Mark Dankberg started his company ViaSat (Nasdaq: VSAT) not only in one of the most competitive business sectors, high-tech, but also in the shadow of Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM), one of the biggest wireless companies in the world.
But since its inception in 1986, Dankberg has grown ViaSat into a publicly traded company that employs about 1,000 people in San Diego.
"ViaSat is such an important success story for San Diego," said Camille Sobrian, chief operating officer of local trade group Connect. "I remember when they were literally unheard of, a real small player ... Now they're getting record earnings."
The company's stock has grown steadily since going public in 1996, taking a sharp rise a at the turn of the millennium, suffering a dip in late 2002, but then climbing back to where it is today. In the quarter ended Sept. 28, the company reported record revenues of $146.6 million and new net contract awards of $189.5 million.
"They've figured out the markets," Sobrian said. "Now they're focusing on the defense fields and the broadcast industry."
The fact that ViaSat recently hired a vice president of marketing, she said, shows that the firm has finally reached the point where it can broadcast its own success, and others are taking notice. The company has been in the top rankings of numerous business publications.
Dankberg co-founded ViaSat in 1986. The company provides digital satellite communications, other wireless and secure networking, and signal processing equipment and services. Its government segment offers multifunction information distribution system product, and analog and digital links for unmanned vehicles. It also offers networking and information assurance products, including information security products that enable military and government communicators to secure information; and data controller products, which provide military communication channels using error correction technology.
After earning his bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering at Rice University, Dankberg, who currently serves as ViaSat chairman and chief executive officer, began his career at the Collins Radio division of Rockwell International as a systems engineer. Next he became an engineering director and then a vice president at M/A-Com Linkabit where he managed the satellite networking and digital voice communications business area. He helped establish Linkabit's VSAT business, which, along with other M/A-Com divisions, became Hughes Network Systems.
Dankberg has influenced the development of satellite communication standards and holds several patents on these technologies as well, including Demand Assigned Multiple Access networking, jam-resistant satellite links, satellite messaging systems, and Paired Carrier Multiple Access, according to ViaSat. He is now involved in development of potential new standards for domestic and international satellite telephony and broadband data networks.
Dankberg also is a director of TrellisWare Technologies Inc., a privately held subsidiary of ViaSat, and is on the advisory board of Minnetronix Inc., a privately held medical device and design company.
In 2000, Dankberg was named Ernst & Young "Entrepreneur of the Year" in San Diego, and he was honored as the 2003 "Satellite Executive of the Year" by Via Satellite magazine, the leading trade publication for the satellite communications industry.