James Cruckshank joined MathStar in June 2005 as CFO and VP of Administration. The thing he enjoys most of all about his role is the breadth of experience it affords: "Everything we do as a company comes across my desk so I can have an impact on all aspects of the business."
Headquartered in Portland, Oregon MathStar is a semiconductor company that designs, manufactures and markets logic platform chips called "Field Programmable Object Arrays," or FPOAs. FPOAs are high-performance, reprogrammable silicon integrated circuits that process algorithmic functions at high speeds. The chips are used in many communications, computing, image processing, industrial and military/aerospace applications.
As a senior financial executive with over 25 years of experience working with both closely-held and publicly traded companies, Cruckshank brings to MathStar a broad range of knowledge. In the past he has worked with both later-stage and emerging-growth companies in a number of sectors including retail, real estate, and steel manufacturing, with his last four years spent in the semiconductor industry.
"At the moment I work in public accounting but really I am a jack-of-all-trades," he explains.
His expertise covers debt and equity financing, acquisitions and divestitures, post-acquisition integration, SEC and financial reporting, investor relations, internal controls, business plan development, financial modelling, and systems implementations.
It's this acumen that has enabled him to play a key role at MathStar where he works closely with President and CEO Douglas Pihl.
"A good CFO is strategically focused," says Cruckshank, "and they're thinking 3 or 4 years ahead so they know where the company is going to be at and what systems and financing need to be in place. I work closely with the Board of Directors and my CEO and I sit in on product planning and financing strategies."
Since joining MathStar, Cruckshank has overcome a number of challenges. "We did a Public Investment and Private Equity (PIPE) in October 2006 worth 12 ½ million dollars." Taking the company public in June 2005 with no product to sell was another significant achievement. MathStar shipped it's first FPOAs in November 2006 and is now looking to find secure market traction for the product. "Keeping investors informed and up to date is a bit of a challenge," claims Cruckshank. Being a small company that doesn't own a manufacturing facility MathStar outsources production, so another major concern for the company is cost control and inventory control. As a public company (NASDAQ: MATH) MathStar is subject to the enhanced public accountability standards established by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. And like many in his trade the topic of compliance has had a major impact on the way Cruckshank works. "We spent a significant amount of time making sure that MathStar was certified by December 2006," he says.
As a successful CFO, Cruckshank values his ability to disseminate key financial information, understand the business intimately on an operational level and participate in strategic decision making. "Clearly you need systems in place that provide good visibility," he says. "Virtually none of my time is spent in processing transactions. Most of my time is spent in strategic decision making and investor relations." Board involvement is also crucial to Cruckshank's role, "I sit in on every board meeting and I spend a lot of time preparing compendiums covering all the topics for every board meeting."
Cruckshank holds a BBA in Accounting, Marketing and Management from the University of Portland and an MBA from the University of Notre Dame in Finance. He's also a CPA and a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, "The CPA is more practical. I would say that you can get the knowledge base in other ways but the CPA route is fast and it gives you a good theoretical and practical grounding."
What does the future hold? "For most CFOs in general in the U.S. it s continuing to deal with Sarbanes-Oxley, negative accounting issues and backdating of options. I think the financing environment could get a little more complicated as well. But we will have to wait and see."