Year in Geek Podcast: How Amazon and Trump shaped tech’s year, and what to expect in 2018

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Jeff Bezos
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Amazon dominated much of the news in the tech world this year, including its massive search to establish a second headquarters. (Blue Origin Photo)

2017 is a year for the history books. Between political unrest, historic natural disasters and leaps forward in innovation, this year has left its mark on people across the globe.

On this special podcast episode, the GeekWire team analyzes 2017 with a deep dive into two organizations that had a giant impact on the tech world this year: Amazon and the Trump administration.

We picked Amazon because of the huge steps the company has taken this year, from its $13.7 billion acquisition of grocery retailer Whole Foods to its continuing dominance in cloud computing to its staggering growth to more than 540,000 employees.

“This really was the year of Amazon in tech. If you didn’t think that Amazon was at the top of the pyramid in the technology industry in 2016, by the end of 2017 you absolutely thought that was the case,” GeekWire co-founder John Cook says on the show.

But even though the company has pushed into new markets, dominated the cloud and expanded its reach in online retail, none of those is the biggest move it made in 2017. That title must go to Amazon HQ2.

Amazon sparked a frenzy across North America when it announced that it will establish a second headquarters in a yet-to-be-determined city somewhere on the continent, diving into the debate around jobs, regulation and urban growth in the booming innovation economy.

Many saw the news as a blow for Seattle, which has a strained relationship with its biggest private employer. Some saw it as a shameless power grab from a company eager to take advantage of cities starving for jobs. But almost everyone agrees that Amazon’s HQ2 search has changed the way we think about the company and how the technology industry is shaping America.

Another reshaping of America’s national identity is happening in a different HQ, of sorts: The White House. Since the moment President Donald Trump was inaugurated on Jan. 20 this year, he’s both courted and fought with the tech industry.

Expedia and Amazon were the first of several technology companies to formally support Washington state’s suit against Trump’s initial travel ban, which stopped the ban from being enforced. The industry has also been forced to grapple with the administration’s immigration policies and the rollback of net neutrality protections, often clashing with the president.

Bob Ferguson takes questions after securing a temporary injunction on Trump’s travel ban. (GeekWire Photo /Kevin Lisota)

There were early signs that Trump would embrace the tech community, including a meeting between a who’s who of tech CEOs and the president. But cooperation seems to have trailed off since then and the industry has been the subject of several derisive tweet storms by the president.

Going into 2018, that relationship will be one to watch, as will the presence of bots and other tech-fueled actors in the upcoming midterm elections. We’ll also be keeping a close eye on Microsoft, to see whether the tech giant can continue its revival under CEO Satya Nadella.

Also on this episode, we take a look at some of the biggest stories from Seattle’s startup scene in 2017. It was marked by a big and long-anticipated IPO from real estate tech company Redfin, which went public in July and saw its stock quickly rise higher than expected.

The award for largest equity round in the city goes to Remitly, the cash transfer service that announced a whopping $115 million funding round in October. Some other impressive numbers: Customers transacted $4 billion through Remitly this year, up $1.5 billion from the year before.

And our final standout startup story of the year: Health monitoring startup Senosis was acquired by Google for an undisclosed sum. It’s another success for UW computer science researcher Shwetak Patel, who founded the startup and led the development of its smartphone apps that can monitor health markers. The Senosis team is expected to stay in Seattle and form the backbone of a new Google health team, based in the city.

Listen to the episode above and subscribe to the GeekWire Podcast in Apple Podcasts, Google Play or your favorite podcast app.

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