Andy Bechtolsheim

Andy (Andreas) von Bechtolsheim (born in Germany in 1956) co-founded Sun Microsystems in 1982 with Vinod Khosla, Bill Joy, and Scott McNealy.

Bechtolsheim received an undergraduate degree from a university in Germany, and received his master's degree in electrical engineering from Carnegie-Mellon University.

At Stanford University, Bechtolsheim had devised a powerful computer (which he called a workstation) with built in networking running the operating system called Unix. He developed the workstation because he was sick of waiting for computer time at the central University system.

Khosla approached him, wanting to build a business around selling the workstation. He also approached McNealy who was then pursuing an MBA at Stanford Business School.

They named the company Sun as an acroynm for the "Stanford University Network." Bechtolsheim left Stanford, where he was enrolled in a Ph.D. program, to found the company.

Sun Microsystems quickly became a success, with $1 billion in sales by 1988. By 2003, the market capitalization of Sun Microsystems was $11.5 billion.

After leaving Sun, he founded Granite Systems in 1995 to develop network switches. In 1996, Cisco acquired the firm for $220 million, with Bechtolsheim owning 65%. He became Vice President and general manager of Cisco's Gigabit Systems Business Unit, until leaving the company in December 2003 to head Kealia, Inc. Bechtolsheim founded Kealia in early 2001 with David Cheriton, who was also a partner in Granite Systems. In February 2004, Sun Microsystems announced it was acquiring Kealia in a stock swap. Due to the acquisition, Bechtolsheim returned to Sun again as senior vice president and chief architect.

Bechtolsheim and Cheriton were two of the first investors in Google Inc., investing $200,000 in 1998. Bechtolsheim reportedly wrote the check to "Google" prior to the company even being founded. The story that says Bechtolsheim coined the name "Google" is untrue. However, when he gave the check to Larry Page and Sergei Brin, Google's founders, they did not yet even have a checking account into which the check could be deposited.

As a result of shrewd investments like these, Bechtolsheim is increasingly being seen as a savvy investor, particularly in areas such as electronic design automation (EDA), which refers to the software used by people designing computer chips. He has made a number of successful investments in EDA. He argues that changes in the chips themselves are outpacing the development of EDA tools, creating what he sees as an opportunity. It was his interest in these design tools while at Stanford which prompted his frustration when waiting for access to mainframes which led to his development of the first workstation.

One such EDA company, Magma Design Automation Inc., has been tremendously profitable for Bechtolsheim, with his stake in the company being valued around $60 million. Even more profitable for Bechtolsheim was his investment in Google, which in early 2005 was worth approximately half a billion dollars.

Bechtolsheim is a founding member of Carnegie-Mellon University's West Coast Campus in California.

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