Entrepreneur Jeremy Jaech has been at the center of two of Seattle’s biggest technology successes, helping to create Aldus (sold to Adobe) and Visio (sold to Microsoft).
Now, Jaech, after running startups Trumba and Verdiem, is back in the startup game with a new company called WatchFrog.
Formed in May, the young upstart is in the process of licensing technology from the University of Washington developed in part by researcher Shwetak Patel.
Patel, an assistant professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the UW, is an expert in easy-to-use home automation sensing technologies. Last year, he won a MacArthur Genius Award, and his previous company, Zensi, was acquired in 2010 by Belkin.
WatchFrog, which is in the process of raising cash, is building off of Patel’s research as well as the research of Duke University assistant professor Matt Reynolds and UW PhD student Gabe Cohn. The first engineers will start at the company October 1.
Jaech tells GeekWire that WatchFrog’s ultra-low sensing technologies, currently in the prototype phase, could be used to monitor conditions around the home; and detect home hazards such as radon or carbon monoxide. The sensors are designed to last up to 50 years, far longer than other technologies.
Jaech, who was just named to the board of regents at the UW, has been hanging around the computer science department at his alma mater for about a year. He originally was looking at opportunities in the arena of mobile and Web services, but noted that there just weren’t enough “barriers to entry” for many of the ideas.
With WatchFrog, Jaech said the hardware system is very much protectable, making it harder for possible rivals to enter the market. “There’s not really an opportunity for others to come in and compete without recreating the sensors,” he said.
And what about the silly name?
Jaech admits that it wasn’t his first choice, and it’s unlikely to be the product name they use when commercial products are released, likely some time next year.
The sensors, which can be easily placed throughout a home, are not watch dogs but watch frogs, he said.
The company is being housed at the University of Washington’s new technology incubator in Fluke Hall.