Tech Moves: RealSelf marketing exec departs; Haiku Deck founder joins Microsoft Minecraft team

Jani Strand.

— Jani Strand is out at RealSelf, just nine months after joining the cosmetic review site as chief brand and communications officer.

“RealSelf has a ton of potential and I loved my short time there,” Strand told GeekWire in a statement. “I wish the team the very best in fulfilling the company’s worthwhile mission to help people make smart confident beauty decisions.”

Strand is now general partner at Perch Partners, a consulting firm in Seattle that runs a startup studio. She was previously an exec at Redfin; American Eagle; and Amazon.

The marketing vet joined RealSelf at a critical time as the 13-year-old company cut 14 percent of its staff in January. It blamed slowing site traffic on a Google search algorithm change made last year. Strand was brought on to lead a new marketing strategy.

RealSelf promoted Denise Jaeschke to vice president of marketing last month.

RealSelf raised its first substantial round of outside capital in April 2018 to fuel growth of its Yelp-like marketplace business that helps people learn more about cosmetic procedures. That led the company to grow headcount by 40 percent last year.

After the layoffs, RealSelf employed 225 people. Now its headcount is at 208 full-time employees. The company has 14 open positions on its website and is expanding its New York office. Its CTO and product leader departed in March. RealSelf is ranked No. 23 on the GeekWire 200, our list of the top Pacific Northwest startups.

Adam Tratt.

— After a roller coaster startup journey that ended with an acquisition last year, Haiku Deck co-founder Adam Tratt has found a new adventure.

Tratt is now director of learning programs for Microsoft’s Minecraft division that’s responsible for running the massively popular video game the company acquired for $2.5 billion in 2014.

Tratt’s experience founding and operating Haiku Deck over the past eight years played a big role in his decision to join Microsoft.

The startup launched in 2011, originally as a studio called Giant Thinkwell that made celebrity-based Facebook games. It eventually pivoted to a presentation software maker, riding that idea for several years until late 2018 when it sold to BookRags, a Seattle company that provides online teaching and learning guides.

“My new role working on Minecraft Education Edition brings my interest in education technology together with my background in gaming,” Tratt told GeekWire.

Tratt will be leading the Learning Programs team, a group responsible for developing a community of educators and content related to learning with Minecraft. He said educators are already creating lessons for teaching everything from computer science and math, to Romeo and Juliet — all using Minecraft.

“Anyone who’s watched kids play Minecraft knows it’s phenomenal for reinforcing soft skills, like how players collaborate on a project or communicate to complete a challenge,” he said. “Games are also influencing a full range of learning outcomes in the classroom, allowing educators to engage kids on topics from STEM to literature to coding to social and emotional learning.”

Minecraft has more than 90 million monthly active users. It recently released a beta version of Minecraft Earth, an augmented reality game for smartphones.

Haiku Deck raised more than $4 million from investors such as Madrona Venture Group, Founders’ Co-op, and Techstars, which hosted the company in its Seattle accelerator program in 2010.

Tratt co-founded Haiku Deck with Kevin Leneway and Kyle Kesterson. Leneway led technical work for Haiku Deck but left in 2017 to join Seattle startup studio Pioneer Square Labs in 2017. Kesterson left the company in late 2011.

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