I’m a Geordie, born and bred in Newcastle, who went to Cambridge University, then Bedford, Munich, and back to Cambridge, via the south of France. I was lucky – my parents understood the value of education, probably because they never had the chance themselves. And after Cambridge, there was no better place to start a career than Texas Instruments.
Thirty years in semiconductors
I draw on a career spanning Texas Instruments, VLSI Technology and later at CSR (Cambridge Silicon Radio), a journey that took me and my family to Munich, Sophia Antipolis, and then back to the UK to Ely, just north of Cambridge.
New business, new business models at VLSI Technology
The founding of Arm with Apple and Acorn Computing
By definition, developing a custom ASIC implies the creation of new markets and new businesses. Two of our biggest customers were Apple and Acorn Computers, and VLSI joined with them as a founder of Advanced RISC Machines, later to became Arm. We’d be out prospecting with Arm’s founders, explaining ASIC technology, and suggesting they integrate an embedded RISC processor: the Arm 7, or “Thumb”.
New standards, new markets at VLSI Technology: GSM and Bluetooth
The advent of digital communications brought new opportunities. We partnered with Symbionics, Orbitel and Wavecom to license IP, to develop new business and to learn new applications: I moved to Munich then Sophia Antipolis as a founder of the “Wireless Products Division”.
Our “TwoC” GSM chipset was adopted by Samsung in a Wavecom reference design as they launched into GSM – an enduring relationship that reaped a return of $bn’s for VLSI, then Philips, NXP and ST-Ericsson. Ericsson told us the ASIC named “Irma” was actually the first chip for a new standard: Bluetooth was named after King Harald – a Dane famed for uniting warring tribes.
Philips Semiconductors (NXP) $1bn acquisition of VLSI Technology
First cuts and bruises of the start-up world
Pembroke College, Cambridge
I consider myself very fortunate to have studied engineering at one of the University of Cambridge's oldest colleges, founded in 1347 by Marie de St Pol, Countess of Pembroke. Naturally we think its the best college – certainly it's where we had the best of times – and still got degrees despite.
Explosive growth: Bluetooth at Cambridge Silicon Radio
John Hodgson knew me from VLSI and phoned from their IPO roadshow “wanting to put some structure and sense” into his team of brilliantines. I joined three weeks later to run the Bluetooth business, and grew revenues 5-fold to $125m per quarter in just a couple of years.
CSR’s Bluetooth chips weren’t the first, but they were the best, breaking a paradigm with radio and baseband integrated in a single CMOS chip whilst others had only two-chip solutions.
I built a new 100-strong team in two years, laying the foundation for the transition to Business Units: my Wireless Audio BU is now the audio business of Qualcomm Technologies.
Everyone’s experience is unique – let me use mine to help your business grow!
Applying knowledge, experience and network as a consultant for growth
After CSR, I switched to business consultancy full-time – apart from a couple of roles along the way – and I’ve been commercialising technology and creating new business ever since.
Projects range from just a few weeks or months – on occasion lasting several years – and spanning strategy, business planning, mergers and acquisitions, marketing programmes and long-term business development.
I work with the smallest of start-ups to the largest of corporations: founders, entrepreneurs and investors, academia, listed companies and government agencies. Many are UK-based, but many others are international: Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Spain and United States (California).
My customers cover markets in semiconductors, IP and EDA, in MEMS, IoT, optics and mobile phones, as well as power electronics, transmission and grid, and renewable energy, in all its manifestations.
Away from work
I try to keep fit by playing football twice a week and running an old boys’ 5-a-side club, and then trying to repair the damage with yoga. My wife and I love walking the UK countryside, usually starting and finishing at a decent pub. I’m addicted to the OS Maps App – the only one I pay for – we’ve done over 300 different walks. The kids have grown and flown, and occasionally return; we love traveling to wherever they may go, or catching a family skiing holiday.
Sadly, I’m still an avid Newcastle United fan – to paraphrase an Oscar Wilde quote: “Supporting Newcastle United is the triumph of imagination over intelligence. Still supporting Newcastle after 51 years is the triumph of hope over experience!” [Substituting for “Marriage” and “Second marriage” wherever seemed appropriate!]