Cisco Big Bolts for Startup

Andy Bechtolsheim has resigned from Cisco, possibly to go to a storage startup

December 17, 2003

3 Min Read
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A top exec at Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) has taken a powder, prompting chatter that he's becoming more involved in a startup developing a high-end storage server for video applications.

Andreas "Andy" Bechtolsheim, the VP and general manager of Cisco's gigabit switching business unit, ceded his post to colleague John McCool, formerly VP of engineering for the unit. He asked Cisco to provide no further information on his whereabouts. A Cisco spokesman says only that Bechtolsheim "made a decision to return to his entrepreneurial roots." He's kept no official ties to Cisco.

We've had our eye on Bechtolsheim for awhile, however, and it seems likely he'll be spending more time at Kealia Inc., a stealthy startup he helped found a few months back (see Is Cisco Tuning Into Video? and Kealia Project Raises Questions).

Kealia itself is a mystery, but early hints indicate it's at work on a high-availability video server. The company has applied to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the trademarked name "Streamworks" to sell "Software and Hardware to facilitate the transmission and delivery of digital video and audio."

When it first applied for incorporation in 2001, Kealia's founders listed the company president as David Cheriton, a professor at Stanford University who, along with Bechtolsheim, founded Granite Systems Inc., where Bechtolsheim was CEO when Cisco bought the firm for about $220 million in 1996. Granite was at work on multilayer switching and Gigabit Ethernet technologies that used custom ASICs. Its products were later folded into Cisco's gigabit switching unit.It's hard to gauge the level of Cheriton's involvement at Kealia, and he hadn't returned inquiries at press time.

There is a possibility that Kealia's been funded in part by Cisco, in a potential repeat of the company's spin-in of Andiamo a couple of years ago. In that case, Cisco helped fund Andiamo, and once its technology was underway, it bought it outright (see Cisco Buys Andiamo, Cisco Owns Up to Andiamo , and Ciscos Secret SAN Strategies Revealed).

Neither Bechtolsheim nor Cisco have acknowledged any link between Cisco and Kealia, however. Cisco's equally cagey about ties to any startup Bechtolsheim's involved with: When asked today whether Bechtolsheim's new venture was funded in any way by Cisco, for example, spokesman Larry Yu said it would be inappropriate to comment, given Cisco's promise to keep the former exec's whereabouts on the QT.

When we tried to reach Bechtolsheim at Kealia, his admin said she could take a message for him, but would be unable to answer any questions. The B-man hasn't phoned back.

There are other possibilities, of course. Bechtolsheim has always been busy in Silicon Valley, with a particular emphasis on technologies related to data management and retrieval of one kind or another. It just might be that he's opted to spread himself across more than one project.Bechtolsheim, now in his late forties, helped found Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW) prior to founding and selling Granite.

Over the years, Bechtolsheim's invested in a range of companies, including PMC-Sierra Inc. (Nasdaq: PMCS) and StorageNetworks Inc. (Nasdaq: PMCS), as well as Magma Design Automation Inc., which specializes in automating designs for electronic chipmakers. He's also helped fund a startup called Avexus, which makes software for managing high-value business assets, like aerospace equipment.

Figure 1: Andy Bechtolsheim
Source: Cisco

— Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

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