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Secrets of their success

CEOs talk strategy at the second annual Silicon Valley Technology Fast 50 awards.

Luck and foresight is how CEO Bruce Juhola sums up the 3,037 percent revenue growth his Microbar generated over the past five years.

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Juhola on employee contributions
The CEO of Microbar, a chemical management system developer for semiconductor makers, talked to semiconductor companies and chemical producers to hear their crystal-ball projections for where they thought the industry would be in five years. The companies drew a consensus that a smaller chip would be needed, but chemical producers were all over the map about which chemicals were required to make that happen.

"We made a bet on which chemical would be the best and designed our equipment to make that," Juhola said.

Microbar, a Santa Clara, California-based company ranked fifth among the top five fastest-growing Silicon Valley companies recognized at a dinner last night in San Jose. The event was part of the second annual Silicon Valley Technology Fast 50 awards, which honor dozens of companies with tremendous revenue growth from 1991 to 1995.

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Holdt on matching the marketplace's needs
A privately held company that posted $10 million in sales last year, Microbar studied the semiconductor industry in the early 1990s and decided to spend the capital needed in 1992 to reap financial rewards anticipated by 1995 and beyond, Juhola said.

His was just one of many success stories recounted by several peers at the event. Terry Holdt, chief executive of S3 (SIII), said his company's 9,627 percent revenue rise was a matter of timing.

"I'd like to say we had a phenominal strategy and did a tremendous effort, but we were in the right place at the right time," said Holdt, whose semiconductor company ranked fourth.

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Angel on company's secret
David Angel, chief executive of Information Storage Devices (ISDI), said the storage device maker stays competitive by keeping comprehensive files on its customers and scanning their Web pages to learn of new products.

"This gives us ideas to figure out how we can get our chips into their products," said Angel, whose company ranked third of the 50 companies. "When we call on customers, we know their products, its intended functions and the market they're going after."

QuickLogic took the second spot with it 21,459 percent revenue growth.

"Revenues are a function of people willing to pay for things, and people pay for things when they perceive there's value there," said E. Thomas Hart, chief executive of a semiconductor company.

But how does he determine what a customer wants? Hart said his company makes the rounds with customers and tries focus groups.

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Hart on focus groups
And what does it take to see revenues grow by 29,278 percent in five years? Zvi Alon of number-one ranked NetManage (NETM), has a few answers.

"We're a brave company and believe in trying new things," said Alon, chief executive. "Also, the absolute key is to be flexible. The market has changed a lot in six years, and we're willing to change our business and marketing models. Our employees realize it's OK to change."

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Alon on being brave
The company also tried developing a core set of applications for its software and tried to bundle in enough applications to meet their needs. But when feedback indicated that more was wanted, features were added based on the volume of requests that came in.

"This way," Alon said wryly, "we had instantaneous market research done by our customers."