Successful entrepreneurs and ECE alums Sassan Teymouri and Shahin Hedayat returned to campus to deliver a talk to WIMS2 students and faculty about strengthening the connection between Michigan and Silicon Valley. Their discussion was full of practical advice for prospective tech entrepreneurs as well as insights into Silicon Valley trends and business practices.
Shahin and Sassan serve as the Corporate Outreach Directors for the Center for Wireless Integrated MicroSensing and Systems (WIMS2). They are the first to serve in this position, and their experience and high-level relationships make them uniquely qualified to help introduce WIMS2 technology to Silicon Valley.
Shahin is a serial entrepreneur with a proven track record building successful companies. Sassan has spent his career in the area of high performance computing, and has served as a team member and board member of several successful startup companies. Together, they are named on nearly 20 U.S. patents.
“We see this as a new, creative way to accelerate the flow of WIMS2 technology from the lab to the marketplace,” said Prof. Yogesh Gianchandani, Director of WIMS2.
In their talk, Shahin and Sassan discussed everything from the acquisition trends of small vs. large companies to the importance of building a team with a broad range of expertise. But one key factor they stressed throughout the talk was the importance of standout technology.
“It’s about innovation - especially disruptive innovation,” Shahin says. “You have to do something ten times better than what’s already been done.”
And the pair is confident that Michigan researchers can do just that.
"There’s a huge amount of IP in this department which has not been exposed to some of the entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley," says Sassan. "So it’s kind of a hidden jewel, sitting in the middle of America."
Both Shahin and Sassan feel very strongly that Silicon Valley can benefit from WIMS2 technology just as much as the center can benefit from the increased marketplace exposure. In particular, with an ever-increasing focus on the Internet of Things and smart sensor technology, WIMS2 products are primed to make waves in the tech community.
"[The Internet of Things] is an infrastructure in infancy right now," says Sassan. "U-M could contribute quite a bit to this, with all of its access to sensors, software, electronics, and many other critical components."
But the technology is only one part of a successful business. The real deciding factor for many startups, says Shahin, is a well-organized team and the ability to remain constantly relevant - skills that he feels Michigan is particularly gifted at providing to its students. And the multidisciplinary environment of WIMS2 provides students with real-life experience working in teams made up of individuals with divergent yet complementary skills.
"If you want to be an entrepreneur," said Shahin, "then allow the technology to take you where you need to go."
WIMS2 is an interdisciplinary research center that focuses on engineered microsystems directed at healthcare, environmental monitoring, and infrastructure monitoring. Originating in ECE, it quickly grew to include researchers in at least five additional engineering departments (Mechanical, Civil, Aerospace, Chemical, Biomedical), the Medical School, Dental School, Architecture, and Environmental Health Sciences.
The microsystems being developed in WIMS2 have applications in many areas that impact our day-to-day lives. Some of the specific applications include implantable biomedical systems, gas sensing systems, wearable electronics, and systems for structural health monitoring of bridges.
The micro-sized integrated electronics developed in the WIMS2 center have had a direct impact on the evolution of the Internet of Things. These millimeter-scale devices now incorporate sensors, batteries, energy scavenging, communications, and ultra-low-power computer processing, all technology developed at Michigan by researchers associated with the WIMS center."
Since 2000, the center's research has led to 75 patents, almost 600 journal publications, almost 1,000 conference papers, 13 startup companies, and the graduation of 240 Ph.D. students.
(BSE MSE EE ’81 ’83)
Shahin has been an entrepreneur since 1997. He co-founded four companies: Centillium Communication, Beceem Communication, Enverv, and Apixio, serving in a variety of roles including President, CEO, and Chairman. Centillium, Beceem, and Enverv reached maturation through IPO and acquisitions, establishing over $4B of shareholder value. Prior to 1997, Shahin held technical and manegerial roles at Cirrus Logic for 11 years, eventually becoming VP of Engineering overseeing a $90M product line. He is named on 9 U.S. patents.
(BSE MSE EE ’81 ’83)
Sassan has more than 30 years of experience in the architecture and design of complex storage products for the high performance computing and analytical markets. He served as VP of engineering in several enterprise companies, as CEO of a startup, and was part of the team that took Jaycore Network, Inc. to successful IPO in 1999 with more than $1.2B in market cap. Currently he is a technology and business development member of the High Performance Computing team at EMC, which is the world’s largest storage company. He is named on 9 U.S. patents.