Warren Oliver is back to doing what he enjoys doing most – working in a reasonably-sized organization and, as he describes it, “having a good time, having fun.”
During our recent interview with the President of Nanomechanics, Inc., Oliver described the two acquisitions that his old Nano Instruments, Inc. experienced before he and several partners formed Nanomechanics, Inc. in 2009.
The first occurred in 1998 when MTS Systems Corporation purchased the company.
“Nano technology was getting hot and because they owned us, they were getting on lists as some of the more profitable nano companies,” Oliver said. “We were operated as a separate company. They never really integrated us (into MTS).”
When Agilent acquired Nano Instruments a decade later, Oliver says that Agilent wanted to move into nano indentation. “It seemed to be a marriage made in heaven, particularly because of their sales force. The idea was to leave us as we were and let us leverage the sales force.”
What appeared to be a great strategic alliance fell victim to the economic downturn as Agilent closed many offices or divisions around the world. The separation was amicable.
“We do a lot of R&D for them as well as for ourselves,” Oliver said. “We are expanding what we do, but a lot of business is still with Agilent.”
The new company – Nanomechanics – “is the size of an organization I enjoy being a part of,” Oliver says of the 12-employee operation. If it gets too much larger, he fears that it will result in too many meetings.
The return to local ownership and control also aligns with Oliver’s personal goals. “I like making things . . . figuring it out . . . being in the lab,” he says. “I always had confidence in my ability to design things that will work.”
He adds that “the environment I like is one of cooperation, getting things done.” This is clearly what he and the executive team have created at Nanomechanics.
Oliver is also “proud of the fact that we have provided a good income for many people.”
Having been an entrepreneur for nearly three decades, Oliver also knows first-hand the experiences faced by companies in this region that are seeking $500,000 rather than $10 million in investment capital. He notes that “the level of risk takers is an order of magnitude bigger in California” and says it’s important that the Knoxville-Oak Ridge region address the funding gap for start-ups that are viable businesses, but not $100 million or larger enterprises.
Oliver says he’s “always been willing to give it a try . . . to push the limits a little bit.” That’s because he’s having fun. After all, he says, “I play with really interesting, fancy toys all day long.” When you can combine business and fun, it has to be a winning formula.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Teknovation ran an earlier article on Nanomechanics and an interview with John Swindeman, the firm’s Chief Executive Officer. It can be found at http://www.teknovation.biz/2012/08/02/evolutions-good-nanomechanics/.)