Wiretap: Bob Metcalfe’s back in Silicon Valley, and he’s brought friends

Bob Metcalfe holds a special place in Silicon Valley lore. While working at the legendary Xerox PARC in the 1970s, he invented Ethernet, which helped make computer networking possible.  Metcalfe later launched networking giant 3Com.

These days, Metcalfe sports the lofty title “Professor of Innovation” at the University of Texas engineering school. He spends his days encouraging students who want to launch their own startups, while urging faculty members to do the same. “My general mission,” he told me, “is to help Austin become a better Silicon Valley.”

But he’s never really left the valley behind; for one thing, his kids work at Apple and Facebook. And on Thursday, Metcalfe will lead a delegation of fellow faculty who’ll showcase their fledgling companies to venture capitalists and U.T. alumni. At the invite-only event in Menlo Park, nine startups will pitch for nine minutes each; they range from a maker of wireless 3D cameras to a company that claims to boost smartphone speeds

Metcalfe’s too savvy to expect folks to rush the stage with checkbooks. “But,” he told me, “perhaps some relationships will get started that eventually may lead to investments.”

More than anything, Metcalfe would like U.T. professors to get a sense of what life is like in the valley, where their peers at Stanford seem to be focused on building companies as much as teaching students. You’d think Longhorn faculty would have a pretty good sense of that anyway, seeing as how practically the whole valley decamps to Austin each year for SXSW.

Metcalfe, in fact, will be among the celebrity emcees at the tech festival’s startup demo day next month. With so many startups invading town, he said, “There’s all sorts of pitch contests. I can’t do them all.”


Metcalfe photo courtesy of Cockrell School of Engineering, University of Texas at Austin


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