Maryam Rofougaran, Co-Founder & Co-CEO of Movandi
As a young girl growing up in Iran, Maryam Rofougaran’s love of math, physics and problem solving fueled her dream of becoming a scientist. After completing high school, she moved to the United States to attend college and pursue that dream. When she first arrived, her brother, Reza, who always supported her, took her to the Engineering Lab at UCLA where she realized that engineering is the application of math and physics. It was then that Maryam knew she found her calling as an electrical engineer.
Her first exposure to the tech industry came while she was in college. She had the opportunity to spend time with tech companies, attending funding pitches with them. This sparked another dream for Maryam – to become an entrepreneur.
Always thinking of ways to use technology to enhance people’s lives lead Maryam to co-found her first entrepreneurial venture, Innovent Systems, in 1998. The company’s technology caught the attention of Broadcom which bought the start-up in 2002 as the basis for its wireless division. Maryam’s contributions to Broadcom have been called “immeasurable” by Broadcom’s Co-Founder, Chairman of the Board and Chief Technical Officer, Dr. Henry Samueli.
After a highly successful tenure with Broadcom – growing the wireless business to annual revenues of more than $3 billion – Maryam once again struck out on her own, creating Movandi.
Movandi is a wireless company, with a remarkable core technology and IP, that includes full hardware, software and systems. The unique IP not only solves the main challenges of 5G mmWave, but can develop to enable many applications that require AI, machine learning, IoT and autonomous cars. Movandi’s future focuses on this differentiation and building flexible solutions that solve 5G mmWave deployment cost and schedule challenges. The company’s technology also provides future-proof solutions utilizing mesh and routing to further improve 5G coverage and capacity. Movandi’s vision is to enable 5G everywhere – and the company will start shipping products this year!
Of course, being an entrepreneur isn’t easy and comes with many challenges. Maryam shares her wisdom:
“First, you need to know WHAT you are doing, is there anything similar, what is the competitive landscape? One of the most important points is not having spent enough time to learn about the market you are entering. If you do not acquire that knowledge in advance, it will make it very scary and difficult and you might find yourself in a position where there are several companies doing the same thing in your competitive space. You must differentiate and be able to use that to get traction in the competitive market.
“You must PLAN. You need to have a roadmap that includes how much money you will need, how many people etc. If you do not plan in advance, you might be in a problematic position in the future and have trouble scaling.
“It is very important to HIRE the right people. There are many smart and talented people looking for jobs, but personality is imperative in that they are able to be a team player and work together as a team.
“You must have the right PARTNERS. If you are not on the same page as your partners and do not have the correct chemistry, it can put the company at risk.
“It is imperative to have the support of the right INVESTORS. You need to understand who they are bringing in as VCs and investors, whether they have the right support, and this becomes very important as the company grows, especially when there are ups and downs, which will inevitably happen.”
Investors were key to both of Maryam’s startup companies. She sought financial help from Angel Investors including friends and family. With Innovent Systems, she used the knowledge learned at the university level to get started and learn how start-ups operate, which was extremely helpful in the early stages.
Maryam once again offered advice to entrepreneurs who are just starting out, “Trust yourself and have confidence!” Confidence comes with experience, but early on, she found herself questioning, “Can I do this?” With hard work, effort and a positive attitude, entrepreneurs – or really anyone – can convince themselves they’re up to the challenge. Maryam admitted it took time for her confidence to build, but her positive attitude fed that confidence, as well as her desire to keep going and achieve her goals.
She added, “It’s important to note that there will be criticism along the way, but it is key to ask yourself if this criticism is a valid critique that you can work on or is it simply judgement. If it’s the latter, take it as a challenge to prove the naysayers wrong and accomplish your goals. Stay positive!”
Maryam’s positivity shines through all aspects of her work including her position on our Women’s Leadership Council. She shared her thoughts on being part of our Initiative, “It means a lot to me to be part of the GSA’s Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI). I take it very seriously and make time, even with my busy schedule because I would really love to see more female engineers in this underrepresented field. At Movandi, we hire many woman engineers and interns and I hope you get the chance to see them as part of this initiative, showcasing women in the semiconductor industry designing the difference and impacting our future. And, for women who are in engineering, it’s vital that they do not get discouraged or feel that they are alone.”
In addition to her experiences as an engineer, she gives credit to her daughter, for whom it’s especially important for Maryam to make an impact. “There are many young women who are very smart and capable, but unfortunately do not get any exposure at a young age to even know what engineering is and if it would be of interest to them.”
There is much work to be done at every level. One of the goals of the GSA WLI committee “Programs & Projects for Increasing Technical New Hires” that Maryam co-leads with her sister, Rozi Roufoogaran of NXP Semiconductors, is to develop programs and projects including internships and mentoring for young women entering the industry.
Maryam believes it is important to make sure that women who have already taken the initiative to enter the engineering industry, are encouraged and supported, “It can happen at any level – women in universities do not receive support, so they change their major. Or, if they achieve their degree and enter the industry, they lack support and get discouraged, they will change their career.
“Initially, we can help at the university level by making sure young women get exposure through internships and during that crucial introduction to our industry, those companies give them the support and hands on experience to see how truly interesting the work is. If they are trained and receive mentorship and support, they will be encouraged to pursue engineering.”
Her advice to women entering the semiconductor industry: Be proactive in offering help and support to other women. Build your network of advocates. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Don’t be afraid of failure because failure means you’re learning.
Our final, burning question for Maryam? Outside of her laptop and phone, what is the most important thing that she has with her at all times? Her notebook! A true entrepreneur never knows when inspiration will strike and always has a way to jot down their ideas.
Maryam was an inspiration to interview and truly has some great advice. She started with a dream of becoming a scientist and over time it turned into a dream of becoming an entrepreneur, creating products that impact people and the industry in significant ways. Her passion to make a positive difference in the world led her to technology through which, she’s doing just that.
We appreciate her taking the time to do this interview and her participation on our GSA Women’s Leadership Council. To learn more about GSA’s Women’s Leadership Initiative and get involved, please visit https://www.gsaglobal.org/womens-leadership/.
Maryam, Co-Founder & Co-CEO of Movandi and a member of GSA’s Women’s Leadership Council, is a transformational inventor, technology executive, and entrepreneur in the field of electrical engineering, with a focus on wireless technologies. Prior to co-founding Movandi, Maryam was instrumental in starting and building the wireless business at Broadcom, her groundbreaking work touched every part of Broadcom’s $8 billion business. Her vision and accomplishments have had a major impact on the wireless industry and these systems are shipping in billions of flagship products across nearly every industry and wireless application. You may not know it, but you likely own one or more devices that contain the wireless technology or system that she has directly contributed to. Her contributions to Broadcom have been called “immeasurable” by Broadcom’s Co-Founder, Chairman of the Board and Chief Technical Officer, Dr. Henry Samueli.
Maryam has been listed on the National Diversity Council’s Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Technology and her company Movandi is attracting attention in 5G mmWave, including recognition from GSA “Start-up to Watch”, CNBC Upstart 100, and Inc. Magazine “7 Innovative startups to watch.” Maryam holds over 280 issued patents.