GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — Ryan Pratt is an authority on guerrilla warfare.
But his isn’t the traditional battlefield. His war’s being fought on the realm of wireless technology.
“And we’re a scrappy guy,” he told me referring to the company he founded and today serves as CEO. “We’re in there fighting, clawing against some competitors in a big market.”
But his company is getting noticed.
For the second year in a row, Inc. Magazine included it in it’s annual “Inc. 5000” list of the nation’s most successful companies coming in at number 421.”
The company’s also more than doubled its workforce and number of products since I profiled Pratt in Newsmakers in 2018 after he was named Greensboro’s Entrepreneur of the Year.
It’s setting sales records. It’s also just moved into a newly refurbished, modern, multi-floor headquarters and lab facility off Pisgah Church Road in northwest Greensboro.
But Pratt still feels as if his company’s still the small fish in the big pond. And this is reflected in the company’s name: Guerrilla RF.
“Guerrilla” is a nod to it being a small company fighting against larger forces. “RF” stands for radio frequencies on which practically all wireless devices operate.
In simplest terms, Guerilla RF designs and sells the tiny microchips in much of today’s wireless infrastructure.
“So what our chips do is we have a variety that are amplifiers. So they take an electrical signal and make it bigger,” he said.
The chips are in many of the 5G and earlier generation cellphone towers in use today. They’re also in wireless microphones used in concerts and houses of worship.
But Pratt sees one of the biggest growth areas in automotive. In fact, when you see a car with one of the “shark fin” antennas on the roof, there’s a good chance that car has Guerrilla RF microchips in it that allow both the GPS navigation system and satellite radio to work.
“It (the satellite radio) needs to hear a very faint-distance signal coming in. And so what it (the microchip) does is take that faint signal and amplifies it up so the radio can receive that signal,” he explained.
Much of the company’s success has been finding niche markets where it can grab a lot of market share quickly.
Guerrilla RF entered the satellite communications market just last year—partnering with companies similar to Elon Musk’s SpaceX that are launching multiple satellites that will eventually enable us to make cellphone calls or use the internet anywhere in the world.
Despite all the company’s record-setting sales growth, operating in such a technical environment’s quite expensive and profitability has been hard to come by.
Guerrilla RF went public in late 2021 trading on the Over-The-Counter Market’s QX tier.
“(There were) a few reasons. First was access to capital,” he told me. “As a privately held company it was very difficult to raise money as a semiconductor company. In addition to that, many of our customers wanted visibility into the company, it’s finances and those kinds of things. And so we felt that being public just put it out there.”
Right now, Guerrilla RF’s considering uplisting to a more “senior” exchange like NASDAQ to boost capital and exposure even more.
Pratt’s also confident profitability’s on the horizon.
“Our goal is to get there as soon as we can,” he said. “We’ve been making a lot of big investments. And we see those opportunities in satellite and 5G especially in automotive. We’ve also been making those R&D investments to get the product ready.”
In the meantime, another priority is maintaining a culture in Greensboro that fosters creativity and reduces stress.
Despite large lab spaces, each Guerilla RF employee (there are more than 70 of them) has his or her own private office to keep from being interrupted.
But there are also modern, casual meeting spaces (an auditorium-like meeting space and a bistro) when people want to gather.
The company also offers unlimited paid time off and shuts down several weeks during the year to keep workers from burning out.
“Guerilla RF is a great place to work. It’s a company built around technology and we see a very bright future,” he said.
Again, it a different type of guerrilla warfare.