Paul Mikesell, a University of Washington trained computer scientist who co-founded storage giant Isilon Systems in 2001, has left Uber and raised cash for a secretive robotics startup based in the Seattle region, GeekWire has learned.
Mikesell isn’t saying much about the new venture, telling GeekWire in an email that “we’re not talking about what we’re building yet, other than what you can guess from the name of the company.”
The name does provide some intriguing clues.
A Securities and Exchange Commission filing reveals that Mikesell raised $900,000 for a new company called Maka Autonomous Robotics Systems. The startup registered for a business license last week.
Robotics, autonomy and deep learning are key areas that Maka is focusing on, according to Mikesell. “We’ve got a specific area that we are focused on,” he said. “We think there’s a huge market opportunity here.”
Mikesell was most recently a director of infrastructure engineering at Uber, where he spent four years helping grow a team from 30 to 280 people and reported to the CTO. He helped the transportation giant open its Seattle engineering office in 2015. Mikesell left Uber this past April.
In 2001, Mikesell co-founded Seattle-based online storage company Isilon Systems with Sujal Patel. EMC acquired the startup in 2010 for a whopping $2.25 billion — one of the largest acquisitions of a Seattle tech company.
Patel, who also worked with Mikesell at RealNetworks before they launched Isilon, told GeekWire that he is an investor in Maka.
“Paul is an exceptional entrepreneur and an incredibly talented engineer,” Patel said. “I am super excited to be working with him again on this new project.”
Matt McIlwain, managing director at Madrona Venture Group, an early backer of Isilon, declined to say if Madrona was investing in Maka. But he called Mikesell an “outstanding entrepreneur and technology leader.”
“It is great to have him back in Seattle,” McIlwain added.
Mikesell also founded Bay Area-based database startup Clustrix in 2006; MariaDB acquired that company this past September. He was a manager at Seattle-based RealNetworks from 1998 to 2001. Mikesell earned a computer science degree from the University of Washington in 1996.