Mr. Jay Sethuram
Co-founder of Elucido Media Networks and Partner of Crestlight Venture Productions.
Jay Sethuram is a self-made technocrat, fired by the vision of a technologically advanced and prosperous society. After graduating from the Madras Institute of Technology in Electronics Engineering in 1973, he worked at Bharat Electronics in Bangalore in the field of semiconductor quality assurance. Financed by a private loan, he went to the United States in 1977 to do his Master's in electrical engineering, specializing in computer architecture, at the Washington State University.
Jay Sethuram started his professional career in the United States at Bell Laboratories, which has spawned many inventions such as the transistor, which have revolutionized technological progress, leading to the age of information technology. Jay Sethuram worked on the design and development of the world's first 32-bit microprocessor. Later, he worked on the architecture for the front-end processors for CAT scanners and MRI equipment, which have become vital life-saving tools for medical diagnosis. He found the atmosphere in Bell Laboratories exhilarating. A lot of pioneering work was being done. The question persistently asked was how much better things could be done. This quest for innovation was infectious. In fact, this was where the future was being created.
Even in those days at Bell Labs, people were communicating by E-mail internally. Jay Sethuram says: "I knew that this technology was bound to develop and sweep the world, though at that time it was not clear how this could be brought about. Nevertheless, many things happening at that time were leading to the dawn of the Internet age."
With the growing importance of the Silicon Valley in the IT industry, Jay Sethuram moved to California in 1983. He joined National Semiconductors, and was engaged in the design of digital signal processors. These have revolutionized the way systems are built by incorporating digital technology instead of the traditional analog technology. Use of digital signal processors has enhanced the utility of PCs and made them affordable for millions of people worldwide. The applications of PCs have greatly expanded to cover devices such as modems, scanners, audio/video input/output devices, etc.
In response to this trend, Jay Sethuram shifted his focus to graphics and multimedia applications of personal computers. He joined NEC America in 1989, to carry on with research and development work in this field. He says: "I was fascinated by the emerging trends in multimedia communication, in which rapid strides were being made. I knew that this presented enormous technological challenges in terms of data processing speed. The limitations of speed and cost could be overcome by developing suitable microprocessors. This drew me more and more into chip design, which would have such great implications for networking. Much of the equipment then in use was bulky and expensive. When I developed designs that would greatly reduce size and complexity, and thereby save costs while enhancing performance, there were skeptics of course. But the results were there for all to see."
Seeking greener pastures, Jay Sethuram moved to Intel to work on high-speed networking. His work brought him a patent for inventing a new system for transferring data between a network and hosts coupled to the network.
The realization that dynamic new organizations are quick to exploit the full potential of new ideas led Jay Sethuram to ponder leaving a secure and well-paid job in a world-renowned organization to pursue these on his own. He took the plunge in 1994. With virtually no capital, he, along with two friends, Raj Singh and Sudhi Balakrishna, founded a partnership firm, Advancel, to develop designs for high-speed (2.5 Gbps) physical layer chips, and license the technology to semiconductor companies. The success of this venture attracted much attention among venture capitalists in the Silicon Valley. Encouraged by this, Jay founded Fiberlane Communications, based on the technology developed at Advancel. He secured funding from Kleiner, Perkins, Caulfield & Byers, the premier venture capital firm with which Vinod Khosla was associated.
Devoted to the design and development of equipment for fiber-optic communication, Fiberlane soon made a mark in this highly specialized field. With three locations in the United States and Canada, the firm rapidly grew in staff strength. Orders started piling up at the rate of a million dollars per day. For logistic reasons the company was split into two entities--Cerent and Siara. CISCO, the major customer for the company's products, soon realized that the technology spearheaded by Jay Sethuram was vital for enhancing its own role in providing state-of-the-art networking equipment. CISCO made the irresistible offer of 7 billion dollars for acquiring Cerent, while Siara was acquired by Redback Systems for 5 billion dollars. Employees with stock options became millionaires overnight, quite a few many times over, something they had never dreamt of.
In 1998, Jay Sethuram started StratumOne Communications for creating advanced chip designs for enhancing fiber-optic communication through the SONET, acronym for Synchronous Optical Network. With this, all signals can be multiplexed, or bunched together for transmission, and then selectively demultiplexed to various destinations at various points, analogous to a highway system. SONET technology is now regarded as the basis of the worldwide telecommunications and data network.
With a solid reputation behind him, Jay Sethuram and his partners had a relatively easy time attracting funding from the venture capital firms, Sequoia and IVP. In fact, the offers for funding added up to much more than what could be absorbed. Even as the world's first 10 Gbps chip for use in networking equipment was being developed at StratumOne, and an arrangement with IBM had been worked out to produce the chip, CISCO offered to buy out the company for $500M. This was remarkable, considering that the only assets StratumOne could offer at that stage were just brains and know-how, the prototype being not yet ready. Jay Sethuram sees a big future for optical networking. After all, the need for providing the maximum bandwidth for global multimedia communication on the Internet is growing exponentially. He continues to focus on this area and develop technology for optical switching and wavelength aggregation in the near future. According to him, optical networking will surely change the Internet landscape the world over. He is on the technology advisory boards of several companies in Silicon Valley. Some of them have offshore facilities in India. He is also involved in angel funding of startup companies.
He recently co-founded a company called Elucido Media Networks, headquartered in Bangalore, which is spawning new technologies for education having a profound impact on the evolution of the digital technology in education. Currently, Jay is a partner is a seed venture fund called Crestlight Venture Productions providing seed funding to startup companies. His passion for technology and his sense for spotting the trends in the technology puts him in a ideal position to locate and fund companies at a very early stage and take an active role in these companies to significantly increase the chance of success.
With the exciting thrust being made into the frontiers of technology here and the San Francisco bay area, the picturesque surroundings of his home provide the ideal setting for Jay Sethuram to ruminate on how to make the future happen in the high technology arena.