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About this Event

At the core of every successful business or product initiative is a solution that solves a real and meaningful customer problem. Whether you want to build your own startup, or have a new idea within an established company, it’s crucial to vet these concepts before investing time and money into their creation. Do you have a product solution that you want to advance in your organization? Or perhaps a startup idea you want to pursue?


AWIT Seattle is excited to host Maria Hess, Partner and Head of Growth at Madrona Venture Labs, and Kristen Hamilton, SVP at Guild Education and veteran tech executive with multiple startup exits, who will share their experience vetting product ideas from within corporations, startups, and studios. In this session, these two technology leaders will share their battle-tested processes and frameworks to validate (or not) an idea, benchmarks concepts for evaluation, and insights from innovation stories within established companies.


Opening: 4:00 - 4:05 pm

Presentation: 4:05 - 4:45 pm

Q&A: 4:45 pm - 5:10 pm

Wrap-up: 5:10 pm - 5:15 pm

Maria Hess

Partner and Head of Growth

Maria is an executive marketing leader, technology product builder, and startup advisor; leveraging over 20 years’ experience to successfully bring consumer and business software products to market. She’s currently a Partner and Head of Growth at Madrona Venture Labs, a Seattle startup studio, building multiple startups each year. Throughout a series of strategic senior leadership roles, she’s led marketing, product, and growth in both big tech (Google, Amazon, and Expedia) and successful startups (Picnik, PicMonkey, Likewise).

Kristen Hamilton

SVP Strategic Partnerships

Kristen Hamilton is a technology entrepreneur and CEO with multiple exits and is currently SVP Strategic Partnerships at Guild Education. She is currently a board director of growth stage companies Top Hat and Aduro, the WTIA’s private health benefits corporation, and is chair of the board of Directors’ Cup Invitational Ski Classic. Kristen leads strategic partnerships for Guild Education, a unicorn in the education to employment space.

She co-founded predictive hiring software leader Koru, and was it’s CEO until it was acquired by UK based Capfinity. She previously co-founded e-commerce pioneer Onvia and took it public on NASDAQ. She has served as an executive for large enterprises including Microsoft, where she was head of educator strategy, and World Learning, where she was COO. The primary focus of her career has been driving impact in the technology, talent and education industries. She has a passion for skiing, biking, rowing, and spending time outdoors with her two daughters.