There’s a lot of movement in Amazon’s vast world of entertainment, gaming and audio programming, with industry veterans coming in and going out at Amazon Game Studios, Amazon Studios and Audible, the audio programming company owned by the tech giant.
— Amazon Game Studios has tapped industry veteran Christoph Hartmann as its new vice president in charge of the entire studio and marketing organization.
Hartmann was president at Take-Two Interactive, a company he departed after 20 years, and the founder of 2K Games. He will lead teams based in Seattle, Orange County, Calif., and San Diego, according to an Amazon news release.
Amazon’s release said that Hartmann’s teams created beloved gaming franchises such as “Borderlands,” “Bioshock,” “Civilization,” “NBA 2K” and more.
“Gaming, today’s favorite form of entertainment in the world, is connecting hundreds of millions of people,” Hartmann said in a statement. “Between the teams at AGS, the incredible tools and technology from AWS, the global communities of Twitch and Twitch Prime, and all of the other assets around Amazon, there are few companies in the world set up to take gaming to the next level. I am incredibly proud and honored to become part of Amazon’s highly talented and passionate group of people, to develop together hallmarks of gaming, bring amazing experiences to people all over the world, and build a gaming legacy for the years to come.”
Amazon said Hartmann will be “jumping right in” to work on it popular titles like “New World” and “Crucible,” plus a few surprises to come.
— Amazon Studios head of unscripted TV Heather Schuster is out after less than a year in that role.
Schuster was named to the position in October after the tumult that came in the wake of studio head Roy Price’s departure. According to reports in The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline and elsewhere this week, Schuster’s departure comes after an investigation into claims of verbal abuse and misuse of power.
Schuster was previously a producer for the Donald Trump show “The Apprentice” and she was a senior VP at Ryan Seacrest Productions.
Amazon’s offerings in the unscripted space have been limited, with the travel/auto show “The Grand Tour,” being its most recognizable title.
— Amazon-owned Audible, the audiobook and audible content company, has laid off its entire podcast staff, according to a report by NPR. In addition, Eric Nuzum, SVP of original content development, has resigned.
In an email to friends, shared with Radio and Internet News, Nuzum called Audible a great company and conveyed his intention to set up a company of his own, without giving details on what that might entail.
Nuzum was at Audible for just over three years. He was previously a VP of programming at NPR.
NPR reported that Audible was producing more than a dozen original podcasts — including the popular “The Butterfly Effect” — drawing millions of listeners.
— Substantial, the Seattle-based digital design and development agency, has named Carey Jenkins as its new CEO.
Jenkins will oversee digital teams working on national and global product development for clients, and overall company performance including strategic direction, brand equity, and growth and empowerment of the agency’s personnel, according to a news release.
Jenkins has more than 17 years of experience in client services and delivery management. She joined Substantial six years ago as as one of the agency’s first engagement managers, before rising to become director, then VP of client services.
Substantial works with brands such as Amazon, Mercedes Benz, IDEO, University of Washington, Haworth, News Corp./Dow Jones, and Novartis.
“I am thrilled for this leadership opportunity,” Jenkins said in a statement. “My path to this position was nothing if not unconventional. I had to prove myself, of course, but the hardest part was admitting to myself I wanted it and giving myself the chance to fight for it. I was the sixth woman to work at Substantial. Now we have 37 percent females overall, and our leadership team is comprised of 40 percent. I know we can still do better across the board in diversity. And I hope seeing a female CEO will send a definitive message to women to step up and out of their comfort zone, particularly in technology.”
— The Bill Melinda Gates Foundation has selected a new chief financial officer in Carolyn Ainslie, who is currently the vice president for finance and treasurer at Princeton University.
Ainslie, who has been at Princeton since 2008, is responsible for the central financial functions at the university. In her new position at the Seattle-based Gates Foundation, Ainslie will lead the finance and accounting, financial planning and analysis, assurance and risk management, and program-related investments teams.
“We are very pleased that Carolyn will join the foundation as our CFO,” Sue Desmond-Hellmann, chief executive officer of the foundation, said in a news release. “Her leadership and deep experience well position Carolyn to help ensure the foundation’s endowment is invested wisely and boldly in service of the people who need it most.”
Ainslie’ new role is effective Oct. 1. She said she’s honored to join the organization “and do my part to help people around the world have productive and healthy lives.”
— Shelmina Abji, a global empowerment speaker and former IBM vice president, has joined the board of TiE Seattle, a chapter of The Indus Entrepreneurs, a global nonprofit dedicated to growing and fostering entrepreneurship.
Abji was one of IBM’s highest ranking women of color during her 16 years with the tech giant. According to a news release, as an advocate for women and diversity, she travels the world speaking on topics relating to empowering people in all areas of life, sharing her insights on how to accelerate the success of girls and women.
Abji has more than 25 years of experience as an information technology senior executive. In addition to TiE Seattle, she also serves on the boards of United Nations Girl Up and Young Women Empowered.
“Shelmina brings a broad array of experience to TiE Seattle, for businesses of all sizes, including on the issues of diversity and mentoring,” said Sharmilli Ghosh, president of TiE Seattle, in a statement. “We’re pleased to have someone of Shelmina’s business caliber and acumen on our board.”
— Peter Faricy, who has been vice president of Marketplace, Amazon’s third-party seller business, for more than nine years, is leaving to join Discovery Communications as the company’s CEO of direct-to-consumer business, according to The Information.
As the owner of such channels as Discovery and Animal Planet, the hire may signal the company’s desire to break free of traditional television distributors such as cable and satellite and perhaps launch a streaming service of its own.
The Information reported that Faricy — who also previously worked at Borders and Ford Motor Company — will report directly to Discovery CEO David Zaslav.
— Linsey Lamba, a former director and program manager at Techstars Seattle, is joining Pioneer Square Labs, the Seattle-based startup studio and VC firm, to help lead its customer validation and marketing efforts.
Lamba is returning to Seattle after spending the last two years in New Orleans working in health care consulting. Prior to that, she worked with Andy Sack, former Techstars managing director, as a consultant at Microsoft.
“I watched from afar as the Seattle startup community continued to grow like crazy over the past few years,” Lamba said in a news release. “I’m thrilled to re-engage with local entrepreneurs here at PSL where I’ll be focusing on tactical efforts to help founders with more efficient customer acquisition, retention, and idea validation. PSL is building businesses from the ground up. My goal is to help PSL be best in the world at that.”
— Seattle-based Alpine Immune Sciences, Inc., a company focused on discovering and developing innovative immunotherapies to treat cancer, autoimmune/inflammatory and other diseases, has appointed life sciences veteran Mark Litton to the role of president and COO.
Litton was at Alder BioPharmaceuticals, a company he co-founded in 2004 and where he served as chief business officer and treasurer over 14 years.
Litton, who holds a Ph.D. in Immunology from Stockholm University, has previously served as vice president of business development at Celltech Group and as manager of business development for Ribozyme Pharmaceuticals Inc.
“Alpine is comprised of a group of talented and dedicated individuals, working every day to discover and develop potential best-in-class, next-generation therapies for patients,” Litton said in a statement. “I am honored to be joining the company at such an exciting time and am thrilled to be working alongside Mitch and the entire Alpine team in driving our strategy forward.”
— Cyrus Biotechnology, a biotech software company offering tools for advanced protein modeling and discovery in drug development, has named Jake Litwicki its VP of engineering.
According to a news release, Litwicki will lead software engineering for the Cyrus Bench Software as a Service platform which speeds development of new drugs and products sold to client firms in pharmaceuticals, biotechnology therapeutics, synthetic biology and consumer products.
Prior to joining Cyrus, Litwicki led software engineering teams and spearheaded the transition to more modern cloud architectures at a custom software development firm, a marketing technology startup, and most recently as the leader of the platform, global and microservice teams at Sterling Talent Solutions.
“Jake is a seasoned technical leader with experience across a variety of company and team sizes, with a proven ability to bring widely used software to the market and to drive improvement and best practices in an engineering organization,” Lucas Nivon, CEO of Cyrus, said in a statement. “Jake’s passion for software engineering, architecture and leadership will make him an important part of our growth as we add scientific users at companies worldwide.”
— Christy Marble, a former chief marketing officer at SAP Concur in Bellevue, Wash., is taking on that position with Visier, a Vancouver, B.C.-based people analytics company.
Marble has more than 25 years of experience on global marketing teams and joins Visier during a period of rapid growth. Over the past five years, the company has surpassed $125 million in subscription sales.
“We are pleased to have Christy join our leadership team to help us accelerate our growth in delivering applied analytics to organizations everywhere,” Visier CEO and founder John Schwarz said in a news release. “This is an important milestone for Visier. We are looking forward to benefiting from Christy’s experience and leadership.”
Prior to SAP Concur, Marble served in various executive roles at Vertafore and Sallie Mae, including the integration of acquired brands such as Upromise and growing the consumer brand to a $1 billion portfolio.
— Robin Andrulevich, a human resources vet with past roles at Amazon, Juno Therapeutics and Madrona Venture Group, has joined Seattle-based uniquelyHR as an advisor.
“Robin is one of the smartest, most creative and credible people leaders around,” uniquelyHR CEO Mikaela Kiner wrote in a blog post. “Robin is highly strategic (a word I don’t use lightly) and always has the respect and the ear of the leaders she works with.”
Andrulevich has more than 25 years of experience at high-growth companies in the tech and biotech industries. She spent 10 years at Amazon during the early days of the e-commerce giant, from 1998 to 2008.
She most recently spent just under four years at Juno, where she was responsible for the cell therapy company’s people and recruiting functions. Juno sold to Celgene for $9 billion in January.
“Mikaela and I also have a shared passion for supporting women in leadership, diversifying tech, building strong cultures and supporting Seattle’s startup community and leaders,” Andrulevich said in the blog post. “I love that uHR supports and lends their services to organizations they see potential in or whose mission they believe in, and I wanted to be a part of that.”
— Maveron, the venture capital firm with offices in Seattle and Silicon Valley, has promoted Anarghya Vardhana to partner, Forbes reported this week.
Vardhana joined Maveron in November 2015. The Stanford University grad previously spent a year spent at Rothenberg Ventures, where Forbes said she launched a virtual-reality-focused accelerator. She also worked at Google.
Vardhana is a Forbes 30 Under 30 alumna is a board observer at a number of startups.
“Anarghya has the character, the integrity and the ability to listen of an older person, and she has the openness and youthful exuberance — the curiosity not to be restrained about what’s possible for companies and entrepreneurs,” Maveron co-founder Dan Levitan told Forbes. “Every day she exhibits the tenacity and drive to relentlessly help.”