Texas company purchases Digilent Inc. [Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Moscow, Idaho]
(Moscow-Pullman Daily News (ID) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) March 09--Digilent Inc., a locally owned and operated electrical engineering product company in Pullman, closed a deal Dec. 31 to allow National Instruments, a $3 billion Texas-based engineering company, to acquire it.
Digilent President and co-founder Clint Cole said they were inclined to sell the company, which he established in 2000 with Gene Apperson, because it was an opportunity for growth.
Cole and Apperson met while teaching at Washington State University, and both realized it was difficult to teach engineering students what they needed to know because classroom tools had not kept pace with the industry. Cole said he began making small circuit boards for his classes, and then the two decided to start a small business creating hands-on engineering material for classrooms.
"Because of the acquisition, we've accelerated our growth plan," he said.
Digilent made $13 million in revenue in 2012, according to spokeswoman Samantha Ripley.
Cole and Apperson, who is the vice president of engineering, will both remain active in their positions and current involvement with Digilent.
Digilent general manager Joe Harris said the company was not looking for outside revenue when National Instruments first approached them last September. He said they asked how the two companies could work together, and went from there.
"Our mission is to educate students, and theirs is too," he said.
Digilent designs, manufactures and distributes technology-based educational design tools for engineering students worldwide. Since it first began producing circuit boards, it has grown to include microchips, FMC cards and peripheral modules, along with other hardware and software that includes analog, digital and microprocessor-based engineering.
Cole said the goal is to give students hands-on materials to work with so anyone who wants to learn about electronics, electrical engineering or computer programming can easily do so. In addition to the tangible boards, chips and programmable system-on-chip devices, Digilent also provides free classroom material on its website and in the kits. The classroom material includes lecture videos and slides, labs and homework -- the idea, Cole said, is to create a whole class in a box.
"The idea is to completely revolutionize how people teach other people to be engineers," he said.
Cole said the purpose behind all the products they create is to make engineering as fun as it can be and provide both teachers and students with a different approach to teaching and learning.
Harris said part of the reason National Instruments was interested in Digilent is because they both produce similar products. National Instruments produces the high-end engineering equipment for education, whereas Digilent produces the low-cost products for students. He said in the past two and a half years, Digilent has moved more toward National Instruments' market.
"We were starting to come out with products to compete with their products," Harris said.
Instead of becoming direct competitors, Harris said National Instruments wanted to tap into Digilent's strengths and use them to grow. He said 50,000 to 100,000 students per semester access Digilent's products, and National Instruments wanted that niche.
Harris said the last reason he thought National Instruments wanted to purchase Digilent was for its strong portfolio of products outside of what NI offers.
Even so, Cole said they would not have taken the offer from just any business. Before the sale was closed, he said they spent time visiting the company in Austin, Texas, and decided it was a good fit.
Digilent will maintain its brand, location, operations and staff. Cole said because of the sale, Digilent will be able to add at least seven new employees to its 25-person staff and is expanding into another office space in the Palouse Conservation District building, 1300 NE Henley Court.
Cole said National Instruments purchased Digilent with the intention to keep it nimble, to learn from what it does and incorporate the best of that into what it does.
"I don't think they purchased us to bend us to their will," he said. "I think they purchased us to do what we do."
Digilent also has locations in Romania and China. Digilent product can be order online at its website at www.digilentinc.com, or purchased at the Pullman RadioShack, 588 SE Bishop Blvd.
Elizabeth Rudd can be reached at (208) 882-5561, ext. 237, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
(c)2013 the Moscow-Pullman Daily News (Moscow, Idaho)
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