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April - 2000 - issue > Cover Feature
Kumar Malavalli
Friday, November 21, 2008

Age 56
Place of Birth Mysore (India)

Residence Los Altos Hills, California

Family Wife Vijaya, daughter Ranjini

Came to the U.S. 1995

Education BSc, B.E. Univ. of Mysore; higher education in electronics in Germany; asso. Of professional engineer of ontario

First job and career AEG, Bangalore.

Company started 1995

Year did an IPO -

Year became millionaire 1999

Favorite charity Health

Lifetime goals - give back to society

Net worth - About $200 million

Philosophy of life - do the right thing, good results will come automatically

Most inspired by - father

Most excited by - - technology (I wish I could live another 50 years)

Most expensive thing ever bought - House in Los Altos Hills

In 1971, Kumar Malavalli left his native Mysore for West Germany where he enrolled at the National Institute of Engineering in Dusseldorf. He spent three years studying industrial electronics and earned the equivalent of a Masters degree. He also worked briefly in Germany before moving to Toronto in 1974.

For about two decades, Malavalli worked for large corporations. He started at ITT and moved on to Canstar, a subsidiary of France’s Alcatel, and Hewlett-Packard and gained high proficiency in the emerging area of fibre channel storage, a technology that links computers and storage devices, and enables secure storage of data.

His job changes were mainly inspired by the need for career growth. On another front, Malavalli was also pursuing entrepreneurial opportunities, often knocking on the doors of Canadian financiers, but to no avail. In his own words, he was “craving for finance,” but it just didn’t come. Fiber channel technology was ahead of its time, especially in Canada, Malavalli reasoned. At some time, he had even stopped trying when on a summer’s day in 1995, he heard from a Silicon Valley venture capitalist.

It was Seth Neiman of Crosspoint Ventures. He had heard of Malavalli’s pioneering work from an industry analyst, Ed Frymoyer. As valley denizens are wont to, he moved fast. Days later, Malavalli and Neiman met at the Gaylord restaurant in Stanford shopping center. At the end of the meeting, the venture capitalist told Malavalli, “Let’s start a company,” and offered $1.4 million in funding.

In August of 1998, Brocade Communications was launched. Since then the company has enjoyed amazing growth, showering Silicon Valley–style riches on Malavalli. It went public in May 1999, and its stock price has multiplied several times.

Brocade has a near-monopoly on the market. While its stock is trading at about 49 times earnings, its only competitor, Ancor, trades at about five times earnings. Such is the market faith in Brocade.

Malavalli is considered one of the originators of fiber channel technology and currently chairs the ANSI Fibre Channel Switch Committee and the Fibre Channel Association Technology Committee. He also holds a number of patents on fibre channel switches.

Although Brocade has been a huge success, Malavalli believes the fibre channel technology is still in its infancy and sees a great deal of work ahead.

Malavalli still has ties to his native Mysore. One brother is a doctor in upstate New York, and another is an engineer who also runs an entrepreneurial program in Mysore. Malavalli’s parents also live in Mysore, where his father was a secretary to the Mysore governor.

Bala Murali Krishna

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