Country of origin: France
Year came to U.S.: 1938
Education: BS Management,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Business: Teradyne (1960)
Headquarters: North Reading, MA
2019 revenue: $2.3 billion
Worldwide employment: 5,300
Alex D’Arbeloff was fired three times in the first ten years of his career.
During his tenure as president and CEO of Teradyne, the company’s sales rose from $13 million to more than $1 billion.
MIT President Emeritus Charles Vest summed up Alex D’Arbleoff’s personality this way, “He radiated energy, loved to challenge ideas, and was as at home in a classroom as in his boardroom.”
D’Arbeloff was born in Paris, France. When war came to Western Europe, the family moved to South America and finally the United States in 1938.
His early career was not stellar. D’Arbeloff was fired three times during his first 10 years after graduating with a bachelor’s in management from MIT. In reference to his tendency to antagonize his superiors he said, “I didn’t do it on purpose. I just wanted to do more than they were willing to do.”
In 1960, D’Arbeloff and a classmate from MIT, Nick DeWolf, formed a company to bring to market new ideas for electronics testing equipment. They raised $200,000 from friends and an early venture capital firm American Research and Development. They called it Teradyne after “tera” (the prefix for 10 to the 12th power) and “dyne” (a unit of force) because the effort of starting the company felt like “rolling a 15,000 ton boulder uphill.”
Their first product was a diode tester that was small enough to pick up and made with semiconductors at a time when such products were typically based solely on vacuum tubes and required six-foot-high racks. Ever since then, Teradyne has been credited with a long string of technology firsts.
Its first product was launched in August 1961, and the company was profitable by the fourth quarter of 1962. D’Arbeloff was named president of Teradyne in 1971. During his tenure as president and CEO, the company’s annual sales rose from $13 million to more than $1 billion. Today, Teradyne is a global leader in automatic testing equipment for semiconductor, electronics and automotive companies.
He retired as chairman of Teradyne in 2000 but did not have a quiet retirement. D’Arbeloff served as chairman of MIT Corporation from 1997 to 2003 and honorary chairman after that. He also taught at the MIT Sloan School of Management and the Department of Mechanical Engineering and was a director of the Whitehead Institute. With his wife, he created the Fund for Excellence in MIT Education, which supports innovations in teaching, and established the D’Arbeloff Lab in the mechanical engineering department.