Flex and Raytheon Patnership

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  • Updated 9 months ago
I saw the announcement of this new $35MM dollar partnership.  Congrats to Flex ownership and I am sure it will make the company more successful.

However, I have seen this before in which niche hobby company secures large contracts and over time the promises that the relationship will benefit the original customers never materialize and fade.  Leaving the original customers feeling like red hair step children.  With a $35MM customer whom do you think is most important to Flex ownership.  Who gets the attention and the technology.  Sure it sounds good on the surface but making it a benefit for the initial customer base is not as easy as a few words.

Hopefully, Flex will find a way to do so where many other small niche hobby companies have failed.
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John - K3MA

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Posted 9 months ago

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Steve - N5AC, VP Engineering / CTO

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Official Response
I appreciate the comments about this opportunity. To most, opportunities like this represent change and with change, there is often fear for the future. Will the change disrupt or enhance what you see as the best parts of FlexRadio? I believe this is at the heart of most of the sentiments I've read here. I'd like to address this concern.

Most of us here at FlexRadio are hams first. The company was founded with the intent of serving the ham radio market. It's not uncommon to hear one of our employees talking with others about our passions and our hopes for the world of amateur radio. My personal passion for amateur radio includes, but extends beyond my love of the hobby. I also believe very strongly in 47 CFR §97.1 (d) "Expansion of the existing reservoir within the amateur radio service of trained operators, technicians, and electronics experts." We run into so many people in the world of radio, science and other STEM fields that first were introduced to science, physics and radio through amateur radio. Amateur radio is a playground where science-minded individuals can learn and explore the world of RF and it's one critical component  of the future of our population of technical resources. 47 CFR §97.1 is genius and we should all re-read it from time to time to remind ourselves of why amateur radio is important.

At the same time, we are patriots. We believe in the freedom of individuals and representative governments, with power inherent in the people and exercised by the people or their representatives.* While this contract embodies a number of opportunities for us (see below), we are proud to serve our armed forces in this way. Communications is a critical piece of any fighting force and, believe it or not, HF radio is more important that ever. Serving the military and the government is also a tremendous responsibility and one that we do not take lightly.

Whenever we look at opportunities, we tend to "renew our vows" to each other by talking about the impact on our core amateur business. We do this because each of us loves our customers and our amateur business. It's not just because we are hams or that this is how we are currently making our living, but because we truly believe in amateur radio and its purpose (as mentioned above). No one here has any desire to discontinue our deemphasize our amateur business. On the contrary, we are continually having conversations about the synergy between our two customer groups and how each segment of our business can help the other. But this is not new.

The story of FlexRadio starts in the world of amateur radio, but has continually been intertwined with a story of working with governmental entities, both in the US and our NATO allies. As many of you know, this is not our first foray into non-amateur worlds. In each of our previous engagements, we carefully selected opportunities that were synergistic with our core amateur business: opportunities that would allow us to leverage our current technology and, at the same time, add new technology we could leverage into the future. We said "No" to many more opportunities than we said "Yes." The FLEX-6000 was born out of such an opportunity. Were it not for a government contract we took on in 2008, the FLEX-6000 would not exist as it does today. While we still regularly produce and sell the equipment developed on that contract, the FLEX-6000 is really the key legacy of that contract for FlexRadio.

Some also have commented that they believe we are packaging a FLEX-6000 for flight and have speculated about possible issues with this approach. Our role in this contract is to develop a radio based on the excellent capabilities of the FLEX-6000, but ruggedized for hazards too numerous to mention here. Our partner and prime contractor, Raytheon, has extensive experience building radios for these harsh environments as well as properly qualifying a radio for flight. I'm certain you will not be surprised if I tell you that across every entity that we've interfaced with on this contract, there are hams. As I'm sure you know, these folks all know RF very well and when we start talking about specifics, these folks dig in and we all communicate in the same language that all of you know. Many of these folks are in these roles because of the genius of 47 CFR §97.1 (d).

I think if I were a customer, my main fear would be to understand if FlexRadio is contemplating a move to exit the world of amateur radio or if this will negatively affect the amateur business. "No" is the answer. In fact, quite the opposite is true. As someone in engineering, I can tell you the continual discussion about what we're working on for our amateur customers has not abated in any way, shape or form. In the last few months, we've added a number of people to FlexRadio, in a large part because of this opportunity. But we are carefully selecting individuals with a background in amateur radio, whenever possible. We want individuals that share our passion for amateur radio and want to continue to bring new ideas to the table. And the organization is asking us, in engineering, about our hiring and what capabilities we will have on the amateur side as a result of those hires. We're excited about our current projects and our projects planned for the future. We truly appreciate you as customers and your contributions to the ongoing FlexRadio story and hope that you will share in our enthusiasm for the synergies between amateur radio and government communications.


* Not being a constitutional scholar, I hesitate to say "democracy," "republic" or the many permutations of these that represent the government in the US and risk digressing into a conversation about the pedantic label of the exact form of the US government