If you are a regular reader of this blog you will realized that at the age of 68, I am beginning to be concerned about legacy issues. It was been concerning to me that I have no Wikipedia entry about me because Wikipedia will have a long self live (certainly longer than I will have). So I asked a friend who is also a write to submit an entry for me on Wikipedia. We worked on a draft which he actually toned down. My first draft was actually in my opinion the most interesting because it was written more like a story then an encyclopedia. I wanted the entry to focus on what I think are my three major achievements, playing a principle role in laying the foundation for today’s consumer internet, founding Intel Capital which became the most successful Corp. Venture group and one of the must successful venture activities in the world and having accomplished this an more without ever having gone to University.
The first submission was rejected. See above. My friend took out all the “peacock terms? The second pass was accepted. I liked my draft more so I thought I would share it with you my friends, family and readers.
Avram Miller (born 27 January 1945) is an American businessperson, venture capitalist, scientist and technologist. He is best known for his work at Intel Corporation (1984-1999), where he served as Vice President, Business Development. Together with Leslie Vadász, he co-founded Intel Capital. Miller led Intel’s successful initiative to create residential broadband Internet access.
Miller’s leadership in developing both the technology and business infrastructure for residential broadband laid one of the most important foundations for the construction of the modern Internet. In a 1996 profile, USA Todaycalled Miller “A one-man think tank.” In the same article, Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast, gave Miller “much of the credit” for the development of the cable modem. While at Intel, Miller managed a multi-billion dollar portfolio that included early investments in many seminal Internet technology companies, including Broadcast.com, CNET, Covad and Verisign.
After leaving Intel in 1999, he founded The Avram Miller Company, which focuses on providing strategic advice to technology companies throughout the world. Miller has served as a senior advisor to Lazard, and has sat on the boards of many public and private Internet companies, including CMGI, World Online and PCCW.
Over the years, Miller has also served on the boards of entertainment companies such as Maxis and King World Productions. Recognized as a leader in venture capital, Miller occupied the number eight position in the 2003 Forbes Midas List of top venture investors.
Miller has long been active in non-profit work. He was the founding chair of Plugged In, a computer literacy program for underserved urban youth (1992-1999), a senior advisor to Equal Access (1999-2012) and a trustee of the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) 1998-2002.
Early Life and Education
Avram Miller is a fourth-generation San Franciscan born into a middle class Jewish family on 27 January 1945. After graduating from Drew School, a private high school in San Francisco, in 1963, Miller joined the United States Merchant Marine as a steward. He sailed on the luxury liner President Cleveland between San Francisco, Hawaii, Japan, Hong Kong and Manila during much of 1963. Upon his return to San Francisco, Miller got involved in the civil rights movement and the anti-Vietnam war movement. In 1966, he worked in a government-sponsored tutorial program to help economicly disadvantaged youth in East Palo Alto, CA, prepare for university education.
Miller did not attend university and does not have a college degree. Primarily self-educated after high school, Miller began working with computers in 1966, and by the time he turned 30, had held academic appointments at two universities.
Miller began studying music composition at age 15. He continues to pursue his commitment to music, including composing and playing jazz piano.
Langley Porter (1966-1969)
Toward the end of 1966, Miller began work at the Langley Porter Institute, University of California San Francisco Medical School, under the direction of Joseph Kamiya, PhD. Kamiya was a pioneer in the study of biofeedback and the first scientist to demonstrate that human beings could learn to control their brainwaves (EEG) using biofeedback. Miller employed his lifelong interest in electronics in developing much of the equipment that was used in this research. This work gave Miller the opportunity to learn all aspects of electronic design, from microvolt amplifiers to special purpose digital computers.
About a year after Miller joined Kamiya, Langley Porter got its first computer, a PDP-7 from Digital Equipment Corp. Though he lacked any prior computer experience, Miller quickly became an expert programmer. During his time with Kamiya, Miller learned scientific methods, statistics and advanced mathematics. By 1969, at the age of 24, Miller proved expert in all aspects of real-time physiological signal processing.
In early 1969, Miller was recruited by world-renowned cardiologist Paul Hugenholtz. Hugenholtz had decided to return to his native Netherlands, from Boston, to start a new cardiovascular institute at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, called The Thoraxcenter. While in Boston, Hugenholtz had collaborated with computer scientists at MIT and sought to deeply integrate computing technology in both patient care and research at The Thoraxcenter. Miller was given an appointment to the academic staff at Erasmus University and he began to build the computer department. Early in his time at The Thoraxcenter, Miller transitioned from an individual contributor to a manager.During his five years at The Thoraxcenter, Miller and his team developed one of the world’s first on-line Intensive Care monitoring systems, catheterization laboratory systems, and the first system to manage echocardiograms. Miller also co-authored many academic papers for both medical and computer publications.
Moving with his family to Israel in 1974, Miller joined medical technology manufacturer Mennen-Greatbatch (now Mennen Medical) as founder and director of their computer division. Responsible for product development, sales, marketing and finance, Miller commercialized some of his work at Thoraxcenter and gained substantial business experience. He also was named Adjunct Associate Professor at Tel Aviv University School of Medicine, working in the department of Cardiology under Professor Henry Neufeld.
Digital Equipment Corporation (1979-1983)
Returning to the United States in 1979, Miller joined the Central Engineering Department of Digital Equipment Corporation, then the world’s second largest computer company. Miller managed the group responsible for hardware development and support of all low-end computers.
A year later, Ken Olsen, Digital’s founder and CEO, tapped Miller to head new group dedicated to developing the company’s entry into the personal computer market. The products developed by the group were known as the Professional Series and were very technologically advanced for the time. The Professional 350, introduced at the 1982 National Computer Conference in Houston, TX, ran a multiprocessing operating system, used a 5 megabyte Winchester drive, ran a fully bitmapped display and had built-in Ethernet capability.Unfortunately for Digital, IBM introduced its first personal computer in August 1981. The combination of IBM’s low price and open standards–which allowed for companies, like Compaq, to build compatible “clones”–totally changed the dynamics of the computer industry. At about the same time, Olsen decided to have Digital bring out two other personal computers, which were neither compatible with the Professional nor each other.
When asked to pick just one to bring to the market, Olsen declined. “Let the customers choose,” he said. ”And they did,” said Miller, discussing this decision in the book The Ultimate Entrepreneur, “they chose IBM.”A documentary, primarily focusing on Miller’s work, was commissioned by Digital to celebrate its twenty-fifth anniversary, but never released. A copy of this film is in the collection of the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA.
Franklin Computer (1983-1984)
In 1983, Miller realized the computer world was about to transition from large, vertically integrated companies like Digital to horizontal companies that focused on just one aspect of the business, such as software (Microsoft), disks and drives (Seagate), microprocessors (Intel), systems (Compaq) or sales (ComputerLand). Given this change, Digital was not on track to create a major position in the personal computer market.
Miller was offered the position of Chief Operating Officer at Franklin Computer Corporation (now Franklin Electronic Publishers, Inc.), an early-stage Apple II clone manufacturer. Miller was later named President. Franklin was growing very quickly. Under Miller, Franklin reached $80 million in sales, but the company was locked in a legal battle with Apple that prevented it from getting adequate financing. Miller left Franklin in April 1984.
Intel (1984-1999) and the birth of Intel Capital
A few months after leaving Franklin, Avram Miller was contacted by Intel Corporation. Intel, at that time, was a leading maker of memory chips, but, because of market pressure from Japanese manufacturers, was rapidly shifting its focus to microprocessors. Miller was recruited by Leslie Vadász, a day-one employee at Intel who had lead the company’s efforts to develop its first microprocessor. Miller joined Intel in August 1984, initially working with “The System Group,” a division that developed computer systems
After creating a joint venture between Intel and Siemens Miller, focused on mergers, joint ventures, strategic partnerships and minority investments. Miller’s primary interest in such investments was network technology, which he saw as the prime driver of future personal computer growth. Intel’s strong internal culture limited the benefit of some early acquisitions. By 1988, Miller realized minority investments in early stage companies could provide Intel with strategic insight, ways to grow the overall market and a financial return. Miller put together a small group and began to make such early stage investments. At this point, Miller was given the title Vice President, Business Development, and later was elected Corporate Vice President by the Intel board.
After a number of Miller’s investments proved successful, Andy Grove, Intel’s CEO, okayed a recommendation from Vadász to accelerate venture investment activity. Vadász joined Miller in creating the Corporative Business Developmentgroup (CBD), which later was renamed Intel Capital. As Miller predicted, Intel’s minority investments not only provided strategic benefits, but began to provide substantial financial rewards, as well. Intel Capital grew to become the most successful corporative venture group in the technology sector. It was listed as the top Venture Capitalist in 2012 by Pricor.
While Vadász expanded the group to include investments in enterprise software, semiconductor manufacturing, health and education, Miller focused on the consumer side of the business and, in particular, in the rapid growth of the Internet. Miller’s group was an early investor in companies like Mark Cuban’s Broadcast.com, internet infrastructure and security services giant Verisign, communications semiconductor maker Broadcom, interactive publications innovator Launch Media, the web-hosting service Geocities, the tech media site CNET and broadband network provider Covad (now part of MegaPath Corporation). Miller’s group also invested in CMGI (now ModusLink Global Solutions, Inc.) and PCCW. By the time Miller left in April 1999, the investments he managed were worth many billions of dollars.
Development of Residential Broadband
In 1992, Miller was asked by Andy Grove to be the Intel point person working with Microsoft to develop a number of consumer initiatives. Miller’s counterparts at Microsoft were Rob Glaser (who later founded RealNetworks), and then Craig Mundie (who later became Microsoft’s chief research and strategy officer) as well as Nathan Myhrvold who was the CTO at that time. Intel and Microsoft set up teams to work on a number of projects. Miller was part of the Intel executive team, attending quarterly meetings with Bill Gates, then chief executive at Microsoft, and many of his top managers.
One of the joint projects was the development of an interactive set-top box for the cable television industry. This project also involved General Instrument (GI), then headed by Donald Rumsfeld. General Instrument owned Jerrold, the largest supplier of set-tops at the time. Working with Intel and Microsoft was GI CTO Matt Miller (no relation).
On this project, Avram Miller learned about the cable industry and its infrastructure. By the end of 1992, Miller determined that it would not be possible to build an interactive set-top box at a price point acceptable to the cable industry. Together with Matt Miller, Avram Miller realized much of the technology that was being developed for digital TV could be used to create high-speed residential broadband for Internet connection. GI and Intel then began to develop both cable modems and the head-end equipment used as a gateway to the Internet. General Instrument and Intel kept this project secret from Microsoft.
It was at this point that Avram Miller came to believe consumers would need the same high-speed Internet access that were available for business applications. “It was clear to me,” wrote Miller, “that combining high-speed communications with powerful home computers would lead to the creating of a new medium for information, education, entertainment and commerce.”
In addition to funding the Intel Labs to develop the core architecture to be used in cable internet broadband, Miller met with all the CEOs of the major US cable companies (including John Malone of TCI and Brian Roberts of Comcast) to convince them that cable could be become more than just distributors of television programming. Cable companies, Miller believed, could become communications companies. Miller traveled to Japan, Korea, the United Kingdom, France and Germany with the same message. He organized the first major trials of cable modems with Comcast and Viacom (which then owned a cable business). In 1993, Intel demonstrated working cable modems at The Western Cable Show in Anaheim, CA, one of the cable industry’s major conferences.
Miller also knew that applications would be key. He was able to get such companies as America Online (AOL), Prodigy and Intuit to participate in the broadband trials. Intel then provided the key specification to CableLabs (the research arm of the cable industry), which became the DOCSIS (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification) standard.
Miller and his CBD team invested extensively in companies that would benefit from the development of high-speed residential broadband, from components to consumer applications. Intel licensed modem manufactures (such as Cisco, Hewlett-Packard and AT&T), and worked with component suppliers like Broadcom (in which Intel also had an investment).
Recognizing that the cable industry did not have the technical capabilities to manage an internet business, Miller conceived of a company that would provide these services, and convinced the venture group Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers (KPCB, also known as Kleiner Perkins) to work with the cable industry to create the company @Home Network. Intel would also invest in this high-speed cable Internet service provider.
In addition to the development of broadband cable, Miller drove Intel’s activities to create high-speed DSL (digital subscriber line) Internet access, working extensively with telephone companies throughout the world.
Miller has been a consistent promoter of the connected PC as the interactive device for the home, speaking before cable industry conferences, the National Association of Broadcasters and computer industry events. In 1996, Miller worked with Creative Artists Agency (CAA) to established a demo lab to educate Hollywood talent on the potential of the Internet for the entertainment industry. He attended the Allen & Co Sun Valley Conference from 1993-2000. There he had an opportunity to interacted with the leaders of the entertainment industry.
The result of Miller’s work can be seen in the penetration of residential broadband. For instance, over 80 percent of US homes had broadband Internet access in 2012.
The Avram Miller Company
Miller left Intel in April 1999 to start The Avram Miller Company, a strategy and business development group providing services to Internet companies internationally.n addition, Miller served on the boards of many public (CMGI, World Online and PCCW) and private companies (Heavy.com), and was a senior advisor to Lazard Frères & Co (now the Lazard Group LLC). Miller also invested in early stage companies for his own account. In 2003, Miller was ranked number eight on the Forbes Midas List of the top 100 tech investors. Miller, now in partial retirement, continues to work with a small number of early-stage technology companies as well as serving as Chair of the Breakwater Fund.
Miller and his second wife live in Sonoma, CA and West Hollywood, CA. He has three grown children from his first marriage, and four grandsons. He continues to study jazz piano, music composition and still pursues his interest in computer technology, and medical science.
Miller maintains the personal blog Two Thirds Done (www.twothirdsdone.com). He has written that one of his greatest contributions to the future of technology is to document its past. This includes documenting the history of broadband.