He is Singaporean and his love for engineering led him to study the subject, work in the industry and create his own engineering startup.
The 46-year-old is none other than Teo Swee Ann, CEO and President of Espressif Systems.
The self-made billionaire has a knack for tech and device-making, and has created a robust ecosystem for the Internet of Things (IoT) space, thanks to his mini semiconductor chips as small as a five-piece coin. cents.
This year, he also reached Forbes’ 50 richest Singapore with a net worth of US $ 1.55 billion (S $ 2.10 billion), supported by the strength of his company’s share price. due to the demand for chips caused by the pandemic.
This self-taught “normal” Singaporean is now one of the richest people in the country, and his net worth is close to that of senior families, the Liens family (which has a minority stake in United Overseas Bank) and senior citizens. owners of large OG stores. Tays.
How did this average Singaporean achieve billionaire status? We take a look at his background.
Just a local boy who went to local schools
When Swee Ann was eight, he was already tinkering with technology. He “delved into” the inner workings of his Apple II computer.
The second grade kid started looking at the code written for the existing programs on his computer and tried to figure out how it worked.
Like bees to honey, he was drawn to the world of technology and was fascinated by engineering and biology. The younger version of him already knew he wanted to be an engineer when he grew up.
He eventually went to study at Hwa Chong Junior College from 1992 to 1993, before heading to the National University of Singapore for a degree in electrical engineering.
Swee Ann went on to undertake a Masters in Electrical Engineering and completed it in 2000.
The entrepreneur who had interned at British Telecoms before, went to work with Bluetooth chip maker Transilica Inc as his first full time job in March 2000 as an RFIC design engineer.
A year later, he joined the American company Marvell Semiconductor to work as a senior design engineer for three years.
In 2004, he changed jobs and went to Chinese semiconductor company Montage Technology as director of engineering and worked there for just over three years.
By this time, Swee Ann was getting fed up with building chips, he wanted to challenge himself to make chips smarter. He wanted to automate the chip making process and that’s what sparked the idea of creating Espressif.
First driver of the IoT trend: Espressif
In April 2008, Swee Ann founded Espressif Systems. Espressif started out designing software for analog circuits, at one time it was even a chip design consultancy, until Swee Ann decided to make her own chips.
At this point, Swee Ann realized that the computing power was increasing, and with more power, more processes could run on the chip. The entrepreneur decided to jump on the IoT trend, which was a topic of interest to some in the tech community.
The famous ESP8266 microchip was the result of his labor. He developed it in 2011 and put it into production in 2013.
Low-cost Wi-Fi chips have gained the attention of manufacturers around the world, including the United States, and business customers have started to contact Swee Ann to place orders.
Today, his little ESP8266 has built up a cult following among tech enthusiasts. Measuring just a few millimeters, the Wi-Fi chip prompted creators to come up with products like smart devices – sensors for air temperature and humidity – and even complex web servers and wireless robots.
Swee Ann also made her fortune in China and around the world by subsequently selling the company’s flagship ESP32 chips which now power products such as speakers, portable devices and home appliances.
Since 2017, the brand has ranked first in the Wi-Fi MCU market and is listed in the Forbes 20 IoT ranking as one of the most innovative companies. It has also ranked first in the Wi-Fi MCU market for three consecutive years.
In addition to being a chipmaker, Espressif also creates software that supports the development of IoT applications.
Go public, achieve billionaire status
Espressif listed on the public market in July 2019 on the Sci-Tech Innovation Board, commonly known as the STAR board, of the Shanghai Stock Exchange.
It debuted with a share price of 155.95 yuan (S $ 33.16), which skyrocketed to 283.00 yuan (S $ 60.17) in just seven months in February 2020, supported by the demand for chips in the ever growing world of IoT and the Internet boom induced by the pandemic.
The stock has since fallen to 186.50 yuan (S $ 39.65) apiece (as of Nov. 17), but its market cap remains in the order of $ 1 billion, at 14.94 billion yuan (3.18 billion), keeping Swee Ann on Forbes Singapore’s 50. richest list.
The stock surge saw Swee Ann’s net worth jump from US $ 990 million in August of last year to US $ 1.55 billion in the same month this year.
Even with the recent boom, the owner of the semiconductor company is not resting on his laurels.
Last year, Espressif told its shareholders that it plans to launch four chips with improved performance and reduced power consumption. “We have built the most complete ecosystem for IoT developers,” he said.
Hiring and expansion of the team, growth plans
Today, Espressif has tens of thousands of customers around the world. They include manufacturers of everyday electronic devices, such as coffee machines and light bulbs, as well as providers of smart city and automation solutions.
The company is headquartered in Shanghai, China, and has more than 200 employees on LinkedIn. It also has offices in India, Brazil, the Czech Republic and Singapore.
According to LinkedIn data, most of the employees work in China and India, while a small team is based in Singapore.
After working overseas for over 14 years, it looks like Swee Ann is returning to her home country to develop the company’s capabilities here.
It is currently setting up in Singapore and plans to hire 80 engineers this year and the next for a research and development center.
Espressif is actively recruiting with 30 vacancies, including Singapore-based positions such as Technical Director of Marketing and Senior Design Engineer.
Looks like we’ll see more of Swee Ann in the country.
Featured Image Credit: Espressif, Embeddedasia
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