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Professor Billionaire: The Stanford Academic Who Wrote Google Its First Check
“I once read that a boat is a hole in the water where you pour in a bunch of money,” says Cheriton. ....... With a net worth of $1.3 billion, Cheriton is likely the wealthiest full-time academic in the world. But yachts are not his thing. The Stanford computer science professor calls himself “spoiled” for taking the occasional windsurfing vacation to Maui. ...... In all he’s spent more than $50 million out of his own pocket, investing in 17 different firms, which range from VMware to his latest, Arista Networks. ...... He still drives the same 1986 Volkswagen Vanagon he had before he made his money, lives in the same Palo Alto home he’s owned for the last 30 years and employs the same barber—himself. “It’s not that I can’t fathom a haircut,” says Cheriton. “It’s just easy to do myself, and it takes less time.” ...... When he was rejected from the music program at the University of Alberta, he simply pursued another interest, mathematics, and later computer science. ...... It was at Stanford that Cheriton first met Andy Bechtolsheim, a brilliant German Ph.D. student who was constantly tinkering with a workstation computer he had designed called the SUN, short for Stanford University Network. Looking for someone to develop software for the workstation, Bechtolsheim turned to Cheriton ..... billionaire Netscape cofounder Jim Clark, a former Stanford professor. ..... In between their startups Cheriton and Bechtolsheim made their savviest investment, the $100,000 each forked over to the Google founders. ..... (Yahoo and Excite had turned down the opportunity to license the algorithm.) ...... “I remember thinking in the back of my head, ‘Well, if they get a million hits a day, 5 cents a click, that’s $50,000—at least they won’t go broke!’” Bechtolsheim reminisces. ....... Ron Conway, Silicon Valley’s ubiquitous angel investor whom Cheriton introduced to Google for a later investment ..... a plaque that reads, “Dr. David R. Cheriton, Chief Superintendent of Saying Important Things.” ...... “Technologists probably find it easier to share things with David, since he will understand a lot more than if you go to a VC who will sort of give you a blank stare and not really understand the promise of what you’re doing” ....... Cheriton says he avoids pursuing market whims—he considers social networking one of them—and stays focused on breakthroughs that make measurable improvements to human life, such as the way Google helps a college junior complete a research paper at 3 a.m. ...... Cheriton and Bechtolsheim have put in a combined $100 million into Arista, 95% of its total funding. Its CEO, Jayshree UllalThis is an insight into the ecosystem that Silicon Valley has that NYC does not have, something being talked about at AVC.com.
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