Country of origin: Germany
Year came to U.S.: 1975
Education: MS Computer Engineering,
Carnegie Mellon University
Headquarters: Santa Clara, CA (Arista Networks)
2008 revenue: $13.8 billion (Sun Microsystems, sold to Oracle in 2010)
2020 revenue: $2.3 billion (Arista Networks)
2008 worldwide employment: 33,000 (Sun Microsystems)
2020 worldwide employment: 2,600 (Arista Neworks)
Sun Microsystems ranked 204 in the 2010 Fortune 500
Andy Bechtolsheim created his first high-tech product when he was 16.
He’s also well-known for being the first investor in Google, Inc.
Andreas (Andy) von Bechtolsheim is one of the world’s leading information technology entrepreneurs. Growing up on a farm in Germany, he started taking apart radios at age four. He would eventually launch five high-tech giants in the United States and invest in 22 more.
When he was 16, wishing to experiment with the new Intel 8008 microprocessor, Bechtolsheim convinced a local electronics firm to let him develop a microprocessor for their machine controllers. Royalties from this product supported much of his education.
After studying engineering at the University of Technology Munich, Bechtolsheim received a Fulbright Scholarship and moved to the United States to attain a master’s degree in computer engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. In 1977, he moved to Silicon Valley and became a PhD student at Stanford University.
At Stanford, Bechtolsheim was bored of waiting for computer time on the campus system and designed his own powerful computer with built-in networking called the SUN workstation (named after Stanford University Network). In 1982, he partnered with two friends, Vinod Khosla and Scott McNealy, to commercialize these workstations.
This was the first in a series of companies Bechtolsheim founded to build products that were simpler, faster and more efficient.
Sun Microsystems had its initial public offering in 1986 and hit $1 billion in sales in 1988. In 2010, the company was acquired by Oracle for $7.4 billion. In the intervening years, Bechtolsheim founded three more companies. Granite Systems was acquired by Cisco Systems, which paid $220 million for 40 percent of the firm. Kealia, Inc. was acquired by Sun Microsystems in a $91 million stock swap. Arista Networks is where Bechtolsheim remains today as chief development officer and chairman overseeing its initial public offering in June 2014.
Bechtolsheim is also known as one of Silicon Valley’s most successful “angel investors” having most famously provided the start-up capital for Google. He co-founded HighBAR Partners, an early-stage venture capital investment firm in 1995.
Updated July 2021