

Amazon stock hit all-time highs last week, and they are selling so much stuff that they are literally redesigning their site to try to sell fewer items.

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Going Back to Work with Starbucks and Microsoft

Starbucks and Microsoft both have large businesses in China, so last week they shared some of their learnings about reopening in China with the Seattle business community...

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What's Happening in VR?

Videoconferencing software is blowing up while people are stuck at home (Zoom grew from 10M to 200M DAUs in three months, and Teams grew from 32M to 44M DAUs in a week), and it looks like people are going into VR to escape quarant

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First Round's Guide to Navigating the Crisis

If you haven’t already read a dozen “how to navigate the crisis” articles, this one is really good. First Round pulled together all of the advice they’ve been sharing with entrepreneurs along with links to resources.

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March 2020 PNW Venture Deals

Here are the PNW startups that announced new fundraising rounds in the month of March. These 20 companies raised $200M+ last month!

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COVID-19's Impact on Seed Investing

In 2020, seed rounds have plummeted to levels we haven’t seen since 2013. For the last three years, there have been 2,000 to 2,500 seed deals by the end of March, but this year there have only been 1,200...

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How COVID-19 Will Impact Startup Valuations

Last week, I shared some opinions on what’s going to happen to the startup market over the next few quarters. But this week, I thought I’d get some data instead of just speculating (breaking all sorts of VC rules 🙃).

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What It's Like To Run Slack Right Now

Cool thread from Stewart Butterfield (CEO of Slack) on what it’s like to run a public company and make decisions on what to share on an earnings call during a crisis. Long-ish read, so here are some of the highlights:

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Trade of the Week 💥

Last week, Bill Ackman, a billionaire hedge fund manager, did an interview where he teared up and warned investors that “hell is coming” if the government doesn’t shut down the country.

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PNW fighting COVID-19 together

One bright spot in the COVID-19 pandemic is everyone coming together to fight a common enemy (maybe, for the first time ever?). Many of the most iconic companies and institutions in the PNW have been announcing initiatives to help

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What's going to happen to startup fundraising

The stock market is down over 30% since its peak earlier this year, and investors are selling everything. So what’s going to happen to the startup market? Here are my thoughts:

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The three most important COVID-19 charts

The three most important charts for understanding the current state of coronavirus:

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The empty stores of the future

Last week, Amazon announced they are going to start selling Amazon Go’s “Just Walk Out” technology to third parties, and the first retailer to roll it out will be...

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How are software investors weighing the impact of coronavirus?

Over the last few weeks, the S&P 500 dropped over 10%, with the largest one-day declines in nearly a decade. You’ve probably seen lots of articles about individual stocks that have been heavily impacted by coronavirus...

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🔥 take of the week

One thing I love (hate?) about tech Twitter is everyone LOVES the idea of being “contrarian,” but when someone actually brings up a contrarian idea, people FLIP OUT...

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February 2020 PNW Venture Deals

Here are the PNW startups that announced new fundraising rounds in the month of February. These 29 companies raised ~$325M last month!

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How to raise money, according to the pros

Last week, YC published their guide to raising a Series A - great, practical advice combined with data from their companies. Some of the highlights:

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🤑 <-- Seattle tech workers

There were a bunch of headlines last week on how the 125K “information workers” in King County make an average of $279K per year according to BLS data. That's $35B a year...

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Consumer brands and marketplaces that VCs love

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article on why VCs love SaaS businesses, and some readers thought the takeaway was marketplace and consumer businesses are bad. Not what I meant! The takeaway was that SaaS startups should be...

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Find your perfect job

Ever wonder… if I weren’t a _______, what would I want to do? Well here’s some research showing which jobs are most closely related to one another based on the personality profiles of people in those professions...

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Coolest spreadsheet ever

Excel is the MVP of the Office suite, and here is proof - you can implement computer vision algorithms in Excel without any special scripts or macros...

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Earnings season for Seattle companies

Redfin and Expedia both had great earnings calls last week with Redfin stock up 20% and Expedia up 10%. These are definitely two companies to track over the next few quarters...

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Amazon is the biggest advertiser on earth

Amazon spent $11B on ads last year. That’s literally enough money to buy an Echo for every single person in America and have $1.5B left over to go acquire Sonos. According to WPP, this represents ~2% of all global ad spend...

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January 2020 PNW Venture Deals

Here are the PNW startups that announced new fundraising rounds in the month of November. These 23 companies raised ~$180M last month!

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What's new at Madrona

This year is Madrona’s 25th birthday 🎂, and we are starting the year off with a lot of exciting news! Here’s a quick overview of what’s going on at Madrona and our portfolio companies:

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Amazon reaches $1T market cap!

Amazon has officially joined Apple ($1.4T), Microsoft ($1.4T), and Alphabet ($1.0T) in the cuatro commas club! To celebrate, here are a few great quotes from haters including Barron’s 1999 Amazon.bomb article:

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Spokane's Top Startups

Here’s a report highlighting 30 of the most exciting startups in eastern Washington...

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Okta's startup picks

Every year Okta publishes a report on the fastest growing apps used by their customers, and it’s a great crystal ball for startups...

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PSL Studio Deep Dive

Part Two on PNW / Seattle venture firms and what they are investing in. Here we’ll take a closer look at PSL...

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What seed-stage companies is Madrona investing in?

Last week, The Information wrote an article on the top seed investors over the past decade, and Madrona was one of the ten firms on the list... So what does the next generation of Madrona’s startups look like?

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ARK Big Ideas 2020

I really like ARK’s research reports because they do a good job analyzing markets from first principles (even though I sometimes disagree with their conclusions). Here’s a link to their 2020 report...

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🚀 Rocketship stocks

Space travel is super hot. Over the last two months, Virgin Galactic’s stock has jumped from $7 to nearly $20...

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Seattle's top 18 enterprise startups

Here is the latest list of top enterprise startups to watch in Seattle:

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Get rich (selling software) or die tryin' (anything else)

It seems to me there are two dominant startup models in tech today...

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The disruption of disruption

Last week Ben Thompson published an interesting article called “The End of the Beginning” where he lays out his vision for the future of the tech industry...

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How much money does Twitch make?

So we know that the highest paid YouTuber makes $25M+ per year (btw - he’s eight years old), and the biggest Twitch/Mixer streamer makes $1M per month, but how much does Twitch - the company - make?

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Casper's S-1 and the DTC economy

Casper, the company fka as a mattress startup and now a “Sleep Economy” company, released their S-1 (document you file before an IPO) last week...

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December 2019 PNW Venture Deals

Here are the PNW startups that announced new fundraising rounds in the month of December. These 22 companies raised $320M+ last month.

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Read this before starting a startup

One of last week’s top links on Hacker News was a post called I wasted $40k on a fantastic startup idea. It’s about one developer’s hard-earned lessons (nine months of work and $40K) on how to validate a Brilliant Startup Idea.

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Why the PNW startup market is 🔥🔥🔥

To kick off 2020, I wanted to recap some of the best articles on what’s going on in the Seattle and Pacific Northwest tech and startup ecosystems...

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One in five new tech jobs is based in Seattle

Between 2005 and 2017, high tech industries (like software, pharma, aerospace) created 256K jobs in the United States. Seattle accounted for 56K of these jobs, which means 22% (1 in 5) of all new tech jobs were created in Seattle.

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October 2019 PNW Venture Deals

Here are the PNW startups that announced new fundraising rounds in the month of October. These 18 companies raised $480M+ last month!

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Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

🤩 Thank you everyone for reading and supporting the DL! The first DL went out in June to 4 subscribers, and today this is going out to 888 of the PNW’s smartest, nicest, most good-looking, and successful people. 🎉

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Top DL articles of 2019

In case you want to spend your holidays reading about tech stuff (no judgment!), here are some of the top DL articles from the last year.

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Seattle Unicorns

It’s been a great year for Seattle unicorns.

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2010s - The Smartphone Decade

Did you know that the Uber, Instagram, FaceTime, and Netflix apps all launched in 2010? Spotify and WhatsApp also launched in 2009. What an insane couple of years (and decade) for VCs and startups focused on mobile.

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2010s - Consumer vs. Enterprise Startups

Which makes more money - consumer or enterprise startups? Sapphire Ventures put together an interesting report looking at trends over the last decade. Here are the takeaways:

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Cool AI project - How to get free meals in NYC

Definitely a startup idea in here! Great post on how someone built an automated system to conquer Instagram and get free meals.

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Venture Out - a nights and weekends launch pad

People often ask why there aren't more startups in the PNW given all of the local tech talent. Last week, two Microsoft and Amazon alums announced a new program called Venture Out that is aiming to address this opportunity...

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November 2019 PNW Venture Deals

Here are the PNW startups that announced new fundraising rounds in the month of November. These 24 companies raised ~$600M last month.

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AWS re:Invent 2019 Recap

Last week was re:Invent, AWS’s big customer and partner conference. I got a bunch of free socks from enterprise software companies, and AWS announced a ton of new products and services. Key takeaways...

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PNW Cyber Monday Picks 2019

In case you want to buy something because it’s Cyber Monday, but you don’t know what to buy… this week’s DL is celebrating Cyber Monday with a bunch of deals from PNW startups! Here we go!

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How to build a $100B SaaS company

Great article from Jason Lemkin on what it takes to build a $100B SaaS company. Here are the highlights:

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Promo codes for 2048 Blast

Redeem these in the app store for free gold in 2048 Blast! If you like the game, please leave a review or tell a friend about it!

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America’s CEO Factory?

According to CEO recruiters, “like GE in its heyday, Amazon is viewed as a so-called ‘academy company’ where leaders are groomed...”

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Financials of Sea-Tac Businesses

Every business that wants to lease space at Sea-Tac Airport has to respond to a public RFP, and Sea-Tac also publishes the results of their audits online. It’s pretty fun to see the economics of an airport business...

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Why I'm Obsessed with TikTok

If you’re someone who cares about tech trends, you need to get on TikTok. As of this fall, TikTok is officially more popular with teens than Facebook, and it’s growing rapidly (1.5B users, 500M+ added this year).So what is it?

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Value creation and value capture - SR99 case study

Last week the Seattle Times reported that it costs $0.30 to collect $1.00 for the 99 Tunnel toll. Apparently, back when people collected physical money in tollbooths, collection overhead was 20-30%, so 30% is really bad.

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Nike vs. Amazon - Brands vs. Sellers

Lots of coverage on Nike’s break-up with Amazon last week... One thing that jumped out to me here is if you look at Amazon’s flywheel diagram, it highlights “sellers,” not “brands.”

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Go Sounders! ⚽⚽⚽ - ⚽

In case you want to know what it’s like to invest in a championship-winning sports team, check out this Q&A with Terry Myerson (a DL exclusive! 😊)...

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Investing in the Sounders: Q & A with Terry Myerson

Sports teams are 🔥! Every NFL, NBA, and MLB franchise is now worth at least $1B, and there are 52 teams across all sports worth at least $2B, up from one (Manchester United), in 2012. Last week the Sounders announced new owners

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JEDI - Joyfully Evaluating DoD Infrastructure

A couple of weeks ago, Microsoft won the $10B JEDI contract to provide “enterprise level, commercial Infrastructure as a Service and Platform as a Service to support Department of Defense business.” <– (i.e., cloud ☁️)...

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Three types of AI companies

Intelligent applications are one of Madrona’s core investment themes, and this week Soma and I wrote an article on the three types of intelligent applications that VCs want to invest in...

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A tale of two retailers 🛍️

The New York Times had a fascinating pair of stories about family-run retailers this week - one about Nordstrom and one about Forever 21. There are a bunch of great stories and anecdotes in both...

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🎓 2019 Techstars Alexa Accelerator companies

Last week was demo day for the Alexa Accelerator. Techstars runs programs around the country with different groups like the Air Force, Comcast, Western Union, etc, and this one is a partnership with Alexa...

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💯 Seattle tech talent is exceptional

According to CBRE’s (commercial real estate firm) latest report, Seattle has the best tech talent in the country - ahead of San Francisco! Vancouver has also been making big strides...

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Boeing's 737 MAX and what it means for AI

The 737 MAX investigation raises a lot of interesting questions about AI, so here is my two-minute summary of the situation and what it means for the future of automation:

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September 2019 Venture Deals

$500M+ raised by 20+ PNW startups... Here are the PNW startups that announced new fundraising rounds in the month of September. It’s a long list - people are back at work!

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🧠 Brain computer interfaces

Last week at Madrona, we had a guest talk about brain computer interfaces with Rajesh Rao from UW. It’s fascinating to see the latest stuff in this field, so here are links to cool demos, products, and articles:

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🍞 TechLoaf presents... the latest DL survey results!

If you’re not reading TechLoaf, you’re missing out. This is the funniest tech satire out there today, and I’m proud to present TechLoaf’s analysis of The DL’s latest survey:

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What's happening at WeWork?

The WeWork IPO has gotten way too complicated, so here is the best summary of what’s going on that you can read in less than two minutes:

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How to choose your next job

Before reading the rest of this, put yourself into the shoes of a Stanford senior graduating with a CS degree, and pick one of these (real) job offers:

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How much do people at tech companies make?

It shouldn’t be a surprise to readers of the DL that tech companies pay really well, but here’s a better look at exactly how well

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Ask your friends at Amazon what they think

One of the best parts about living in Seattle is...

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“You have to have machine learning in your story or you’re not sexy.”

Last week Forbes released its list of the 50 most promising AI startups in the country, and there were five Seattle companies on the list. Here’s a quick look at each of the companies:

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Gaming in Seattle - Ninja Battles and Three Trends to Watch

In addition to cloud, ecommerce, and machine learning, Seattle is a major hub for gaming. There are more than 400 gaming companies here that generate $28B in annual revenue and create 23K jobs.

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Gen Z Survey from Morgan Stanley 👻

Morgan Stanley does a survey with all of their ~20 year old interns at the end of the summer, and it’s a super interesting view into the world of Gen Z (under age 24). Here are my key takeaways:

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"Please don't come" -Costco 😘

A few weeks ago, Costco opened its first store in China, and it was so popular they had to close the store and send a message to customers that said “Please don’t come.”

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Seattle's latest unicorn - 3 years to $3.5B!

Seattle startups are known for being understated, but Assurance must be one of the stealthiest startups ever. Last week, they were acquired by Prudential for $3.5B, and I don’t think TechCrunch even wrote about the acquisition.

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Survey says...

Last week, Sarah and I had a bet on which option would be most popular. I said B because people want variety, but on an upward trajectory. She said D because startup people like hockey sticks. Turns out we were both right!

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