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Viasat CEO Richard “Rick” Baldridge, who first joined the company in 1999, has overseen the company’s growth into a multi-billion technology company. Courtesy photo
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Getting Deals Done: Viasat’s Baldridge is Chief Enabling Officer

He’ll just call himself an electron but he seems more like a Chief Visionary Officer — one who charts a visionary course to move a company forward, defining corporate strategies and working plans.

I recently read this great post on LinkedIn that addressed the C-level suite of corporate executives. The chief operating officer is tasked with business operations. A chief marketing officer is charged with managing a company’s branding, advertising and public relations of a company. Then, there is the chief technology officer.

Chief executive officer, or CEO, is the only title that doesn’t allude to the responsibilities of its office. It’s nondescript. Blah-blah-blah. A chief visionary officer, the post alluded to, is the accurate title for a company’s top position, charting a visionary course to move the business forward, defining corporate strategies and working plans. 

Richard “Rick” Baldridge, CEO and president of Carlsbad’s Viasat, however, disagrees with a graciousness that is characteristic of executive leadership in an age of crass capitalism.

Rick said Mark Dankberg, current executive chairman and one of three Viasat founders (in addition to Steve Hart and Mark Miller), is the true visionary — one who has tirelessly charted a course for Viasat, a global multi-billion-dollar satellite broadband communications company with headquarters in Carlsbad.

Viasat’s opportunity is the 3.6 billion people (or 47% of the global population, according to the GSMA) who do not have internet services in urban and the most remote areas of the world.

As Henry Ford wanted every American to have a car and Bill Gates wanted every American to have a computer, Viasat believes everything and everyone in the world can be connected.

But what is the spirit ennobling that global communication?

Viasat’s satellite systems are operational, globally. Over North America, Viasat has implemented its strategic plan with the launch of its WildBlue-1, Anik F2, ViaSat-1 and ViaSat-2 satellite systems; in Europe and the Mediterranean Basin, the company owns and operates the KA-SAT satellite in addition to having capacity lease agreements with Avanti to provide additional coverage over Europe; in the Middle East and Africa (EMEA); in Brazil, Viasat partnered with Telebras to gain access to its SGDC-1 satellite; in Russia, Viasat announced an MOU with Gazprom Space Systems and TMC; in Australia, Viasat has a long-standing partnership with National Broadband Network (NBN) to leverage its two SkyMuster satellites; and in Asia, Viasat has a relationship with China Satcom to leverage the operator’s ChinaSat16 satellite.

A rendering of the ViaSat-3 constellation. Photo courtesy of Viasat

Speaking about going global, in my interview with him, Rick mentioned he recently took a vacation to Africa and is excited about the opportunities to connect the region.

He mentioned Viasat recently began to trial its connectivity offering in Nigeria after the company was granted a full suite of operating licenses from the Nigerian Communications Commission.

“Can you imagine what we can do to spread education and health care with our satellite systems providing ease of communications,” Rick said passionately, with an easy glow emanating from his being.

Viasat’s vision is not only global but intergalactic. In addition to the tapestry of satellite systems, the communications company has charted a global constellation called “ViaSat-3” consisting of three ultra-high capacity satellites able to provide global connectivity and help Viasat on its mission to connect the world but begin a new visionary age.

Viasat stock is given a buy recommendation by many analysts. Analysts say Viasat stock is modestly undervalued with an approximate $3.5B market capitalization and  $2.5B in annual revenues  “VSAT” on the NASDAQ trades at 48.00+ fluctuating between $50.16 and $48.97.

Some even say Viasat stock gives every indication of being modestly undervalued with an approximate $3.5B market capitalization and  $2.5B in annual revenues  “VSAT” on the NASDAQ trades at 48.00+ fluctuating between $50.16 and $48.97.

There are 429,458 shares traded daily, an increase from its 30-day average of 410,220 just a few months ago. Viasat’s market cap last Tuesday was reported at $3,579,340,004 on equities.com.

Rick thinks of himself as a math man. However, he has held senior information technology posts, the top position in finance as CFO when he came on board at Viasat in 1999 and now in his role as president & CEO — a Chief Enabling Officer, he attests to the importance of his family, community and friendships in developing his worldview and easy-come, easy-glow tranquil temperament. 

“Rick,” as anyone who knows him calls him, is an avid reader who recently spoke of “ruthlessly eliminating hurriedness from his life,” in a podcast interview.

Viasat is not just global — it’s intergalactic. Courtesy photo

Recent books from which he gleans wisdom, or “little nuggets” as he likes to call them, are “Greatness” by David L. Cook, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful,” by Marshall Goldsmith, and the “Happiness Advantage” by Shawn Anchor.   

Perhaps, it is instructive that Rick was born in Carlsbad, New Mexico, and now sits at the captain’s quarters of a multinational global satellite communications company in the other Carlsbad in California.

The world’s other two Carlsbads are in Texas and the Chez Republic (“Karlovy Vary”, a spa town in the west Bohemia region), far North and South of the equator. Ironically enough, out of the four Carlsbads – the cities in California and New Mexico are closest to the equator, which align with where Viasat traditionally launches its satellites.

Their satellites sit in geosynchronous orbit over the earth’s equator and will have a geostationary orbit that does not move at all relative to the ground; it stays in the same place following the earth’s surface.

Visionary Perspective: It seems Rick was born to perform his role as Chief Enabling Officer.  Apparently, the revolution will not be televised as Gil Scott Heron postulated.  Perhaps, however, it will be broadcast at this early juncture of the 21st Century, catalyzed by a particular cosmic electron or Chief Enabling Officer and GRE (Global Relationship Engineer).

When I ask what kind of molecule he might be, Rick suggests that he is an intergalactic element of an atom.  When I ask which element, he suggests “electron” as it is always in motion but holding the form of the atom, an oscillating three-dimensional wave. It is the element that bonds itself to other global elements to create new compounds.  

I believe, however, he is a proton for its positively charged nature and proximity to the nucleus… heart of the atom; also with the proton’s essential building blocks quarks and gluons, its essential nature as described by quantum chromodynamics is the ability to create matter-antimatter pairs. 

Patrick Howell, host of the podcast “Getting Deals Done.” Courtesy photo

But, again, perhaps that is Mark Dankberg, the executive chairman, as Rick suggests.

Proton or electron, there are quantums of the macro and micro spirit of innovation, ambition, curiosity and compassion ennobling Visat’s spirit and good works on the planet. 

Viasat’s prized commodity, I realize, however, is not its multi-billion-dollar satellite communications assets and ground infrastructure but the priceless quality of the lives of more than 6,000 employees — over 2,500 that work from the Carlsbad campus — who Rick seems to have a profound understanding of his role to serve, lead and inspire to their highest possible frequency.

It is also Rick’s decades-old and ongoing intergalactic achiever’s mindset to evolve his own understanding, consciousness and compassion. 

When we shake hands, I ask him, “What is your bottom line, Rick? 

He offers candidly never breaking eye contact, a warm glow emanating from his being with zero hesitation: love.

This is Part 1 of a two-part series on ViaSat, one of America’s most pragmatically visionary companies in North County San Diego. In Part 2, we will discuss space debris, outer space regulations, Viasat phase 3 and 4 launches, Nikki Giovanni and that pesky irritant called racism.

The entirety of our interview will be broadcast via our podcast, Getting Deals Done on Apple iTunes, Amazon Audible, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you receive your podcasts.

ALSO: Grateful to Chris Phillips, VP of corporate and external communications at Viasat, for her zeal, professionalism and encyclopedic knowledge as she edited this piece and associate produced the podcast segment.

Patrick A. Howell is the author of “Yes, We Be” as well as “Dispatches from the Vanguard – The Global International African Arts Movement” available widely from Penguin/Random House and 49 Fahrenheit bookstore in downtown Carlsbad.

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