The success of Stratus Engineering is linked directly to the company’s products and services. But without a dedicated, passionate and customer-
committed group of employees, none of Stratus Engineering’s accolades would be possible. In particular, Owner and President Robert Kirstein’s innovative, results-driven leadership for the past 16 years has defined the Stratus Engineering brand – and enhanced the firm’s reputation in the process.
Stratus Engineering, based in San Diego, provides comprehensive services for embedded software systems, including hardware board design, ASIC / FPGA design and embedded applications. The company’s core product line features the EZ-Tap™ RS-232 modules (both passive and pro) and the Versa-Tap™ USB to RS232 module. These Stratus hardware and software solutions help reduce cable requirements, analyze multiple serial ports simultaneously, optimize COM port analysis and monitor data transfer for RS-232 handshaking lines.
Mr. Kirstein has headed Stratus Engineering since 2000. His leadership has witnessed a volatile era in the electronics industry. Tremendous technology advancements, increased international competition and other business challenges haven’t hindered Stratus Engineering’s ability to meet and exceed customer expectations. Mr. Kirstein recently spoke with us about finding hidden opportunities, how failure breeds success in product development, marketing strategies and more.
Who has been your greatest inspiration?
That would definitely be my father. He encouraged me to take the self-employment path (as he did) and takes an active interest in our business.
What piece of advice would you give to someone who wants to become an entrepreneur?
Don’t overlook potential opportunities. Most if not all of our best successes over the last 15 years have come from sources that could have easily been dismissed as unlikely opportunities.
Where do you see your business in 10 years?
We see steady growth with the addition of 2-3 products. Our current business model supports this goal with the current overhead level. Having said this however, we are always looking for larger growth opportunities. The design services side of our business provides frequent insights into new product opportunities.
How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
Marketing for our design services has been primarily through “word of mouth” referrals from existing customers. Our product sales consist of a combination of referrals, internet marketing, and repeat business from existing customers.
What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?
We have developed several products that either didn’t sell or were abandoned at various stages of development after being deemed unviable. Product development is a learning process and there are no guarantees to success. The rewards of a successful product more than make up for the inevitable accompanying failures.
About Mr. Kirstein
Bob Kirstein is founder and president of Stratus Engineering, Inc., a design services company that specializes in electronic design for embedded systems. He has over 25 years of experience in a wide range of electronic design disciplines including analog and digital hardware, embedded software, FPGA and ASIC design. He holds a BS in computer engineering from UC San Diego and enjoys biking, skiing, and travel in his spare time.