From little Acorn grew an angel investor with an eye for the next big thing
After playing a pivotal role in the development of personal computing, Hermann Hauser now heads up one of Europe’s major venture firms
Venture capital is widely viewed as a cut-throat industry, but talk to people who know one of its best-known European figures, Vienna-born Hermann Hauser, and a single word recurs: “gentleman”.
The tall, elegant Hauser, a serial entrepreneur involved with numerous Cambridge University-based start-ups, whose companies Acorn and ARM have had a pivotal role in the development of personal and mobile computing (see panel), now heads up one of Europe’s major venture firms, Amadeus.
That has brought him to Ireland regularly, as the company made a significant, early investment in InTune Networks, the start-up behind the State’s exemplar broadband network and last year’s winner of The Irish Times InterTradeIreland Innovation awards.
He says Amadeus is now casting a more general eye around Ireland’s start-up scene. “I love coming here, and, I hope, will make many more investments here.”
His personal role in the development of modern computing, starting with Acorn – which rose to fame after it won the contract to make the highly popular BBC Micro home computer in the 1980s – gives him a unique perspective in delivering a talk on technology industry innovation recently for University College Dublin’s Nova Innovation Centre.
After all, how many people speaking on the subject could punctuate an overview of the development of the home computing market with the sentence: “I remember Bill Gates coming in, wanting to sell DOS to me . . . ”
During the talk, he offers many interesting aside, such as his take on the future of computing.
“I think mobile phone architecture will start to dominate computing. It has a much wider use case than the PC. The big question is, will Intel and Microsoft play any role?
“We’re right in the middle of a murder plot where mobile phone architecture will kill PC architecture and the Intel processor,” he notes.
“No one understood that apps would become the new way in which people would interact with their computers. One thing that wasn’t part of the script, and where Microsoft was asleep, is compatibility. Apps don’t only run on Windows, and so Microsoft has lost the biggest asset it always had.”
He can’t resist a small pat on his own back about the success of ARM, the chip company he spun out of Acorn, which developed the highly efficient RISC chips, now ubiquitous in computing devices and mobiles.
Eight billion ARM chips will be shipped this year, he says – “more chips than Intel has shipped in its entire history”.