From the Sun to Investments with Andreas Bechtolsheim

Andreas Bechtolsheim

"We're getting a lot less religious about the operating system to find the areas where we can grow."

- Andreas Bechtolsheim

As an electrical engineer, Andreas Bechtolsheim who co-founded Sun Microsystems and started several computer networking companies is known as one of the most respected figure in the Information Technology industry.

Andreas Bechtolsheim is also recognized as an influential and successful investor when he invested in many IT companies and funded Google, officially making him a billionaire.

Early Life

Andreas von Bechtolsheim was born on September 30th, 1955, near Ammersee, in the German state of Bavaria. He is the second child out of four that was raised on a farm near the Alps. Bechtolsheim had developed an interest in technology and experimented with electronics since his early age.

In 1963, Bechtolsheim and his family moved to Rome, Italy and to Nonnenhorn on Lake Constance in Germany in 1968. In his teenage years, Bechtolsheim designed an industrial controller based on the Intel 8008 for a local company.

Bechtolsheim studied at the University of Technology Munich Bechtolsheim as an engineering student and entered the jugend forscht contest for young researchers, and won the physics prize in 1974. Bechtolsheim attended Carnegie Mellon University after moving to the US in 1975 and received his master's degree in computer engineering in 1976.

In 1977, Bechtolsheim moved to Silicon Valley and worked for a week at Intel before they transferred him to Oregon. He then took a summer job and attended Stanford University to became a Ph.D. student in electrical engineering.

Early Career To Founding The Sun

While attending Stanford University, Bechtolsheim designed a workstation with built-in networking called the SUN workstation. The workstation that had its name derived from Stanford University Network was built based on the Xerox Alto computer, and developed at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. At that time, Bechtolsheim was working as a consultant at Xerox.

Bechtolsheim left Stanford and founded Sun Microsystems on February 24, 1982. His first employee, Bill Joy, was a member of the founders and a member of the team developing the BSD series of Unix operating systems. At its early stage, Bechtolsheim and Joy shared an apartment in Palo Alto, California.

Their first product, the Sun-1, was a UNIX computer workstations and servers, launched in May 1982. The product included the Stanford CPU board design equipped with a metal case and an improved memory expansion. Sun Microsystems reached $1 billion sales by 1998 after it became public (IPO) in 1986.

Other Ventures And Investments

In 1995, Bechtolsheim left Sun Microsystems and founded Granite Systems that focused on developing high-speed network switches. The firm was acquired in 1996 by Cisco Systems acquired for $220 million, with Bechtolsheim owning 60 percent of the share.

Bechtolsheim became Vice President and general manager of Cisco's Gigabit Systems Business Unit, until leaving the company in December 2003 to found Kealia, Inc. in early 2001 with David Cheriton, a Stanford Professor who was also a partner in Granite Systems, to work on advanced server technologies using the processor from Advanced Micro Devices.

Bechtolsheim returned to Sun Microsystems as a senior vice president and chief architect in February 2004 after Sun Microsystems announced it was acquiring Kealia in a stock swap.

In 2005 Bechtolsheim launched another networking company, Arastra (later named Arista Networks). Although he was still associated with Sun Microsystems, Bechtolsheim once again left Sun Microsystems to become the Chairman and Chief Development Officer of Arista in October, 2008.

Along with two Sun colleagues, Bechtolsheim co-founded HighBAR Ventures, an early-stage venture capital investment firm.

Bechtolsheim was seen as one of the most successful and influential investors in the areas such as electronic design automation (EDA) and Google. Not long after Granite Systems was acquired by Cisco Systems, in 1998, Bechtolsheim invested $100,000 in Google prior to the company even being founded.

Bechtolsheim once stated that he motivated Larry Page and Sergey Brin in building the company before they are legally incorporated.

His investments with multiple EDA companies and Google has made his net worth approximately $2 billion, officially making him a billionaire in March 2010.

Bechtolsheim continued his investments to many companies notably Tapulous Inc., Apple's iPhone apps developer, and CrestaTech, a wireless chip company. Other companies he invested include CompCore, Mobilygen and Claria Corporation.


Andreas Bechtolsheim that is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, received a Smithsonian Leadership Award for Innovation in 1999 and a Stanford Entrepreneur Company of the year award.

Personal Life

According to Sergey Brin: "We met him [Andy] - on the porch of a Stanford faculty member's home in Palo Alto. We gave him a quick demo. He had to run off somewhere, so he said, instead of us discussing all the details, why don't I just write you a check? It was made out to Google Inc. and was for $100,000." As an entrepreneur, Bechtolsheim is noted by doing things based on his instinct, in which he often gets the importance of being lean and mean.

He sees the encouragement of venture capitalists to hire the whole management team upfront a mistake. As an opportunistic businessman, he's still humble and customer-centric, in spite of his success.