It was at IR that Michael developed a reputation for creating new products and new businesses and for turning around manufacturing operations and businesses units across the globe. The VP of Human Resources at IR was fond of saying of Michael’s reputation, “Give it to Mikey, he can fix anything.”
At IR, Michael was fortunate to have great mentors including the founder Eric Lidow and his two sons, Alex and Derek Lidow. It was Derek who inspired Michael to go into marketing and almost simultaneously it was Alex Lidow who put Michael in charge his own R&D / Product Development group.
Two other outstanding mentors for Michael were Keith Jackson (CEO of On Semi) who was Michael's boss at Fairchild and Dale Lillard (of Landsdale Semi) who was Michael's boss at Motorola.
IR gave Michael the opportunity to work, travel and hire people around the world. This included his first trip to China in 1995 when the streets of Shanghai had only a few cars on them. But it wasn't until Michael worked at Fairchild Semiconductor as a Vice President of their Analog Business Unit that he discovered how much he enjoyed working with the people in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, and mainland China. Later as CEO of Qspeed Semiconductor, Michael was fortunate enough to travel to Asia, Japan and the Philippines nearly once per month for business.
When Michael joined Qspeed Semiconductor it was actually called Lovoltech. This venture capital backed start up had spent $36M and 5 years developing a a new type of power transistor. Within the first few months Michael discovered the product was selling at prices so low that the profit margins were around negative 66%. After personally talking to customers in Taiwan and China it became clear they were only using Lovoltech to leverage their main suppliers to drop price. The original investors were shocked as they had been told for years how good this technology was and how much of a cost advantage it had.
Closing Lovoltech was a strong possibility but Michael had a back up plan he had been working on. While at a technical conference he had discovered a new trend where power supplies in computers, laptops, servers, and copy machines were being forced by government legislation to become more efficient so as to waste less electricity. Power supplies all around the world were being redesigned to boost efficiency up to 80% and then 85%. Believe it or not, some common power supplies were only 50% efficient, wasting half the electricity they used.
Michael conceived of the idea for the "Qspeed Diode," a component that when installed in most power supplies would boost its efficiency. The industry was already starting to use Silicon Carbide (SiC) diodes, but those were selling for $4 and they had a poor reputation for reliability. Michael knew his team at Lovoltech could achieve nearly the same performance with much better reliability by using silicon, and it would sell for $1 and make over 55% gross margin. Which it did.
Two long time friends and colleagues had joined Michael when the company was still called Lovoltech. Richard Francis became the CTO and Dave Gutierrez took over Product Engineering. This team then developed the Qspeed Diode and had it in production in under 12 months. Normally something like this takes two years, but this team had pioneered ways to do very fast product development. The new sales team in Asia, which Michael brought on, began sampling customers and within a few months they had over 30 paying customers. Qspeed was later sold to Power Integrations.
When Michael left Qspeed in 2008, the world was entering one of the worst recessions ever, so he decided that rather than look for a job when most semiconductor companies were laying off, he would work on CareerPlanner.com, an online business he had created as a hobby many years earlier.
CareerPlanner offers tools to help people figure out what they want to do for a career. In 2004, while between jobs at Fairchild Semi and Lovoltech, Michael developed technology and search engine optimization (SEO) techniques that would bring in high volumes of visitors to the website. Using this technology, traffic grew from 700 visitors per day to up to 30,000 per day. With over 36% being international.
In 2009, Google took notice of this high traffic on CareerPlanner.com and contacted Michael, offering to assign a team to show him how to do a better job of monetizing his traffic. The results were spectacular. Later that year, Google wrote a case study on Michael and CareerPlanner.com. For the next two years, Google used CareerPlanner.com as an example in their advertising training classes which they took to major cities around the world.
Michael's passion had always been a combination of using new technology and providing leadership, insight and direction to help people, businesses, and product groups do a better job. In 2013, Michael wanted to go back into the semiconductor business. He missed the people, the products, the travel and the infinite ways one could improve just about everything.
Because CareerPlanner.com was almost 100% automated, Michael could focus on getting back into semiconductor industry.
To be continued...