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The DL - The PNW's Newest Unicorn, Inside an Amazon Fulfillment Center, Non-Competes, and Apps You Should Delete Now

Welcome to The DL, a weekly newsletter about tech, startups, and investing in the Pacific Northwest.
June 15 · Issue #52 · View online
The DL
Welcome to The DL, a weekly newsletter about tech, startups, and investing in the Pacific Northwest.

This week’s issue covers the PNW’s newest unicorn, photos from inside an Amazon fulfillment center, what’s happening with Brian Hall’s non-compete, and the list of apps you should delete (and install) to be happy.

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+1 for Vancouver! 🦄
PNW startups are pretty understated relative to their Bay Area peers. So it’s amazing to see a ~$20B company in Vancouver (WA) go public with so little fanfare that Techcrunch wrote, “The ZoomInfo IPO slipped through our fingers in the last news cycle, so we’re going to catch up.”

ZoomInfo is a business database that helps sales and marketing teams identify and connect with prospects. Turns out many companies want access to this data: in Q1 2020, ZoomInfo earned $102M in revenue (up ~90% YoY). AND they managed this growth with a 50%+ adjusted EBITDA margin.

They have a great founding story, too. In college, the CEO worked at a sales intelligence firm, but didn’t see a big opportunity, so he decided to leave and go to law school. A few months later, a colleague reached out with an idea for a better sales intelligence company, so while he was still in law school, they took out $50K of credit card debt and started the company.

Thirteen years later, ZoomInfo is the second most valuable company in the Portland area (after Nike), and both founders are billionaires! Awesome.

Inside an Amazon Distribution Center
Photos from Ruth Fremson (@rfremson on Instagram)
Photos from Ruth Fremson (@rfremson on Instagram)
The NY Times visited the Amazon fulfillment center in Kent to take a tour and see what measures the company has rolled out to protect employees from coronavirus, including a testing lab where employees will be tested for COVID every two weeks. More photos at this link

Best Way to Announce a New Job?
Geekwire wrote a couple of in-depth articles last week on Brian Hall, a marketing executive who left AWS to join Google Cloud. Basically, he left Amazon in March, started at Google in April, and Amazon filed a lawsuit alleging he violated his non-compete agreement in May.

People are paying attention to this case because it’s the first time Amazon has tried to enforce a non-compete for a marketing leader (vs. product, engineering, and sales execs) and also because (at least for the DL) Brian had some pretty funny social posts regarding his “VP in Purgatory” status.

It’s not that hard to understand both sides here. Companies don’t want former employees to share all of their secrets with their new employers, and companies want to hire experienced people who have “done it before.” I’m 100% sure non-competes slow down innovation, but I also don’t think it’s so black and white that they are always bad. What are your thoughts?

Other stuff Dan's talking about
Candy Crush - the only app to make the list twice 🤣
Candy Crush - the only app to make the list twice 🤣
😄 Happy / Unhappy Apps - What do Grindr, Candy Crush, and Facebook have in common? They make people unhappy. Delete them and get Calm, Headspace, and Google Calendar instead. Wait… Google Calendar??
🎼 Dryer music - OK, I know that list would suggest TikTok and Twitter are “unhappy” apps, but this is a JK Rowling-certified video. It’s only 33 seconds long, so watch the whole thing because the ending is the best part
👨🏽 Chamath Palihapitiya - “He speaks the truth. He says the stuff people are thinking but no one has the balls to say out loud.” Really interesting profile on a great technology investor
♟️ Genius - Thirteen months ago, 8-year-old Tani Adewumi was a homeless refugee who had never played chess before. Today, he is on track to become the youngest chess grandmaster of all time

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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! If you’re new, check out some of the DL’s top articles from the last few months:

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