Beginning his career as a physics university teacher in Zambia, followed by a stint in crude-oil trading at Shell, Joep van Beurden, CEO of CSR, got his first taste of the technology sector working for industry heavyweight Philips. “I was based in Silicon Valley, where I got a good sense of the technology industry. It was also the first time that I was exposed to the semiconductor industry.

“After Philips, I worked at a couple of start-ups that were really trying to innovate. One was developing a 3-D sensor camera that can see depth; in another start-up we were working on embedded software for consumer electronic devices. From there, I joined CSR as the CEO, with the brief to build on its success as a Bluetooth company and broaden it out into more technologies and more markets.”

When Joep came into the business CSR had been very successful in its short life. “CSR was founded in 1999, and the founding team had an idea to create a silicon radio in a semiconductor technology called CMOS. At that time, conventional wisdom was that you couldn’t do radios in CMOS. And then our founding team went ahead and did it anyway. As a result, the company ended up with a single Bluetooth chip, and at that time, competitors had two- or three-chip solutions for Bluetooth. CSR had a single chip that was smaller in size, lower power, cheaper and easier to work with so it was a very competitive product.

“At the same time, the Bluetooth standard that had been in existence for about 10 years took off, mostly because Nokia adopted the Bluetooth standard and incorporated Bluetooth chips into their phones. And Nokia selected CSR. The company basically ran away with Bluetooth and had massive success. A successful IPO followed in 2004, so when I joined in 2007, that was the company that I found—a very successful Bluetooth company; still mostly exposed to handsets, strong with Nokia, and highly profitable.”