Tech Moves

Tech Strikes: Prime Blue Origin engineer joins SpaceX; Axon hires HTC Vive exec; Porch provides to board

Chris Chin. (Axon Photo)

— Law enforcement technology company Axon added former HTC Vive exec Chris Chin as vice president of immersive tech. In his new role, Chin will be responsible for Axon’s virtual reality and augmented reality training platforms.

At HTC Vive, Chin was vice president and general manager of Vive Studios, which published VR content. He is based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Headquartered in Scottsdale, Ariz., Axon maintains a significant engineering presence in Seattle. The company says its mission is to help de-escalate police use of force by providing transparency, technologies and tools that can replace deadly weapons.

— Former NASA Systems Engineer Nitin Arora is leaving Blue Origin to join SpaceX, according to a post on LinkedIn.

Arora spent more than two years at Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, most recently as part of the team building the space venture’s human landing system.

The move comes after Blue Origin’s unsuccessful appeal and pending lawsuit over NASA’s decision to award Elon Musk’s SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract to return astronauts to the moon.

— Seattle-based home services technology company Porch Group added two new board members: Imagination Capital co-founder and Managing Partner Rachel Lam, and former Aviva plc Group CEO Maurice Tulloch. Read the story.

Lisa Nelson. (Microsoft Photo)

— Former M12 Managing Director Lisa Nelson was appointed to the board of Astra Space. Based in California, Astra Space is a five-year old space venture that went public last month via a merger with a SPAC headed by telecom pioneer Craig McCaw.

“Spacetech will enable the next trillion-dollar economy,” Nelson said in a statement. “I’m thrilled to partner with Astra’s world-class board and management team to pioneer the next frontier of innovation and economic growth.”

Nelson also currently serves on the board of Kuelap and DNA Seattle. She is an advisor for Brooks, Movac, Flying Fish Partners and for early-stage tech startups.

— Former Convoy CFO Brian Kreiner recently joined college recruiting platform Handshake as CFO.

Convoy President and COO Mark Okerstrom is now acting CFO. The former Expedia CEO, who joined trucking startup Convoy a year ago, previously served as CFO at the Seattle travel giant.

Prior to joining Convoy in 2018, Kreiner was CEO of Cal Net Technology Group and a managing partner at Olympic Valley Capital.

New Athira execs Mark Worthington, general counsel, and Rachel Lenington, chief technology officer and head of product development strategy. (Athira Photos)

— Athira Pharma recently appointed Rachel Lenington as CTO and head of product development strategy and Mark Worthington as general counsel. The Bothell, Wash.-based biotech company also reported that it is advancing clinical trials in the wake of allegations of image manipulation in papers authored by its CEO. Read the story.

Chris Bee. (Lessen Photo)

— Scottsdale, Ariz.-based startup Lessen named Chris Bee, a former senior director of product development at Zillow, as CTO. Bee was previously an engineering and product manager at Uber, Amazon and Microsoft.

Founded in 2020, Lessen currently has 20 employees in Seattle and plans to double headcount in the region by the end of 2021. The company’s platform connects property owners with renovation, maintenance and cleaning professionals.

— Longtime Washington Research Foundation CFO Jeff Eby has retired after 19 years at the private foundation. Former WRF CEO Ron Howell also retired in April after 29 years.

Eby has been succeeded by Morgan Hellar who originally joined WRF in 2004 as a license administrator for the organization’s patent portfolio. Prior to her promotion, she was WRF’s controller.

Saty Bahadur. (Upwork Photo)

— Freelancing platform Upwork hired former Amazon General Manager Saty Bahadur as CTO. Bahadur previously spent a decade at Microsoft, most recently as a director of engineering.

At Amazon, Bahadur managed worldwide fraud and abuse and previously led the Alexa artificial intelligence group.

Headquartered in Santa Clara, Calif., publicly traded Upwork was formed from the merger of Elance and oDesk.

Shalabh Chaudhri. (Panda Photo)

— Shalabh Chaudhri joined AI startup Panda as head of customer. He was most recently director of customer success, service and support at Algorithmia, which was acquired by DataRobot last month.

Seattle startup Panda uses natural language processing for its account management software.

Spun out of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2), Panda came out of stealth mode last year and was co-founded by Aaron Goldfeder and Yue Ning. Panda previously raised a $3.3 million round led by PSL Ventures.

— San Francisco life insurance startup Ethos hired three Zillow Group veterans, two of which are based in Seattle:

  • Nick Fitzer as vice president of sales. Fitzer spent more than a decade at Zillow, most recently leading mortgage sales and strategy.
  • Keri McGhee as head of partnership marketing. McGhee was most recently VP of marketing at real estate coaching company Tom Ferry and previously senior director of supplier marketing and events at Zillow.
  • Rob Broesler Jr. as vice president, and general manager of partnerships. Based in San Francisco, Broesler Jr. spent eight years at Zillow, most recently as senior director of mortgage analytics and business operations.

Last month, Ethos raised $100 million from SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2.

Puvin Pichai. (Rebellyous Foods Photo)

— Seattle-based Rebellyous Foods announced Beyond Meat veteran Puvin Pichai will join the startup as director of equipment research and development.

Pichai has a Ph.D. in chemical engineering and previously led R&D teams at Beyond Meat and Novus International. Founded in 2017, Rebellyous Foods rolled out three new plant-based products earlier this year.

— Portland-based Sparrow Pharmaceuticals appointed Frank Czerwiec as chief medical officer and Jamie MacPherson as VP of regulatory affairs and quality.

Czerwiec was most recently chief medical officer at Goldfinch Bio and spent two decades at Otsuka Pharmaceutical. MacPherson joins Sparrow from Akcea Therapeutics and was previously director of global regulatory affairs at Alexion Pharmaceuticals.

— Seattle-based Marchex appointed Ryan Polley as COO. Polley was previously chief product and strategy officer for the publicly traded company that sells “conversational intelligence” software. He spent time at Kargo Global and Rubicon Project before joining Marchex in 2020.

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