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The DL - An inside view into Pacific Northwest Tech

Welcome to The DL, a weekly newsletter about tech, startups, and investing in the Pacific Northwest.
February 18 · Issue #35 · View online
The DL
Welcome to The DL, a weekly newsletter about tech, startups, and investing in the Pacific Northwest.

This week’s issue has a recap of what’s going on at Seattle’s public tech companies, how much the world’s largest advertiser spends each year (guess who it is!), and a special guest takeover of the weekly “other stuff” section.

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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.

Redfin is interesting right now because one of their main competitors, Zillow, is betting the future of the company on “iBuying” (instant cash offers), while Redfin is taking a more measured approach by partnering with Opendoor for iBuying in most markets.
It’s an unusual flip because Zillow traditionally ran a high margin business selling leads to agents, while Redfin had a lower margin business selling houses. Now it’s reversed, and Zillow has the low margin house flipping business, and Redfin has the high margin lead gen business. I’m guessing it will be harder to move from a high margin business to a low margin one, but we’ll see how these strategies play out.
Meanwhile at Expedia, Chairman Barry Diller recently stepped in to run the company, and last week he announced a bunch of cost cutting initiatives and plans to simplify Expedia’s brands. (He also said HomeAway is a dumb name that “means nothing to no one,” and I totally agree 😂)
On his very open call with analysts, he promised to change the company culture, drive $300-500M of cost savings, cut Expedia’s ancillary brands, focus on direct traffic so they are less reliant on SEO, and unify customer data. Seems like a good strategy, and he certainly has a lot of skin in the game (he owns 29% of the company) to go execute.

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 and makes them the largest advertiser in the world (previously it was P&G, which spent $6.8B in 2019).

Interestingly, Amazon also brought in ~$14B of revenue from ad sales last year, which makes them the fourth largest digital ad seller in the world after Google, Facebook, and Alibaba. These two numbers don’t really have a direct relationship, but crazy that Amazon is both the world’s largest advertiser and one of the largest ad platforms.

Other stuff --Xiao's-- talking about
☝️ Special guest this week in the DL
☝️ Special guest this week in the DL
*GUEST ALERT* Last week, someone told me that he had 1,181 apps and websites sharing his activity with Facebook (check your # here), so I knew he would have some good articles to share with the DL community…

Hi everyone! My name is Xiao Wang, and I’m the CEO of Boundless Immigration, a Series A startup helping immigrants and their families navigate the complex government process at 1/5 the cost of traditional lawyers. 

Besides maintaining our 100% government approval rate and figuring out how to scale a fast-growing company, I love reading. Business, tech, outdoors, life, policy… my reading list is truly boundless (I’ll show myself out now). And here are some of favorite articles from the last few weeks:
  1. Innovations in diamond mining - a woman-led company disrupting DeBeers by finding massive diamonds through new technology? Take my money!
  2. Integrity of new technology in running shoes - how differences in how runners respond to new shoes will shift running away from the “purity” and “equity” that used to be at its core.
  3. Discovery of phosphorus - urine, a late 17th century pivot story.
  4. Why immigrants are good for the economy - sometimes we need reminding these days…
  5. Superb owls - start your week off with a smile!

Fascinating? Complete waste of time? Email me at

Please hit reply! (Or subscribe or forward!)
About me: I work as an investor at Madrona Venture Group, a Seattle-based venture capital firm that has been early partners with companies like Amazon, Smartsheet, Apptio, and Redfin.

If you have thoughts, questions, or comments, hit reply!

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