Bob Walker Joins Sierra Ventures
Author: Jo Ann McDonald, founding editor
November 14, 2007... Our good friend and longtime compound semi industry leader Robert C. (Bob)
Walker has made up his mind earlier than expected about what the next step in
his colorful and successful career would be. He has signed on as a principal
with one of the most prestigious international venture capital firms from Silicon
Valley's famed "Sand Hill Road" group, Sierra
Just about everyone in the compound semi industry knows Bob Walker. If you're
new to our industry, it's my pleasure to introduce him to you. If you're one
of the gang and know him well, sit back and enjoy my offbeat look back at some
of the aspects of Bob's colorful career because he and I go back to the heydays
when Emcore and Aixtron virtually established today's CS industry.
Moving from the present let's first take a look at Sierra and Bob's most recent
accomplishments. This particular VC firm has an excellent reputation. Bob got
to know them while serving as CEO of BridgeLux.
He headed the company for two years, restructuring it to now be regarded
as a recognized innovator in "power" LEDs in what is currently
the most exciting sector in the compound semi industry.
One of Bob's last great deeds at BridgeLux was to hand over the reins to none
other than Mark Swoboda,
formerly executive VP of Philips Lumileds Lighting.
Sierra Ventures is based in Menlo Park, California in the very heart and soul
of "Silicon Valley". The firm is located on Sand Hill Road, which
is way more than just a street address. "Sand Hill Road" is an information
technology industry legend. Silicon Valley was spawned and nurtured by Sand
Hill Road venture capitalists since the very beginnings of the phenomenon in
the 1960s. I know. I was there. My first "real" job at 21 years old
was as a receptionist at Varian Associates in 1961 when the actual Varian brothers
were still around. Varian was a stone's throw from Sand Hill Road, which is essentially
a nest of quiet, attractive offices located in the beautiful hills that literally
overlook Stanford University and the entire Valley, which now reaches from San
Francisco to Monterey on the western ocean side, and inland almost to the majestic
Sierra mountains, from which Sierra Ventures took its name. Sierra Ventures
has been around since 1982 and manages nine venture capital partnerships, which
together have more than $1.5 billion of committed capital.
Sierra's reputation is as an investor in what they term all areas of Information
Technology, the exception being biotechnology, medical device, or healthcare
companies. With the addition of Bob Walker, they're obviously branching beyond
software and internet companies. Bob will be working under one of Sierra's managing
Yu, and will be focusing his attention on new investments in the areas of
solid state lighting, cleantech, compound semiconductors, and semiconductor
components and devices. Sierra's investments are global in geography, but Bob
will particularly focus on his well-established relationships in North America
and Asia. One of the things I liked seeing when catching up on Sierra was the
term "cleantech." All one word and a word that says it so clearly.
How proud we all should be that the CS industry's advanced photovoltaics and
solid state lighting technologies are literally leading the way in the cleantech
Leadership. That's what it's always been about, and Bob Walker has naturally
assumed a leadership position in our CS industry since I first met him in the
mid 1990s at Emcore. When Bill Kroll, then executive VP of Emcore talked me
into hanging up my journalist credentials for a bit to step inside the industry
and serve as Director of Corporate Communications at Emcore, Bob Walker was
the head of marketing and communications and essentially became my boss.
He certainly wasn't bossy and ran the division as a true team effort. We never
had it so good... and neither did the then-fledgling CS industry. That was back
when Emcore was still primarily a MOCVD reactor manufacturer, competing head-on
with Aixtron. Looking back, I'm convinced that the competition between those
two incredible companies was the key ingredient in launching the compounds.
The move by so many into high volume manufacturing of CS epitaxial wafers and
components was the turning point. Prior to that, from the 70s through the early
1990s, the CS materials science and technology was the realm of high level defense
applications and R&D. Esoteric. Exotics. "The components of the
future and... always will be." While we'll probably never reach the
numbers silicon components have reached, we'll always hold the performance records and our
industry's contributions in the fields of solid state lighting and advanced
solar cells will go down in history as the epitome of cleantech. And
you simply wouldn't have today's optical communication, handheld devices and DVDs without us. The wave
of the future has overpowered everyone... and long may we wave.
Bob Walker is someone who had the vision back in the mid-1990s and he's continued
to help lead us ever since. He was one of the first to spot Shuji Nakamura's
contributions to blue spectrum LED world. (I've never seen anyone try so
hard to sell Shuji an Emcore reactor!) Bob was one of the pioneers in establishing
working ties for CS suppliers in Taiwan, and later, mainland China. He was one
of the first to recognize the power of the Internet and enlist it for communicating
with Emcore's customer and shareholder base. When Emcore went public, Bob was there to help
make a tremendous contribution towards weaving the corporate message
to the general public and especially the company's future international audience.
Along with Tom Miehe, Bob and the Emcore sales team headed the drive into Taiwan
with MOCVD reactors for the growth of blue spectrum (white) LEDs, vying with Aixtron
for every inch of the market. The now trite joke was that there were so many MOCVD
machines in Taiwan that the island was in danger of sinking!
Since the Emcore MOCVD-days, and prior to joining BridgeLux, Bob Walker made significant
contributions in the areas of Pacific Rim market analysis and venture funding.
From 2001 - 2004 he served as managing director-US of Vincera Ventures, a US$150M
venture capital fund based in Taiwan with several investments in the areas of
HB LEDs and compound semiconductors. A Ph.D. grad from Cal Tech and originally
from Wisconsin where he attended U of Wisconsin-Madison, Bob Walker endeared
himself especially closely to us here at CompoundSemi Online Inc. when
working in conjunction with Strategies Unlimited to produce the seminal work
that assessed the true impact of the HB-LED revolution, the Asia High Brightness
LED Report in 2003. He also served as co-chair of our CompoundSemi Blue
2004 and Blue 2005 Solid
State Lighting international industry conferences in Taiwan. Blue
2008, by the way, will be held May 7-8.
And on a personal note, Bob Walker and his wife, Ella Shum have contributed
to the industry in untold ways, starting with their days together at Emcore
through their many contributive projects under their joint consulting firm,
YEBY Associates. Ella and Bob have two lovely
children and continue to astound us with how representative they are, as a family,
of the future. They give us hope. So in my book, it's nothing but good news
that Bob Walker has joined Sierra Ventures. He'll be a welcome bridge for many
of you into the greater world of venture funding. Lucky us. Lucky Sierra Ventures.
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