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Originally published January 22, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Page modified January 23, 2009 at 8:26 AM

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Brier Dudley

Startup aims to enhance networking

Excerpts from the blog Here's a way to start leveraging your social network. FriendlyFavor, a Seattle "social-media utility" launching today...

Seattle Times staff columnist

Excerpts from the blog

Here's a way to start leveraging your social network.

FriendlyFavor, a Seattle "social-media utility" launching today, offers a system for tapping into your network of friends, family and acquaintances. It's designed to complement social-networking services such as Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn.

Started by local tech veterans Scott Larson and John Patton, FriendlyFavor calls itself an "all-purpose request tool" designed to help people "more efficiently leverage their trusted networks of friends, family, and colleagues for help with referrals, recommendations, advice and other favors or requests."

The service delivers, archives and manages requests for registered users. It can also be used to build tailored contact lists, including lists where sensitive favors — such as requests for a baby-sitter — can be handled and narrowly targeted.

FriendlyFavor can also be used to broadcast "favors" being offered by users, such as extra tickets to an event or services.

The five-person company was started in 2007 and raised $500,000 from angel investors affiliated with companies including Microsoft, Google and Amazon.com.

It's expecting to make money from targeted ads, licensing its platform and commissions on "thank you gifts" purchased at Amazon.com and other sites.

Local tech's universe

After a year of research, the WTIA today is releasing a new poster with "a visual history" of the Puget Sound region's tech industry, loosely tracing the genealogy of a galaxy of companies back to Microsoft, Boeing, McCaw Cellular, the University of Washington, Aldus and Amazon.com.

WTIA, the trade organization representing local tech companies, funded the project after it was approached by Heike Mayer, co-director of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech University.

Mayer has done similar maps for regions such as Portland and Boise. Surveys and reviews have been going on since January 2007, leading to the $15 poster that goes on sale today and a free, interactive online version.

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"It certainly is a nice story for the six foundational companies," said WTIA President Ken Myer, who is presenting the poster at a breakfast event this morning.

It's also wall candy for local tech entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and service providers plotting their next sales call.

At the core

After keeping a low profile since it was started last year by two University of Washington professors, PetraVM emerged Wednesday with a funding deal and plans to hire senior engineers, marketers and a chief executive officer.

The Seattle startup is building new tools for software developers writing multithreaded programs for multicore processors.

PetraVM announced this morning that it received $1.5 million in series A funding from Madrona Venture Group — which has successfully tapped into the UW innovation keg before — and Washington Research Foundation. It will use the funding to finish its first products and bring them to market.

PetraVM was founded by computer-science professors Mark Oskin and Luis Ceze. The third manager is Isilon veteran Peter Godman, who joined as vice president of engineering in November.

In the release, Oskin, the chief executive, said the company's "initial goal is to enable developers to write more reliable multithreaded code at a lower cost."

The company's key technology emerged in a research paper Ceze wrote in late 2007 on deterministic multiprocessing. It was patented by the school and licensed to PetraVM.

Oskin said the company expects to release its first product in beta form for developers this summer. Longer term, it hopes to see its technology used broadly in operating systems.

"It's a good opportunity. Everyone now has to write multithreaded software if you want to get any more performance," he explained. "It's a very difficult problem. Writing multithreaded code is one of the grand challenges of computer science."

The timing's also good, with the number of cores in computer processors multiplying rapidly. Although most homes are still migrating to dual-core systems, prices are falling on quad-core systems and Intel's lining up six- and eight-core processors that will probably be mainstream during the Windows 7 era.

"We can ease the pain that developers are facing writing multithreaded software," Oskin said. "The long term vision is there are certain types of programmer errors that we can make not appear on the end users' desktop."

The Pioneer Square-based company should have 20 or so employees within a few years, Oskin said.

Madrona managing director Matt McIlwain is joining PetraVM's board of directors.

This material has been edited for print publication.

Brier Dudley's blog appears Thursdays. Reach him at 206-515-5687 or bdudley@seattletimes.com.

Information in this article, originally published January 22, 2009, was corrected January 23, 2009. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that FriendlyFavor was started by Jeff Patton. His name is John Patton.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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About Brier Dudley
Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.
bdudley@seattletimes.com | 206-515-5687

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