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Zillow’s former longtime economist returns; GoFundMe hires Xbox vet; ex-Nike president joins Funko board – GeekWire


Dr. Skylar Olsen. (Zillow Photo)

— Dr. Skylar Olsen is back at Zillow Group.

Olsen spent eight years at the real estate giant, most recently as senior principal economist, from 2012 to 2020. She returns in the role of chief economist at Zillow, helping the company bolster its market research arm.

Olsen, who earned her PhD in economics at the University of Washington in 2013, spent eight months at ClimateCheck after leaving Zillow in 2020. She then took a role as senior director and principal economist at Tomo, a mortgage startup founded by two Zillow vets. She also runs her own consultancy, Reimagine Economics.

Zillow also recently hired Dr. Orphe Divounguy, former chief economist at the Illinois Policy Institute, as senior economist.

J Allard. (GoFundMe Photo)

— J Allard, a former Microsoft exec and co-founder of Xbox, joined online fundraising platform GoFundMe as chief product and technology officer.

Allard was at Microsoft from 1991 to 2010. As chief experience officer and chief technology officer of the Entertainment and Devices Division, he co-founded Xbox, Xbox Live, Live Arcade and Xbox 360 among the more than 40 products he launched.

Allard returned to the video game industry in May 2020, joining Intellivision, but he left after a short stint.

At GoFundMe, Allard will lead the company’s tech infrastructure and oversee product, design, and engineering teams. The Redwood City, Calif.-based company launched in 2010 and has helped users raise more than $17 billion from more than 200 million donations.

Allard is still running 529 Garage, a community-powered service aimed at beating back bicycle theft.

Other personnel changes across the Pacific Northwest tech industry:

  • Trevor Edwards, former president of Nike, joined the board at Funko, sellers of pop culture toys and collectibles based in Everett, Wash.
  • Abed Farhan, former sales exec at Vancouver, Wash.-based marketing company ZoomInfo, joined Portland, Ore.-based customer data startup Lytics as chief commercial and strategy officer.
  • Kathy Ahuja, a security veteran who worked at OneLogin, DocuSign, Microsoft, Oracle, and Symantec, was named vice president of information security at Seattle data storage startup Qumulo.
  • Meredith Han, a former Brooks Running director, stepped down as vice president of product at Seattle real estate startup Flyhomes.
  • Robert Locke, a former senior executive at automation giant Johnson Controls, joined Seattle AI startup Phaidra as new president and chief strategy officer.
  • Soojung Smith, a former Microsoft exec and serial entrepreneur, joined Seattle agriculture IoT startup Koidra.
  • Chris Sembroski, a Seattle-area data engineer who was one of four crew members on an orbital trip in SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, joined Blue Origin as an avionics engineer. Read more.


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