Technology titans see innovation as key to success

Updated: 2012-02-29 06:29

By Qidong Zhang (

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SAN FRANCISCO - The spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship was high in Kellogg Auditorium, Silicon Valley Bank in Silicon Valley on Feb 23, when two IT moguls - Ken Xie, founder and CEO of Fortinet, and David Cheriton, professor of computer science and electrical engineering at Stanford University who is also a famous IT investor - shared their thoughts and experiences with more than 100 people.

The event was co-hosted by HYSTA (Hua Yuan Science and Technology Association) Founder's Club and Churchill Club, two of the most influential non-profit organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area, that aim to promote technology innovation.

"Innovation is to build and create, and to share with others of your value," said Xie. As founder, president and CEO of NetScreen Technologies, which was acquired by Juniper Networks in 2004, he led the company to develop the industry's first application-specific integrated circuit-accelerated firewall/virtual private network appliances. Xie is also legendarily known by founding Fortinet after recognizing that firewalls and virtual private servers alone could not stop content and application network attacks such as viruses, intrusions, spam and malicious web content. Fortinet completed its IPO in 2009.

"Innovation of entrepreneurship is also about how to build technology into product, how to sell to the market, how to innovate together with your team, how to create a culture of your own company, and become a leader of your industry," said Xie.

For Cheriton, success came a lot easier than his father who started his engineering company with his own capital, paid his staff and himself, and grew his business in the most conventional way.

"Technology innovation and information systems today made everything easier for my generation," said Cheriton, who co-founded Granite Systems, a company developing gigabit Ethernet products, acquired by Cisco Systems in 1996. In 2001, he co-founded Kealia, which was acquired by Sun Microsystems in 2004. Cheriton is, however, well-known for being one of the very first investors to fund Sergey Brin and Larry Page’s new company Google in 1998.

Sam Liang, co-founder, CEO and CTO of Alohar Mobile, is a beneficiary of investments from both Xie and Cheriton.

"We are lucky to have received great investment from Ken, David and other world-renowned industry leaders, who love our vision to build a new disruptive mobile technology." said Liang. He predicts a bright future for the mobile app industry and is thankful to have channels open from top venture capital investors.

"Innovation to me is to do new things in a new way," said Cheriton. "Entrepreneurship means bringing value to the society, utilizing your value and skills to contribute to the society, and the society rewards you back for your valuable skills."

And the society rewards indeed.

As a BS graduate of Tsinghua University and a MS graduate of Stanford University, Xie was named Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum and Time Magazine in 2006. He was also named one of the top 25 Chinese-Americans in Business by Forbes in 2010. Xie is currently serving as chairman of Hua Yuan Science and Technology Association.

A BS graduate of University of British Columbia and MS and PhD graduate from the University of Waterloo, Cheriton was ranked by Forbes as the 19th wealthiest Canadian and was presented with the SIGCOMM Lifetime Achievement award by the Association for Computing Machinery for "his contributions in data networking and systems, and for his keen talent for questioning the assumptions".

Both of the two self-made billionaires predict that the world will become more associated with technology, especially Internet technology.

"Internet technology makes our world smaller, sales more global," Xie said.