Dr. Steven Sliwa, CEO of Insitu, Inc., knows how to grow a business.
leadership, this Bingen-based unmanned aircraft company grew from four employees to over 700, with revenues skyrocketing from practically nothing to $128 million in 2008 - the same year that saw Insitu acquired by Boeing Co.
It was this impressive track record which made Sliwa
a natural choice for keynote speaker at VBJ's
Business Growth Awards, to be held Thursday, April 29 from
A graduate of Stanford University with a doctorate in aerospace engineering, Sliwa had already been a deputy chief at NASA, sold a successful software company and was president of an aeronautical university by the time he took the reigns at Insitu in 2001.
"It seemed like a risky venture, but also a lot of fun," he
"Plus, I fell in love with the Pacific Northwest."
success at Insitu
was guided by the same principles which had directed his
earlier endeavors: staying focused, taking risks and learning to rely on luck.
management, the company focused on its SeaScan prototypes, which utilized technology to launch, retrieve and transmit stable images from cameras mounted in remote-controlled aircraft.
later guided Insitu
to an alliance with Boeing
at a time when many other startups avoided partnerships with "primes," or large corporations, for fear of being absorbed and losing control.
"Those first few trade shows, we got called 'sell-outs,'" Sliwa
"Of course, two years later everyone got into 'mating dances' with primes."
Being able to partner successfully with a large corporation remains one of Sliwa's
most cherished accomplishments, he
"While everyone around us failed, we took something very hard to do and made it look easy," Sliwa
During the early 2000s Insitu
worked with Boeing
to adapt the SeaScan into the ScanEagle, an unmanned craft designed to assist reconnaissance missions in war environments.
In 2002, the Pentagon included the ScanEagle in its Iraq and Afghanistan theater of operations.
In the years since, over 1,000 ScanEagle units have logged over 10,000 hours in combat zones.
says that beyond having a good product, his
experience working for companies, big and small, led to his
According to Sliwa
partnership with Boeing
combines the global reach and massive resources of a corporation with the adaptability of a small business.
"Our partnership was like a marriage, and I am very proud of both sides for the work done."
is busy selling ScanEagle units for various purposes worldwide.
would like to find a domestic market for his
unmanned aircraft, the devices have not yet been approved for use in U.S. airspace.
According to Sliwa
, requests have been made to use ScanEagles to provide traffic reports, assist in post-disaster relief and even for outdoor concert crowd control.
"Some very exciting things are coming soon," he