Interview: Chuck Bland and Bob Donahue from M/A-COM Technology Solutions

March 14, 2011
Interview by Nancy Friedrich

Nancy: Chuck, you've been in this industry for quite a whileincluding stints at Sirenza Microdevices and Vari-L. How did you end up in the microwave industry? And what's your favorite thing about it?

Chuck: Well, my introduction to the industry was as the CEO of Vari-L. Unfortunately, I joined in March of 2001, just as the industry entered one of its cyclical downturns. Vari-L was later acquired by Sirenza Microdevices, and I became COO of that combined entity. I think what I enjoy most about the industry is its dynamic natureboth in terms of market growth and the constant emergence of new technologies.

Nancy: John Ocampo, who is the Chairman of M/A-COM Tech, has a lot of industry experience with companies like Avantek and Sirenza. Do you have much interaction with John on the running of the company?

Chuck: John was the founder at Sirenza and I had the chance to work closely with him in that assignment. John is intimately involved in decisions regarding our technology platforms. With the addition of responsibility for R&D, I expect that I will be working even more frequently with him in this assignment. John has the perfect balance between oversight of the operating performance of the company and its strategic direction. He sets clear expectations in terms of operations and establishes the metrics needed to gauge performance. In terms of strategic direction, he has the unique ability to identify key technologies or markets early in their development cycle.

John's personal reputation has also enabled us to attract key technologists to the company, like Mike Murphy, and to become aware of prime acquisition opportunities before their availability is widely known in the industry. This is a significant competitive advantage for us.

Nancy: Over the next one to five years, where do you think the biggest opportunities are for M/A-COM Technology Solutions in terms of both technology and profit?

Chuck: In terms of profitability, I think that the future has never been brighter. We have significantly increased our investment in R&D and we are already seeing a large number of new products entering the marketplace. Our acquisition of Mimix Broadband has also expanded our product offering and moved us into a "key supplier" role with customers that we believe are key to our long-term success.

On the manufacturing side, we have adopted a hybrid model using our in-house fab for proprietary and unique processes, such as our HMIC diode line, coupled with outsourced capacity from our merchant foundry partners. This strategy brings us the favorable financial leverage of owning a fab and the operating flexibility to quickly and cost effectively scale our production to the changing market environment. It also allows us to tap into new process technologies from our foundry partners, when it's the best way to deliver performance to our customers.

With the integration of Mimix, we have demonstrated the ability to quickly integrate an acquisition and realize expected cost synergies from a deal. That gives us the confidence to continue to seek out acquisitions that are consistent with our long-term strategy in the multi-market arena.

Nancy: In which markets do you expect to see the most growth?

Bob: Nancy, with the perspective of time, we see our automotive market growing the fastest right now, spearheaded by the Ford SYNC program. In the one- to two-year period, point-to-point and CATV are good growth platforms. Longer term, the A&D, energy, and medical markets offer the potential for good growth with profitability.

Nancy: Tell me a little bit about the more exciting or attention-getting deals M/A-COM Tech has gotten in the last couple of years.

Chuck: Well, I mentioned Mimix earlier. This was a perfect merging of their advanced technology with our market presence. We were able to very quickly integrate their manufacturing into our platforms and make the transition almost seamless for their customers. As a small company, Mimix was very entrepreneurial, which enabled them to be very responsive to customer needs.

Unfortunately, their size also worked against them, as customers were often reluctant to use them as a single source. M/A-COM Tech was able to retain the entrepreneurial spirit of the engineers and management team and to solve the issue of size. The result was a significant increase in sales of the products we acquired, exceeding even our most optimistic expectations. We used this acquisition strategy extensively at Sirenza, and I believe that M/A-COM Tech is even better positioned to successfully execute on this model.

Bob: Chuck's comments are exactly on target with our M&A successes. Blending these entrepreneurial companies and innovators with us is very complementary to our larger base, strong systems, and large reinvestment in R&D. We also have a strong focus on reestablishing our strategic customer and supplier base. Seventy percent of our R&D is spent on our largest four markets, where we focus on the top one or two leaders. We are at our best when we are intimate with our customers and focused on solving their most challenging needs with alacrity.

Nancy: Looking at M/A-COM Tech and its predecessors' past 60-plus years, what do you consider some of the most landmark accomplishments?

Bob: M/A-COM Tech was born of technology innovation, Nancy. I was here when the old M/A-COM put the very first GaAs RFIC (switch) into a handset in the late 1980s. Technology and product innovations are our DNA and we are strongly returning to it. Our new owners add a critical element of successful business innovation, which is hugely complementary and liberating.

Nancy: Chuck, as CEO, what do you see in the future for M/A-COM Tech?

Chuck: We believe we have now built the right foundation for sustainable, profitable growth. We have a solid product portfolio, and are ready to assume the role of technology leadermuch like the M/A-COM of old. Our customers should expect more of the same from us in the future.

Nancy: Bob, do you have anything to add?

Bob: Just that we are back - all the way back!

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