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Meet Dell Kronewitter of Fuse Integration

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dell Kronewitter.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I attended college from 1985 to 1999, with a few breaks to ski patrol in Mammoth, earning B.S., M.S, and Ph.D. degrees in math from UC Santa Barbara, Irvine, and San Diego and focusing on engineering and computer science.

After finally graduating I began working in the telecom field rather than stay in academia. At my first job, we developed carrier-grade network management equipment and software creating some very unique products which sought to exploit the changing economics of telecommunications in the late 90’s, early 2000’s. After marrying my wife, Dawn, and having our two children, Derek and Dani, I soon found myself in wireless software defense work at San Diego Research Center where we developed a wireless communications system for professional army laser tag systems.

As SDRC was then purchased by Argon ST and then Boeing I developed an AirForce encryption approach for satellite network protocol acceleration, a DARPA robotics comms relay project for soldiers in tunnels, and 19 satellites which are currently on orbit for the ORBCOMM corporation. When I met Sumner Lee the CEO of Fuse I was really impressed by the energy and creativity of the Fuse vision. I joined Fuse in the fall of 2013 as the fifth employee and began developing the engineering rigor, team, and software to really deliver some superior systems.

Together we have formed a company which is able to develop robust military grade systems with all the high assurance and cybersecurity features required for that arena. I have never liked simply developing components or chips that get sold to other firms to be used in complex systems and prefer to take development at the system level not leaving the success of the project to the other firm. Typically this was from some requirements which were somehow distilled down. With Sumner at Fuse, we go a huge step further and employ the modern design thinking paradigm to deeply engage the end user, typically the warfighter, who may or may not explicitly know how they want to use the system.

We have developed network management systems for Navy ship wireless networks which included a number of our engineers (myself included) deploying for a couple weeks on Navy ships. We have developed a ruggedized networking device which provides optimized, secure networking functionality with an advanced highly intuitive user interface and management system. We are currently embarking on the development of an advanced airborne wireless network which will provide 10x the connectivity of existing systems and a roller-bag type communication system which is able to provide high-security connectivity for Navy leadership.

We have also developed a situational awareness tool which is able to provide assistance and video feeds to first responders. Fuse is enjoying rapid growth with a strengthening trust among DoD customers and we currently have over 40 people working here. As the Director of Engineering, I seek to further bolster our customer’s confidence and keep Fuse a fun place to do some innovative engineering solving some of the world’s most complex problems.

Has it been a smooth road?
Fuse has had some good results with Internal Research and Design projects, but we have had some others which have just not worked out and we probably put too much time into such projects. We should have cut them earlier. Similarly, we have put people in positions which just didn’t end up working out and we should have made the change. It’s hard to divorce your emotions as a “start-up optimist” when you believe in the future of what you have put together.

Our business is mostly DoD contracts with some products, both of which can disappear at the drop of a hat for a myriad of reasons which are out of your control. In early 2015 we had some contract struggles where we experienced a funding gap. Luckily our government customers found the value in our products and the work picked up again with great results.

Also, our previous landlord wouldn’t pay the electricity bill which would create some interesting challenges, but we have since moved on. The new facility we converted from an empty warehouse which you can see from the pictures creates a fun, engaging atmosphere. The paintings on the walls are from local street artists and many are from the Fuse team.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Fuse Integration – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Fuse develops user-focused communication, network, and software systems. We have a strong engineering team which is able to develop systems which perform extremely well within limited computational and environmental budgets. Our designers and user advocates work closely to develop user interfaces and product features which address our customers needs.

Our DoD customers have been very impressed with the highly successful products we have delivered and are developing with them. They are often surprised when we host user workshops to elicit feedback and perform usability testing. Some of our competitors, especially larger ones, seem disjointed where salespeople create contracts for managers which result in engineers creating systems which don’t meet the original need at all.

This sort of problem is common in large, complex organizations like the DoD and is exacerbated with fixes like additional processes and auditing. In contrast, Fuse takes a highly integrated approach where we seek out the need and deliver systems which work.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I like the fact that the ocean is all around us. The sailing, surfing, boating, and swimming are all activities I enjoy and couldn’t do without. Having a vibrant downtown is great and having a strong academic presence with 3 top notch universities a few miles from the center of the city makes San Diego world class. Go, Padres!

I don’t like the traffic – getting around at 5:00 is no Bueno.

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