“You Can’t Run A Company Based on Hearsay”: A Rare Interview with Marvell’s Hands-On CEO, Sehat Sutardja

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out of the next billion people we will have 1,000 Einsteins. And if we have 1,000 Einsteins we maybe able to solve the energy problem, the disease problem, and all the problems that the rich people have created.

X: So with the Moby initiative, are you saying that you want Marvell processors to be inside those sub-$100 machines?

SS: We’re not just talking about the processors alone. Networking technology is getting to a very high maturity, so we have high data rates over local area networks, whether you’re talking about Wi-Fi or 3G or 4G, with LTE. Processors, local area networking, wide area networking, communications, storage—all of these functions can be put into a single device and provided to billions of people for less than $100. Everything you need can be put into one or two chips. And that’s not the end of it—Moore’s Law is not dead yet. All of these things will get smaller and more functions can be put into the same size chips. So the rich will have more functions, and the poor will have pretty good functions.

This technology is not a luxury item. Actually, the challenge will be for the rich countries to understand. In the rich countries, people are well off to begin with, and they don’t understand that as the next billions of people get access to knowledge and technology and people in the rich countries are ignoring the technology, we will be at a disadvantage, despite having money. This $100 PC can enable the poorest people in the world to be educated while people over here with $1,000 PCs aren’t getting educated. But it’s going to happen—there’s nothing to stop it. We should not want to stop it, either. We want to enable everybody on the planet to have a better life.

X: How do you plan to take a $3 billion company and grow it into a $6 billion or a $10 billion company? Do you think you’ll need to change anything fundamental about how Marvell runs?

SS: Chips are becoming more complicated. They are useless without software. As the company grows, we have to be able to resolve some of these challenges, so that things will work more seamlessly, and our customers can spend less time making the products work. That is the problem everybody has. But at the end of the day, the way to get from $3 billion to $6 billion is just to sell two or three times as many chips. It’s as simple as that.

There are many markets where we’re not playing yet. We don’t ship to many parts of the world, as a practical matter. So it’s also a matter of us building a presence in those regions, whether it’s South America or Africa or Eastern Europe. We have very little presence in India. Yet the technology doesn’t know boundaries. People in India want the same things we want. That’s easy to say, but not so easy to execute, because you need people on support teams, application teams, field engineering teams, sales teams. So those are things we need to build all the time.

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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