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Kimberly White/Bloomberg News
Andy Bechtolsheim, 54
Founder, Chairman, Chief Development Officer, Astra Networks
No. of Angel Investments: 49
Companies funded (a sampling): Brightmail, Google, Granite Systems, Nvidia, Tapulous
Among the segment of Silicon Valley that cares about computing gear used by corporations, Andreas Bechtolsheim may be about as close as they come to an entrepreneur on the level of a Steve Jobs. The German native dropped out of a Stanford PhD program to co-found Sun Microsystems around his design for a new type of computer workstation, which quickly revolutionized computing. He sold one startup to Cisco and another to Sun before starting a networking company called Arista Networks that hopes to cash in on the cloud-computing trend. As an angel investor, he’s famous for cutting a $100,000 check to Google’s founders even before they had chosen their now-famous name. In an e-mail, Bechtolsheim confirmed that the check has netted him more than $1 billion.
Bechtolsheim also expressed a sober perspective on the emergence of former Google employees as angels and entrepreneurs. "When people are part of a new company that gets very successful very quickly, such as Google (but this effect is by no means limited to Google), they sometimes confuse the root of this success and incorrectly assume that the success was due to their own actions. They then want to translate this experience to other opportunities, either in the same or in related spaces, which in some cases may turn out, but in most cases will fail, just like the majority of all VC investments fail. … The only thing different about the Google mafia compared to other similar periods in history is that more money was made at Google by more people (and more money will be lost here)."