Alumni Spotlight: Liteye Systems (2009)
Always innovate to accelerate
Liteye Systems has gone through its fair share of ups and downs since its creation in 2000, said Kenneth Geyer, Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder of the Centennial-based international defense and security manufacturing company.
In fact, the bulk of its oscillation occurred right after Liteye Systems was named a Colorado Company to Watch in 2009, the program’s inaugural year.
“Right after we won Colorado Companies to Watch, sequestration and budget cuts nearly killed the company,” Geyer said. “The defense contracts were put on hold and cut in half. A lot of companies quit spending money on security, it was just dire in 2010 until about 2015 for the security industry as a whole.”
But today, the company is on a mounting trajectory. Just last month, Liteye Systems received an $18 million contract for anti-unmanned aircraft systems from the US Air Force—the fifth contract for C-UAS systems and services that Liteye has secured since 2016.
“The last couple of years, things have gone into overdrive,” Geyer said. “There’s been a lot of activity in the counter-UAV space that we’re leading the world in, but also for all of our legacy products—including thermal cameras, head-mounted displays and radar. It’s been fully rejuvenated.”
What started as a two-man operation inside a two-room ranch house in the mid-1990s has become a $30 million a year company, employing 30 people—with plans to add a dozen more this year, Geyer said.
“We have products that are protecting royal palaces around the world, Air Force bases, airports, international ports and other critical infrastructure,” he said. “We weathered the storm and grew. In 2009, we were a $6-7 million a year company. It was a long road getting to where we are today.”
And becoming one of the first CCTW Winners in 2009 was part of that growth.
“It was really great for our company because that was the very first recognition that we received from our home state,” Geyer said. “We’d gotten recognition in Europe and in Washington D.C., but up until that point, nobody in Colorado really knew who we were.”
He said one of the best moments of true growth for Liteye System, though, was realizing that they were creating something that was helping protect U.S. soldiers deployed in combat.
“When our systems went into the battle of Mosul, we downed 40 drones in the first day,” Geyer said. “That allowed our soldiers to do their job. It protected them and gave them air coverage from a new threat that was hundreds of feet above their head. When we started getting the reports and understanding that we were making a difference and helping those guys, it was truly humbling.”
He said: “It was even more rewarding about a year later, when some of those soldiers rotated back and they would find us at a trade shows and shake our hands and say, ‘thank you for helping us.’ It makes you understand that what you’re doing is someone else’s life; it’s their protection and their cover.”
Geyer said Liteye System’s secret to success through economic rollercoasters has been relentless, constant innovation.
“Just because things are in a downturn, it doesn’t mean that you can be stuck in standstill mode,” he said. “You have to keep trying to find a way to take another step forward and keep pushing. We look back now, and it wasn’t our successes the propelled us in new directions, it was the defeats. It was being showed something that didn’t work and figuring out how to make it work.”
Today, Liteye Systems is expanding rapidly, developing new technologies and working with partners to find new ways to protect critical infrastructure. They are even turning their attention to acquisitions this year.
“We’re looking to acquire smaller companies that will help add to the picture and help us become stronger,” Geyer said. “It’s new for us, but it’s the next step. I’ve learned that you can’t be scared of making a mistake or losing, because out of that adversity, something better will always come out.”