Samueli Shares Success Story

Dr. Henry Samueli, Broadcom co-founder and chief technology officer gave his annual discourse, “The Story of Broadcom ¾ How a UCLA Professor Became a Successful Entrepreneur” on Thursday, March 6 in the McDonnell Douglas Engineering Auditorium as part of the Winter Entrepreneurship Seminar Series hosted by the department of engineering. As an alumnus and former professor of electrical engineering at UCLA, Dr. Samueli continues to vocally and financially support the engineering sciences of UCLA and, more visibly, of UCI.

Broadcom, which is headquartered in Irvine, has designed and developed semiconductors for the electronics communication industry since 1991. It was a point of pride for the co-founder to state that nearly “99.98 percent of all internet traffic crosses at least one Broadcom chip.”

To introduce the background of telecommunications, Dr. Samueli stated the fact that “there are more connected devices today than people,” with over 7 billion connected devices today. Yet, Dr. Samueli maintained that none of this technology would have developed without the invention of the semiconductor, which he believes has created “more impact on society, than any other invention in the past 100 years.”

A semiconductor is the core material of all electronic circuits, presently composed of silicon (hence the Bay area nickname, Silicon Valley), which works simultaneously as a conductor and insulator of electricity. Their function was critical to the invention of transistors in the 1950s, which expedited the relay of information through electronic waves and current. Without these advancements, the modern computer would have never come into existence.

Accompanied by friendly graphs and slideshow animations, Dr. Samueli explained the incredible pace of semiconductor advancements, which are patterned on processor chips with increasing efficiency and parvitude.

“I don’t know if there is any industry in the world, at any time, of any kind, that has seen a factor of a million improvement, ever, or even in a 40 year window.”

Yet he did not believe the exponential growth could sustain itself for much longer.

“The bottom line is Moore’s law is slowing down, and coming to an end,” he stated. “My estimate is in the next 10 to 15 years.”

He continued to explain limitations and inventions in the ’80s and ’90s and at one point elicited laughter from the audience, when his slideshow interjected with the tinny beeps and ringing of the notoriously slow internet modem dial-up connection process.

“When people saw that brick wall of limitations, that’s kind of when Broadcom entered the market,”  Dr. Samueli said.

In regards to his own success as an entrepreneur, Dr. Samueli bluntly thanked his lucky timing of market entry. “A key message for entrepreneurship: Timing is everything,” he stated. “Hitting the market at the right point of time; if Broadcom arrived ten years earlier, no way we would’ve been successful, even five years later we never would’ve been successful either.” Fortunately, his expertise in electrical engineering became extremely relevant, as demand rose for high-speed broadband connections.

In the final part of the presentation, Dr. Samueli spoke to the future of engineering, stating his belief that sensor technology integrated with communications will take priority. Going further, he remarked that he would not repeat what he did in college if he were to attend again.

“I probably wouldn’t be just a pure electrical engineer ¾ I would apply it to things like bio-engineering and nano-engineering.”

Dr. Samueli also showed great intrigue with “the application of electrical engineering with sensors, especially in the medical field.” He reasserted his confidence in the growth of sensor technology, and stated “this is really where the next 20 plus years of innovation are going to come from.” Quickly citing numerous exciting developments such as heart-monitoring t-shirts, self-driving cars and the paramount importance of security technology, Dr. Samueli ended his speech and opened the floor to questions.

Amongst the serious technology and business motivated inquiries, Dr. Samueli discussed the difficulties and intricacies of modern intellectual property laws and having a company run primarily by engineers.

After the slew of professional questions, one student donning an Anaheim Ducks jersey asked, “why did you get involved with hockey?” The question brought a slight smile to the distinguished adjunct UCI professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences.

“It wasn’t any plan that we had … since I was a kid, did I plan having a hockey team? No,” he responded, giving way to laughs in the crowd.  “But now I love it, a fantastic sport, brilliant. I enjoy being involved in it.”