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Syntiant CEO gets candid in EE Times Weekend Q&A

Kurt Busch: ‘Following Your Passion is Horrible Advice’

Kurt Busch is the CEO of Syntiant, a California company that makes AI accelerator co-processors for low-power battery-operated systems. The chips are aimed at acceleration of neural networks for voice control in consumer devices.

Kurt’s career has afforded him extensive experience in the world of semiconductors. Before co-founding Syntiant, he was CEO of Lantronix, the provider of smart networking and communications solutions for IT and the IoT. He also served as a senior vice president and general manager of the high-performance analog business unit at Mindspeed Technologies, which was acquired by Macom.

Kurt has worked at Analog Devices, Intel, Digital Equipment Corporation, and two other startups, and he’s an Engineering Hall of Fame inductee at his alma mater, the University of California at Irvine.

What personal projects will you be working on this weekend, Kurt?

This weekend is all about cleaning out the garage. With the Covid lockdown, gyms are closed, so we have been turning the garage into a fitness center. We now have a smart TV for online class, weights, TRX bands, and a rower. It is not nearly as fun as going to a group fitness class, but it is better than nothing.

If you could travel to any time in history, what would you do?

I really don’t want to go back in history. I truly believe we live in the best time ever to be alive. Every day is better than the last. Even though the news would have us believe otherwise, the standards of living, availability of information and entertainment, and overall levels of world peace have never been better. If anything, I would like to go 100 years into the future to see how great it will be.

How do you teach your kids about technology?

I think they teach me. While I have walked through the basics with them, it was watching my youngest son talk to his iPad many years before he could type or even spell that made me realize the next interface to technology is voice. If a toddler can use a computer with voice only, then that could be the path to bring billions of people into the technology age. My children showed me how technology can be the great equalizer.

What was your first job in the industry?

My first job was designing networking cards. I recall with some apprehension my first experience seeing a product I designed coming off the manufacturing line. Every few seconds, one came off the assembly line, and all I could think was, Wow they are making a lot of those. I sure hope I didn’t screw something up.

What advice would you give to those considering founding a tech startup?

Following your passion is horrible advice. Being passionate about something does not guarantee success. I think passion is only one leg of a four-legged stool. I would suggest to them to follow a direction that you are good at, that you like to do, that benefits society, and that someone will pay you for. If you can meet all four requirements, your chances of success are much better and you will feel better when you get there.

Kurt Busch is CEO of Syntiant Read the full EE Times Weekend article here

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