Microsoft and Amazon are the centerpieces of Seattle’s booming tech scene, and 2019 was a big year for both of them. Microsoft eclipsed a market capitalization of $1 trillion and spent much of the year as the nation’s most valuable company. Amazon continued its ongoing disruption of retail; dominance of cloud computing; and attempts to push the boundaries of shipping and logistics.
But neither of these giants had the best year on Wall Street among Seattle tech companies. That distinction belongs to Avalara, the tax automation software company that went public in June 2018 and saw its stock rise more than 125 percent this year.
We examined 2019 stock changes of 34 public tech and biotech companies either based in the Seattle or with a huge presence in the region, bringing big names like Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter into the conversation. Microsoft, with 55 percent stock growth in 2019, finished with the 10th-highest rise among the companies. Amazon finished with the third-lowest stock growth among any company that gained in 2019, with shares rising just over 20 percent.
Among the biggest gainers was a group of enterprise software companies that went public in 2018: Avalara, Smartsheet and DocuSign.
It was a strong year on Wall Street overall as the Nasdaq and New York Stock Exchange saw growth of 35 and 22 percent respectively. Despite the increased scrutiny on the tech industry this year, 25 of the 34 stocks we looked at outpaced gains on the stock markets as a whole.
Huge companies like Uber, Lyft, Zoom, Slack, Spotify and others went public in 2019. However, only two Seattle-area tech or biotech companies had an IPO this year: Adaptive Biotechnologies and Limeade.
Shares in Adaptive, which is working with Microsoft to develop a universal blood test to diagnose multiple diseases, spiked 90 percent on day one of trading. However, the stock has since declined nearly 30 percent.
Limeade, an employee experience software company based in the Seattle area, went public on the Australian Stock Exchange with just a few trading days remaining in the year, so we left them out of our analysis.
At least three Seattle-area companies exited the public markets this year: Alder Biopharmaceuticals, Cray and Immune Design.
Here are a few notable gainers in 2019:
Avalara | $73.25 per share | 127 percent year-over-year growth: The sales tax automation company continued to build momentum this year from the U.S. Supreme Court’s Wayfair 2018 decision allowing states to collect sales tax from online sellers even if those companies don’t have a physical presence in the state.
Avalara beat Wall Street expectations in each of the first three quarters in 2019, posting rapid revenue growth and narrowing losses a little more than a year after going public. The company reached more than 25,000 overall customers last year.
Seattle Genetics | $112.55 per share | 96 percent year-over-year growth: The cancer drug maker topped Seattle’s growing cadre of biotech companies in stock growth in 2019.
In October, Seattle Genetics’ stock spiked after the company showed positive results for a new drug that fights aggressive breast cancers. A trial of the drug tucatinib delivered better results in combination with two other cancer drugs than those drugs alone. Overall, tucatinib reduced the risk of cancer advancement by 46 percent and the risk of death by 34 percent.
Apple | $293.65 per share | 86 percent year-over-year growth: Apple planted its flag in Seattle in 2019, scooping up a huge new office complex in Amazon’s backyard. The tech giant pledged to grow to 2,000 employees in Seattle after leasing two 12-story office towers totaling 630,000 square feet at 333 Dexter.
Apple broke a streak of declining revenue earlier this year, thanks to growth from its emerging services arm overshadowing its stagnant hardware division. In September, the company debuted the latest generation of iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and in the following months launched the Apple TV+ streaming service and the Apple Arcade gaming service.
Smartsheet | $44.92 per share | 86 percent year-over-year growth: The work management company made the second and third acquisitions in its history in 2019, part of a busy year that saw Smartsheet shares continue to rise.
Smartsheet delivered strong financial results in the first three quarters of the year, with revenue growth topping 53 percent in each period. Smartsheet is moving deeper into government services to expand its customer base, launching a new tool earlier this year that allows government agencies to collaborate and manage their workflows.
And here are a few of the companies that are ready to move on from a tough year and start fresh in 2020:
Qurate Retail Group | $8.43 per share | 57 percent year-over-year decline: Zulily became more well-known in the Seattle area last year after it took over for Microsoft as the new jersey sponsor for the Seattle Sounders and Reign FC. However, shrinking revenue from the online retailer has played a part in a tough year for its parent company Qurate Retail Group.
In the second quarter, Zulily revenue dropped 13 percent to $363 million, the largest year-over-year dip since the company was acquired by QVC parent Qurate in 2015. A week prior, the Zulily made cut an undisclosed number of jobs as CEO Jeff Yurcisin said the company was at “a critical inflection point” that required changes to the business.
F5 Networks | $139.65 per share | 13 percent year-over-year decline: The company, which focuses primarily on helping its customers build, manage and secure their business applications, was busy in 2019 as it continues a years-long transition. F5 is adjusting from making hardware to serve customers running data centers to focusing on software for customers running on public cloud infrastructure from providers like Amazon, Microsoft and Google. Plus, F5 is embracing subscriptions as the main method to deliver its products.
In 2019, F5 acquired popular web server NGINX for $670 million in March, and followed that up with an even bigger acquisition: a $1 billion deal for Shape Security, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based company that sells a fraud prevention platform to banks, airlines, retailers, government agencies, and more. In October, F5 announced a new alliance with Amazon Web Services to unite sales teams from the two Seattle tech giants and open the door for future technology integrations.
Expedia Group | $108.14 per share | 3 percent year-over-year decline: Shares in the travel giant tanked in October after the company missed profit expectations in the third quarter, in the face of growing competition from Google. Expedia stock was up 21 percent for the year until that day, but the resulting fallout of its earnings miss dragged shares into the red for the year.
Expedia employees started moving into the company’s new headquarters in October, more than four years after the company announced plans to trade in its downtown Bellevue, Wash. high rise HQ for a huge campus on Seattle’s waterfront. The company solved legal disputes with Ryanair and United Airlines, hoping to solidify its position in online booking.