(Image courtesy of Pasi Hilli, Creative Commons).
Toward the end of last month, Marki Microwave made its first change in chief executive since Ferenc Marki and his wife Christine founded the firm in 1991. But the two founders did not look far to fill the position.
Their son, Christopher Marki, is taking the reins of the Morgan Hill, California, company. Ferenc Marki, who is widely renowned for his expertise in frequency mixers, will become president of the firm. Marki Microwave announced the change in a newsletter to employees and customers in late December.
Christopher’s elevation to chief executive was telegraphed by his role as director of operations, where he worked on reducing the size, complexity, and cost of the firm’s mixer designs. He jumped into that job in June 2011 after fours years of doing research for Marki Microwave. Before that, he earned a doctorate in photonics from the University of California, San Diego.
Christopher, 36, inherits a parts supplier that increasingly views a future beyond its niche market. Marki Microwave is known as a major supplier of frequency mixers, which are used to convert and modulate signals used in things like radio transmitters, electronic warfare, test equipment, and commercial radars. But around a decade ago, it was getting nearly 90% of its revenue from mixer sales alone.
Ferenc, 73, started devising mixers around two decades before he founded his company. In the seventies, he introduced classic mixer designs and package styles like the M13 and flat-pack mixers covering 2.5 to 18.5 gigahertz. From 1981 to 1991, he worked for Avantek and Western Microwave, where he created many double and triple-balanced designs that function up to 26 GHz.
At Marki Microwave, he introduced the first surface-mount package for suspended substrate mixers to 30 GHz. In 2004, Marki introduced a two-tone terminator, or T3, mixer line, which employs internal feedback circuitry and high-speed switching to achieve better performance than conventional parts.
Christopher's promotion shows the balancing act involved with moving beyond those components. In recent years, Marki Microwave has expanded into diode limiters and amplifiers, while improving the isolation and reducing the size of its mixers. Despite his father's romance with mixers, Christopher received his blessing to do something else.
“When I began working at Marki Microwave in the fall of 2007, my father gave me some simple advice,” Christopher said in the announcement. “He said, ‘Use the cash flow generated by our mixer products and go design something interesting.” Christopher said he had spent much of his nine years at the company trying to find what he called “the next great Marki widget.”
"If you want to be the Mercedes of your niche, you cannot accept the older technology. You must always innovate on your old ideas," Ferenc said in a 2012 interview with industry trade publication EEWeb. "You have to accept the fact that everything we do today is inferior to what we will do tomorrow."
And the company is already changing, Christopher said. Marki Microwave now offers IC-level microelectronic packaging up to millimeter waves, fabless IC design, and software tools for plotting mixers. Last year, it also expanded its Morgan Hill design and manufacturing facility by 10,000 square feet.