I am a technology entrepreneur, these days back based in San Francisco, focused on Diamond Foundry.
Before leading Silicon Valley down the greentech path starting in 2002, I was a successful Internet entrepreneur. In the late 90s, I created a rapid series of three Internet software companies, each of which became the leader in their respective industry and achiever of a “unicorn” type valuation. While the businesses don’t exist any longer as a stand-alone entity, I am proud that the products we created proved durable — they are well and alive and still growing today, 15 years later, in almost identical form.
I grew up in Munich, Bavaria and came to Silicon Valley to receive a PhD in computer science from Stanford University — during possibly the luckiest year of 1992 where in hindsight I was “Google employee #-3”.
After the dotcom bust, I felt that there’s big industries that could be transformed through a Silicon Valley type tech approach. Like making solar power ten times less expensive. In 2002, I started Nanosolar and led it for eight years until 2010 — as one of the longest serving CEOs in the solar industry. Nanosolar became Silicon Valley’s solar flagship co, developing an ultra-low-cost solar cell and building two substantive high-tech fabs. I ran Nanosolar from zero to $2.1B in market value. But three years after I was forced out, it went bust, leaving more than half a billion of investor capital in the sand. At least we managed to never get close to being forced into Congressional testimony.
In 2010, I adopted an embrace-don’t-compete attitude towards China and moved to Shanghai. I worked on creating a greentech park and a battery company in China with the support of local investors and the highest levels of government and gained some first-hand insight into how things work entrepreneurially on the ground over there.
I keep trying to figure out the “high-beta tech economy” — an activity that tends to be as humbling as refreshing. I also find that stories we read and tell, in particular journalistic reporting, tend to succumb to “narrative fallacy“.
I generally stay away from the tech conference cocktail circuit where CEOs socialize with each other. I primarily prefer getting a business swinging a bit better each day and spending time with buyers and partners. Still through this blog, I am looking forward to occasionally share some perspective on things I find worth noting.