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Andy Bechtolsheim

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Profile

Andreas “Andy” von Bechtolsheim was born in Bavaria, Germany on September 30, 1955. He is an engineer who co-founded several major networking companies, among which one would find the tech giant Sun Microsystems. Bechtolsheim attended The University of Technology Munich for his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering. He moved to The United States in 1975 to pursue a master’s degree in computer science from Carnegie Mellon University, which he received only a year later.

Soon after acquiring his master’s, Bechtolsheim briefly worked for Intel before taking a job at Stanford. During his time there, he designed what would become the SUN Workstation, a unit much smaller and less expensive than equivalent machines of its time. Once Stanford decided to no longer support the manufacturing of the machines, Bechtolsheim created Sun Microsystems in 1982 with co-founders Scott McNealy, Bill Joy and Vinod Khosla. Sun reached $1 billion in sales by 1988, and in 1995 Bechtolsheim stepped away from the company to found Granite Systems with Stanford professor David Cheriton. Cheriton would end up being a frequent partner to Bechtolsheim—the duo founded three companies together in total—and introduced Bechtolsheim to fellow Stanford alumni Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

In 1998, Bechtolsheim became the first to invest in the two men who would become Google. Introduced to the then-students by Cheriton, he listened to their pitch of the instantaneous search mechanism they were developing. He was hugely enthused by the idea, and wrote them a $100,000 cheque on the spot. This initial investment alone is now worth over $1 billion. This success extends over the acquisition of Granite Systems by Cisco in 1996, where Bechtolsheim would remain in the Gigabit Business Systems Unit before departing for another joint venture with Cheriton in 2003. Only a couple of months after this transition, however, Sun Microsystems acquired Kaelia, which resulted in Bechtolsheim assuming the roles of vice president and chief architect for the company he created twenty years prior.

Arista Networks was founded in 2005 under the name Arastra. In 2008, Bechtolsheim once again departed from Sun to fulfill the shoes of chairman and chief development officer at Arista.

Companies and Investments

Sun Microsystems (Co-Founder, Senior Vice President & Chief Architect, Advisor), Granite Systems (Co-Founder), Cisco (Vice President & General Manager of Gigabit Systems Business Unit), Kealia, Inc (Co-Founder), Arista Networks (Co-Founder, Chairman and Chief Development Officer)


Lessons Learned

Andy Bechtolsheim is, by his accomplishments, a Silicon Valley legend. Being one of the grandfathers of the industry, he has over time learned the industry as it was created. One of the principles he stresses strongly is that confidence, while necessary, must be coupled with exceptional timing. The landscape of the tech world changes frequently and occasionally unpredictably, and maintaining the focus necessary to make changes when they are most beneficial is a core theme of his success. Bechtolsheim’s impeccable perception and decision-making over the course of his career not only allowed him to amass incredible wealth, but to also promote and provide assistance to the next wave of innovators to follow. It was with his initial investment that Sergey Brin and Larry Page began the process of establishing Google as a company in the first place, and, who knows, without that investment, the ecosystem could have been very different.

Inspiring Quotes

Andy Bechtolsheim's Quotes

What one can learn from the Apples of the world, the Googles of the world, the Amazons and the Facebooks, is that innovation is the essence of high technology and business. Over the years, the content changes but the underlying processes of how to focus on innovation, how to do the right things, don’t really change.

Andy Bechtolsheim

Innovation is obviously the essence of high technology and business. In many ways it’s even more important than ever.

Andy Bechtolsheim

Take ownership of your innovation.

Andy Bechtolsheim

Influential Books

Mentors

Steve Jobs

References


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