“Some budding entrepreneurs and computer whizzes based here in the Pacific Northwest are starting to turn heads down in Silicon Valley.
“They are professors and students at the University of Washington, home to what may be the best computer science department you’ve never heard of.
“Although Stanford is considered the Hogwarts of techdom, U.W. has quietly established itself as the other West Coast nexus of the information economy. And while Seattle-area tech icons like Microsoft and Amazon have long relied on U.W. – pronounced “U-dub” by locals – as an incubator of talent and ideas, the Valley’s hottest companies have been getting the message, too.
“Their executives have begun streaming up the coast to Seattle, fueled by a talent arms race for programmers. Facebook, Zynga and Google have opened offices in the area, trying to woo U.W. engineers who’d rather live here, where taxes and home prices are lower, even if mist and dark skies envelop the scenery for much of the year …
“In a conference room at the university, overlooking the sparkling waters of Lake Washington, Christophe Bisciglia told a crowd of dozens of students what his secret weapon was: them.
“Mr. Bisciglia, 31, an entrepreneur and former star Google engineer, was visiting during the spring to speak on a panel about start-ups to computer science students. He said he has gained an ‘unfair advantage’ for WibiData, his new San Francisco-based company, by recruiting from the university’s computer science department, where two-thirds of his employees once studied.
“‘Down in the Valley, it’s all Stanford this and that,’ said Mr. Bisciglia, himself a U.W. graduate. ‘While they turn out students that are good, U.W. turns out students that are every bit as good.’ …
“Sidhant Gupta, a Ph.D. student in computer science, is working on low-cost sensing technologies that can help people monitor their energy use. Mr. Gupta, who received his master’s degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology, said U.W. is a collegial environment where experts in different computer science disciplines are encouraged to collaborate.
“‘It feels like one big family,’ said Mr. Gupta, who passed up offers at M.I.T. and other schools to study at Washington. ‘No one is trying to back-stab you to get ahead of you. That’s really different than other programs.’”