Raise capital: Nick Hanauer’s Second Avenue supports the gift box project; support for the Alzheimer’s app

Laura Jennings, CEO and Founder of Knack. (Knack photo)

Here’s our latest roundup of recent Pacific Northwest startup investment news.

– Start up giving gifts online Knack announced a $3.5 million Series A investment round led by Second Avenue Partners. As part of the agreement, Nick Hanauer, the co-founder of Second Avenue and an advocate for economic justice, will join Knack’s board of directors.

Other investors include Sugar Mountain, the food company founded by Kurt Dammeier of Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, and unnamed angels. The round will support investments in infrastructure technology.

Gist: Seattle’s Knack offers curated and attractively packaged gift boxes. Shoppers choose a price and a theme (stay, celebrate, holiday, welcome a baby, etc.) or create a tailored box. Some of the items come from companies led by women, owned by people of color or promoting sustainability.

Live online giveaways: The startup last week released a new product, Knest by Knack. This tool allows gift givers to build an online page with photos, videos, logos and messages paired with a limited number of Knack items that the gift recipient can choose from. The company aims to be individuals, businesses and giving businesses.

Team: CEO Laura Jennings before tell GeekWire which she created Knack in 2015 to be a more empowering experience for shoppers. Jennings has been an investor and vice president of Microsoft for 13 years, ending in 2001. She founded the company until this round.

Hanauer was an early investor in Amazon and aQuantive, which sold to Microsoft for $6.4 billion, among other business successes. He created the public policy incubator Civic Ventures and is a frequent commentator promoting taxes and higher wages.

The company has 75 full-time, permanent employees and an additional 100 seasonal staff to help get the job done.

Traction: There are other companies that offer gift boxes online, but Knack has been successful in this area. The company reports annual sales of $20 million.

SupportTree’s three co-founders are Mark Tarbutton, left, and Alan Allison. (Photo SupportTree)

There’s little tech support available to everyone, family and caregivers dealing with Alzheimer’s, but the Seattle startup SupportTree want to help change that.

Gist: When a person with Alzheimer’s is living in their own home, they need the support of family and/or professional caregivers to ensure their needs are met and their safety is ensured. The SupportTree app helps carers communicate between support providers, plan and coordinate activities, and find additional resources.

Expense: SupportTree received $50,000 from Maude’s Ventures, an organization that provides seed funding for innovations in dementia care.

Founders: The startup was launched this year by Mark Tarbutton, who has a background in marketing and software engineering Alan Allison. Both are touched by Alzheimer’s disease: Tarbutton’s mother was the primary caregiver for his father, who was diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s in 2015, and Allison’s aunt had the disease before she passed away.

Tarbutton said it was difficult for his mother to ask friends and family for help.

“Carers often see asking for help as giving in or admitting defeat,” he says, “which is a social stigma that SupportTree is designed to eliminate by allowing carers to take advantage of and give rights to well-known and dedicated personal networks for support.”

Target audience: The duo intends to build the app primarily for family caregivers, but is looking for a need for a product that also serves professional caregivers and assisted living facilities that need to collaborate and communication in community groups. The site will generate revenue by recommending professional services to caregivers in need.

The SupportTree app is currently in beta testing and will be released early next year.

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