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Madrona Awards the Madrona Prize to the Backscatter Team at the UW Industrial Affiliates Day

October 20, 2016

Every year, Madrona MDs, Investment Professionals and other staff look forward to the UW CSE Industrial Affiliates day.  Graduate students present posters on their research, which ranges from Robotics to Machine Learning to Databases.  At the end of the day, Madrona awards a Madrona Prize and recognizes runner up teams for the most commercially viable technology.  Last night, Madrona  awarded the cash prize to a team of graduate students from two schools at the University of Washington –Computer Science & Engineering and the Department of Electrical Engineering – working to make battery free communications systems work over long distances.

2016 marks the 11th year of the Madrona Prize which is awarded to a ground breaking and commercially viable technology developed at the University of Washington.  Since Madrona’s inception, more than two decades ago, Madrona has funded 16 companies out of the University of Washington.  These companies include Impinj (NAS:PI), Farecast (acquired by Microsoft) and Turi (acquired by Apple.)

This year the Madrona Prize went to a project building on the Backscatter work at the University of Washington.  In the latest iteration, the team shows that backscatter can work over longer distances than previously thought – up to 1 km – and provide precision communication for agriculture, home sensing and for medical devices such as smart contact lens and flexible epidermal patch sensors.  The team on this particular backscatter project are Vamsi Talla, CSE postdoc; Mehrdad Hessar and Bryce Kellogg, UW Electrical Engineering; Shyam Gollakota, CSE faculty; Josh Smith, CSE and EE faculty.  The prize is a cash award that goes directly to the graduate students involved in directing and conducting the research.

“The University of Washington is one of the top five computer science schools in the nation.  Not only does the university fuel this region and beyond with research on key areas like machine learning, the Internet of Things, and robotics, but it also instills an entrepreneurial spirit – from students to professors – and we want to foster that as much as possible!” said Matt McIlwain, managing director, Madrona Venture Group. “We are excited about the plan to double enrollment, and graduates, over the coming years as the new CSE2 building gets underway with gifts from the core technology tenants of the region – Amazon and Microsoft.  The UW is an invaluable resource to our technology ecosystem.”

Madrona has deep ties with the University of Washington.  Several of the managing directors and investment professionals teach courses on entrepreneurship in different schools and colleges within the university. Dan Weld, the Thomas J. Cable / WRF Professor at UWCSE, is a Venture Partner at Madrona and works hand in hand with investing managing directors to source and evaluate investments as well as provide technological guidance to portfolio companies.

The Madrona Prize comes at the end of the Industrial Affiliates day, when companies, large and small, gather at the UW to hear about new technologies and projects underway.

“It’s wonderful to be in a region where local companies support both our educational and research missions.  We really appreciate Madrona’s long-term support for our students with the Madrona Prize, as well as their commitment to helping us transform and transfer CSE technologies into companies, where they can have major external impact,” said Hank Levy, Chairman of UWCSE.

Each year, the Madrona committee also awards Runner up prizes.  This year the Runners up were:

Runner up: PipeGen: Data Pipe Generator for Hybrid Analytics
(Brandon Haynes, CSE Ph.D. student; Alvin Cheung and Magda Balazinska, UW CSE faculty)

Runner up: Just Say NO to Paxos Overhead: Replacing Consensus with Network Ordering
(Jialin Li, Ellis Michael, Naveen Kr. Sharma, and Adriana Szekeres, CSE Ph.D. students; Dan R. K. Ports, UW CSE faculty)

Runner up: Programming by Examples for Industrial Data Wrangling
(Alex Polozov, CSE Ph.D. student; Sumit Gulwani, Microsoft; the Microsoft PROSE team)

For past winners visit

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