| Cool Alumni: Weili Dai, Sehat Sutardja, and Pantas Sutardja, founders of NASDAQ-100 wonder Marvell
by Rachel Jackson
In April, Sehat Sutardja and Weili Dai spoke to Berkeley students about engineering and entrepreneurship. [View webcast]
In the sixth grade, Sehat Sutardja (M.S.'83, Ph.D.'88 EECS) told his parents he wanted a career in electronics. This was the 1970s, and that meant repairing TVs and radios. His parents wanted him to be a medical doctor, not a TV repairman. But Sutardja loved electronics. At night, he dreamed about the wonderful things electronics could do. Thirty years later, Sutardja still loves the field. Together with two other Berkeley alumni, he's parlayed his passion and dreams into a wildly successful technology company, Marvell (pronounced mar-VELL) Technology Group, for which he serves as CEO.
It has taken Sunnyvale-based Marvell only ten years to grow from a three-person, family-funded startup to a 1,800-employee, billion-dollar technology company. Some would consider that extraordinary, given Silicon Valley 's tough times and the maturity of the semiconductor industry.
As Berkeley students, Sutardja and his brother Pantas (B.S.'83, M.S.'85, Ph.D.'88 EECS) studied hard. Sehat worked under former EECS professor and now executive vice chancellor and provost Paul Gray, an expert in analog integrated circuit design. "By being close to the top professors, it pushed all of us to work harder," says Sehat. "We had to come up with results that were better than the other guys."
After graduation, the two brothers and Sehat's wife Weili Dai (B.A.'84 CS) went to work in the industry. Sutardja concentrated on analog signal processing; seven years later both he and his brother were focusing on digital, although at separate companies. After a few years, they realized it wasn't just a black-and-white choice between analog or digital. "You need both to solve future problems of communications," says Sutardja. The two decided to combine analog and digital into a single company, drawing on the combination of their expertise.
In 1995, the three partners formed Marvell. The early years were hard, says Sutardja. They worked all the time, nights and weekends, struggling to perfect their product. They didn't pay themselves salaries and lived on the cheap. They hardly saw their families. Even when their first product came out, they struggled to convince customers to buy it.
"We were too small, way too risky," recalls Sutardja. "That really got to us. It was just luck getting our customers, but we were able to build the products that our competitors couldn't. After three or four years, we got one customer. The next year, another."
The three entrepreneurs made it. Two summers ago, Dai and the Sutardjas were recognized for their collective passion for innovation, technology leadership, and business success with Ernst & Young's coveted Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
With all his success and experience, Sutardja has some advice for students. "Learn as much as possible, in software, biology, advanced physics, all the fields. It's not sufficient to know a single field of knowledge. A lot of people stop learning when they want to become a businessperson. That's the biggest mistake they can make."
Weili Dai (B.S. ’84 CS): Moving Forward Faster
Marvelous Marvell: EECS alumni create NASDAQ-100 wonder company
Marvell Technology Group
Webcast of Marvell visit to UC Berkeley
College of Engineering Notable Alumni
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