Mister Beacon Episode #55
How To Get Ahead In IoTOctober 18, 2017
Bill Davidson has a unique perspective from his positions as a VC, CAO at Global Foundries, SVP of Marketing & Investor Relations at Qualcomm and his early days working for the Bell co. that would become Verizon. He shares the story of his career in what evolved into IoT and first hand experience implementing some of the early wireless use cases that have resurfaced again.
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Steve Statler 00:00
So what's it like to be part of the leadership team at a company? That's one of the most successful businesses in the world? How do you get that? And on the way, what do you see that? Can you give us a perspective on the internet of things today? That's what we're going to be talking to Bill Davidson about during this our 55th episode of the Mr. Beacon podcast. Bill was the SVP of Marketing and Investor Relations at Qualcomm, a 33,000 person powerhouse, Qualcomm's technology is in every smartphone sold on the planet, and they spend more on research and development than a quarter of the countries in the world earn in gross domestic product, just one of those r&d projects produced the first Bluetooth beacon to be deployed nationally by retailer and became the origins of this program. So if you want to know what it takes to be successful, in the Premier League of high tech, check out our show, and do subscribe, Mr. Beacon.com, Facebook, YouTube, or your favorite audio podcast platform. So Bill Davidson, thanks so much for doing this interview. It's a real privilege to be able to spend some time with you.
Bill Davidson 01:20
It's my absolute pleasure I I've enjoyed watching you so much along the way. I'm just honored to to be part of it.
Steve Statler 01:27
Well, we should provide a little bit of context for this conversation. So you know, you've had a remarkable career, you're still having a remarkable career. And you've you were there kind of at the birth of mobile telecoms, you were you've been a VC, you've been, you've worked for the big giant that actually makes the chips, the Global Foundries Chief Administration Officer, and of course, you spent a dozen years at Qualcomm spending a lot of time on the 10th floor, which is where kind of the management decisions get made. And you had just catbird seat to some fascinating things when, and you basically saw the mobile business go from about conversations on the phone to data and now IoT. So there's really two things I'd love to do and explore with you. The first one is, let's kind of go through that story, because you've got some really interesting insights to how we got from the Michael Douglas brick phone, to what we have now where the watch and everything is mobile. So I'd like to talk about IoT and its evolution from those roots. But also to be frank, you know, you were at the top level of one of the biggest company, the largest mobile semiconductor company. And there's more than a few of us are kind of envious of that. So how did you do it is kind of that's crudely is what what, what was the story of getting there? And so I think it'll be really interesting discussion. And we're going to do something different that we've never done before on this show as the aficionados of the Mr. Beacon podcast. Well, now we have this kind of Easter egg of three songs, we've asked pretty much everyone we've interviewed with maybe two exceptions of the 50 people we've interviewed, what their favorite songs are, and we couch it in terms of what would you take on a trip to Mars, and we're gonna give you two more songs than we've ever given. So you got five songs, I can't wait to hear, hear what they are, well, we'll listen to them. And we're going to actually pepper them throughout our discussion. Because, you know, we both love music. And so it just seemed like an appropriate person to have that. That bit of fun with so. So let's start off and say, what's the first song that you would take on this amazing journey to Mars? If and let's say it's vinyl? Because there has to be? Why would you only have five? So what's the first bit of vinyl that you take on this trip to Mars?
Bill Davidson 04:05
Well, the first one is Glenn Miller's, In the Mood. And the reason for that is music was always a key part of our household. Everybody, including my mother played an instrument with the exception of my father, but he loved music as much as the rest of us. And it happened that big band was his favorite style of music. And I took up the trumpet in the fourth grade. And I had the great privilege of if you played first seat of the second section, you got all the solos. So this song in the mood by Glenn Miller, I was fortunate enough to play and had the solo in it, and it's just one that if you could only give me one song from the big band era, that would be it. And it's one of the first songs I played on the trumpet.
Steve Statler 04:48
The thing I love about this song is it's impossible to listen to it and not smile.
Bill Davidson 04:53
And tap your foot and it's we had it at our wedding. And it's the song that everybody in my parents generation has popped up immediately to dance. And my father had the great pleasure of when these were the bands and all the ballrooms in New York, he'd go in on a weekend. And maybe I'll see Glenn Miller tonight or Tommy Dorsey. And other night, this was the scene in Manhattan in the 1940s. And I just think it brings me back to time that I often say I perhaps was born a little bit too late. And I just think about that era. And what a wonderful year it was for this country.
Steve Statler 05:28
We borrowed this, this kind of structure from a show BBC show called Desert Island. If so we should give full credit to that. And we're going to pause this before we go any further. So tell us a bit about how your career started. What did you think you were going to be when you grew up? Did you want to be a chief marketing officer at the largest mobile semiconductor company in the world?
Bill Davidson 05:52
I honestly, I still didn't know exactly what I was going to do. Even after I started working. I really envy people who have a calling early in life and are able to realize that and kind of line up their experience and education to it. I thought I had a couple of colleagues that ended up not being I always say, internships for young people can be exceptional for two reasons. They can tell you what you want to do, or they can tell you what you don't want to do. So I've loved cars since I was young, and had great aspirations to be a car designer or even an architect. But somewhere along the way, I thought, well, you know, engineering is a fantastic career. My father was an engineer by training and ended up a CFO. And so if you think about the requirements there, the analytical mind, and science was actually good applicability for finance. And then I had a sister, my second oldest sister of three, was a physics major in an area where not a lot of women were physics majors and went on to get a master's in electrical engineering and computer science. So I had great interest in that and looking at semiconductor industry electronics, in the 1970s. And early 80s. Here seemed like a wonderful opportunity. So I had an internship in the summer of 1983, at Bell Labs in Holmdel, New Jersey, and I got to work on the first transatlantic fiber optic cable, they were going to lay, and one of the issues on that cable was over distance, your perfectly squared digital pulse of a one would degrade. And therefore they had to hang a regenerator box, it was called every so many feet on that cable, and its only job was to say, Do I see a one or a zero, and if I see a one, I'm going to send it out again, you know, perfectly built so it can travel that distance. And if it's a zero, I do nothing. I had even a subset of that box where I was tasked with using a software program to calculate the resistor, capacitor and inductor values on the decision circuit feedback board of that box. After three months of that, I remember saying to my dad, I just don't know whether this is for me. And you watched engineers, their card be in the same parking lot place in the parking lot for three days, because they'd come in in the middle of the night, they had an idea. They wanted to get it out of their head and either onto paper or test it. And they'd literally sleep on their lab bench. And here I am 17 years old, and I'm thinking, Gosh, every other summer, I've been on the beach. And now look what I'm doing. I don't think this career is for me and I, in some respects regret it. Because I just think it was a lack of discipline at that age, from a maturity standpoint, actually think I would have rather enjoyed it. But it ended up being okay, because it gave me the acumen to be in a company that had a product that was highly technical and be able to understand it. But I think that was the foundation for me of picking more of the middle of the road of being a technologist, not an engineer, really enjoying technology and then figuring out how to relate that to people and explain it to the people who weren't technical or engineers or technologists.
Steve Statler 08:49
Well, if you're going to pick a company where you're going to decide not to be in an engineer, then Bell Labs is the primo place to be and you know, there may be some people watching this that don't know the background and we won't say the complete background but invented the transistor, develop Unix, the core of what's running on our phones and all these servers that are keeping the internet going. So just an amazing environment. How did you so where did you go from there? How did you get into the business space? Because I know when you came to Qualcomm, you you ran carrier relations you were you were part of this group that despite what some people may think Steve Jobs didn't invent the App Store. There were other companies like Qualcomm that had a go at that beforehand. So how did you get from deciding you didn't want to be an engineer to be in a position where you could get that kind of job.
Bill Davidson 09:40
Okay, so the summer after that at Bell Labs, so though Labs was 83, the divestiture of AT and T was one 184. So in the summer of 84, I went into an organization another internship at 18 t's headquarters in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. My home state And there was an organization formed called Central Services Organization, which ultimately became Bellcore. The idea was, they broke AT and T up into the long distance business which at&t retained, and seven regional Bell operating companies, those Bell operating companies would need an r&d arm. And so they agreed to collaborate together to form this entity that would serve them. So I got to have an internship there. And what my task was, I got there. And when they were billing, the Otterbox, regional Bell operating companies, it was literally a pool of stenosis in those days. And somebody with a calculator, Assistant stenographer, so it was, please type this for me. So it was somebody on a calculator, looking at all the numbers and saying, oh, you know, that was actually a two there. And so we're $20 off on the bill to Bell Atlantic, we need it redone. And they'd hand it to the steno and the stencilled retype the whole thing. So I was given the task, could you figure out a way to automate this, there was this brand new software program that came out that year called Lotus 123. And I looked at what its capabilities were and I said, you know, I actually think I could use this. So they paid for me to take a two week class at the Hippodrome in New York City, where you could get business and professional training and I learned how to use Lotus the year it was introduced, came back to the office, first month, we were closing the books, I input all the data into the spreadsheet, same issue arose, guy said to me up, that should be a four, I just went for hit that it flowed through the spreadsheet, and their eyes just went as if I just performed magic on the computer. What that taught me though, was, I was in a business environment that had a technical leading to it, but I wasn't on an engineering team. So that's where I think I really found my North Star in terms of not knowing where I'd end up, but knowing at least what I wanted to do of having a mix of business acumen and technical acumen and what could I find to leverage.
Steve Statler 11:58
Okay, time for the next song. What's it going to be?
Bill Davidson 12:04
So now, this one was introduced around my ninth birthday and the first vinyl I bought that was in the rock genre would be would be Kiss, Alive. But this song comes out of comes from their second album. It's a song called Parasite, which Ace Freely wrote, which was their lead guitar player. And it's just the riff in this song is one of those that I just have in my head still, to this day from my youth. And what's amazing, is you think about music today. And this was viewed as you know, really raucous and loud and yeah, just sounds like rock to me today.
Steve Statler 12:48
I know. Yeah. It's incredible. It's like all that heavy metal stuff seems very tame, you know, there's no like guttural screaming or anything.
Bill Davidson 12:57
Correct. They're actually singing. And you can hear all the notes. It's actually Steve, I'd like to say is it's still music at that point. But I take great pleasure in you know, my son. When I when I he was old enough. I said, you know, there are only three things in life. I'm not going to give you a choice about you have to like the New York Giants. You have to like the New York Yankees and I will not allow rapid my house because it's not music. First concert. I took him to his kiss and Aerosmith. Six years old. And now he's a Beatles fan. So and he still likes the Giants and the Yankees.
Steve Statler 13:33
I took my youngest son to Depeche Mode concert. It was it was pretty amazing. We got a wonderful reception. We were the only people that weren't wearing black leather in the entire the Staples Center. The people were very nice. And they were like so anyway. All right. So you've clearly got a good eye for spotting trends. And Lotus 123 was pretty successful. And spreadsheets were generally deemed to be a good idea. How did you move on from that?
Bill Davidson 14:07
Came out of school study marketing in college. But because of that computer background, both from Bell Labs and Belcore got a job in IT for New Jersey Bell part of Bell Atlantic. So that was the local operating company for the state of New Jersey. And I should add also, I was fortunate my high school I went to an all boys Catholic High School in New Jersey, and therefore I got access to my first computer as a sophomore. So what 1979 1980 Because I have that aptitude. And interestingly, people with music aptitude tend to have computer aptitude. There's some connection there. I'm not certain of what it is. But so I got a job in it. And I was in the data center, and would run you know, a mainframe, like an IBM 3090 mainframe in those days and I'd sit at my console with 10 Square Hands in front of me and watch all the jobs come through. I had to work shift work. So I spent four months on four to midnight and four months on Monday to eight in the morning, had to work a weekend a month. So that's really what got me my exposure into the business world. But I was just the guy in the data center for it a year into that I had interviewed for a job in sales. And fortunately for me, one opened in upstate New Jersey, and so I moved to selling wireline Telecom in September of 1987.
Steve Statler 15:34
So this is Potts, plain old telephone systems. But it was a while.
Bill Davidson 15:39
Back then a whopping 9.6 kilobits per second on a data circuit. And that was the high end, we sold 2.4 4.8 9.6, and you could get a T one. But boy, it was only the rare customer at that point that needed 1.5 megabit pipe into their facilities.
Steve Statler 15:55
So there was value in data even back then.
Bill Davidson 15:58
Oh, yeah. On the wireline side, you you saw it beginning then I mean, I had banks as customers who at that point, their ATM network was essentially connected through analog telephone lines. And the only way of testing that line, your installer would come out with their test set. And if they could hear tone on the other end of the line was good. So there was no guarantee of service, the original digital circuits that I was seeing were 2.4, or 2.4 4.8 9.6, we would guarantee that, hey, your data is going to get from point A to point B on the analog circuit it was, we can hear the tone on the other end. So you're on your own terms of whether it works. So I was even there at the infancy of the real data boom in the wireline business solution, selling indeed, not just a piece of the puzzle. So in 91, I just had my best year 91 was the first year since the telephone was launched in 1876, at least in Bell Atlantic territories where we had fewer lines in service going into 1992, than had been there at the beginning of 1991, you had a mini recession in the early 90s. And you didn't yet have the second phone line for the purpose of Internet access coming through. So I remember looking and thinking, first of all, I wasn't doing too well, in 1992, I think I had such a banner year in 1991, I accelerated some demand out of my portfolio of accounts. And then I just remember thinking, like mobile phones, that's pretty interesting. That would be fun. So I had an opportunity to go when Bell Atlantic was 700 employees mobile, and they had just bought a company called Metro mobile, and therefore we're expanding and doing a regional play. And so I became a technical support person. And frankly, Steve, it was the, you know, here I am, I didn't end up at the end up going to be an engineer. I'm really a sales guy. But I have enough technical acumen that I would say I did a good job selling my capabilities. But frankly, in the wireless telco back then if you even knew what a T one was, you were highly technical. I mean, it was just in its infancy. And so I made that move in 92 and was there from 90 to minus a short stint at GE Capital through 1999. And I was very, very blessed there to move from just you know, really a level up from the equivalent of a systems engineer, all the way to being VP of wireless data sales and marketing.
Steve Statler 18:27
How long did it take you to do that?
Bill Davidson 18:29
Seven years. The first and I had the great pleasure when we merged with 9x, which was New York, New England and x for the unknown. So that was the other regional Bell. I got to go to Boston and run sales and had what was called direct sales for Eastern mass Rhode Island and New Hampshire but had corporate accounts and wireless data sales for basically everything north of Manhattan. And when I went to Bell Atlantic mobile in 92, the very first meeting I was asked to go to was in the Lehigh Valley in eastern Pennsylvania to see Dun and Bradstreet and what we had was a Motorola SC three bag phone, so an analog phone, a Mitsubishi portable fax machine, and then a little device called a Motorola cellular connector, and the cellular connector. faked dial tone for the fax since the cell phone didn't generate dial tone. The very first thing I did was we hooked all that together when in the conference room in the old Bethlehem Steel building in the Lehigh Valley and I sent it fax across the analog cellular network and much like my spreadsheet experience, everybody at the table just looked and went oh my god Did you just really do that? And it took us long to send a one page faxes, it would download you know like a 50 meg file today. But you know I was there when we were using the analog network for the purpose of data transmission. So I was blessed to go there and got to know this company Qualcomm when we were having to wait two years after our competitors rolled out TDMA time division multiple access time division multiplexing. I can't remember the acronym for that. But the GSM variant for the US I was two years still selling analog against my competitors. But Bell Atlantic was one of the operators that saw the value in CDMA and waited. And I had the pleasure of meeting Erwin back then. And then a guy named Paul Jacobs and a woman named Peggy Johnson. And thank God, they remembered me. I was at a startup when I left Bell Atlantic in 99 to 2002, which was a wireless data ASP, called eighth or systems didn't end so well. But they had the right idea. And I got a blind phone call from a headhunter Sue major, who I know here in San Diego who said, Peggy asked me to find you the last time she shot she saw you was in New Orleans and Pat O'Brien's and lost contact with you. They have a job. I said, Well, where is it? California? I'm in New Jersey. I can't move but I'll if I think of someone I'll let you know. And thank thanks to her persistence. She called me again two weeks later, came for an interview. My wife Susie had never set foot in California. And three weeks later, we were moving or had agreed to move.
Steve Statler 21:06
How big was Qualcomm at that stage?
Bill Davidson 21:09
Well, Qualcomm had, of course in 99, during the infrastructure business sold at Ericsson, so those employees left and then formed the venture with Kyocera for the handset business. So I think it had dropped down to about 7500 employees when I joined. And of course, when I left in, in 2014, I think it had tipped up to about 31,000.
Steve Statler 21:30
That's quite a quite a bit of growth. We've got some music to get through. So what's the what's the next trick?
Bill Davidson 21:35
I believe the next one would be Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven. At least that's how it's become popularly known. And again, this is when I think about pieces on the piano that I love. My youngest sister Laurie ended up being a music English major. And she actually gave piano lessons and I was one of her students since I was in the same household while she was in high school. And I just remember always hearing this piece of music played. And it just still to this day I gravitated I gravitate to it is probably my favorite piece of classical music.
Steve Statler 22:07
Has a real calming effect, isn't it?
Bill Davidson 22:10
And it's actually when you play it on the piano, you're meant to hit the soft pedal, and it's supposed to be very soft, but there are sections of the song that have really bold parts as well, but all very muted from a volume standpoint.
Steve Statler 22:23
So what was your first job at Qualcomm?
Bill Davidson 22:26
You know, it's interesting, I got hired into QA s Qualcomm Internet services, where I know you spent a bit of time as well into a really a sales role leading the teams around the world that were trying to get the blue platform deployed globally.
Steve Statler 22:42
And just just so that people know what was brutal.
Bill Davidson 22:45
Yeah. Well, it's it's this novel concept of downloading applications to your phone in a very secure way. And having a you know, App Store and curated environment, which I know most people with short memories think there's another company responsible for that. But it was Qualcomm. And, you know, it was back in the era where we had very little processing power on the phone. So for some reason, the first game to take off was jammed at bowling. And after that it was only branded games that work. But for some reason, that thing just went crazy. And so I had the team, literally we went around the world getting the platform deployed, when I joined, Verizon had already signed up KDDI in Japan, KT Freetail in Korea. So I really focused most of my time in Latin America. And so it became kind of the de facto platform for the CDMA operators other than sprint, others around the world. And on the GSM side, we're using their own blend of Java to do it.
Steve Statler 23:44
And so roughly how many carriers were using the platform?
Bill Davidson 23:49
Oh, now you're testing what you always tell me is my foolproof min me. I will say, you know, by the end well, just in my 10 or so, yeah, those three, we had a dozen through Bell, South international five through Verizon International, vivo, in Brazil, and by default Telefonica, because they were part owner, so a be testing my memory, but probably close to 2024. I would guess by the time they ran the table on it.
Steve Statler 24:15
And I think it got up to 50 or 60. In the end.
Bill Davidson 24:18
Oh, yeah. Oh, with the smaller operators. Sure. All tell us, cellular. Yeah, you're right.
Steve Statler 24:22
And it was a billion dollar platform. So so it was that the theme, which you kind of heard reprising, and it's like I've heard this before, was the announcements. Actually, we didn't really announce how much money was laid out to the developers. But there were billions. Yeah.
Bill Davidson 24:37
And you think about how I said Qualcomm just had this amazing ability and I knew it before I joined and it just really was driven home to me when I did have, it's one thing to be able to anticipate what will be on the other side of the hill. It's an entirely different skill and acumen to actually create and therefore, know and be guaranteed. read what's on the other side of the hill. And I just think Qualcomm was so good at that. And the idea was, how do we get all these applications out there? Which what does that require more processing power in the phone, more memory, higher end chip. And it was really at that time, in 2003, when we were making the migration to Qualcomm from the 5000 series chipsets to the 6000. Were you started to see that integration, beginning of you know, sound and other, you know, the first ringtones were controlled the polyphonic ones that just sounded terrible. That was a Yamaha chip in the phone that basically got integrated away by Qualcomm. So that ability to then start bringing on these advanced capabilities and support the developers on the chipset, but also drive the core business by getting higher LSPs on the chip, higher end phones, better royalties. It's just, I still am so thankful for my time at Qualcomm, the things that I learned the people I got to work with, and it's just one of those experiences that I think few people have once and to have had it, I just cherish.
Steve Statler 25:59
Yeah, I mean, it must have been so fun, you've got this hot product that basically is a license to make money for carriers. And it requires some selling because it's you there's people have got to decide that they're gonna hand this over to this other company, whereas most carriers were trying to kind of do it themselves with with Java. So it wasn't trivial. But you guys had an incredible impact. I want to ask you about how you transitioned from that life of flying around the world, engaging with carriers to basically being the guy that was talking to Wall Street and in a very high pressure position. But before we do that, let's go on to the next song.
Bill Davidson 26:40
Excellent. So I believe the next song would be Dreams by Van Halen. And this album came out in 1986. This is the first concert my wife and I went to so I've loved Van Halen forever. So the true Van Halen fans out there might be upset that I didn't pick a David Lee Roth song, which if I did, it would have been unchained. But the reason I picked dreams is this was the first concert we went to we were at University of Richmond together where we met and we drove down to see this concert, and the warm up band was Bachman Turner overdrive. So that's why this song means a lot to me.
Steve Statler 27:14
Very good. So let's go back to business. And so you're you're a globetrotter doing all these deals with carriers. How did you go from that to what must have been a function in finance? Was it it was investor relations in finance, or?
Bill Davidson 27:32
It isn't a lot of companies in Qualcomm, it reported to at that point, Tony Thornley, the president, but certainly Bill Keitel, who was CFO at the time. I mean, it was, in all intents and purposes, a dual direct reporting role. So you're right. Well, these when when you think about things that happen in your career, that less you ever think it's skill, you know, I think the people that get caught are the ones that think the luck they've had is a skill that they can repeat. And I know I'm a person who has just been very, very fortunate. And thank goodness, several times to have had good luck. I believe you can make yourself be more lucky by being willing to be open to move all the way across the country and leave your wife's family and yours, which we did. Our closest relative to here is on the Pennsylvania New Jersey border. I'm one of four kids, my wife's one of five. So it was a tough decision. But I think you can do things to bring yourself more luck. When I left Bell Atlantic, I went to had a brief gap at GE Capital, right, come back. And then in 99, I went to work for my best customer for wireless data at the time, it was called ether systems. And if I back up, there was a gent who was at Westinghouse, his name was Dave Orose. And he had this vision for a central services hub. And remember, again, I'm back in the early 1990s. There is no one wireless technology that's ubiquitous for wireless data. You had a technology called mobi text from Bell South, you had a technology called Data tack from a company called artists, you had cellular digital packet data or CDP from the regional Bell operating companies. And in some places, you might have analog. And so there was no way for an end customer who wanted to be a trailblazer at that point to say, I just want to equip these mobile data terminals in my vehicles and get connectivity UPS was really the trailblazer. And had Motorola build them a custom piece of equipment. So Westinghouse back then did the RFP to become this central services Data Hub, and then Westinghouse kind of abandoned it, Dave, or else left and created ether. And therefore we were really the first wireless application service provider to try to pull this all together. So I had the good fortune there of being the person in the company who would do a lot of the investor conferences not as the IR person but investor relations would support me and I'd go talk to Wall Street and it was an interesting experience the because we IPO out in October of 1999 at $15 and closed at 55. The first day, in January, we hit 100. February we had 200. March we hit 300 got a secondary offering out just before the NASDAQ had its disastrous crash right in 2000. So the company had raised $1.6 billion and had a $16 billion market cap on previous year sales like $6 million. So it's classic bubble story. So imagine me out talking to Wall Street in the beginning, it was we're gonna grow into this market cap, clearly the street has recognized the future value of the company, we will acquire and grow organically grown to this market cap. And you literally had investors to those days saying, Why are you so worried about making money, take your time, build the business. And what I learned from that was, you always make money as quickly as you can, there are certain fundamental things that you should never get pulled off the tracks on. And unfortunately, the company wrote off a billion dollars and goodwill on 1,000,000,001 in acquisitions, but it raised 2,000,000,006 in cash, so but again, had the right idea. So I interviewed Qualcomm to come in to the brew business. And I come back for a second round of interviews. And it's with many senior people, one of whom was Steve Altman, who, of course, with others, as he would want me to say, because he would never want to take credit solely created Qualcomm's licensing business. This is ultimately the president. Yeah, indeed. And vice chairman, and so I get sent to the wrong building. He's actually over in a different building that day, yet they sent me to where his regular office was. So I show up for the interview, literally 20 minutes into a 30 minute interview, and I'm very apologetic. I say, Here's my sheet, they sent me to the wrong room. He said, no worries, I'll get you back on time. And I went, Well, that means only 10 minutes. And he had a legal pad, as you would expect, being a lawyer and a number two pencil and he said, Well, what are you doing now? And I told him, he made a few notes. I told him that I was this interface to Wall Street and but also was doing some of the wireless airtime deals for the company. And he looks at his watch, we end and he goes okay, I get back to the hotel, Susie's here with me, my wife and she said, how did your interviews go? Today? I said, you know, I think I did. Okay, except this one, I was late. And he seemed a little disinterested. Well, I found that after Steve really didn't enjoy interviewing people too much. But here's the luck part and the connect the dots. The lady running investor relations decided she wanted to leave Qualcomm in 2003. And retire Steve Altman.
Steve Statler 32:31
In this is presumably because she made so much money that she didn't need to work.
Bill Davidson 32:35
A little bit of that, but more I just think she had been doing it for a while wanted to pursue other things. And so apparently, I wasn't there, obviously. But the senior team meets. And Steve apparently looked kind of up into the left and said, You know, I remember when I interviewed Bill Davidson to come into the company a year ago, I think he has some experience with Wall Street in the background, we should talk to him. So less you think it's you know, your hard work, and you were there asking for it. It's those moments and the things that you just never realize that are going on behind the scenes in your career. And so I'm forever indebted to him to this day for number one, he's got a fantastic memory, so for remembering it, but to having the confidence even though he just heard it in an interview, to encourage them to talk to me, and then I got that role. So how could you plan that from a career standpoint, and an eighth year ended poorly, so I'm leaving there thinking, Ah, this was terrible. But I'll tell you, some of the worst things that have happened to me in my career actually ended up being the best the doors that opened after were by far the best doors that have ever ever opened for me.
Steve Statler 33:38
Well, you learn from success, but you really learn from failure as well.
Bill Davidson 33:42
Yeah, indeed, you learn much faster from failure. And I think you learn a lot more I think, most people, it takes the jolt of failure where I try to learn from both right success is an equal equal and opposite reaction of failure. But for some reason, that failure just seems to stick with people.
Steve Statler 34:00
Let's talk a bit about what it was like to be representing this incredible company that is just killing it. And what you had to do to represent that to the stock market, because I'm sure there's a lot of pressure there. For we do that. Let's go for your last your last song. What's that?
Bill Davidson 34:20
So the last song, you know, one of my loves from a Hobby Standpoint is Genealogy. You know, my roots are Irish, Scottish and German. And actually, for an East Coast family, our family is relatively small for its era. So I've always had this yearning after a project in the third, fourth or fifth grade, to go back and research my genealogy. And so I have a love for the music of Ireland and Scotland. And so this is a group of high kings. Much to my children's just made we made them go see the Celtic women, and this happened to be the warm up band and it was on their first album that they toured with the Celtic women. They do a mix of traditional Irish Music in their own original compositions and their version of the parting glass, which is probably one of my favorite songs of all time, it's about not only closing down the bar at the end of the night, but about death, right? This is the parting glass for the guy who's leaving. And it's the song I said, I want played at my funeral while they're serving the Guinness.
Steve Statler 35:20
Wonderful. So what was it like when you I mean, talking about pressure, if you say the wrong thing to an analyst, then it's not like an order doesn't get placed, it's the value of this company starts to go down.
Bill Davidson 35:35
So, you know, I would tell you, it's the best job you can have in a company other than maybe four or five down the hall that have higher pay. But you get exposed to everything because you have license to ask anything you need, right? If an investor calls and they want to understand what about the patents for the high speed data capability that's getting rolled out in Europe? Are you guys really going to read on that with the video, so hs DBA, when it was rolling out? Therefore, I could pretty much get access to anybody I want to do in the company and be able to learn what I needed to learn to respond. And so I always said that view of the job was wonderful job security for me. And I said, if anybody ever figures out actually how much fun I'm having, and how much fun it is, I worry, there'll be a line at the door of people offering to do it for half of what I'm getting paid because I honestly can't think of a job number one that I enjoyed more in my career, or number two, where I learned more. And you think about the senior staff at the company at the time, you know, Irwin was still active Tony Thornley? No keidel You know, incredible mentor for me. Steve Altman, great mentor for me, Paul Jacobs, ultimately gave me the opportunity to run marketing. It was just you sit in those meetings, and you just soaked it in. And so I'll tell you, I was petrified when I got the job because my predecessor left suddenly, and I literally came to an empty desk, no training, no handoff, no nothing. Looking back on it, I wouldn't have it any other way. In the moment, I was scared to death for the first six months, absolutely petrified. But it was, without a doubt the greatest experience, I don't think I will have a better experience in my career, which I still plan on having one for some time. I can't imagine one being more impactful.
Steve Statler 37:20
So what's a typical day for a guy that runs investor relations.
Bill Davidson 37:24
Back then, it was literally having to run to go to the bathroom to get back to the phone to handle the phone calls. Remember, this was a major transition not that Qualcomm hasn't had many of them or didn't have many of them prior. It was Europe was still on 2g, no W CDMA. As I said, 2003, I got the job in August oh three, we just were moving to the 6000 series chipset. So amazingly, in 2004, a lot of the people we were integrating away drove the pricing on their components such that the 5000 series lived well longer into 2004 than we expected. So we were supply constrained all year. The great news about that is we were supply constrained all year on the chipset side. So we were just, I mean, we're killing it that year. But there was a lot of consternation on Are you really going to be able to get revenue from Western Europe and the rest of the world as they roll out W CDMA. So a lot of people came into the stock at that point who were new. So it was I mean, it was daunting. And then if you fast forward to 2005, October of 2005. I'll never forget the day when the IR guy from Broadcom called me at 530 in the morning and said, and luckily investor relations within companies is like its own club where even if you're doing things to each other, there's a camaraderie among those people. So I knew the guy at Broadcom. He called me at 530 in the morning and said, Hey, I gotta give you a heads up, we're, we're filing a lawsuit against you this morning. And I just, and then for the next, you know, what, three or four years, we dealt with that. But again, I'm kind of twisted in the sense I loved it. Because for me being a sales guy was I'm in the trenches again, battling someone. I remember saying that to Paul, that I kind of missed that. He goes, Yeah, don't miss it at all right, all the legal challenges. Now, certainly, Qualcomm is facing them again. But it's, it's evident of a very successful and enviable business model. And I believe sour grapes on the industry. But I was fighting those same battles then of explaining why Qualcomm's licensing program was just so integral to helping the technology get propagated, and I think I have the benefit of having been on the receiving end and one of the operators, I could share actual stories of I was selling analog against TDM. A while we waited for this technology, because the economics it was going to offer us were just so much better.
Steve Statler 39:45
And what about the marketing job? So it seems like investor relations would be more than a full time job for most people?
Bill Davidson 39:52
Steve Statler 39:53
How'd you get the marketing thing as well?
Bill Davidson 39:55
Almost in this in a similar way. So gentleman who was running marketing for Qualcomm, Jeff Belk and he had been very good to me early in my tenure at Qualcomm. And of course, I worked more closely with him when I got investor relations was moving out of his role. And fortunately for me, he mentioned Paul Jacobs, you know, you really ought to look at Bill for that. And that literally was how I got marketing in what 2006. And what was nice for me is Wall Street really lined up behind Qualcomm on the whole attack by Broadcom, the Gang of Six, as we like to call them in the European Commission. The street understood what it was about, and that they were really trying to slow Qualcomm down before they made their last grab of land, which was the two g market GSM. So Jeff, was very kind to make that recommendation. And I think Qualcomm had never really talked about itself too much with the press and feel it needed to. And I just would say one of the things I certainly learned during that time was even if you're a b2b company, if you're not building your own brand, somebody's building it for you. And so what I got to do then was what I had done with the investors Remember, I said, I got an empty desk. So all I did was look at my top 25 Like they were customers and start meeting with them. All of a sudden, I got the press, and I said, Well, I'm just going to start knocking them down. And so for two years, I was road weary, making those rounds through the Bay Area. I even met the Delaware court reporter when we were involved in a case with Nokia there, I had a core group of reporters in China, who had a wonderful relationship and would talk with and talk to every quarter after earnings. So it was just in the trenches, don't need to spend a lot of money, just build those personal relationships of trust that then develop into your message getting through.
Steve Statler 41:46
And of course, you've gone on and doing consulting being a VC very senior position at the company that really complements Qualcomm. But we've talked about the development of data services and mobile. And, of course, this new thing, IoT has been happening. What do you see in terms of the parallels between that era that you've just talked about? And what we're seeing now with IoT? Are there any? Is it all completely different? Or do you see recurring themes?
Bill Davidson 42:20
No, I think it's actually but I have a very good friend John Buker was a Wall Street analyst and I had the pleasure of working with him at Global Foundries, and he'd even been on the NYMEX side when we merged with them at Bell Atlantic. He has a very famous expression at least I think it's famous because I love it. And it's that history doesn't always repeat, but often it rhymes. And what I would say is, I actually see history rhyming, I would submit to you that IoT started an awfully long time ago. I think people think of it as a new concept, and we're going to connect things, not people. If I go back to those early days at Bell Atlantic, when I moved from wireline to wireless, I was carrying around a wooden mock up of a Sierra wireless pocket plus modem that was going to plug into the serial port of your laptop to enable you to do wireless data. Not over the analog network, but over the CPD cellular digital packet data network. But prior to that, I was at a visit to DuPont in Wilmington, Delaware, and they had a railcar that I believe left Texas destined for Louisiana. And the chemical I believe was anhydrous chloride that was being shipped in that railcar. Well, apparently anhydrous chloride when it warms up needs to vent. So what happened was this railcar leaves Texas arrives in Louisiana, empty. So something had happened where the temperature temperature control wasn't working. I guess every so often it decided to vent this chemical all along the way. I hope DuPont is over that one now. And maybe incriminating them, but I'm certain it's long enough ago. So what we did there, we had a motorcycle battery with a solar cell and a Motorola bag phone mounted to the top of that car. And we were taking its temperature every so many minutes and having it report back. So my view is I was working on IoT in 1992. So the first thing that rhymes is things take a really long time and much longer than people think they go through their hype cycle. And of course, that's people looking toward the end goal. But when you look at the work that has to get done to enable a lot of that it takes time. And sometimes it's not. Technology, that's the barrier. When you look at what's happening to me in IoT today, much of what's being talked about could have been enabled 20 years ago, but I think about things like business models and who's going to get disrupted and who doesn't want to break their business model. You have the IT and OT shops and these large industrial applications and operational technology says to it, you don't touch us. So you have infrastructure that's been out there for 30 years. That's just antiquated, but because of security stability business model, it's just been left to sit there. So the other one I think is security. I think a lot of people are relying on the air link being more secure on a wide area connection than Wi Fi. But let's be honest, I think a lot of these applications are going to be more short range wireless technologies with maybe one wide area hub to backhaul on remote applications. But if we're going to start using Bluetooth and Bluetooth, le and ZigBee, and a lot of other things, even Wi Fi, somebody's got to pull together the security platform that is going to make sure that a car doesn't do something nefarious on the road, or somebody can't be attacked on their medical device, their pacemaker. So I still see that as I don't think it's inhibiting us yet. But I think until someone has a good story around IoT security, it will become an inhibitor at some point. But mostly for someone who has been able to endure as long as I have in this, how many people actually live from infancy of vision to actually seeing it come true. That's the exciting thing for me is, I Paul Jacobs always talked about year by year count how many more IP addresses you have in your home. And I stopped to think about it like, wow, I actually have a tremendous number of IP addresses in my home. So we're deep in the Internet of Things. I just think we can't even imagine today, some of what's going to be capable, and what we're going to learn when we connect things and whether it's how we impact healthcare, how we impact reliability of infrastructure. It's one of those rare human events, I think it will be, I don't know, in my lifetime, if I'll see anything as important as the growth in just Internet access and the internet. Like for my grandparents, it was the airplane. But when I think about what will be capable, what we will be capable of through machine learning and collection of data through sensors and other things. That's the possibilities are almost limitless. And I'm particularly excited about the ones in healthcare. Although I fear I may actually expire before I see the full because he talked about business model and antiquated infrastructure. It's fraught with it. But it's you got to take a bite of the whale one at a time. And thankfully I see that happening.
Steve Statler 47:08
Well, fantastic. This has been so enjoyable. I really appreciate your sharing some of this industry history and some insights in terms of what it's taken to get where you've gotten to. And I also got to thank you just being a great friend and mentor to me, as I've gone and started businesses and so forth. Your advice and introductions and connections have just been phenomenal. So thanks a lot Bill Davidson.
Bill Davidson 47:32
Oh, you bet. And how great to share a beer with you over the interview. Yeah, thanks so much. Appreciate it. Yeah.