Opportunity abounds as the downturn persists

Opportunity abounds as the downturn persists

Companies are looking for deals

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It’s no surprise that after years of recession followed by sluggish recovery, companies are hesitant not only to hire but also to spend. That’s where the opportunity lies for vendors who can offer goods or services at a lower price or help businesses spend less by automating or outsourcing mundane tasks.

That’s why Test Systems Strategies Inc. (TSSI) is prospering in Beaverton. Every new computer chip that is designed must be tested, and TSSI has 30 years of experience testing chips using a standard methodology. Companies eager to get new products to market can save money by outsourcing that step in the process to TSSI.

“We save our customers money and help them get to market faster,” says CEO Hau Lam. He attributes his unusual success during the recession to hard work and innovation, saying that revenues grew by 20% in 2008 and 30% in 2009. TSSI also continued investing as the economy fell, buying a building on Millikan Way in 2007 and establishing headquarters there in 2008.

Lam is very tight-lipped about company specifics. TSSI went independent and private in 2005 after spinning off from publicly held Summit Design and does not share revenue figures or employee numbers. “We prefer to be a quiet success,” he says. “We are a small company with a huge reach. We don’t have our names on the product, but rest assured our fingerprints are on it.”

TSSI serves an extensive menu of global clients including Sony, Toshiba, Boeing, Toyota, IBM, Cisco and Siemens. That doesn’t include the steady supply of small startups inventing new technologies, as computer chips play ever-larger roles in the designs of cars, video games, smart phones, and practically everything else. “There will always be new companies building new technology with new chips for new uses,” Lam predicts. “Some will succeed and some will fail. But succeed or fail they will have to test.”

It probably doesn’t hurt that one of TSSI’s biggest clients, Intel, has had a stellar year and recently announced plans to invest billions of dollars into new plants. Nor does it hurt that Hau Lam is fluent in Mandarin, with connections in Beijing and in fast-growing Vietnam, where he was born and raised. The shift of business power to Asia is another area of opportunity. “It doesn’t matter where the company is, we can serve it,” he says. “We just want to make sure all the profits go through Beaverton.”