Jay Malin’s career has taken a few twists and turns during the last 20 years—from developing compound semiconductor devices, to earning an MBA, to starting two successful software companies. Today, Malin is managing the growth of AGENT511, an enterprise software vendor he co-founded that creates mobile messaging systems for municipalities, hospitals, and other public service agencies.
Malin started his career working on III-V Type II semiconductor lasers at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC. A year later, he joined Texas Instruments in Dallas, where he designed and developed GaAs HEMT devices for military and space electronics. He returned to the Chicago area in 1999, earning his MBA and developing small-form-factor Gigabit Ethernet transceivers at Molex.
According to Malin, the transition from the semiconductor industry to software entrepreneur was motivated by his desire to work and raise his family in the Chicago area where he grew up. In 2003, he and a University of Chicago MBA classmate co-founded Xinnia Technology, a broadband software development company.
Xinnia was acquired twice, allowing Malin to start a new company, AGENT511, in 2007. “I was looking at emerging technology areas, and recognized the need for businesses to communicate with their customers using new communication channels including social networks,” said Malin, who soon signed on the City of Chicago and ComEd as AGENT511’s first customers. “[We’ve] since grown our business to serve numerous municipal and utility customers internationally.”
AGENT511’s technology is a cloud software platform built from the ground up; it integrates with customer relationship management platforms, IP telephony platforms, and dispatch systems. The company’s clients include major 911 and 311 centers and investor-owned utilities.
Thinking back on his days as an MNTL graduate student, Malin appreciates the camaraderie and free-thinking environment. “As graduate students, we planned and executed our own experiments and labs, and we were guided by some of the finest faculty in the world,” said Malin, who was in ECE Professor K.C. Hsieh’s group. “KC taught me that I needed to not only collect and correlate the expected from our empirical data, but to seek the unexpected. The latter was really hard to do, but important in identifying new research areas.”
Malin’s advice for MNTL students: Keep your mind open to all technologies. “You are not a GaAs guy or a quantum-well gal,” said Malin. “You are trained to research, experiment, hypothesize, write, and continually learn. Continually reinvent yourself because there may not be an opportunity to practice your research in the geographic area you wish to raise your family.”
JAY MALIN’S TOP 3 ACCOMPLISHMENTS SINCE GRADUATING FROM ILLINOIS
- At NRL, he developed and published on a III-V InAs/GaSb Type II mid-infrared laser operating above room temperature. At that time, all similar lasers had been operating at liquid nitrogen.
- With AGENT511, his team deployed text to 911 at the largest 911 center in Texas, including the City of Houston, beating numerous multinationals. “The development took grit and perseverance that reminded me of my days back in Micro [MNTL],” Malin said.
- “I think I married well—my wife Ginger was a professor of Education at DePaul and is now a technology entrepreneur—and we’ve raised two terrific boys,” said Malin. “Perhaps my greatest accomplishment was helping [my boys] earn spots on travel baseball teams. My nine-year-old throws a 50 MPH fast ball and change-up.”