Courtesy of Keisuke Yawata

Guardian Angel

After a 40-year career in the semiconductor industry, Keisuke Yawata retired in 1997 to begin his second career as a financial “angel.” In the venture capital business, “angels” invest in start-up companies and share their business experience and contacts to improve start-ups’ chances of success. Yawata has plenty of expertise to offer. During his career, he served as president and CEO of several major industry operations in Japan and the United States, including NEC Electronics in California, the U.S. subsidiary of NEC Corporation in Japan, one of the world’s largest high-tech companies. Yawata worked for NEC for nearly three decades, and became a vice president after taking over as head of the U.S. subsidiary. He also was president of chip maker LSI Logic KK, and president of Applied Materials Japan, the world’s largest semiconductor production equipment company.
      Since retiring from Applied Materials, Yawata has created The Future International (TFI) and TFI’s goal is to help emerging technologies and products, primarily from Silicon Valley, succeed by forging alliances with the Japanese electronics industry. Yawata also launched a 200-member Japan chapter of the International AngelInvestors Institute in Silicon Valley, to help Japanese entrepreneurs build start-up companies that can compete in the global market.
      Yawata came to SU as a Fulbright Scholar after earning a bachelor’s degree from Osaka University. He chose SU because NEC and GE had a semiconductor licensing agreement, making Syracuse a perfect place to continue his education.
      Yawata says his time at SU prepared him to be a venture capitalist, which is one reason he stays active in the University community as a member of the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science advisory board. “If I hadn’t come to Syracuse, "I think I would have retired from NEC and been an ordinary Japanese,” he says. “My understanding of American culture, lifestyle, life planning, and career development was gained through my association with students on the SU campus and friends that I made at General Electric in Syracuse. They gave me the vision to get involved in helping the next generation of technology companies.”
      When he looks to invest his time and finances in a start-up, Yawata scouts for companies with a global outlook that have an exciting product and a strong management team. He feels the Japanese economy is ready for companies with new ideas. “Many Japanese companies have stalled,” he says. “The reason we haven’t seen a new Sony or Honda since the ’50s is that everyone focused on big companies and didn’t foster start-ups. There is room to find a niche and grow, so we’ll take those opportunities.”

—Jonathan Hay


Mike Marsland/Yale University  

Tipping the Nanoscales

When it comes to computer components, Yale professor Mark Reed thinks small. Real small. Reed works at the forefront of the nanotechnology field, manipulating materials on a molecular scale. “I try to understand the physics of things that are very, very tiny,” he says. “We’re pushing the ultimate limit of how small electronic devices can be made.”
      Reed, a professor of electrical engineering and applied physics at Yale since 1990, and his research group are developing molecular-scale electronics. They recently tested a one-molecule on-off switch that could be used in a microscopic computer. Such a machine would use less electricity and be cheaper to make than conventional computers, but would be much more powerful. “There are all sorts of applications,” Reed says. “But I’m more interested in the basic science, even though, of course, we always do some of our research in context to its applications. I’m trying to apply all my tools and expertise in the electronics area, from the nanoscale to the biological world.”
      Improving those tools by using novel fabrication techniques and fresh ideas is key to working with electronics components smaller than ever before. “I typify my research as bridging fields, because the intersections are where things get interesting,” he says. “I’m often surprised at how easy the solutions are. The reason people didn’t see them is that they were just unaware of what the field next door was doing.”
      Reed says the only way to explore new territory is to take chances. “Taking chances means delving into fields you’re totally unprepared to delve into,” he says. “You have to keep reinventing yourself, and that’s where I find the science exciting.”

—Gary Pallassino


Continued on page 4
Back to page 1
Back to page 2

Main Home Page Contents Opening Remarks Quad Angles
Better World Bright Ideas Enterprise Zone High Marks
For the People For the Record Sporting Life Spot Light
Unique Perspective Alumni News/Notes    

E-mail the magazine editor
E-mail the web guy
820 Comstock Ave., Rm. 308
Syracuse, NY 13244-5040