Andreas von Bechtolsheim Leaving Sun To Create A Competitor Of Cisco


Background of Andreas von Bechtolsheim
Andreas (Andy) von Bechtolsheim was born in 1955 in the country of Germany.  When he was 21, he graduated Carnegie Mellon Univ. with a Master’s in Electrical Engineering.  Then he moved on to get a PhD from Stanford between 1977-1982. 

While Bechtolsheim was at Stanford, he had discovered a way to build a powerful computer based on a network connected to a Unix operating system.  Bechtolsheim created the workstation because he was bored of waiting for the computer time on the campus university system.  Vinod Khosla approached Bechtolsheim regarding his invention and they decided to start a company together, Sun Microsystems, Inc. (NASDAQ:JAVA).  Sun was actually an acronym for Stanford University Network.

Bechtolsheim dropped out of the PhD program to go full-time on Sun and pulled in his friend Scott McNealy to become a co-founder.  The four original founders of Sun were Andy von Bechtolsheim, Vinod Khosla, Bill Joy, and Scott McNealy.

Today Sun Microsystems is a $3.38 billion company.  Sun’s brands include Java, MySQL, and Sun StorageTek.  Sun bought out MySQL for $1 billion earlier 2008.

Investments/Other Startups/Back to Sun
Bechtolsheim stepped down from Sun in 1995 and then started Granite Systems.  Granite was bought out by Cisco Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:CSCO) for $220 million in 1996.  After that Bechtolsheim became VP and GM of Cisco Gigabit Systems Business Unit.

Bechtolsheim stepped down in 2003 from Cisco to become the head of Kealia.  Sun bought out Kealia in 2004 and brought Bechtolsheim back to Sun.  Bechtolsheim became the Chief Architect and SVP at Sun.  

Bechtolsheim and David Cheriton, who both were at Granite, were two of Google’s first investors.  They wrote a $100,000 check to “Google Inc.” before the search engine company even incorporated itself.  Larry and Sergery did not even have a company checking account at the time.

The New Start-Up
Bechtolsheim stepped down from Sun again recently 
to work on a new startup.  This startup plans to take-on network giant and Bechtolsheim’s former employer, Cisco.  Bechtolsheim’s new company is called Arista Networks and they have built a fast network switch that costs 1/10th of the prices of Cisco’s products.

Some of Arista’s customers already include several government labs, Internet startup companies, and other data intensive companies like Google.  Today the company is also announcing that they have hired Jayshree Ullal as their CEO.  Ullal was an executive at Cisco that lead their corporate switch business.

Cheriton will also be joining Arista as the company’s chief scientist.  

Arista, based in Menlo Park, Calif. has kept their team at a small number.  This is because Bechtolsheim believes if you hire a bunch of key executives at once, they’ll just twiddle their thumbs while collecting large sums of money.  Even though the company has already been shipping units, they did not have an official CEO until today.

Don’t Forget Where You Came From
Although this is the second time Bechtolsheim is leaving Sun, he stated that he will a part-time advisor with the company.   “It’s my baby,” Mr. Bechtolsheim said. “I will always be associated with Sun.”

This article was written by Amit Chowdhry. You can follow me at @amitchowdhry or on Google+ at
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