The MathWorks, Inc. - Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on The MathWorks, Inc.

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Company Perspectives

At The MathWorks, we express who we are as an organization through our guiding principle, our mission, and our core values. Developed over time, each represents a philosophy or goal that is intrinsically important to the organization. Our guiding principle is "Do the Right Thing." This means doing what is best for our staff members, customers, business partners, and communities for the long term, and believing that "right" answers exist. It also means measuring our success, not merely in financial terms, but by how consistently we act according to this principle. Our mission and core values express what "doing the right thing" means in our day-to-day work. Our mission articulates our goals as a company and how we go about achieving them. Our core values set out the principles that define who we are and how we work together. We invite you to explore these two different ways of understanding The MathWorks.

History of The MathWorks, Inc.

The MathWorks, Inc., is a leading publisher of technical software. Its flagship product, MatLab, the add-on Simulink, and other products have applications in a number of high-tech industries and are a staple of engineering curricula at more than 3,500 universities around the world. The company is owned by CEO John N. (Jack) Little, chairman and chief scientist Cleve Moler, and Steve Bangert, who together launched the company in 1984 and own most of its equity.


The MathWorks, Inc. was formed in Palo Alto, California by John N. (Jack) Little, Cleve Moler, and Steve Bangert. It was originally incorporated as a California company on December 7, 1984. It soon moved to the Boston area and was registered in Massachusetts on June 18, 1986. (A Delaware corporation of the same name was organized in 1997.)

Moler, an accomplished applied mathematician and chair of the computer science department at the University of New Mexico, would become the company's chief scientist and chairman. Jack Little took the titles of president and CEO and was at first the only employee. Little, who had studied electrical engineering at both MIT (where his father was a professor) and Stanford University (where he earned his master's degree), had previously led CAD/CAE package design at a firm called Systems Control Technology. According to the Boston Globe, Little's idiosyncratic personality helped keep the company together. He described his management philosophy with a Japanese proverb: "The more power you give up the more power you have."

MathWorks had been formed to commercialize a technical computer programming language and interactive environment Moler had originally created in Fortan for mainframe computers in the late 1970s. Called MatLab, a personal computer (PC) version was translated into C several years later by Little and another engineering consultant, Steve Bangert.

MatLab was designed to compute large arrays of data in matrixes. It was faster than older programming languages such as Fortran at processing large amounts of data. Originally used at research universities, it was soon adopted by industry.

According to the Boston Globe, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology bought the first ten copies of MatLab for $500. The disks were likely packaged in Zip-Loc bags, if company lore is to be trusted.

MatLab 2.0 was retailing for $395 in 1987. PC Magazine described it as powerful, fast running, and easier to use than other languages such as Pascal. By the time version 4.0 was released in 1991, the software was selling for $2,995. MatLab 4.0 featured color graphics, allowing for display of four dimensions of data on graphs.

Another important and enduring product line was Simulink (originally called SIMULAB). Simulink was an add-on to produce block diagrams. It would be expanded with other graphic tools for studying and modeling dynamic systems. The Simulink C Code Generator retailed for $13,000 when it was introduced in 1992; a bundle of it with MatLab and some other components was priced at $30,000.

The software was expanded to include a variety of system design, modeling, and simulation tools. It was installed in both desktop PCs and supercomputers and counted more than 100,000 users in more than 50 countries by the early 1990s.

Booming in the Nineties

In 1991, MathWorks laid out a mission involving four components: technological, business-related, human, and social. Its 100 or so staffers received eight paid hours a year for volunteer opportunities. "I think employees appreciate that the company is acknowledging their work, and the community we live and work in appreciates us as a fellow community member," a spokesperson told the Boston Business Journal. "It's what makes this company different."

In 1994, Cleve Moler developed a software-based correction for the notorious floating-point error discovered in the Pentium chip. For good measure, he posted Intel's correspondence related to the crisis on his own company's web site. "You've got to [be able to] trust a computer's arithmetic," he told the Washington Post. "It's a question of confidence."

The work force was growing rapidly, numbering 380 employees by 1997. In many ways The MathWorks was the prototypical software outfit, emphasizing a fun creative environment and a high degree of employee autonomy. Its perks and quirks were intended to foster creativity in a highly competitive business. "Every cent we've spent on the people who work here has paid for itself many times over," Little explained to the Boston Globe.

MathWorks did not, however, follow the Silicon Valley crowd of tech firms rushing to go public as the Internet bubble expanded to bursting. "He doesn't want to lose control," cofounder Steve Bangert told the Boston Globe of CEO Jack Little. "He doesn't want to deal with a bunch of stockholders."

Cambridge Control, a U.K. software producer and engineering firm, was acquired in October 1997. It had itself been established in 1984 and it became a MathWorks distributor in 1988. Cambridge Control was renamed The MathWorks Ltd. in June 2000, and the consulting arm was dubbed Cambridge Consulting Group. The MathWorks, Inc. also was launching subsidiaries in other European countries.

At the turn of the millennium, MathWorks had about 1,000 employees. It had sales of about $200 million in 2001. Half of this was related to dynamic control-system software, according to information from the Justice Department. The agency filed an antitrust lawsuit against the company over its agreement to take over the MatrixX line of software from Alameda, California's Wind River Systems Inc.

20 in 2004

Many of the complicated engineering design feats of the previous two decades had been made possible by MatLab and other software produced by MathWorks, which made the calculation of complex algorithms possible. "Without it, these mathematical techniques simply wouldn't be available to the engineers," Moler said in the Philadelphia Business Journal. Modeling software was being applied to new areas of science, notably biology and chemistry, and even the financial world. Mathlab and Simulink were much in demand in the electronics industry as product development cycles shortened. After 20 years in business, the company had reportedly never posted a loss.

The company was proud of its record of social responsibility. It also benefited from support in the local community. According to the Boston Business Journal, the town of Natick, Massachusetts was arranging tax breaks to allow MathWorks to buy and improve buildings it had been leasing. In November 2004, the company bought its two headquarters buildings for $49.7 million in one of the largest corporate real estate deals the area had seen in years. The three- and four-story buildings together had more than 300,000 square feet.

MatLab products, long dominant in simulations, were extending their usefulness into the evolving electronic design automation (EDA) market. A number of traditional EDA vendors were creating links between their products and MatLab, allowing engineers to use the same language for simulation and implementation.

MatLab Central, MathWorks' Web-based resource for product news and support, was quick to incorporate RSS feeds as a way to push content to users. Launched in January 2004, it was logging 50,000 feed hits a month by June 2005.

Sales for the privately held company were reported as being $350 million in the Boston Business Journal. In 2006, the company was heavily involved in the aerospace and defense industry, and was participating in the U.S. Army's multibillion dollar Future Combat System.

Principal Subsidiaries

The MathWorks, Ltd. (United Kingdom).

Principal Competitors

Cadence Design Systems Inc.; Mentor Graphics Corporation; National Instruments Corporation; Visual Numerics, Inc.; Wolfram Research, Inc.


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