GeekWire Awards 2021: Check out the 5 finalists for Workplace of the Year

CEOs for the Workplace of the Year finalists, clockwise from top left: Matt Oppenheimer, Remitly; Karen Clark Cole, Blink UX; Alex Algard, Hiya; Brea Starmer, Lions + Tigers; Mark Liffmann, Omnidian.

After a year in which the definition of “workplace” became especially fluid, our understanding of what makes for a great place to work shifted as radically as the physical spaces we’ve inhabited during the pandemic.

The nominees for Workplace of the Year, a new GeekWire Awards category presented by JLL, display attributes which go beyond ping-pong tables, kegs of kombucha and other staples of tech startup life. We’re interested in exceptional work environments, unmatched company culture and a dedication to diversity, equity and inclusion.

And employees should be happy no matter where they are located.

Community voting is now underway across 13 GeekWire Awards categories in our 13th annual celebration of Pacific Northwest tech. Community voting, which closes on April 30, will be factored in with feedback from more than 20 judges. On May 20 we will announce the winners live at the virtual GeekWire Awards, presented by Wave Business.

Submit your votes below, grab your tickets, and keep scrolling for descriptions of each Workplace of the Year finalist.

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Lions + Tigers

  • Remote work adjustments: The marketing consultancy company already considered itself a champion of workplace flexibility, but says it went above and beyond this past year to prioritize the overall well being and psychological safety of its community. Open communication from the leadership team and creative ways to connect between teammates was key. A stipend was offered for improving at-home workspaces, as were learning sessions on topics such as communicating impact, bias and privilege, and conversations about race, politics, the pandemic and more.
  • Judges’ remarks on DEI: The company’s strong focus on diversity resonated with this statement: “We choose inclusion. We start with women. We prioritize economic access. Diverse representation is intentional and drives innovation. We partner with those who invest in creating access for women and the BIPOC community.”


  • Remote work adjustments: The digital remittance startup added additional holidays to the calendar to give employees one long weekend per month until its anticipated return-to-office date, to promote self-care and wellness. To assist with the transition to working from home, all of Remitly’s corporate employees received a $500 stipend to help with costs associated with getting their home office set up, childcare costs, homeschooling, and more.
  • Judges’ remarks on DEI: A global focus and awareness allows the company to take a broader focus on diversity. A strong dedication to cultivating a diverse and inclusive workforce beyond expectation to ensure a culture of belonging.


  • Remote work adjustments: The company, which provides protection for solar power systems, took pride in weathering the challenges, heartache, and isolation of the pandemic together. They worked creatively to keep the team whole, with zero layoffs, full pay, and additional stock options. Team members worked creatively stay connected through groups, activities and improved communication.
  • Judges’ remarks on DEI: A strong commitment to diversity, community involvement and employee retention. They’ve created a diverse work pool and strategically put in place career paths for employees focusing on growth, development, and advancement.


  • Remote work adjustments: Spam call blocking startup Hiya instituted a mandatory day off for all employees on the last Friday of every month and worked with employees on an individual level to ensure they had the flexibility to care for their family and health and take extended periods off to care for their kids. Virtual team-building activities such as virtual escape rooms were added, as well as free catered lunches. New committees and programs focused on diversity and inclusion as well as learning and development.
  • Judges’ remarks on DEI: Hiya put in place a strong focus on diversifying its workforce, even during the pandemic. The company’s approach to “anti-values” made it clear “what they are not about.” During the pandemic, the company focused on self-care and mental health — implementing a mandatory collective day off for employees on the last Friday of every month.

Blink UX

  • Remote work adjustments: The user-experience research and design company rallied to provide necessary support and resources including supplies for comfortable remote work. Employees were given the time and space they needed to care for themselves and their families and Blink shared resources and hosted management-facilitated training sessions around the importance of leadership during the pandemic.
  • Judges’ remarks on DEI: Two large pro-bono projects Blink UX implemented showed a willingness to “roll up their sleeves” and get involved. The company also showcases a deep focus on empathy in leadership, asking its staff: “Are you doing OK?” Consistent focus on the “under-represented global majorities.”

A big thanks to our longtime awards presenting partner, Wave Business, for supporting this fun community event. Also, thanks to gold and category sponsors: Blink UX, WSGR, JLL, EYPremera, Dreambox Learning, BECU, WestRiver Group, ALLtech and First Tech Federal Credit Union. And to our silver sponsors BCRA and Kingston Marketing Group. If interested in sponsoring a category or another component of the GeekWire Awards, please contact us at [email protected].

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