The startups in the latest Techstars Seattle batch span a range of industries — and AI is having a significant impact on all of them.
We spoke to nearly 50 founders that are participating in the 15th cohort of Techstars Seattle, which counts companies including Remitly, Outreach, Skilljar, Mass Reforestation, and others as alumni.
Many of the 24 companies use AI tools such as GitHub Copilot and ChatGPT to boost productivity. Others have AI embedded within the products.
The companies represent industries including healthcare, finance, culinary, advertising, robotics, and more.
Keep reading below to learn more about AI’s impact on their industry, the biggest challenges they expect, and what they plan to do with their free time in Seattle. Comments were edited for brevity and clarity.
The pitch: A no-code platform to automate advertising workflows from ideation and content generation to performance monitoring and optimization.
Founder: Bolbi Liu was previously a product manager at Amazon Web Services.
AI’s impact on advertisements: Liu said advertisers can use AI for content generation, as well as machine learning models for prediction, optimization, and other attribution purposes. She said there’s a “certain room for hallucinations” in AI-generated marketing material and creative freedom compared to regulated sectors like healthcare or law.
On challenges: “I think there are a lot of competitors in what we do,” she said. “If I can see the value of AI ads, probably a lot of other people can as well.”
Unplugging in Seattle: “I would like to explore the local bars. I want to get into the culture here, and also the nature or natural tourist spots.”
The pitch: A company that provides platforms and tools for mobile game studios to efficiently monetize their customers.
Founder: Zsika Phillip was an investment partner at Dorm Room Fund. He previously spent five years at Google, most recently as a product manager.
AI’s impact on video game industry: “From an industry perspective, the entire entertainment landscape is being transformed by generative AI. Synthetic data looks and feels real and really seems poised to be the standard going forward,” Phillip said.
On challenges: “The biggest uncertainty, so to speak, that we think about as a company is the trajectory of mobile entertainment consumption on a macro level, especially taking into consideration recent advances in VR/AR technology,” Phillip said.
Unplugging in Seattle: “I know there are some gorgeous hikes near by and I can’t wait to explore them — a Mt. Rainier trip is definitely on my list. I’m also looking forward to getting my road bike out here and checking out the routes around Washington state. Lastly, I’d just love to explore the city and Washington a bit — I’ve done driving around here and it’s just beautiful.”
The pitch: A platform for social media creators to ask questions, gain industry insights, and talk in a safe space.
AI’s impact on the creator economy: Samaraweera said that it has become easier to manage the backend of being a creator through AI tools, such as managing tasks like caption generation, content ideas, administrative, and pitching brands. She pointed to Meta’s recently released feature that helps creators make AI avatars with their likeness, which fans can interact with through a chatbot.
On challenges: “There’s a lot of competition to get the attention of creators, and to help creators build a sustainable livelihood and living from it,” Samaraweera said. “I think right now it’s being attuned to what’s going on with the platforms and from a creators lens, you need to own your audience.”
Unplugging in Seattle: “I want to go to the Space Needle because I haven’t seen that before,” she said. “To be honest, I’m actually more excited about getting plugged into the startup ecosystem here.”
The pitch: An AI marketplace to help caregivers for older adults.
Founder: Alyse Dunn was a senior software engineer at Venmo.
AI’s impact on the caregiving industry: “I am interested in incorporating AI to be able to give families more granular guidance on exactly what they need to do for their loved one,” she said.
On challenges: “Sometimes I worry if I’m really digging below the surface,” she said. “I don’t want to just scratch the surface and solve some of those surface-level problems; I actually want to make it easy to take care of aging parents or grandparents.”
Unplug in Seattle: “Jujitsu is my unplugging activity,” she said. “I’ve started looking to see if there are any dojos near here where I can train.”
The pitch: The startup helps robotics and embedded companies ship software by automating the development workflow.
AI’s impact on robotics development: “To help reduce the need to hire more senior developers,” Okoye said. “You can [hire] a modular developer and have the AI co-pilot be a guiding hand.”
On challenges: “We are trying to onboard some of our design partners to be customers on the product and ship it,” he said. “And get the most out of the Techstars program.”
Unplugging in Seattle: LeJeune said he is excited about interacting with other founders in a live setting. “We work remote,” he said. “So being face-to-face is very important.”
The product: The startup is building an AI software testing tool.
AI’s impact on software testing industry: Software testing is traditionally done manually by individuals or through complex open-source code frameworks, but an AI tool has the ability to automate test generation and test code creation, Menon said.
On challenges: “There are a lot of companies doing (testing),” he said. “It’s mostly either manual work or you have a code-based open-source frameworks, which are really hard to implement.”
Unplugging in Seattle: “There are a couple of cricket nets and clubs that I found here in Seattle,” Menon said. “I always carry my cricket ball with me to play.”
The pitch: The startup sells a full-stack network security and security insights tool to manage security for cloud infrastructure.
AI’s impact on cybersecurity: “The attacker side is using more sophisticated tools and techniques,” Remini said. “The cybersecurity vendor side definitely wants to leverage AI to build smarter tools that don’t rely on static patterns, but more on behavioral [patterns] to detect and surface suspicious behaviors.”
On challenges: “We are building out a new offering, a new solution, that combines two or three tools today in a single dashboard,” she said. “Finding the right customers for this solution is what’s keeping me up.”
Unplugging in Seattle: “I’m a yogi,” Remini said. “The first thing I do in every city is find a local yoga studio.”
The pitch: An AI shopping assistant that helps e-commerce sites personalize guest experiences.
AI’s impact on e-commerce: ChatGPT is allowing e-commerce sites to implement a chatbot function to interact with customers, John said.
On challenges: “It’s education of how to use the new set of products for e-commerce,” he said. “People went from shopping in brick-and-mortar stores to shopping online. That was a change in mindset and took some time. But now we are looking ahead to the next gen of e-commerce experiences.”
Unplugging in Seattle: “I’m just spending time with my family,” he said.
The pitch: Described as the “Airbnb for chefs,” the platform lets users hire a chef to cook weekly meals in their home starting at $89 per week.
Founders: Mandhir Singh was director of business development at digital consultancy company Content Bloom.
AI’s impact on the personal chef industry: “The whole industry is moving toward a personalized nutritionist consultant through AI,” Singh said. “So you don’t have to technically go to a dietician, nutritionist or weight watcher to tell you what the plan would look like.”
On challenges: “It’s a mindset change,” he said. “How can you let a stranger — even though we vet our chefs very thoroughly with police and background checks — in your house to do the meals for you?”
Unplugging in Seattle: “I really love hiking,” said Singh, adding that his goal is to summit Mount St. Helens.
The pitch: The startup is building software to help warehouse businesses make more money by allowing their robots to operate faster through a dynamic vision sensor.
AI’s impact on robotics: At a high level, large language models are allowing robots to have more natural interactive behavior, Lowrey said. “But our focus is much more low level,” he said. “How do we actually have robotic systems that physically do what we ask of them?”
On challenges: “We’re talking about a brand new technology,” Gens said. “A lot of what we do is in terms of communication, but also, how do we learn how to interface in with the existing systems?”
Unplugging in Seattle: “We both have kids,” Lowrey said. “Our fun usually means taking the kids to a park or extracurriculars.”
The pitch: An AI tool to help with workflows including public information requests.
AI’s impact on local government offices: “A lot of what we do is writing,” Larson said. “ChatGPT is the perfect tool for that. And there’s some other tools that are able to help you with the research process as well. And those are really nice tools in the public space.”
On challenges: “I think governments naturally are risk-averse,” Larson said. “Adopting new technologies doesn’t come naturally, and AI is very much emergent.”
Unplugging in Seattle: “Somehow we became known as the chicken team,” Larson said. “We’re both local and the three of us are apparently the only group that has chickens in this cohort. And we have families and places we are all going back to every night.”
The pitch: An electronic health record tool for ophthalmologists and optometrists.
AI’s impact on healthcare: “We’ve seen a lot of changes on the (healthcare) payer side, in terms of how they’re processing it,” Mirimiri said. “In terms of the EHR (electronic health record) side, some of it has been there already in terms of scribing or using audio and translating that into the medical record.”
On challenges: “Historically, doctors — especially in ophthalmology and optometry — have to put together six or seven different products to make their practices work,” Phung said. “Regulation recently has changed, forcing everyone to adopt this new (data) standard called FHIR. That’s where we shine.”
Unplugging in Seattle: “We definitely are enjoying the walkability and eating at new restaurants,” Mirimiri said. “Just tapping into that foodie culture.”
The pitch: The startup sells an AI platform to help game designers develop non-player characters’ behaviors in video games.
Founders: Elisabeth Gosselin was a manager of artificial intelligence training programs at AI research consortium Ivado. Carle Côté is a game AI lecturer at the Université de Sherbrooke and was lead AI programmer at video game developer Invoke Studios.
AI’s impact on video game industry: “Using ChatGPT or other (AI tools), people can ask, ‘We want to create a cool NPC,’ a house or other asset,” Côté said. “And it creates scenes automatically.”
On challenges: “The biggest challenge is to make sure that the solution we’re bringing will be compatible with the current production pipelines,” Côté said.
Unplugging in Seattle: “I like to run, so I’ll try to run outside,” Gosselin said.
The pitch: The startup helps companies integrate AI into their software.
AI’s impact: As a startup helping companies integrate AI into their business, Weinberger said there are two areas in which businesses are using AI. The first is passive AI, which operates in the background to help augment existing processes. The second is active AI, which requires user interaction, which can automate anything from background tasks to direct interface operations.
On challenges: The startup will need to find a way to integrate AI into a product team’s delivery process and keep pace with the fast-evolving landscape, Weinberger said.
Unplugging in Seattle: “Hiking,” Weinberger said. “The nature in the Pacific Northwest is just incredible. Especially since I live in the Netherlands, which is a very flat country, and I’m a mountain person.”
The pitch: The company helps enterprises adapt to climate change by providing year-ahead extreme weather risk forecasts.
Founders: Kalai Ramea was an associate director and senior manager at the Palo Alto Research Center. Hansi Singh is an assistant professor in the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of Victoria.
AI’s impact on weather: “The transformer network has the ability to process lots of data,” Ramea said. “It’s similar to neural networks, but it can remember things more in the time dependencies. It is very useful for climate, in that sense, because we are taking a chain of events, and then you’re predicting the next event.”
On challenges: The company, which is developing climate prediction tools to forecast for a few months up to five years, will face competition from a number of large companies, Singh said.
Unplugging in Seattle: “I will do the touristy stuff first,” Ramea said.
The pitch: An AI tool that helps B2B product management teams make decisions.
AI’s impact on personal chef industry: New AI products can help product managers synthesize data at a much faster clip than existing tools, Tom said.
On challenges: “When you look at product management as an industry, change is not very welcome,” he said. “They very much stick to the legacy tools that they are already familiar with, like an Excel spreadsheet or Jira platform.”
Unplugging in Seattle: “I would love to go out for some hiking,” Tom said.
The pitch: Propio helps Latino gig workers manage payments, taxes, benefits and financial access.
Founders: Rodrigo Carriedo was executive director and chairman of the audit committee at the World Bank Group, representing the governments of Central America, Mexico, Spain and Venezuela. Fernando Aguilar Reyes was a software engineer at Microsoft. Orlando Gomez served as senior business development of startups and small businesses at Drift.
AI’s impact on finance: Advancements in AI are helping companies comply with financial regulations, accelerating the pace in which products are released, Carriedo said.
On challenges: A challenge will be securing funding amid the macroeconomic and funding situation for startups, Carriedo said.
Unplugging in Seattle: “I enjoy going to any local bar in downtown to see live music,” Reyes said.
The pitch: Prospero automates email marketing for businesses.
Founders: Rotimi Iziduh was a product lead at Airtable and lead product manager at Facebook.
AI’s impact on e-commerce: “It’s good and bad,” Iziduh said. “Good from the standpoint that content creation is no longer going to be a barrier. Bad in that it will now become a lot harder to stand out. Valuable messaging could actually get lost in the sea of (AI-)generated content.”
On challenges: A hurdle will be delivering a product that makes its target customers’ lives easier and not more complex, Iziduh said.
Unplugging in Seattle: “I love to bike and just genuinely get outside,” he said. “Enjoy the bits of sunshine that Seattle has left.”
The pitch: Stackoon automates software and cloud management to help companies control access, usage, and costs of their tools.
AI’s impact: “Generative AI will hugely transform almost every industry in the next five years,” Shved said. “It’s a real big deal. At Stackoon, we leverage AI to allow our customers to integrate (the) Stackoon platform with all of the business software tools they use.”
On challenges: “I would say the thing that keeps us up at night is a growth rate,” he said. “We really want to build a unicorn and we have no option for any mistakes or slowdowns.”
Unplugging in Seattle: “We’d love to go to the local car racing track and also try water landing in one of those cute planes we constantly see in the sky,” Shved said.
The pitch: TalkStack sells an AI platform for enterprises that automates text and voice call interactions with customers.
AI’s impact on call centers: Large language models have helped to speed up response times for voice and chat bots, making them sound more human-like, Wong said.
On challenges: “We have this word latency, which is basically the time between the question asked and the answer,” Sorrentino said. “If I ask a question, and you answer after five seconds, it’s clear that there is something behind it … but if the answer is very fast, like two seconds, then it makes the product more realistic. This is now our main focus.”
Unplugging in Seattle: “Probably surfing,” Wong said. “But we’re in Seattle, so hopefully some paddle-boarding.”
The pitch: The startup helps companies build AI copilots into their products.
AI’s impact: Copilots can take context from different conversation and help users get “80% of the job” finished for tasks such as drafting a paragraph for an article, Atai Barkai said.
On challenges: “We think it will become a highly competitive market,” he said.
Unplugging in Seattle: “The weather is going to change,” Atai Barkai said. “We’ll see how long that goes on. But I’ve got a 4-year-old, and we like to go hiking.”
The pitch: The startup offers software to help users collect their personal health data.
AI’s impact on healthcare data: Once data is organized, AI tools can help users glean insights and see their “health journey over time,” Nabat said.
On challenges: “A lot of how our health data is stored in systems today,” he said. “These systems are originally built around billing. When you start to look at it, it is actually organized around events that are billable versus organized around the individual.”
Unplugging in Seattle: “I grew up sailing,” Giraud said. “There’s something innately relaxing about just being out in the water.”
The pitch: The startup’s computer vision tools help companies improve workplace safety through monitoring and hazard alerts.
Founders: Harsh Murari was co-founder and CTO at TestFramework, which helps companies adopt automated software testing. Priyesh Sanghvi is a chief advisor at TestFramework and was a senior staff engineer at Qualcomm.
AI’s impact on workplace safety: AI tools can help companies identify “near misses,” or accidents on a factory floor that did not occur but could lead to injury in the future, Sanghvi said.
On challenges: The company has completed a pilot with some of its customers and is now preparing to scale. One of its customers has 150 sites, so a hurdle will be scaling the product with limited resources, Sanghvi said.
Unplugging in Seattle: “I’m coming from Colorado,” Sanghvi said. “We do a lot of biking, hiking, and skiing.”
The pitch: The startup sells an AI co-pilot for maintenance engineers.
AI’s impact on maintenance: Manufacturing-focused AI copilots can reduce the time its takes maintenance teams to identify problems and repair machines when they break down, helping to minimize production losses, Upinder Singh said.
On challenges: “The biggest challenges are the sales cycles in the industry,” Parminder Singh said. “It’s pretty long to reach out to the customer, have a demo, then to finally close the deal.”
Unplugging in Seattle: “Along with sightseeing, we are more interested in knowing the people of Seattle,” Parminder Singh said.