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Student Profile

Shuba Swaminathan

Shuba Swaminathan, MBA ’10

  • Co-invented USB thumb drives
  • Currently holds five issued US patents with nine more pending
  • Won first runner up in the 2008 MIT Sloan Elevator Pitch Contest in the mobile track

Just two years after graduating with an MSEE from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Shuba Swaminathan co-invented USB thumb drives. Her work resulted in five issued US patents with nine more pending.

Swaminathan, an electrical engineer, presented a working prototype of her data-storage device to upper management in 2001, but was disappointed to learn that it would not be brought to market due to budget constraints. Six months later, thumb drives were introduced to the mainstream market by Taiwanese manufacturers with Israeli companies claiming credit for the invention. “It was a low point in my career,” recalls Swaminathan. “I had the technology sitting on my desk. If only I had been savvy enough to bring it to market.”

The experience was an awakening for Swaminathan. “I realized that as an engineer I can create amazing new products,” she says. “But unless I have the ability to make my work known and to sell my products to upper management and the rest of the world, they will never see the light of day.”

Eight years later when Swaminathan's son was born, she decided to take time off from corporate America. She was comfortable in various roles—hardware designer, market analyst, software engineer, and inventor—but she found that of a stay-at-home mom the most challenging. During that time, however, the idea for her first startup was born.

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