Microwave Journal

Executive Interview: Harrison Osbourn, CEO of Signal Hound

September 15, 2022

1. What was the path that led you to acquire Signal Hound?

I began my career in the U.S. Navy as a Naval Intelligence Officer. I dealt a lot with signal intelligence and was very familiar with the tools and use cases that Signal Hound products provide. After spending six years on active duty, I decided to transition out of the military to pursue a career in business.

I received my Master’s in business administration from Harvard Business School and got a job as a management consultant with Bain and Company. At Bain, my main focus was on growth strategy, mostly for large Fortune 500 companies. After several years of working with executive teams to craft various growth strategies, I had a desire to gain more operational experience by implementing a growth strategy and executing it for several years.

Around the same time, my wife (who grew up in the Pacific Northwest) and I decided to move to Portland, Ore., in order to start our own family. I was fortunate enough to get a job with Tillamook Creamery, who was a regional west coast dairy brand at the time. My role there was leading their strategic planning group. Tillamook had a desire to expand from a regional brand to a national brand. I helped them put together that long-term strategy and then execute on that. Fast forward to today, and now Tillamook has a national presence and has outpaced industry growth by 6x.

By this time, I had built my career on developing and executing growth strategies. I now had the confidence to set out on my own and I founded Bridgehouse Capital in 2020. The sole purpose of that endeavor was to acquire and operate a business that I could grow. I was looking for a profitable company, located in the Pacific Northwest, where I understood the business model and believed that the product had a strong growth potential. Signal Hound was a perfect fit. My familiarity with the product and use cases from my earlier career, combined with my skillset of creating growth strategies and scaling businesses, made Signal Hound a fantastic opportunity for me.

2. Tell us more about how your background aligns with Signal Hound’s business.

My background as an intelligence officer provided me real world operational experience in regard to how Signal Hound tools are used in the field. I understand the customer needs, as well as the government procurement process. From the business side, my background is in strategy, finance, marketing and operations. I have a lot of experience building business processes and operating systems that allow a business to scale. Signal Hound is at an inflection point where they have a strong foundation for growth, and I will be focused on building the processes and tools that will allow us to accelerate that growth.

3. You’ve recruited Tom Lane to serve as president. What's his background, and what areas will he focus on?

Tom’s background and skillset are extremely complementary to my own. Tom began his career as an engineer, with service in the military interspersed. Following that time, he went on to serve as president of Engineering Design Team. He has vast product and hardware experience and truly is a technical expert on Signal Hound products. As president, Tom will be leading our manufacturing and R&D functions at Signal Hound. I will focus on the finance, sales, marketing and HR functions, as well as setting the strategic vision for the organization. We believe that Tom’s industry understanding and technical knowledge are a great fit next to my business experience.

4. What are your initial impressions of the business, the strengths and opportunities to strengthen the company?

I have just completed my first 100 days as CEO of the business, and I could not be more thrilled and excited about where we are. The company has such a strong culture, and the team is full of dedicated and talented employees.

The strength of our business is our strong product line, which provides superior performance at a price point that our competitors cannot match. The business is built on providing unrivaled value for our customers, and we will continue to do that under my leadership. We see a lot of opportunities to grow our business by introducing new products with incremental use cases, as well as entering new markets that Signal Hound has not historically been a part of.

Additionally, as more and more customers discover our brand and how our performance stacks up, we believe we can continue to acquire new customers who are attracted to our value proposition.

5. Signal Hound announced two new products at IMS: the BB60D and SM435B. Tell us what they do and how they extend the performance of your prior generation of products.

The SM435B and BB60D really continue our tradition of bringing value to the test and measurement industry.

Finally cracking the mmWave space for a Signal Hound product is our SM435B spectrum analyzer. Simply put, there isn’t a competing product on the market that can touch the capabilities for the price point. As we consider ourselves innovators in the industry, the SM435B brings a powerful tool to users who haven’t previously had access to research and development in the 43 GHz spectrum range.

The BB60D adds 10 dB more dynamic range under the hood, as well as the addition of preselectors. This duo of upgrades makes an already powerful and affordable, backpack-sized spectrum analyzer an even more attractive option for anyone who’s looking for a quality real-time spectrum analyzer operating up to 6 GHz.

When you provide access to a new set of users, then you end up seeing innovation in that new space. It’s something Signal Hound prides itself on, being a bit of an underdog in the industry. Not only do we provide incredible products for high-end users, we’re also putting powerful tools in the hands of all types of engineers and technicians across the industry, not just large entities.

6. Can you share what your team is working on in the lab that may lead to new or updated products?

Yes, we are currently looking to develop products that will allow us to enter new categories, as well as upgrade our current product portfolio. For instance, the introduction of BB60D which is a massive upgrade in performance over our BB60C product, will allow us to springboard into new product development.

The Signal Hound philosophy has historically been to build on the successes we’ve had over the last 10 or more years. That trajectory won’t change as we move forward. We will continue to build on what is already there but add new innovations to the mix. The SM435B, is our first spectrum analyzer for the mmWave band, which will allow our customers to analyze the 5G and Ka satellite band. We put a lot of planning into this particular unit. It wasn’t something that we approached lightly. We invested in higher capacity test equipment, went down several design paths and ultimately ended up with a product that early adopters have been really pleased with.

As always, with all of our new products, we will seek to provide unrivaled value by selling high performance products as an affordable price point.

7. In addition to new products, do you see opportunities for growth geographically or with new customers, perhaps by extending your sales channel?

On a whole, Signal Hound has been really successful with our direct sales model. We work with key distributors in the United States, Europe and elsewhere, but we see great potential for growth in new markets. We do see notable opportunities for expansion in the public sector and, of course, via our online sales.

Our model allows us to be flexible about market sectors we want to explore or areas of the industry we feel we can expand our presence. That is something I’ll be putting energy into and collaborating with our marketing and sales staff to continue to fine tune. We really strive to make the customer experience here a positive one. Our customers find it very convenient to be able to go to our website, find out everything they need to know about a product and then buy it right then and there. Streamlining the buying process for them is something we are intentional about and a component of their interaction with us that we put a lot of care into.

8. One of the themes we heard at IMS is the challenge of managing shortages in the supply chain. How is Signal Hound faring?

Obviously, supply chain has been top of mind for not only our industry, but anyone who relies on chips, components or pieces of the manufacturing process. We have been really fortunate that Signal Hound did a lot of future-proofing ahead of the pandemic. That doesn’t mean we haven’t had challenges in this space of trying to source supply, but we have a number of trusted vendors when it comes to the components we utilize in our products, and that has made a big difference in how we have come through shortages.

Part of the trial that comes from running a business that relies on availability of parts and vendor lead times is that we are constantly looking into the future and trying to insulate ourselves from the difficulties we’ve seen over the last couple of years. It’s a puzzle that can be exciting to try and solve. But some days, the puzzle presents obstacles where you really have to come up with a creative solution. That’s something that’s both exciting, as well as demanding.

9. Another theme from IMS: recruiting the talent needed for developing and sustaining new products. How are you managing that, so it's not constraining your growth?

Signal Hound has always had a knack for bringing in really talented team members. With the recent sale of the company, we were able to bolster our leadership team and continue to add support and production staff to keep up with the continued growth we are seeing. Our engineers are world-class, and we feel we have the kind of company and environment that attracts the kind of talent that can help us continue our upward trend in the industry and fit into a company culture that places great value on team member satisfaction. With our proximity to Portland and the surrounding areas, there is a viable pool of technology personnel.

As the next generation of engineers come into the job market, we believe they will see a solid foundation at a company like ours and understand that they can come in and do impactful work on products that are utilized by some of the top companies in the world. That’s an attractive proposition for those considering what kind of company they want to work for.

10. Bruce Devine built Signal Hound into a company offering high performance instruments that are uniquely affordable. He was personally accessible and highly respected in the industry. Now that you are in the leadership role, what message do you want to convey about the future of Signal Hound?

I want to tell all of our customers and partners that I am committed to continuing all of the values and practices that the Signal Hound brand is built on. One of the reasons that Bruce decided to sell his business to me is partly because we were so aligned with our values and our vision for the company. We are committed to providing superior performing products at affordable price points. Moreover, Signal Hound will continue to make both our engineering team and myself personally accessible to our customers. We believe there is immeasurable value for our customers’ technical staffs to be able to connect directly with our engineering team and that is just another example of the unrivaled value in customer support that Signal Hound provides.

The future of Signal Hound is very bright, and we plan to continue our growth trajectory all while maintaining the value proposition that has inspired such fierce customer loyalty over the years.