With under $25,000 in capital Mark Dankberg, working alongside co-founders Mark Miller and Steve Hart, started ViaSat in a spare bedroom in Mr. Dankberg's house in 1986. The three had complementary skills and remain in key roles at the company today. Dankberg is chairman and CEO, while Miller and Hart are chief technical officers.
Funded R&D Projects At First, But Always With an Eye on the Product Business
ViaSat’s initial business was obtaining contracts for engineering & proposal support to defense prime contractors bidding satellite programs. Part of each agreement was the stipulation that, if these customers won contracts as a result, then ViaSat would become a subcontractor. After two such "proposal" contracts, ViaSat obtained venture financing of $300,000 from Southern California Ventures.
Even with its beginnings in consulting, every contract was aimed at developing products to manufacture. The first breakthrough was to develop and manufacture specialized test equipment. This product may have been at the periphery of the industry, but created a product basis, and demonstrated our ability to design & manufacture. Despite its very small capitalization and a declining defense budget, the company’s strategy resulted in growing revenues every year, and a record of profitability beginning in year two and continuing today.
Communications for the Network Centric Military
Our initial successes in defense and government related communication products continue today in our Government Systems Division. Products include terminals, control systems, and training terminals for UHF and broadband military satcom; MIDS/Link-16 tactical communication terminals; video data links for UAVs; data messaging processors and software for bringing IP networking to the “tactical edge”; RF communication simulation systems; and secure networking products for encrypting both data communications and data storage within non-secure networks.
Communications for the Enterprise and Consumers
ViaSat has also built a line of commercial satellite networking systems for fixed sites and mobility. Products include satellite networking systems and managed network services for enterprise IP applications; gateway and customer-premises equipment for consumer and mobile satellite broadband services; antenna systems; satellite transceivers and other RF equipment; communication chipsets; and communication system design and engineering.
Strategic Acquisitions Build Competitive Strength an Environment for Breakthroughs
Under one roof, we have assembled virtually all the technologies we need to design and develop complete satellite and wireless communication systems, from microprocessing chips to satellite payloads. This vertically integrated approach gives us more freedom to design for optimum performance than if we had to piece together systems assembled from the products of other manufacturers.
A number of acquisitions have systematically brought together this expertise and technology, which enable the company to win and successfully execute larger and more complex projects, and anticipate the fast changing marketplace:
Satellite networking business of Scientific-Atlanta, adding our Skylinx satellite networking product line, the Antenna Systems business, and a worldwide sales and service organization: April 2000.
The VSAT products group of Lockheed-Martin Global Telecommunications, with its LinkStar and LinkWay VSATs, and Comsat Laboratories. Comsat Labs is a hub for innovation in satellite systems engineering, research, and development: May 2001.
The monolithic microprocessor (MMIC) technology and RF design capabilities of US Monolithics: December 2001
Efficient Channel Coding Inc., a producer of broadband communication integrated circuits and satellite communication systems, increasing our depth in the new S2 version of the DVB satellite broadband standard: December 2005.
Enerdyne and its EnerLinksTMII video data link equipment and digital video system. This datalink product for defense and intelligence markets, is primarily for ISR applications transmitting bandwidth intensive data such as video from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to ground stations: June 2006.
Intelligent Compression Technology with patented AcceleNet® WAN and application acceleration to speed data over low rate connections: February 2007.
JAST Antenna Technologies microwave circuits and antennas for terrestrial and satellite applications, specializing in small, low-profile antennas for mobile satellite communications: July 2007.
WildBlue Communications and its high-speed broadband service network serving 420,000 subscribers in the U.S.: December 2009.
Stonewood Encryption encrypted internal and external hard drives, certified to Top Secret levels in Canada and NATO countries: June 2010.
A Unique Culture
To provide unique products and systems for our customers, we rely on technical innovation from our employees. Our track record for recruiting the most talented technical professionals in the industry is behind our winning combination of employees and culture, providing success year after year.
We seek out individuals who demonstrate a commitment to excellence in their academic achievements and whose dedication to lifelong learning and professional growth shows no signs of slowing down. All of our employees – from recent graduate to industry expert – are encouraged to stretch, be creative, and participate as a critical team member in the research and development of new products, architectures, and technologies.
Several strategic aspects of our culture encourage and maximize this employee innovation. Creative engineering and project collaboration is very much encouraged by the management team so that contributions by every employee are not only welcomed, but actively pursued. Providing an environment where engineers can test and validate new approaches and implementations, in a controlled, research and development program, creates a structured framework, while encouraging breakthrough innovation.
In many ways, our culture is similar to top flight university environments:
An organization that is informal and collegial.
Encouragement of lifelong learning.
Technical competence is highly prized and respected—no matter where it resides in the organization.
Individuals have lots influence over their own career interests and can choose to focus in particular disciplines, explore a broad range of areas, or evolve into (and out of) related management or market development career paths.
An organization-wide emphasis on employee wellness, with many of our facilities offering a variety of recreation and fitness options.
Long Track Record of Success, Stability, and Fast Growth
ViaSat has become nationally known for its record of rapid growth. Prior to going public, we were listed on the INC.500 list of fastest growing private companies three times. The company has been named multiple times to many lists of hot growth companies compiled by the leading business publications:
- Forbes "200 Best Small Companies"
- BusinessWeek "100 Best Small Corporations"
- Red Herring “Small Cap 100”
- Business 2.0 “Fastest Growing Tech Companies”
- Space News “Top 50 Space Companies”
- Deloitte “Fast 50” and“Fast 500”
- Washington Technology "Top 100 Government IT Contractors"
- Defense News "Top Defense Companies" and "50 To Watch"
- Defense Systems "Super 75"
A number of other accolades have come ViaSat’s way:
- James S. Cogswell Outstanding Industrial Security Acheivement
- San Diego Entrepreneur of the Year – Mark Dankberg
- Satellite Executive of the Year – Mark Dankberg
- UC San Diego Jacobs School Executive of the Year – Steve Hart
- AEA San Diego “Telecommunications Company of the Year”
- Frost & Sullivan “Excellence in Technology Award”
- AFCEA “Golden Link”
- ISCe “Top Satellite Industry Innovator”
- San Diego Telecom Council (now CommNexus) “Innovators in Telecommunications”
- Society of Satellite Professionals “Industry Innovator”
- Defense Security Service Award of Excellence in Counterintelligence
- TechAmerica Foundation American Technology Award in Telecommunications (ViaSat-1)
Along the way, ViaSat has grown to over 2,500 highly skilled professionals. For the fiscal year ending March 30, 2012 revenues hit a record $864 million. In addition, the company is an AS9100 certified company for quality assurance.
ViaSat began trading as a public company on the Nasdaq Stock Market in December, 1996 under the symbol VSAT.
Comsat Labs and Comsat Laboratories are trade names of ViaSat Inc. Neither Comsat Labs nor Comsat Laboratories is affiliated with COMSAT Corporation. "Comsat" is a registered trademark of COMSAT Corporation.