Shwetak Patel landed in Seattle in 2008. Since then, he’s co-founded three startups built on technology he helped invent. Patel currently leads a health tech group at Google and is a professor at the University of Washington. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)
Editor’s Note: This is part of a series profiling “Uncommon Thinkers”: inventors, scientists, technologists and entrepreneurs transforming industries and driving positive change. All six will be recognized this week at the GeekWire Gala on Dec. 6. Uncommon Thinkers is presented in partnership with Greater Seattle Partners. Read other profiles here.
BY TAYLOR SOPER
Shwetak Patel isn’t a medical professional. He isn’t a licensed electrician.
But he is a self-described “naive innovator” — a quality that helps him develop out-of-the-box ideas that turn into successful startups.
“When you think about a problem on its head, you can come up with some really cool ideas,” said Patel, a renowned University of Washington computer science professor and serial tech entrepreneur.
Patel embodies what it means to be an Uncommon Thinker.
“He’s not afraid to pursue things with a weird or different approach,” said Vikram Iyer, a UW computer science professor who collaborates with Patel. “He finds questions that people aren’t asking.”
Those questions have sparked the formation of several entrepreneurial ventures built on Patel’s inventions.
Patel co-founded Zensi, which detected noise on electrical systems to monitor the energy usage of home appliances. The Seattle startup was acquired by Belkin in 2010.
He later co-founded SNUPI, which used existing power sources in homes to notify homeowners of potential hazards such as water leaks. Sears acquired the company’s technology in 2015.
More recently Patel has been immersed in medical technologies, co-founding a health monitoring company called Senosis Health that was acquired by Google in 2017. He currently leads the Health Technologies group at Google as a distinguished scientist, in addition to his work as an endowed professor at the UW and director of the Ubicomp Lab.