Help me find a jerb
October 31, 2012 11:29 PM   Subscribe

What companies in the SF Bay Area (Preferably close to SF/Oakland) do work that requires electrical hardware design, and firmware programming? Then also produce a product that has a serious positive impact on society?

I've been contracting as an electrical engineer but have been considering getting a real job in order to increase my impact and grow my career and character. But the thing is I'm *really* picky about what kind of company I want to work for and what kind of work I want to do. Here are the things I want:

Said company should...
-be located somewhere accessible by BART or Caltrain north of Palo Alto.
-produce a product that matters. No video games or kitchen gadgets. There should be some real positive impact to society. I used to work in solar and that connection was easy to make, but there are plenty of other avenues to make an impact. Batteries and medical are great too. Developing some fucking awesome new technology (like ultra-low-power wireless chips) that will have broad impact would also be pretty sweet.
-need someone interested in microcontroller programming.
-be growing, preferably in the startup phase.

Or let me know if I'm being ridiculous.
posted by cman to Grab Bag (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
There has been some buzz recently about Y Combinator both seeing and seeking more hardware-based applicants. So you might try hanging around their forum to see what comes up.
posted by b1tr0t at 11:44 PM on October 31, 2012

Lemnos Labs, a hardware company incubator, keeps a list of hardware related startup events in the Bay. See what's been going on and what's coming up and maybe something will peak your interest. (full disclosure Lemnos Labs is a friend's company)
posted by Arbac at 11:59 PM on October 31, 2012

I just saw a job opening at Meka Robotics looking for EEs with at least some overlap in your skill set.

It came through a mailing list, and isn't posted on the website yet ... I can PM you the details if you're interested.
posted by Metasyntactic at 1:06 AM on November 1, 2012

Lit Motors is in the Bay Area. I don't know exactly where.

I think what they are doing is totally awesome and has a good chance at reducing the number of internal combustion vehicles on the roads, especially in the Bay Area.

Here is their career page.

posted by MonsieurBon at 7:26 AM on November 1, 2012

So, this might be a stretch, but have you thought about NVIDIA? NVIDIA's main HQ is in Santa Clara. I know you said 'no videogames,' but NVIDIA is about much more than graphics. We have an entire line of parts targeted towards super computers, and many of these boards end up doing protein folding and otherwise making the world a better place.

Even our graphics chips make people happier, and we are constantly trying to improve power per watt.

Perhaps this is not as direct a benefit as you might like, but NVIDIA is also a really cool company(how many employers encourage composting of organics, or pay for a masters at Stanford?), and the work is very interesting. In addition, though not exactly a startup, they have a ballin' employee stock purchasing plan.

Disclaimer: I work for NVIDIA, though in software. Memail me if you are interested.
posted by jalitt at 8:44 AM on November 1, 2012


Fitbit makes a tool for tracking calories etc. Based in SF financial district.
posted by bitdamaged at 8:55 AM on November 1, 2012

You already said solar but I would also suggest looking in the semiconductor, semiconductor equipment, and LED areas. There are also companies in the region that make lasers and other scientific tools, and there's also Tesla over in the east bay. Not specific company names, but a few areas that might be useful when you're out googling companies and jobs.
posted by Lady Li at 9:45 AM on November 1, 2012

Nest in Palo Alto comes to mind.
posted by toxic at 11:28 AM on November 1, 2012

Take a look at Synapse Product Development, a contract engineering shop which does the whole mechanical/electrical/firmware stack. The headquarters is located here in Seattle but the company has a growing San Francisco office which is located less than half a mile from the Caltrain terminal.

I left because I got an offer from Google, but I wish I'd stayed; Synapse was a great place to work. Some of the contracts were more frivolous than others - Nike is a big client, as is a very large SoCal-based entertainment company I think I'm still not supposed to name - but we got to do all kinds of things. My first project there involved a portable PCR machine for in-field DNA analysis. The Sonicare Airfloss was another of the company's big efforts, though I was not personally involved in it. Even when I was working on the Nike stuff, which were kind of just fluffy consumer products, the engineering was pretty hard-core. Wearable electronics, cutting-edge sensors, novel applications of sensor fusion algorithms, extreme power-efficiency requirements... it felt like I was helping build the future.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:15 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

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