What’s the story of HYPERLABS?
Agoston Agoston (AA): I was always fascinated by the impact of the invention of new electronic components on sampling technologies to enhance the performance of instrumentation. First, in 1966, the step recovery diode (SRD); then, in 1990, the nonlinear transmission line (NLTL).
In 1992, I formed HYPERLABS to build instruments enabled by these two components. My dream was to build a 100 GHz sampling oscilloscope using NLTL technology, which later became a reality.
Brian Doxley (BD): In 2019, HYPERLABS started a new chapter when we opened an office near Boulder, Colorado, and began hiring former Picosecond Pulse Labs engineers. Agoston has known most of the team for many years, and their skills dovetail perfectly with what we’re doing. Since we opened that office, both our catalog and revenues have grown significantly. We now have the engineering and manufacturing bandwidth to take on bigger, more challenging projects.
Describe your products and what markets or applications they serve.
BD: Our time domain reflectometers (TDR) and impedance analyzers are physically small and inexpensive enough to be deployed in ways that other instruments cannot. At one end of the spectrum, we have multinational corporations using our products around the world to test cable assemblies in cramped spaces, such as train cars and airplanes. At the other, the same attributes allow university labs to use our instruments in novel materials science and electrical experiments.
On the components side, our products are used in data, optical and other high speed differential systems. These systems require very wide frequency bands and tightly controlled matching. With our expertise in impedance-controlled design, we can meet these needs as well as anyone.
Being in business since 1992 is quite an accomplishment. What distinguishes HYPERLABS in the eyes of your customers?
BD: Speed and responsiveness. Agoston came up with the slogan “Innovation at Hyperspeed” to represent how quickly we’re able to design and deploy new products. It also captures our commitment to customer service: short lead and response times, immediate support, hassle-free purchasing.
AA: We have an unbelievable opportunity to work with exceptionally creative people, constantly thinking, generating and testing new concept and ideas. That is what it really takes to innovate at hyperspeed.
Does your revenue come largely from catalog products? Do you design custom products for customers?
BD: For us, these things are closely intertwined. Most revenues come from off-the-shelf products, but those products were often designed in response to specific customer requests.
Typically, engineers come to us needing a better or faster version of something they already use — for example, a pick-off tee with higher bandwidth or a DC block with lower insertion loss or a smaller TDR. These products usually end up in our catalog. If one company needs next-gen technology, others probably will too.
What market trends are driving your product development and fueling your growth?
BD: The need for speed. Our expertise is designing higher performance versions of things that people already use widely. We didn’t invent the balun or pick-off tee, for example, but we made faster versions that do more of what customers need in modern high speed optical and data applications.
AA: Recognizing that the very high speed signals are on semiconductor wafers, we are also focusing on designing small size instruments, mainly USB powered and controlled, which can be operated in conjunction with wafer probes, both microwave and optical.
How has your business been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
BD: Disruptions have been minimal for us so far. Our focus on high value-add parts makes us less dependent on volume sales or manufacturing. Most of our large customers are still doing R&D and system design work, and they still need our parts. Our design and simulation work can largely be done remotely. We’ve staggered manufacturing to keep the lines running.
We can’t travel between our Oregon, Colorado and Georgia sites for the time being. We count ourselves lucky that this is the worst of it for us.
We’ve always been fascinated by the “bimodal” distribution of companies in the RF/microwave industry: a group of large test and measurement and semiconductor companies — with revenues above $1 billion — and a large number of small, focused, long-lived, often family-owned firms. From your experience, what sustains this diverse, healthy ecosystem of smaller companies?
BD: Part of it comes down to creativity and flexibility. A small engineering team can collaborate more closely and bring new ideas to life more quickly. That’s important in an industry where everyone always wants to go a little faster or get a little more bandwidth.
Another aspect is specialization. There are a lot of niches within our industry. Not everyone knows much about lossy transmission lines, impedance-matched components or time domain measurement techniques. But we do. That’s why they come to us.
Agoston, after all these years in the industry and owning your own company, what continues to interest and energize you about the technology and business?
AA: I still love building instruments and components, using integrated sampling technology, with the ultimate high performance, the smallest size and power at an affordable price — that is the driving force of our company.
Brian, we understand you have a special relationship to HYPERLABS. How did you get involved and how do you and your father-in-law split your roles?
BD: That’s true, I’m married to Agoston’s daughter. When I earned my law degree in 2009, the legal job market was a mess, and it seemed wise go in different direction. I founded two tech startups and honed my business skills in the process. When Agoston needed someone to help manage the sales and operations side of his company, I was very interested.
We are primarily a hardware company, so my job is to make it easier for the engineers to do their jobs. I handle most of the non-hardware aspects of our business: operations, sales and marketing, customer communication, etc. The more time the engineers can spend in the lab, instead of fighting through red tape, the better off we all are.
Any lessons or recommendations about keeping the harmony in a family business? How do you make strategic decisions?
BD: The unofficial HYPERLABS slogan comes from Voltaire: “No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking.” Sustained thinking to us is frequent, focused and honest. Everyone has a seat at the table when we make decisions. We all talk, we all listen and decisions usually end up being unanimous, because we all trust each other.
AA: Managing highly creative people doing the sustained thinking is an art form in and of itself. We need to be patient and trust that the work will ultimately be finished, resulting in significant technical and economic benefits for the company. That more than compensates for the time spent making decisions as a group.
To learn more about HYPERLABS' products, visit the company's website.