Last month, Kateeva co-founder Gerry Chen was named President of Kateeva China. The new role completes the circle for Gerry who was born in Fujian, China. His technical aspirations were formed at Tsinghua University where he earned two bachelor’s degrees. After that he headed to MIT where he completed his Ph.D.
Gerry’s journey at Kateeva began when a big idea took shape in a research lab at MIT in the mid-2000s. Back then, OLED technology was already captivating Gerry and fellow MITers (and Kateeva co-founders), Conor Madigan and Valerie Gassend. They were convinced that with the right production equipment technology solutions, display manufacturers could resolve stubborn technical challenges and finally mass-produce the long-promised OLED displays.
Gerry has played a central role in growing Kateeva’s global market presence since then. We invited him to reflect on his journey and what’s next for him as President of Kateeva China.
KBS: Describe your new position at Kateeva
GC: While my title is new, it simply formalizes the role I’ve held for some time which is to oversee Kateeva’s business in China. We have a top-notch team on the ground led by our Country Manager for Greater China, Jack Gao. They do a superb job of positioning our products at customer fabs and providing expert service and support.
Apart from charting Kateeva’s technology and business strategy in China, I’ll be spending much of my time helping display leaders harness the benefits of inkjet printing systems for existing and emerging applications.
KBS: How do your career experiences at Kateeva inform your new role?
GC: I’m a technologist at heart. I enjoy digging into the nitty-gritties of technical challenges and finding innovative ways to solve problems. Back in 2010, the technical obstacles that prevented the cost-effective mass production of OLED displays were formidable. Yet we innovated a solution. And when we launched our inkjet printing equipment solution, it was the first of its kind engineered from the ground up for this application.
Those early experiences informed my subsequent roles guiding our technology and business development activities, and supporting our growth worldwide. More recently, I helped Kateeva in its capital-raising activities.
But experience is only part of what I bring to my new role. There are broader intangibles like curiosity, problem-solving, collaboration, and a passion for innovation. Every day we work with global display leaders who are stretching the limits of physics, chemistry and engineering to create breakthrough products. As their partners-in-innovation, there’s great satisfaction when we help them achieve their technology goals.
KBS: What are the opportunities for Kateeva in China?
GC: As the center of gravity for display manufacturing, Asia is the key market for Kateeva and we enjoy excellent customer relationships with display leaders across the entire region. Customers in each country have embarked on different display technology paths – each with their own unique manufacturing challenges and diverse inkjet printing opportunities.
In recent years, Chinese companies have launched 12 OLED production lines, with seven more under construction. Collectively, they have invested $49B in OLED technology.
This momentum presents new opportunities for Kateeva both for small and large-size displays. We already have a leading position in OLED TFE for small-size displays. By strengthening our presence in China, we can more effectively address our Chinese customers’ specific requirements and help them achieve their roadmap goals.
KBS: Tell us about the team
GC: We have an excellent local team. In fact, I’m proud to call it an “award-winning team”. Just recently, we were honored by Tianma with an award for “Best TFE Installation”. The tribute acknowledged the team’s diligence and commitment to getting the job done during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The extraordinary worldwide talent at Kateeva is one of the great perks of working at the company. Our teams in Asia are comprised of seasoned technical pros that went through rigorous training at our Silicon Valley headquarters where we build our YIELDjet™ systems. They’re part of a regional infrastructure that includes customer service and field applications support, as well as manufacturing capabilities in Korea.
To address current demand and future growth, we’ll soon add applications development and manufacturing capabilities to our infrastructure in China. We recently hired an Asia-based Operations executive to drive the effort.
Can you close by citing some career highlights?
Difficult question. The highlights are abundant. But If I were to pick just one it’s the people I’ve worked with and learned from as the company grew from under 10 to what it is today. They’re entrepreneurs, scientists and engineers with a voracious drive to solve incredibly complex technical problems and build great products. They represent disciplines ranging from hardware to software and all the way to chemistry. They’re inventors too. In fact, one of our earliest hires was Steve Van Slyke, co-inventor of the OLED device. For that feat, Steve and his co-inventor Ching Tang were inducted into the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame, as well as the National Inventors Hall of Fame. In addition to serving as CTO for nearly ten years, Steve was a generous mentor to all of us at Kateeva.
Being the “smartest person in the room” is a moot point at Kateeva. Everybody is THAT smart.
Thanks, Gerry. Your Kateeva colleagues are cheering this new phase of your journey.