Cherry blossoms were in full bloom at the University of Washington earlier this month. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) The University of Washington has one of the world’s best computer science programs. MBA recruiters recently the UW’s business school No. 2 for entrepreneurship reputation. Its CoMotion innovation center has helped the university spin out 80 startups over the past five years and land among the top 10 on . Yet for some reason, , the famed Silicon Valley startup accelerator, sees far fewer UW graduates applying for its program compared to other top public universities. That’s why two YC partners, and , made a quick trip north earlier this month and spent several hours on the UW campus in Seattle, hosting both “group office hours” and a two-hour workshop. The purpose was to educate students about startups and encourage them to apply to YC. Of the more than 4,000 founders who have gone through YC’s 3-month cohort program over the past 14 years, only 50 of them attended the University of Washington, according to data from YC. “There is a lot of talent at the UW and a lot of talent in Seattle — and I want to make sure people know that YC is an available path if they want to start a startup,” Manalac told GeekWire after the event. Y Combinator Partner Gustaf Alstromer speaks to UW students at the Foster School of Business as part of a YC workshop on campus earlier this month. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper) Manalac, who specializes in finding entrepreneurs that can join the accelerator, said UW students tell her that they get so heavily recruited by big companies in Seattle — Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Expedia, T-Mobile, Starbucks, etc. — and “often don’t even think about starting a company as a viable option.” Added Manalac: “The pull of the FAANGs and big companies like Boeing are strong up here.” “In some cases, students are interested in starting a startup but fall into the trap of thinking, ‘I’ll work at a large company for a couple years to get experience and then start a company,'” she explained. “Once you’re used to working at big companies, it’s harder to make the shift into startups. And working at big companies doesn’t teach you what you need to know to start a company. The best way to learn about startups is to start one — or work at an early stage startup.” The thesis that homegrown tech giants such as Amazon and Microsoft, along with the bevy of Bay Area companies with huge engineering outposts in the region, are sucking up would-be startup talent and preventing Seattle from becoming another Silicon Valley startup mecca has been for . “In the past, I have noticed that most of our students do take the ‘safer’ established industry path over the startup path,” said , a UW computer scientist who has sold startups to , and . Patel agreed with Manalac and said it is indeed hard to jump to a startup after joining a big company. But others say that experience at a place such as Amazon or Microsoft can be valuable preparation for startup life. Knock co-founders Tom Petry and Demetri “Some of the fastest-growing companies in Seattle boast 20-something and 30-something entrepreneurs fresh out of Amazon who cite that experience at integral to their startup path and success,” noted Julie Sandler, managing director at Seattle startup studio Pioneer Square Labs and a lecturer at the UW’s Foster School of Business. and graduated from the UW and worked together at UBS Wealth Management before coming back to Seattle to launch their real estate startup Knock, which just a $10 million investment round. The founders say they picked up important skills and built a network at UBS that ended up being crucial to their decision to make the startup leap. “Ultimately, my time with a big company gave me enough confidence to enable me to say goodbye to that world,” Themelis said. “And I imagine a lot of founders get the necessary motivation to start something when they see first hand the rat-race of a big company culture — it definitely was for me.” But the opposite was true for , a 2013 UW grad who a fashion startup while still in school. He’s now working at Amazon as a product manager. “Beginning my career at a startup was definitely more beneficial for me than getting a job at a big company right away,” Bartlow said. “First of all, I don’t think I would have been able to get the product management roles I wanted without being able to leverage my startup experience. Second, it is much easier to stay in the frugal and hungry mentality coming right out of school.” Bartlow credited the UW’s Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship for promoting startups through business plan competitions and programs such as the Jones + Foster Accelerator program. In a statement, Amy Sallin, interim director of the Buerk Center, said that “the framework is in place for students or alumni to feel prepared to launch a startup at any point in their journey.” “Our graduates leave with the entrepreneurial skills that do make them attractive to very large companies looking to innovate from within,” she said. “However, we also see graduates who do take their startup and grow it into a business — whether in retail, food and beverages, health, social impact, cleantech, biotech, etc.” Nanodropper team members Jennifer Steger, Mackenzie Andrews and Allisa Song won the $15,000 grand prize at the University of Washington Hollomon Health Innovation Challenge in March. (Matt Hagen / UW Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship Photo) Sandler said she hopes the UW can encourage more cross-department connections across programs such as computer science, business, and human-centered design. She said that can help expose entrepreneurship to more students. “At other universities, it not uncommon to see one big student success kickstarting a positive entrepreneurial cycle,” Sandler added. “Students see other students successfully build impactful companies during their years in school and they’re inspired to do the same.” Whether the lack of UW grads applying to Y Combinator says anything about the university itself, or the larger Seattle tech ecosystem, is up for debate. It’s true that the UW ranks lower than schools including UC Berkeley, University of Michigan, University of Texas, UCLA, and others . And some of the higher-profile startups with UW roots — Turi, Senosis Health, Vicis, etc. — originated due to the work of professors, not students. Ed Lazowska, a longtime UW computer science professor, said geographic influence must be considered when comparing what a graduate from Stanford does after school, for example, to what a UW grad might do. “Stanford sends a disproportionate number of students to startups because the startup ecosystem in the South Bay is an order of magnitude more vibrant than anywhere else in the U.S.,” he said. “UW sends a disproportionate number of students to major companies because all of those companies are either headquartered in Seattle or have engineering offices here, and UW is a public university where most students do internships, which have a high conversion rate to permanent employment, and the established companies have great internship programs.” Lazowska said the UW has taken a number of steps to “address this balance,” from work being done at CoMotion and the , to the activity at Startup Hall, which houses the Techstars Seattle program and Founders’ Co-op venture capital firm. He added that “as the startup community in Seattle expands, the involvement of UW students in startups will surely expand commensurately.” And while some UW grads, such as Jason Tan and Brandon Ballinger of , do migrate to the Bay Area and launch startups, many of them stick around Seattle, where there are plenty of startup accelerators and studios. “Yes, YC is the gold standard,” Lazowska said. “But UW students come from Washington and remain in Washington.” For some, the idea of relocating to the Bay Area to work on a startup may not be as attractive as in years past. , co-founder of Seattle startup , participated in a YC cohort last year and came right back to Seattle. “In my opinion, right now Seattle is the best place to start a software company,” Kalb said. “The talent is here, Seattle is a beautiful place to live, and it’s way cheaper to live in Seattle than in San Francisco. No wonder Bay Area VCs . I think we’ll see some of the greatest, fast-growing startups come from Seattle in the next ten years. If I were a YC partner, I would heavily index on whether a company is based in Seattle.”
The new Esports Arena & Gaming Lounge at the University of Washington in Seattle. (UW Photo) Game on at the University of Washington. A state-of-the-art at the UW’s Husky Union Building is up and running after an official ribbon cutting on Thursday and a week of events that helped usher in a new era of competition and learning at the university in Seattle. The 1,000-square-foot gaming center makes the UW the largest public, higher education institution in the nation to have such a dedicated facility and the first university in the state of Washington to have such a space. Aimed at casual and competitive gamers, and funded in part by the Student Technology Fee, the arena provides access to 40 high-end gaming computers, two VR systems, a casting station for live streaming to Twitch and popular, unlocked PC games. The lounge will also serve as a space for sponsored tournaments. The ribbon is cut on Thursday at the grand opening of the UW’s Esports Arena. (UW video screen grab) “With the Esports Arena we have this actual physical location to match and represent our culture, our community here,” said Will Nguyen, UW student epsorts director. “People can really come together and it brings it to this next level, where it’s not just some people talking over the internet.” The intention is for the physical space, and the opportunity to play, to go beyond just gaming for students and provide the learning potential necessary to connect with companies in the Seattle area. (UW Photo) Justin Camputaro, director of the Husky Union Building, said in Seattle alone there are more than 23,000 jobs in interactive media. “What I have learned is that these games are very different from the days of Atari and Pong, or even Nintendo days. It is a lot about teamwork, it is about strategy, it is about mathematical computations, and understanding how the teams and the players works together,” Camputaro said. “There is a true educational element behind this gaming, when you dig in and start to understand that it is really really powerful. This is more than just playing a game.” A growing number of institutions are now as the industry is growing at a phenomenal rate. last year on the growth in esports scholarships among colleges and universities and how it could get as big as traditional sports on campus. The Esports Arena is located on the basement level of the HUB at 4001 E Stevens Way N.E. Check this for rates and hours of operation.
(Matt Hagen Photo / UW Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship) A team that wants to make batteries more environmentally friendly won $15,000 at a competition for environmental innovation at the University of Washington. MOtiF Materials invented a way to making batteries degrade less quickly over time. “If you can fix batteries, it has an impact on so many other clean energy technologies,” said , who founded MOtiF. Rasmussen, a doctoral student of mechanical engineering at the University of Washington, said the broader aim of the project is to make next-generation materials and manufacture them in a way that is scalable, cost-effective and environmentally friendly. She was drawn to the project as a way to use her mechanical engineering knowledge to create a process that helps the environment. “It’s something that everyone can get behind,” Rasmussen said. Specifically, she wants to find ways to synthesize a class of materials called metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) at scale without damaging the planet. A recent Scientific American article , saying they “are poised to be the defining material of the 21st century.” Rasmussen is securing intellectual property for the technology and working on a paper manuscript based on her work. She’s received grant funding from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and financial support through a fellowship with the Clean Energy Institute. MOtiF does not have a website yet. The team also includes graduate students of mechanical engineering Stuart Moore and Courtney Otani, as well as undergraduate student Molly Foley. The winners for the were selected by more than 150 entrepreneurs, investors and environmental advocates. $10,000 2nd Place Prize: Atomo Coffee (Matt Hagen Photo / UW Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship) What’s coffee without the beans? For , it’s a better cup o’ joe. The startup, which is rethinking how coffee is made from molecular level using naturally sustainable ingredients. Atomo launched a in February and has raised more than $25,000 so far. and are the co-founders of Atomo. Kleitsch is a tech vet who once worked at Amazon and currently leads entrepreneur workshops at the University of Washington. The second-place prize was sponsored by Herbert B. Jones Foundation. $5,000 3rd Place Prize: Chibage Chip (Matt Hagen Photo / UW Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship) Biochemistry doctoral student Tamuka Chidyausiku invented a device called the Chibage Chip to help farmers detect when plants are thirsty. Chidyausiku is from Zimbabwe and wants farmers in developing nations to benefit from the device. In addition to winning the $5,000 third-place prize, which was sponsored by the Port of Seattle, Chibage Chip also won the $5,000 community impact prize. AeroSpec, which developed a way to monitor air pollution on a large scale, and NanoPrint, which is creating a zero-waste manufacturing process, both won $1,000 for the “Judges Also Really Liked” awards.
Nanodropper team members Jennifer Steger, Mackenzie Andrews and Allisa Song. (Matt Hagen / UW Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship Photo) What if something as simple as a more precise eyedropper could cut the cost of glaucoma medication by more than half? That’s the idea behind the startup Nanodropper, which won the $15,000 grand prize at the University of Washington Hollomon Health Innovation Challenge on Wednesday night. The team also won a $2,500 medical device consulting award. created an FDA-approved adapter for eyedrop bottles that aims to reduce waste in the delivery of medication, especially for patients with glaucoma, which causes blindness. Here’s how it works: Take any eyedropper medication, screw on Nanodropper’s device, and you’ll get drops that are much smaller — but still large enough to deliver the medication effectively. Eyedroppers often deliver more medication than the eye can physically absorb, and the Nanodropper reduces the size of drops by a quarter or more. The team was inspired by about how larger-than-necessary eyedrops were increasing costs for glaucoma patients, who can spend $500 per month on medication. The issue is , in which patients sued massive drug companies like Allergan, Bausch & Lomb, Merck and Pfizer. “The problem is that the companies have no incentive to reduce the size of their drops, because then they would be selling less medication,” Nanodropper’s Allisa Song, a medical student at the Mayo Clinic, told GeekWire. Nanodropper’s team also includes UW graduate students Jennifer Steger and Mackenzie Andrews, as well as Elias Baker, a mechanical engineer who has worked with SpaceX and Spacelabs. Following its launch a year ago, Nanodropper has raised $60,000 primarily from healthcare providers. The grand prize was sponsored by Seattle-based life science incubator Intuitive X. Nanodropper said five eye care clinics are interested in presales and that it’s in talks with Premera Blue Cross, Kaiser Permanente and Bartell Drugs. The startup will use the cash to start making the product, which is manufactured in Minnesota and will sell for $12.99. The device has received class I FDA approval with a 510(k) exemption. $10,000 2nd Place Prize: Appiture (Washington State University) (Matt Hagen / UW Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship Photo) Appiture is developing a mobile-based hardware and software system to detect autism spectrum disorder in children. The team, which includes students from Washington State University’s chemical engineering, bioengineering and veterinary medicine departments, also won a $2,500 digital health prize. The Herbert B. Jones Foundation sponsored the second-place prize. (GeekWire Photo) $5,000 3rd Place Prize: Pulmora (University of Washington) Pulmora created an autonomous ventilator that can easily be applied to patients who have stopped breathing. The company, comprised of UW bioengineering students, said that it hopes to make ventilators common and easy to use, in the same way that defibrillators are today. The third-place prize was sponsored by WRF Capital, the investment arm of the Washington Research Foundation. $1,000 “Judges Also Really Liked” Award: DopCuff and Insulin Anywhere In addition to the top prizes, the judges gave $1,000 to DopCuff, which is working on a better blood pressure device for patients with end-stage heart failure. Insulin Anywhere also won the “Judges Also Really Liked Award” for its system that is both an insulin-cooling chamber and a compact needle kit, which was designed to get insulin to diabetics in emergency situations such as natural disasters.
Vikram Jandhyala. (UW Photo) After five years of leading the University of Washington’s innovation center, is stepping down. Jandhyala, executive director of , told GeekWire that he plans to depart this June. He’ll stay connected to the university and spend more time at the , the new U.S.-China joint technology innovation institute run by the UW and Tsinghua University in Beijing. Jandhyala became the university’s vice provost of innovation , taking over for Linden Rhodes after a 3-year stint leading the UW’s electrical engineering department. His title evolved into vice president of innovation strategy as Jandhyala led CoMotion, which helps startups through education and access to experts and funding sources. Originally started as the Center for Commercialization (C4C) at the UW’s main Seattle campus, CoMotion evolved a few years ago from a department that mainly helped commercialize ideas born at the university to what it now describes as a “collaborative innovation hub dedicated to expanding the economic and societal impact of the UW community.” Under the leadership of Jandhyala, the UW has ranked among the top 10 on for the past several years and cracked the top 10 of the Milken Institute national tech transfer rankings. CoMotion also helped open a makerspace on campus; created an Amazon Catalyst program; and launched the Mobility Innovation Center with Challenge Seattle. “These last five years have been amazing and I am really proud of the momentum and accomplishments made by the team at CoMotion,” said Jandhyala, who first joined the UW as an assistant professor in 2000 and founded his own startup in 2007. “They have produced a standout service for the community of UW innovators and built strong connections to the local and global innovation ecosystems.” Jandhyala is already the co-executive director at GIX, which recently , and will dedicate more time to the program after he leaves CoMotion in June. He’ll work closely with UW leadership to create a transition and succession plan for CoMotion.
(Bigstock Photo)stock Hospitals have to solve a thousand logistical challenges every day, but perhaps none are more difficult than operating room schedules. Surgeries can be difficult to predict — in fact, less than half of surgeries in the U.S. start and end on time. That can create chaos for patients and doctors, and costs hospitals $5.2 billion every year, according to University of Washington . The startup, which develops a variety of technologies for hospitals, is taking aim at the operating room problem with a new AI technology that uses data on patients and surgeons to more accurately predict how long each surgery will take. The startup recently deployed the technology at a large academic medical institution in Seattle. So far, it has cut the number of surgeries that run over their scheduled time by 20 percent, a result that could save a hospital $1 million a year in staff overtime alone. Perimatics Co-Founder and CEO Kalyani Velagapudi. (Perimatics Photo) The startup is still studying how its technology affects underage, or the number of surgeries that end before the predicted time, and other elements including patient and employee satisfaction. Perimatics’ algorithm begins by looking at a patient’s data and seeking out information that will affect how long the surgery takes, like the patient’s prior surgeries and their age. , Perimatics co-founder and CEO, told GeekWire that the surgeons themselves also have a big impact on how long a surgery takes. Each surgeon approaches an operation differently and will bring in various factors that affect the length of the operation. “That was a surprise,” said , Perimatics’ chief solutions architect and co-founder. “We had to build machine learning models customized for each surgeon.” The algorithm also takes into account the staff that will work on the procedure, like anesthesiologists. It can also suggest last-minute scheduling adjustments when operating rooms are needed for emergency procedures. Bala Nair, Perimatics’ co-Founder and chief solutions architect. (Perimatics Photo) The end goal is to help hospitals cut down the $5.2 billion a year that results from overage and underage in surgeries. In addition to staff overtime costs, operation rooms cost an estimated to run, so any variation from the set schedule can quickly become extortionate. That’s not to mention factors like patient and employee dissatisfaction, which is also a common side effect of scheduling challenges. Although this is the first time the technology has been deployed in a hospital system, Nair said it is easily scalable. Now that Perimatics has worked out which factors impact surgery length, the basic framework can be applied to almost any hospital, he said. Velagapudi said the startup is continuing work on its other AI technologies, including its Smart Anaesthesia Manager. That program, invented by Bala, analyzes a patient’s health metrics in real-time during surgery and helps doctors make decisions that have a big impact on a patient’s health when they are recovering. She also said the company is working on new solutions for post-surgery problems and surgical supplies. “It is quite different from the data science that is being done on the market today because it is real time,” Velagapudi said of the startup’s work. Perimatics spun out from the University of Washington last year and currently employs 7 at its headquarters in Bellevue, Wash. It is also a partner of , the tech giant’s startup assistance program.