EXECUTIVE SPOTLIGHT - John Higginbotham
CEO, Integral Systems
The recently named new CEO of Integral Systems, Inc., is an individual who is a mover and a shaker within our industry. John Higginbotham, the founder and former Managing General Partner of SpaceVest Capital (which is now known as Redshift Ventures), joined Integral in July of 2008. John has always been involved in the cutting edge as a guiding force. He founded Intec, a global underwriting management company for insurance and financial risk management for aerospace companies, satcom operators, and national space programs. In addition to an early career at Hewlett Packard, John was also formerly the Chairman (now Director Emeritus) of the Space Foundation, a premiere non-profit organization that supports space activites, space professionals, and education. Hes also a member with the IEEE, ASCE, and AIAA and he received the 2007 National Space Society Space Finance Award. His B.S. with Honors in civil engineering was received from Virigina Tech and he earned his M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. Naturally, SatMagazine jumped at the opportunity to have a chat with Integrals leader
Good day, John, and thanks for giving us the time to learn more about your position and Integral Systems. First, can you tell us a bit about your career highlights, prior to joining Integral Systems in July 2008, in particular SpaceShift, now RedShift Ventures
My professional career in the industry goes back about three decades now and includes a variety of exciting and rewarding career experiences, with Hewlett Packard in 1979 as a product manager for their first micromputers, then with International Technology Underwriters (Intec) in the 80s. Later known as AXASpace, they essentially underwrote the expansion of commercial satellite communications by financing the risks of doing business in space.
Ten years after founding Intec, I started a company called SpaceVest to privately invest in space businesses. By the mid-1990s, the firms investment operations expanded by adding the first of what eventually became three institutional venture capital funds. By the time I retired from the active managment of venture capital operations in 2005, SpaceVest (RedShift Ventures) had more than $270 million under management, with investments in more than 50 companies.
Through these efforts, Ive had the opportunity to become involved in more than 100 satellite missions, helped support many of the dominant players in the satellite communications marketplace, and assisted in delivering many critical capabilities to the aerospace and defense industries. Ive had the privilege of working with some of the most capable leaders and pioneers in this business.
After earning a BS in civil engineering and an MBA from Harvard University, what made you choose the space industry in particular for your career path?
My passion for the space industry can be traced to my childhood when my father worked with ballistic missiles and NASA. As I built and launched model rockets while growing up, I closely followed the fascinating evolution of space flight. These activities inspired me to become involved and to do all I could to keep this business alive and prosperous.
While at business school, I participated in the first NASA/Harvard University study on Materials Processing in Space, which eventually led to my employment at Hewlett Packard. While managing the project that introduced the first HP microcomputers in the global marketplace was satisfying to me and hugely successful, I knew I would be drawn back into the space industry. This is what led me to explore potential entrepreneurial opportunities to support commercial endeavors in space and establish a key role in expanding the industry.
John, you mentioned you retired from managing venture capital operations at SpaceVest. What was it about Integral Systems thateased you out of retirement?
I was able to retire once SpaceVest became a recognized national leader for high-technology ventures. I wanted to be able to take time to pursue some of my special personal interests, as well as have the chance to stand back and reflect on the major issues facing the industry without the pressures and demands of daily management responsibilities. Having this period away really afforded me the opportunity to gain some perspective on the next challenges facing the industry and to think about the best approaches for addressing them.
As I learned more about the capabilities and aspirations of Integral Systems through conversations with our Board members and several senior managers, it became clear to me the company is on course to deliver a new business model to address the industrys needs. I felt I could build upon what Integral Systems already offers the marketplace and further expand Integrals growth potential.
Now that youve been Integral Systems CEO since July and have learned more about the company, what are your main plans for Integrals growth in the near term?
Integral Systems has established itself with a core ground systems capability and has proven to be the leader in delivering on time and on-budget very important programs over the years. Now we need to focus on communicating effectively to our customers and the marketplace to spotlight the extensive breadth and depth of Integral Systems capabilities.
We have some 600 seasoned professionals at Integral Systems and all its subsidiaries working diligently to ensure that our customers are more successful in their businesses, while meeting their mission-critical needs. In the future, well keep this customer focus a main priority and expand our capabilities through internal growth and targeted acquisitions. Well continue to broaden our capability to deliver commercial practices using proficient program management, and efficient system development and integration as the best possible value for our customers.
Integral has an extensive array of capabilities that can be more fully integrated to assist our government customers. Armed with all the critical skills, technologies, and experience weve acquired, we can bring these integrated solutions to larger, more complex challenges in this industry. My mission as CEO is to help the organization reach its full potential.
What about the plans for Integral Systems flagship product offering, the EPOCH Integrated Product Suite (IPS) as well as any other product plans that you have?
Well continue to ensure that we effectively enhance the capabilities of EPOCH IPS as weve done in the past. A top priority for us has always been to consistently meet our customers needs by providing regular enhancements through our planned version releases, user group input, and regular updates. EPOCH IPS has established itself as a standard in the industry and is widely recognized for efficiently and reliably supporting its customers TT&C needs. Integral Systems intends to maintain EPOCH IPS leadership position in the industry.
Integral Systems will expand on its portfolio of product capabilities through robust IR&D efforts, funded development programs, teaming relationships, vendor arrangements, and integration services. Our current generations of core capabilities from our subsidiaries RT Logic, SAT Corporation, Newpoint Technologies, and Lumistar are the most technologically advanced in the industry.
Well ensure that were well connected to marketplace demands so that we can enhance our capabilities organically and through targeted acquisitions that are mutually beneficial. Our product development process will continue to evolve aggressively in order to always deliver the best possible, most cost-effective solutions to our customers.
How is Integral Systems able to effectively meet the needs of such a varying customer base in the satellite industry?
I believe there are several key elements required to successfully support such a wide variety of satellite missions and customers from government, commercial, enterprise, and industry. These include developing and maintaining a comprehensive reliable product suite with the ability to easily add mission-unique features without modification to the core products; building up engineering expertise and experience in satellite ground systems; and sustaining a systems integration capability that is responsive to changing customer requirements.
For 26 years, Integral Systems has continually demonstrated a new standard of performance in providing solutions that meet critical government, commercial, and industrial customer requirements, on-schedule and within budget. This puts us in a perfect position to move forward and address critical needs for delivering reliable capabilities beyond the space industry, extending to land, sea, and air applications.
At this time, I believe the company is one of the best in this business at integrating commercial practices with best-in-class proprietary capabilities to deliver solutions that represent the best value propositions in the marketplace for satellite and network operations, situational awareness, geospatial intelligence, and many other related customer needs.
Our job is to sustain this leadership position while continually refining and improving our contribution to the marketplace to achieve increased productivity, maximal operational efficiency, and profitability for our customers.
John, what do you foresee for the overall future of the space industry?
Looking at the big picture, the space industry has gone through several stages of growth. The first wave of growth started in the mid-1940s and lasted through the 1960s. In this stage, civil and military government sponsorship was the main driver for the fundamental architecture of the industry. The 1970s brought about the second stage of growth, during which the methods for using space in areas such as satellite telecommunications, geo-positioning (GPS), and remote sensing, were defined and deployed.
This new third stage of growth were progressing into includes a comprehensive incorporation of space-based and space-related applications into established economic sectors. As we move into the future, we will see the integration of mature commercial business models with the advanced capabilities of the industry delivering new levels of usability and efficiency for government and enterprise customers in virtually every developed economic sector.
Thanks, John, for your time and insights.