About the Innovator
Bob Metcalfe has enjoyed a career as a serial innovator. As a doctoral student in computer science, he took on the challenge of networking computers. At MIT, he built some of the hardware that would link MIT's minicomputers with ARPANET, the precursor to the Internet. A serendipitous reading of a scientific article about the ALOHA network at the University of Hawaii inspired his dissertation research. After he earned his PhD at Harvard in 1973, he joined Xerox PARC in Palo Alto, California, the innovation arm of the Xerox Corporation. Beginning in 1970, Xerox PARC had a ten-year run of unparalleled inventions. Most of the elements of today's personal computer were developed at Xerox PARC in the 1970s--the mouse, screens that opened and closed ("windows"), the graphical interface, and the first Ethernet network, developed by Metcalfe and David Boggs in 1973. Metcalfe left Xerox PARC in 1979 and founded 3Com to manufacture computer networking equipment. He left 3Com in 1990 and began a ten-year run as a publisher and pundit, writing an Internet column for InfoWorld. In 1997, he famously "ate his words" following his 1995 prediction that the Internet would suffer a catastrophic collapse the following year. He also incorrectly predicted that wireless networking would die out in the mid-1990s. After ten years as a venture capitalist with Polaris Ventures, in 2011 Metcalfe joined the faculty of the University of Texas at Austin as Professor of Innovation and Murchison Fellow of Free Enterprise. As Bob Metcalfe continues to innovate, he continues to reinvent himself.
Why He Innovates
In the early days of Silicon Valley, Bob Metcalfe developed Ethernet, which has become the standard for networking computers. This invention revolutionized the world by linking computers together to enable them to communicate with each other. After developing this standard, Metcalfe focused on a still bigger problem: how to make money from his invention. After solving that challenge, he reinvented himself three more times--as a writer and commentator, venture capitalist, and university professor.