In you ask Jeff Finkelstein about what his high-tech company Microprocessor Designs does, you will hear an explanation that a low-tech person can easily understand.
Finkelstein describes his business as product design and development with a specialty in microcomputer hardware and firmware. It is best known for its embedded firmware, also known as “smarts,” including microcomputers that are part of Concept 2 rowing machines.
Finkelstein started the company in a spare room in his Shelburne home in 1988. It has grown to 11 employees working out of an office on Longmeadow Drive and a client list that includes large corporations from across the United States.
After getting his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at Stony Brook University, Finkelstein worked in Boston and California before attending the University of Vermont graduate school for biomedical engineering. He started his company while still in school. “I didn’t have any super great plan,” he admitted. “But people kept asking me to do projects. I was making a little money on the side, which was good, but it was also an opportunity to go out on my own.” Within three years, Finkelstein moved the company out of his house.
Finkelstein’s initial work was mostly in the biomedical field. One large project from almost a decade ago was creating fingertip sensors for prosthetic hands for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Several designs have aided the world of sports, including SRAM bicycle parts, Ridell football helmets, and Segway personal transportation vehicles.
Today his clients come from a variety of fields. One current project revolves around a 3D metal printer for a group in Boston. In general, Finkelstein prefers to develop designs that can be replicated. Most are product-oriented, allowing Microprocessor Designs to assist throughout the production cycle.
Given the number of years he has worked in the field, Finkelstein has many design concepts which can be reconfigured for new purposes. “Implementation approaches can be reused, and that’s how we bring great value to our clients,” he said. Additionally, the company tries to stay at the cutting edge of technology by maintaining good relationships with many circuit manufacturers.
Microprocessor Designs has had a number of homes since it left Finkelstein’s house, including what he refers to as “the dungeon” in the basement of the old Creamery building. It was around the time of that move that Mark Lyons came on as partner and Finkelstein credits him with helping to grow the business.
Finkelstein is proud that many of his engineers have been with the company for 20 years. He brings on two paid interns from UVM every year and often one stays on with the company. “We’re trying to be part of the community that keeps young people in Vermont,” he said.
In his down time, Finkelstein is an avid skier and his love for the slopes extends to helping others do the same. For the last 10 years he has been a volunteer ski patroller at Mad River Glen. “It’s sort of a passion,” he said. “It’s a great thing to do and a way to enjoy Vermont in the winter. Mad River is a very special place and it’s a great group of people to work with.”