“France has General DeGaulle and Spain has General Franco. But We have General Motors and General Electric”, so people would say when I first got US in sixties. Ge is splitting into three different companies after it was put through a wringer over last several years. General Motors was reorganized after a bankruptcy during early Obama years. I guess it is an end of era.

Also, the financial construct of Conglomerates has run its course. Nobody is smart enough to manage many companies with disparate businesses any more. Under legendary Jack Welch GE was a financial company masquerading as an industrial company that almost went under during the financial crisis of 2008. Financial side had covered all sorts of sins being committed by other groups. Jack was swimming naked but Jeff Immelt was exposed when the tide went out. Company never fully recovered and is finally paying the piper.

Incidentally, during dotcom era GE was valued at $600 billion, right up there with Microsoft and Cisco. GE’s valuation today is $117 billion and Cisco’s $239 Billion. Only Microsoft is riding high at $2.5 Trillion.

This is the classic photo of the traitorous eight who defected from Shockley Semiconductor and founded Fairchild Semiconductor in 1959. That was the start of what came to be known as Silicon Valley. Bob Noyce and Gordon Moore were later founders of Intel. Eugene Kleiner was the the founder of venerable VC firm by the name of Keiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers.

I arrived in the Santa Clara Valley in 1971. Intel, AMD, and National were the startups people were excited about. HP and IBM were the old established companies. I saw the the valley expand beyond its semiconductor roots when Apple was founded. Introduction of IBM in 1981 turbocharged the entrepreneurial activity. We formed Excelan in early 1982.

I was super lucky to be at the right place at the right time. It has been an incredible ride!

Adam Osborne was the entrepreneur who pioneered portable computer. He had a luggable CPM machine before anybody in 1981. It was selling like hot cakes, almost 10,000 units a month.

Adam bragged to the press about his new upcoming machine that would be out in few months which would be much better in every respect. His sales dropped to zero overnight, customers put off buying till the new machine was out.

Osborne went bankrupt with massive unsold inventory. New machine was not ready for shipment. This made room for Compaq to put out its DOS machine that looked almost like Osborne CPM machine.

Story goes that when the R&D team lead by Bob Noyce left Fairchild in 1966, it took them 5 days to raise capital to start Intel. The next team leaving in 1967, was the manufacturing team lead by Charlie Sporck. It took them 5 weeks to raise Capital to form National Semiconductor. The third team to leave was Sales and Marketing team lead by Jerry Sanders. It took them 5 months to get capital to start AMD.

All three companies were successful. Intel was engineering driven and excelled in Innovations. It invented DRAM, microprocessors, EPROM and Flash memory chips. National went to become most
efficient manufacturer of chips while AMD was the flashiest marketer.

Intel was forced to have a second source by market for its X86
chips. AMD was anointed. It was much later when AMD acquired NexGen that it had its own microprocessor technology.

For most part Intel went from strength to strength and its stock soared. AMD and National were always “also rans”. So this headline was like a bolt from the blue. Intel strayed from its true path and fell behind in technology. It missed the mobile wave, GPU wave as it lived high on the hog, from fat margins from its microprocessor monopoly.

Intel is trying to get back to its engineering roots. It has an engineer at helm now. IT is shedding its NIH (Not Invented Here syndrome) mindset and using third party technology. It is investing in technology rather than marketing.

Hopefully, Intel, like phoenix will rise again.