Andreas von Bechtolsheim: A Giant in the Tech Industry

Say “Andreas von Bechtolsheim” and the first thing that comes to mind is a giant in the tech industry. He continues to enjoy a prolific career as the founder/co-founder of several successful companies including Sun Microsystems, Granite Systems, and Arista Networks, as well as among the most successful angel investors particularly in electronic design automation (EDA).

He is also a multi-awarded businessman with honors including the 1999 Smithsonian Leadership Award for Innovation and the Stanford Entrepreneur Company of the Year. He is also one of the most notable members of the National Academy of Engineering and a notable speaker in the technology industry, such as during his keynote speech at the 2009 International Supercomputing Conference.

Born in Bavaria, Germany, Bechtolsheim’s interest in electronics started at a young age, such as when royalties from an industrial controller he designed when he was just 16 years old financed most of his education. In 1975, he transferred from the University of Technology Munich to Carnegie Mellon University where he acquired his master’s degree in computer engineering.

He worked for a time at Stanford University and Xerox but the turning point in his career came when he founded Sun Microsystems. By 1986, Sun Microsystems conducted its initial public offering and by 1988, it reached $1 billion in sales.

Bechtolsheim left Sun Microsystems in 1995 to establish Granite Systems, a company that developed high-speed network switches. But he sold it to Cisco Systems in 1996 for $220 million while also owning a 60% stake; he became Cisco’s Gigabit Systems Business Unit’s Vice President and General Manager until his departure on December 2003.

He then headed Kealia, which he co-founded with David Cheriton in 2001. In 2004, Sun Microsystems acquired Kealia in a stock swap, which mean that he became Sun’s chief architect and senior vice president.

By 2005, Bechtolsheim founded Arastra, later known as Arista Networks. In 2008, he left Sun to become Arista’s Chairman and Chief Development Officer.

Bechtolsheim is also a notable angel investor through HigBAR Ventures, which has invested in Brocade, Mirapoint, Brughtmail, and Tasmania Network Systems, among others.


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