Warren Citrin is an entrepreneur and the CEO of Fractograf. For more than 20 years, Warren has played an integral role in Maryland’s startup community. In addition to Fractograf, he has founded several companies, including Redox Power Systems, Alchemee, Solipsys Corporation, and Gloto Corp. Through his business ventures, Warren has been involved in diverse industries such as cybersecurity, engineering, and mobile technology. He also spent 18 years as an assistant supervisor of the Engineering Analysis Group at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, and holds patents in multiple fields. In 2003, Warren won Ernst & Young’s Maryland Entrepreneur of the Year award.
EDWIN WARFIELD: You’ve had a long and varied career. When did it start?
WARREN CITRIN: When I got out of graduate school, I went to the State University of New York at Stony Brook. I had the luckiest break of my life and got hired into the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. It was and is a tremendous opportunity for young engineers to see a lot of different things, and I wound up in radar, and in particular, the early days of application of computer systems to radars. One of the things that computers allow you to do that a human is not good at is they can take inputs from many radars and make a picture—a multidimensional picture if you will—that’s better than any single radar will do. And so that grew over an 18 year period of time into an opportunity for me to lead a very big effort for the Navy in creating the premier radar network called the Cooperative Engagement Capability.
Fast forward 18 years later, and you’re in the early to mid-90s and everybody’s starting businesses. And I decided: “I wonder if I could start my own engineering firm in the radar world?” I had a few ideas, and so I got a couple of my cohorts to jump with me and we started Solutions for Information Processing Systems—or Solipsys. We got a little bit of space. First, we used RGIS-type space, then we got some traditional, we did services for the Northrop Grummans and the Lockheeds and the Raytheons and Boeings and the people in that industry, because well, we may not have had a lot of breadth in what we do. We knew this niche of radar networking better than anyone else, and that allowed us to get on proposal teams, write papers, and solve problems for the big guys.
But, it occurred to me that if we were ever going to survive we had to have a product, and so I rethought the way that we did the original radar network and came up with a very efficient method of doing the same job but that was now 10-15 years more modern in its approach. And that, to a certain extent, endangered the original system; and in the military world it takes years to get a system out, so before that system is even out, this new thing is all of a sudden sneaking up on it. So, we got a lot of interest from the large defense contractors and most of them made offers for our company in the 2001–2002 timeframe. The company with the most to lose by us being bought by someone else was Raytheon, the production agent for the original system. And so, in 2003, they made us an offer we couldn’t refuse and we sold to Raytheon.
Q. Tell us about that acquisition. Where did it put you?
A. Raytheon was actually a great acquirer. They were very smart in the way they did it, in the sense they didn’t break us up, they didn’t change our name, they didn’t change anything about the company—because that’s how you get the most out of a small company like that. We were less than a couple of hundred people at that point. They handled it very wisely and to this very day, still do. But they put me on a leadership team and there I had my first exposure to the big international industry, and that was not my thing. I’d been a lab rat for 18 years, then a small business startup. I didn’t really have the mindset of the big companies. So, I’m supposed to do it for three years, and after two years, I ask the CEO, Bill Swanson, if he would let me out in the third year. He said, “find a suitable replacement and we’ll let you out,” and I did. I got the Head of Combat Systems for Lockheed Market to take my job and they let me out.
I decided it’s been 27 years, I need to go learn something else besides radar. So, I embarked on a few companies, one of which was a company I called Geolocalized Photos, or Gloto, where we’re sitting right now. Gloto has been around now for 11 years and after a few pivots, Gloto became a company that does software services for primarily the sports and entertainment industry by helping them run advertising campaigns and little competitions, so on and so forth. It has customers like the NBA, the Syfy channel, and the like.