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Avram at Piano

Avram Miller (born 27 January 1945), is an American-born Businessperson, Venture Capitalist, Scientist, and Technologist. He is best known for his work at Intel Corp (1984-1999) , where he served as Vice President, Business Development.  Together with Les Vadasz, he co-founded Intel Capital and led Intel’s  successful initiative to create Residential Broadband.

His leadership in developing  both the technology and business infrastructure for residential broadband  laid one of the most important foundations for the construction of today’s Internet. USA Today profiled Miller in its March 14, 1996 issue and referred to him as “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.

His  work in venture capital is well recognized. In 2003, Miller occupied the number eight position in the Forbes Midas List of the top 100 people in venture capital.  While at Intel, he managed a multi billion dollar portfolio which included early investments in Broadcast.com, Cnet, Verisign, and Covad just to name a few.

After leaving Intel in 1999, Miller founded The Avram Miller Company, which focuses on providing strategic advise to technology companies throughout the world.  He served as a senior advisor to Lazard, sat on the boards of many public and private internet companies including CMGI, World Online and PCCW. He also served on the boards of entertainment companies including Maxis (dates), and King World Productions.


Miller has been active in non profit work. He was the founding Chair of PluggedIn (1992-1999), a Senior Advisor to World Online (1999-2012) and a Trustee of The California Institute of the Arts  (dates).  



Early LIfe and Education

Avram Miller is a fourth generation San Franciscan and was born on January 27, 1945, born into a middle class jewish family.  After graduating from Drew High School in 1963 and he joined the Merchant Marines as a steward. He sailed on the luxury liner, President Cleveland between, San Francisco, Hawaii, Japan, Hong Kong and Manilla during much of 1963. He then got involved in the San Francisco Civil Right Movement and the Anti Vietnam Movement.   In 1966, he worked in a government sponsored tutorial program to prepare disadvantage youth in East Palo Alto, for University.

Miller has an eclectic background.  He began working with computers in 1966.  Primarily self educated,  he did not attend university but held  academic appointment at two universities before he was 30 years old.  He continues to pursue  his life long commitment to music including composing and playing jazz piano.



Career

Langley Porter (1966-1969)

Towards the end of 1966, Miller was offered an opportunity to work for Joe Kamiya, PhD, at his Langley Porter Institute Lab, University of California. Kamiya, was a pioneer in the study of bio-feedback and the first scientist to demonstrate that human beings could learn to control their brainwaves (EEG) using bio feedback.  Miller, who had a life long interest in electronics, was responsible for developing much of the equipment used in these experiments.  This provided him with the opportunity to learn all aspect of electronic design from microvolt amplifiers to special purpose digital computers.

About a year after joining Kamiya, Langley Porter got its first computer, a PDP-7 from Digital Equipment Corp.  Miller had no idea what a computer was but after a day of study was able to program the computer extensively and became an expert programer.

During his time with Kamiya, Miller learned scientific methods, statistics and advanced mathematics. By 1969, at the age of 24 and without a college degree, Miller became  an expert in all aspects of real time physiological signal processing.   



The  Thorax Center-The Netherlands (1969-1974)

In early 1969, Miller was recruited by Prof. Paul Hugenholtz , a world renown Cardiologist to join his staff. Hugenholtz  had decided to return to his native, Netherlands, from Boston, to start a new Cardiovascular Institute in Rotterdam, called the Thoraxcenter.  Hugenholtz, who had been collaborating with computer scientists at MIT  had a vision for the Thoraxcenter that involved deep integration of computing technology both in patient care and in research.   Miller was given an appointment to the academic staff at Erasmus University and he began to build a very capable computer department.  It was early in this period that Miller transitioned from an individual contributor to a manager.

In his five year at the Thoraxcenter, Miller and his team developed one of first on-line Intensive Care Monitoring System, Catherization Laboratory Systems, the first System to manage Echo Cardiograms. During this time, Miller co authored many academic papers in both medical and computer publications.  


Mennen Greatbatch-Israel (1974-1979)

 In 1974, Miller and his family decided to immigrate to Israel. Miller decided that he would leave the Academic World and start a business career.  However, he accepted an appointment as Adjunct Associate Professor at the School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University. He was 29 years old.


Miller joined a medical electronics company, Mennen Greatbach  which had a subsidiary in Israel, were he started the Computer Division of the parent company and commercialized some of the work that had done at the Thoraxcenter.  Miller was not only responsible for product development but also sales, marketing and finance.  It was during this period that Miller gained  gain substantial business experience.

Digital Equipment Corp-Back to the USA (1979-1983)

Returning to the United States, in 1979,  Miller joined the  Central Engineering Department of Digital Equipment Corporation, the number two Computer Company in the world. The group he managed was responsible for hardware development and support of all low end computers.  

A year later, Miller was tapped by Ken Olsen the founder and CEO of the company to head new  group dedicated to developing Digital’s entry into the personal computer market.  The products developed by the group were known as the Professional Series and were very advanced from a technology point of view.  The Professional 350, introduced at the 1982 National Computer Conference in Houston,  ran a multi processing operating system and utilized a 5meg byte Winchester Drive.  It ran a fully bit mapped display and had a built-in ethernet capability.

Unfortunately for Digital, IBM introduced its personal computer in August 1981.  The combination of its low price and open standards which allowed for clone companies like Compaq totally changed the dynamics of the computer industry.   In the mean, time Olsen decided to have Digital bring out two other personal computers which were were not  compatible with the Professional or each other.   This decision is discussed the book “The Ultimate Entrepreneur”, where Miller is quoted as saying “and they did. They chose IBM”.

Digital had commissioned a documentary movie to celebrate the companies 25th anniversary primarily focused on Miller’s work at Digital.  The movie was never released by the company but copies do exist including one at the Computer Museum.


Franklin Computer Company (1983-1984)

In 1983, Miller realized that Digital would not be successful in creating a major position in the personal computer market. The computer world was about to be turned sideways from large companies that were vertically integrated like Digital to horizontal companies that focused on just one aspect of the  business such as Microsoft (software), Seagate (disks), Intel (microprocessors), systems (Compaq).  and even sales (Computerland).

He was offered the position of Chief Operating Officer at an early stage Apple II Clone company called, Franklin Computer and was later named President. Franklin was growing very quickly.  It’s revenues were approximately $80 million dollars in it first year of operations.  But the company was locked in a legal battle with Apple which prevented the company from getting adequate financing.  Miller left the company in April 1994.



Intel  (1984-1999) and the  birth of Intel Capital

In 1984, Intel Corporation was primarily in the business of selling memory chips and business that was under attack by Japanese manufactures.  Intel knew it needed to transition the business away from memory chip and towards microprocessors.  

Les Vadasz, a day one employee of Intel and Vice President and Director to the Corporative Strategic Staff was on the outlook for someone from the computer industry that could join his group and provide strategic insight.  He recruited Avram Miller who joined Intel in August 1984.  

Initially, Miller was assigned to help a division of the company that developed computer products, called the System Group.  

Later, Miller started up an M&A activity and acquired a few companies primarily in Network Technology.  Given the strong Intel Culture, these acquisitions had limited benefit.  It was then that Miller realized that minority investments in early stage companies could provide Intel with strategic insight, ways to grow the overall market and a financial return.  

Miller, was given the title Vice President Business Development and a few years later was elected Corp. Vice President by the Intel Board.  He put together a small group and began to make such early stage investments.   

After a number of successful investments,  Andy Grove, Intel’s CEO, accepted Vadasz’ recommendation that the venture investment activity be accelerated.  Vadasz joined Miller in creating the Corporative Business Development group (CBD) which later was renamed Intel Capital.  Intel Capital became the most successful Corporative Venture Group in in the field of technology. 

In addition to the strategic benefits  gained through the minority investments, the investments began to provided substantial financial rewards.   

While Vadasz expanded the group to include investments in Enterprise Software, Semi Conductor Manufacturing, Health and Education, Miller focused the consumer facing business and in particular in the rapid growth of the Internet.  He invested in such companies as , GeoCities, Broadcast.com, Covad, Verisign, Cnet, Covad, CMGI.  

By the time Miller left Intel in April of 1999, the investment he managed had made billions of dollars for Intel.


The Development of Residential Broadband

In 1992, Miller was asked by Andy Grove to led be the Intel point person to work with Microsoft developing a number of consumer initiatives.  His counterpart at Microsoft was Rob Glaser who later founded Real Networks, and then Craig Mundie, who later became the CTO of Microsoft.  The two companies set up teams to work on a number of projects.  Miller became part of the Intel Executive Team that attended Quarterly Meetings with Bill Gates and many of his top managers.

One of the projects the companies worked on together was the development of an Interactive Set Top Box for the Cable Industry.  This project also involved General Instruments, then headed by Don Rumsfeld later Secretary of Defense for George W. Bush.  General Instruments owned Jerold, the largest supplier of Set Tops. The person working with Intel and Microsoft was  the CTO, Matt Miller.

 In the process of working on this project, Miller learned about the cable industry  and its infrastructure.  By the end of 1992, it became apparent to Miller that it would not be possible to build an interactive Set Top at a price point acceptable to the Cable Industry.  Together with Matt Miller, he realized that much of the technology that was being developed for Digital TV could be used to create high speed residential broadband.  GI and Intel then began to develop both cable modems and the head end equipment used as a gateway to the Internet.  They kept this project secret from Microsoft.  

It was then that Miller began the most important work of his career. He realized that the combination of powerful personal computers in the home and high speed access to the internet could result in a new medium for communication, education, commerce, and entertainment. 

In addition to funding the Intel Labs to develop the core  architecture to be used in cable internet broadband, he meet with all the CEO’s of the major cable companies include John Malone of TCI and  Brian Roberts of Comcast to convince them that cable companies could be become more than just distributors of television programing, they could become communications companies.  He traveled to Japan, Korea, the UK, France and Germany bring with the same message. He organized the first major trials of Cable Modems with Comcast and Viacom (who owned a cable business at the time).  In 1993, Intel demonstrated working cable modems at one of the  major Cable Industry Conferences.  

He also knew that applications would be key.  He was able to get such companies as  America Online, Prodigy and Intuit to participate in the trials.  Intel then provided the key specification to the Cable Lab (the research arm of the Cable Industry) which became the Docis specification.  Intel licensed modem manufactures such as Cisco, HP, and AT&T and worked with component suppliers like Broadcom in which Intel also had an investment.

Miller and his team at CBD invested extensively in companies that would benefit from the development of high speed residential broadband from components to consumer applications.

Recognizing that the Cable Industry did not have the technical capabilities to manage an internet business, he conceived of a company that would provide these services for the cable industry and convinced the Venture Group Kleiner Perkins to work with the Cable Industry to create the company @Home in which Intel would also invest.

In addition to the development of broadband cable, Miller drove the activities to created high speed DSL and worked extensively with Telephone companies through the world.

Miller was tireless in his promotion of the connected PC as the interactive device for the home. He spoke at  Industry Conferences including at the National Association of Broadcasters,  Cable Industry Conference, and Computer Industry events. In, 1996, together with the Creative Artist Agency, he established a demo lab at thier facility to educate hollywood talent on the potential of the Internet for entertainment.  

The result of this work can be seen in the penetration of residential broadband.  In 2012, over 80% of US homes had broadband access.



The Avram Miller Company


Miller left Intel in April 1999 to start The Avram Miller Company a strategy and and business development company providing services to Internet Companies Internationally. In addition, he 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), as well as investing in early stage companies for his own account.


In 2003, Miller was listed as number eight in the magazined Midas List of the top 100 top tech investors.


Miler, now 68 years old, is primarily retired or as he prefers to call it, Rewired but does continue to work with a small hand full of early stage technology companies.



Personal Life


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, composing music and pursuing his interest in computer technology.  


He is an active blogger www.twothirdsdone.com.  He believes that one of his greatest contributions to the future of technology is to document its past.

© avram.miller 2013