Scott Salton: Biographical Overview
Scott Salton is President of Lighthouse Worldwide Solutions, the world’s leading supplier of real-time contamination monitoring systems and airborne particle counters. He is also a master martial arts practitioner: a Grand Master and instructor at Jung SuWon Martial Art Academy.
In His Own Words
I was born in New Rochelle, New York, and graduated from University of Connecticut in 1978 with Bachelor of Science degrees in both electrical engineering and computer science. After graduating, I became a semiconductor design engineer at IBM at their offices near Burlington, Vermont.
When I moved to Vermont I decided I wanted to train more deeply in the martial arts. I had taken some Shotokan classes, as well as karate and Kung Fu but had never had a chance to dive deeply into martial arts. I wanted to improve my physical and mental capabilities, and to increase my confidence. I knew that training in the martial arts could do all that and more. I just needed to find the right school.
While interviewing to train with different martial art schools, I discovered a high-ranking Tae Kwon Do martial arts Master, Tae Yun Kim, the founder of what is now Lighthouse Worldwide Solutions. I began studying and training under her. When I started studying I was out of shape, didn’t know how to take care of myself, and didn’t have any energy or focus.
As I trained with Dr. Kim my mind got sharper and I became more creative. My energy increased, my body became fit, and I started to realize the potential I had inside of myself. My career advanced and I did very well at IBM. Her teaching applied mental discipline to integrate the mind, body and spirit. In 1982, she had her vision for starting a technology company. She didn’t know anything about technology, but she had a view of building a company that would help people. She wanted to make a difference in the world.
At first, I thought she was crazy – why did she want to start a company in a field she knew nothing about? But she had an incredible energy and a positive mission that was contagious. We trained rigorously physically and mentally. We never practiced breaking boards or bricks in class, but during testing, Master Tae Yun Kim would challenge us with objects that we thought would be impossible to break. But due to her disciplined training, increased belief in ourselves and the building of an indomitable spirit, we were able to break boards and bricks with our bare hands. Then, she emphasized how we can apply that same energy and confidence to other areas of our life.
She taught her students the power of spirit and willpower. So, when she asked me if I thought we could start a successful company, I considered our training, evaluated the possibility for a few weeks and said, “Yes, let’s go for it.” I felt like I could do anything. I also felt I was in the right place at the right time.
Microsoft was just coming out with computers. Gaming and color graphics were coming out, so we decided to start with games. Pac-man was becoming popular at the time, so our idea was to create exciting games for kids that educated them about Bible stories. These were complicated projects, coded in assembly language.
Dr. Kim created a music department, an art department, and a coding department. Finally, we completed our first game: “Samson and Delilah” on the Commodore 64. We were so excited about the technical accomplishment, but we had no business experience. When we went to sell them, we didn’t know where to go or how to market them. We had no business or marketing experience – after all, I was an engineer.
We got a contract and delivered the product, but never got paid. But we believed we could learn from our mistakes, and we had a lot of energy and talent, and we could build a company. Dr. Kim’s drive to create the company was strong. She created the saying “He Can Do, She Can Do, Why Not Me!” to inspire us. If other companies could be successful, why not us?
By 1983 I had left IBM where I had full benefits and a good salary, to work for this start-up company with no money. Our group would sit on the floor looking at Wall Street Journal articles while Dr. Kim cooked us all dinner, promising each other, “We are going to be in there one day!” We had no idea how were going to get there – it was an indominable survival spirit, fueled by our martial arts training, and most importantly Dr. Tae Yun Kim’s mission to help people. We spent months working on those Bible videos and got nothing from it, but we got experience, and that was more important.
Dr. Kim sold her house and I took my money out of savings, and we worked for months with our team to make those first products. But we didn’t have anything to show for it. We realized we couldn’t wait for years for money to come in, so we turned our attention to other things.
"We'll make it happen"
Moving to Silicon Valley
We started developing software and created programs that marketed real estate and worked on other products. But Vermont was 20 years behind California. There was no market. We were struggling. Dr. Kim realized we needed to be in Silicon Valley, where the action was. After making a trip in 1985, we relocated with everything we had, including the 12 people on our team. I got a job with FMC - Central Engineering Laboratories - and Dr. Kim and everybody else got day jobs. As we got on our feet we started reorganizing the company that became Lighthouse. Everything was ten times more expensive than in Vermont. We could barely afford anything.
But Dr. Tae Yun Kim was always positive and high spirited and said, “we’ll make it happen.” “He can do, she can do, why not me!” We found a studio to rent to teach martial arts. On the first day we opened the new Jung SuWon martial arts academy we had over 89 students. From that day it continued to grow. Then we opened our first Lighthouse office. At first, we contracted ourselves out to other companies like HP.
Then we started to developing engineering solutions for contamination monitoring used in what is known as “cleanrooms.” They are used in semiconductor, pharmaceutical, data storage, biotechnology, aerospace and defense industry plants.
"If you don't continually grow, you die as a company."
Our first big job happened when a company called Komag hired us to develop a system that could enable multiple clean rooms in different parts of the world to be viewed at once. At that time there was no Internet. We did everything over satellite communications. We designed the software and used the first Windows 3.1 system to build it. Our client was able to bring up Windows and see all the clean rooms they managed in three different countries. From there, we started developing systems for companies all over the world.
Around 2001, the company we were buying electronic sensors from told us they were getting bought out by another company – and said we couldn’t use their products any more. That threatened to put us out of business. Dr. Kim called a staff meeting and asked us what we should do. After listening to our ideas against doing hardware, she announced that we were getting into the hardware business to develop our own sensors. We created a small group we called the Star Team. For months, we worked day and night, seven days a week to develop our own sensors. We put them out in the marketplace. Now we had both software and hardware and could deliver systems again. That tactic helped build Lighthouse to where we are today.
Planning the Future
My martial arts training and exposure to Dr. Kim’s fighting spirit and drive has been instrumental in my career. She practices what she calls future memory: you believe so much in what you will make happen that it does happen. As Dr. Kim teaches and demonstrates, your thoughts become your reality. Everyone wants to have control over their time and freedom, but without taking care of your mind and body, you won’t have the focus and energy to. I continue training hard in martial arts to give me the energy and focus to ensure Lighthouse, the Jung SuWon martial arts school, and all our endeavors remains successful.
As Lighthouse continues to grow, our responsibility is to think about succession planning. Who are the next people in line and how do you train them? We are in the process of developing them, which is freeing me to do other things. We are also planning new products to make the company continue to expand. We are working on new technology in new markets. We are looking at taking our technology outdoors, as well as into personal residences.
How companies can reinvent themselves and continue growing is at the top of our minds. Dr. Tae Yun Kim is leading the way. She is aware that if you don’t continuously grow, you die as a company.