Rob Van Naarden began his technology career after earning bachelor degrees in Physics and Electrical Engineering as well as masters degrees in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. While enrolled in a PhD program in Electrical Engineering with specialization in Magneto-HydroDynamics, he was offered a position with Digital Equipment Corp. to design defense critical systems computers. He was on the original design team of the PDP 11 introduced in January of 1970 and holds patents for its major subsystems. The PDP 11 became the world’s most successful mini-computer. At this same time Rob was asked to become a guest lecturer at MIT at the graduate school level teaching Computer Architecture.
After migrating through various engineering and engineering management roles, he originated the idea to design and bring to market the world’s first microcomputer (the PDP 16) based partially on the successful PDP 11 design. He grew to be the youngest Profit and Loss Group Manager at Digital as well as managing its fastest growing business with all facets of the business (engineering, manufacturing, finance, marketing and sales) reporting to him. Having grown it to be profitable business he asked corporate management to allow him to take a role in the field sales organization as an experiment to find out why DEC had been so successful in every engineering and manufacturing organization but was still struggling in the “glass house” against one of its key competitors, IBM.
After a two year experiment in the Philadelphia area (then the largest concentration of Fortune 100 in the US), the experiment proved so successful that the learning experience was converted into a new training course for all new DEC sales people worldwide. While in Philadelphia he enrolled in the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania for an Executive MBA sponsored by Digital.
In 1979 he joined one of his former managers at Digital and based on an idea formulated on a paper napkin started a company called Convergent Technologies. CT became the fastest growing company in the computer industry and the darling of Wall Street upon its IPO in 1984. In 6 years sales grew from a cold start to $673M in annual revenues. In 1987 the company was purchased by Unisys then its largest customer.
Rob and his partner at Convergent once again started another company called Ardent Computer focused on the single user supercomputer space. After 4 years the company merged with its principal competitor Stellar Computer to form Stardent Computer. Two years later at Rob’s direction the company was sold by splitting it up into its four components/divisions.
Rob moved on to start and fix a variety of other companies always in executive management roles: Supermac, Firepower, Netframe, AMT, Sensar and Authentidate (where he started the company as its founder and CEO) always achieving improved value for its investors and shareholders. In 2004 Rob took a twist by taking his hi-tech business experience and applied it in an entirely different industry when he became CEO of Empire Kosher Poultry, Inc. When he arrived at Empire it was a distressed company very close to having its doors closed by the bankers and not having made a profit in 7 years. Rob was able to turn it into a profitable and growing company in 9 months while learning an entirely new business. After two years and having put Empire on an impressive growth path and profitability he decided to return to his roots in technology.
Rob currently serves on the boards of several technology companies as well as being an early stage investor while playing an active role with an emerging enterprise software company that is solving the problem of the threat of insider abuse and the potential leakage of critical data and intellectual property to outside the organization. This is global problem facing every company.
Rob continues to keep his hands in a set of diversified businesses including a feature film project currently in development.
Rob, a long-time member of Beth Sholom Congregation, joined the Board of Directors of the Hebrew Free Loan Society in 2010.