This autumn is the 100th anniversary of a huge milestone in aviation – the first US Transcontinental Flight. On September 17th 1911 Cal Rodgers lifted off in his Right Flyer from Sheepshead Bay near New York City. On November 5th he landed in Pasadena California near Los Angeles. It took him 69 stops, of which about a third were crashes. Cal believed he could do something that had never been done before and then he did it. Cal’s transcontinental flight was both astounding and unexpected, and few people thought he would make it. He survived storms, hard landings, and an engine explosion – and he founded a new industry.

What is the connection to SiTime? It is that new ideas do not evolve incrementally; they burst on the scene exponentially. It took only ten years to develop an airline industry after this heroic pilot crashed his way across the country. Initially airlines delivered the mail, then soon people.

And who were the losers? The railroads. Before the airlines trains dominated mail delivery and transportation. Who today has letters delivered by train? Who travels across the US by train?

Was this foreseen by the railroad companies? Did they invest in airlines to maintain their control of transportation markets?  No. The airlines were started by entrepreneurs driven to do something new, not by railroad execs.

When industries change the incumbents rarely generate the change, and even less often manage the change. This is the case with MEMS oscillators. The companies driving this are not the incumbent quartz oscillator companies. The MEMS oscillator companies are started and run by entrepreneurs driven to do something new.

Now there are some exceptions to the rule. IBM and HP are examples of companies that have prospered across technology changes. But for every company that bridges the change there are many that don’t. And so time will tell how it works out in this case. It is likely that a few wise quartz companies will find ways to stay in the game, but most will not.

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