Bechtolsheim Leaving Sun for Startup?

Rumors are intensifying that Andy (Andreas) Bechtolsheim, co-founder of Sun Microsystems and a certified serial entrepreneur, will leave Sun for the second time in his career to join and lead a startup company.

Bechtolsheim first defected in 1995 when he founded gigabit-Ethernet switch vendor Granite Systems, which was acquired by Cisco the following year for $220 million. A savvy investor as well as a brilliant technologist, Bechtolsheim was said to have owned 65 percent of Granite at the time of the transaction. He also made an early investment in Google, which proved to be a particularly sagacious move.

His circuitous route back to Sun began when he left his role as vice president and general manager of Cisco’s Gigabit Systems Business Unit to launching Kealia, Inc., a vendor of high-performance Opteron-based servers.

Sun acquired Kealia in a stock-for-stock transaction in early 2004, with Bechtolsheim and his 58 Kealia engineers becoming  the Advanced Systems Technology Group within Sun’s Volume Systems Products unit. There’s no doubt the Kealia and its technology played an integral role in reversing Sun’s flagging fortunes in the volume server market.

It’s not clear at this point whether Bechtolsheim’s latest active entrepreneurial vehicle is Cresta Technology, a stealthy wireless-chip company based in Los Altos. Until now, Bechtolsheim has been a “passive investor” in that enterprise, but, as the playwright David Mamet wrote, things change.

Whether he’s moving fulltime to Cresta or to another venture, the word is that he’s decamping from Sun, which cannot be auspicious news for a vendor that still needs as much positive reinforcement as it can get.

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