As CEO of Gridware, a company recognized by Time Magazine as one of the best inventions of 2022, Tim Barat said he believes that the thing he’s most proud of is bringing his network of co-workers together.
Barat, together with Hall Chen and Abdulrahman Bin Omar, founded Gridware. The company founded by the three UC Berkeley alumni utilizes its product, Gridscope, to monitor signals from power poles and evaluate the integrity of electrical grids and potential hazards from power lines, according to Prabal Dutta, a UC Berkeley EECS professor and mentor to Barat.
In the actual product, there are solar panels and multiple radios that help sense signals to monitor what is happening in the field, Dutta said. These observations are sent to a Gridware control center for assessment and, if there is a problem, passed to a utility center.
“When I think about Gridware, I think it is a great example of the kind of things that we equip our students at Berkeley to do and the ethos of Berkeley itself,” Dutta said.
Barat noted that he met Chen in a campus space club. He was inspired by how Chen managed to get various students at a table into conversation and motivated to do work. Barat met Omar in a business class and appreciated how both Chen and Omar continue to respectfully challenge his “impulsive” ideas and develop them further.
Barat also stressed the importance of going to the other sides of campus and hearing others’ ideas. As an EECS major, he said he particularly enjoyed his humanities classes because they helped broaden his perspective of the world.
His ability to build a diverse network and his previous experience as a lineman handling downed power lines in Australia were the main things that helped him produce ideas for Gridware, Barat noted.
“Reflecting back on my time in the field, we had very little visibility of the power lines that bring everybody power,” Barat said. “We rely on them so much, and yet we have no visibility into the risk. We don’t even know when something goes wrong.”
Thomas Azwell, a faculty scientist at Berkeley, noted that Barat’s experience as a lineman prior to college made all the difference, as it helped solidify his career path and kept him highly motivated. Azwell added that his own background and path to college were fairly similar to Barat’s, with parallels in both work experience and higher education.
Azwell noted that Gridware is Barat’s first project as an entrepreneur, adding that Barat is not just trying to sell technology but provide an industry with solutions. Azwell said it is impressive that Barat, as a former linesman, is trying to break into the power industry, one that does not easily adopt innovation.
“Don’t be afraid to share your ideas with as many people as you can.” Barat said. “An idea is worth very little; execution is everything.”