Fire in the Belly

Fire in the Belly

Building a World-leading High-tech Company from Scratch in Tumultuous Times

Jerry D. Neal with Jerry Bledsoe

When Bill Pratt and Powell Seymour got laid off from their technology jobs in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1991, they had no idea that they were about to become leaders of a revolution in electronic communications.

They did know that they wanted to start their own company, although they had no means to fund it. They asked their friend Jerry Neal to leave his job at the same company and join them to raise money and market their products.

Those products numbered only seven at the time, and they could fit in a small matchbox with plenty of room to spare. But they were unlike any other products. Bill Pratt had designed the first radio frequency integrated circuits, the semiconductor chips that would make the cell phone phenomenon possible.

Within a year of starting the company, Pratt had designed another chip, the first power amplifier using an exotic technology that many considered unreliable and impossible to commercialize. Although the chip failed at first, it became a company builder.

Now more than half of the cell phones made in the world contain power amplifiers made by RF Micro Devices of Greensboro, the world’s leading supplier. The company has plants and offices around the world, and has broadened its reach into every aspect of wireless electronic communications.

Jerry Neal’s revealing, entertaining, often funny account of how this came about is much more than a story of one company’s beginnings. It’s a wild ride through the technology boom of the 1990s, at the peak of which, just nine years after its founding, RF Micro Devices had a market value of $16 billion, twice that of its technology partner, the huge, long-established defence contractor TRW.

Fire in the Belly should be a handbook for entrepreneurs and a textbook for college business majors.

To purchase autographed copies of Fire in the Belly, please visit Linbrook Heritage Estate’s Gift Shop, which is located at 5507 Snyder Country Road, Trinity, NC 27370.