Editor’s note: Each Tuesday, Local Tech Wire interviews a leading tech executive in the Southeast with the goals of offering insight into what makes these people click and also looking for tips on success they might offer to others. This is the first of a two-part interview with Bob Lynch, the dynamic CEO of Nitronex. The man charged with the task of building Nitronex into a major player in the semi-conductor industry has built an impressive technical and educational resume over the years.

But as important as the degrees and career stepping stones have been for Lynch, he tells Local Tech Wire in a two-part question-and-answer interview that there is much more to this chief executive officer than science, spread sheets and strategic thinking.

“My secret is simple,” he says when asked what’s the secret to his success. “Doing whatever it takes to be successful.”

Lynch, who took over Nitronex in January of 2000, also is smart enough not to be a daredevil or lone wolf. “This includes,” he says, talking about achieving success, “knowing when you need help and getting it.”

A chemist by trade with a degree from Massachusetts State, Lynch grew up with a love for astronomy. Yet he is much more than a star gazer.

Lynch identifies two heroes — Benjamin Graham, the “father of value investing” and author of “The Intelligent Investor” – and someone quite different than Graham — that daredevil entrepreneur Evil Knevil. The former fits with Lynch’s career as a business executive, the latter with his hobby of racing motorcycles and his own desire to succeed.

He’s also a big fan of the “Godfather” saga, and at the same time says he reads Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead” every year. Both are tales of the human spirit, and Rand is an inspiration to any struggling entrepreneur. “The Fountainhead” was rejected by 12 publishers. (When he’s not riding his motorcycle or working, Lynch also likes to write short stories.)

And as difficult as the current economic times are for startups, Lynch says they must keep their spirits up and fight on. “They should absolutely pursue their dreams, but they need to focus,” he says.

The interview: The personal side

What led to your interest in this particular area of research? Your bio speaks of “transitioning” fundamental technologies built around various procedures into commercially viable products. That’s a pretty unique field, isn’t it?

As a kid, I was always interested in astronomy. That was what ultimately got me into physics and semiconductor physics, which has been the basis of my career for more than 20 years.

Why leave a more established company such as Digital Microwave to head up Nitronex? Do you consider yourself a scientist and an entrepreneur?

I am both a scientist and an entrepreneur, and I left Digital Microwave because Nitronex offered the best of both worlds. First, the opportunity to pioneer dramatic advances in gallium nitride (Gan). Second, the chance to help Nitronex bring innovative GaN products to market and transform the company from start-up to market leader.

Executives in high-tech companies have to walk a fine line between managing and growing the firm, getting financing and generating revenue and also making sure that research-and-development continues at the same time, don’t they? How do you balance the two. After all, the best inventions in the world do no good if no one buys them, let alone can’t use them.

This is an extremely important balance. At Nitronex, we have always maintained a simultaneous focus on R&D and product development. This combination is critical because, even in the early days, we have been able to guide our R&D efforts because we know exactly how our products will solve customer problems.

Talk about the importance of delegation. Do you believe in sharing responsibility and rewarding initiative? Please explain.

It’s important that I focus on long-term issues. For example, understanding how the actions we take today will ensure Nitronex’s leadership in two years. I couldn’t do that if I spent 100 percent of my time on day-to-day activities. Delegation is the key to making this possible.

In these difficult financial times, you were able to close on a substantial round of funding last year. As tough a time as some chip companies are having, what sets you apart? Will you need another round?

Nitronex’s success to-date comes from two factors. First, having unique, disruptive technology. This is not incremental — we are talking about improvements by orders of magnitude. Second, we know our markets extremely well and the pain that our customers face. With this knowledge, it’s clear that Nitronex’s technology will turn these markets upside down.

Will we need another round of venture capital? In this type of economy, smart companies always need to be fund raising

What advice would you give to entrepreneurs trying to raise money these days?

Know your markets and quickly translate that into a customer base. New products and technology are far less important that paying customers.

And what about those entrepreneurs, like the four NCSU students who invented the process that led to Nitronex, who are probably a bit discouraged by the high-tech downturn? Should they keep pursuing their dream? What’s your advice?

They should absolutely pursue their dreams, but they need to focus. It comes down to knowing your markets and knowing why a customer would buy your products or services to solve specific programs.

What lessons have you learned in your tenure at three companies that might be of benefit to other executives?

I have learned two important lessons. The first is to work hand-in-hand with customers, beginning in the early R&D stages. The second lesson is to hire the best people possible. Good talent is what creates successful companies.

Who is your hero, and why?

I have two heroes. Benjamin Graham, because he was the first person to apply mathematical methods to shareholder value. And Evil Knevil, because he has the confidence and determination to always do what he says he will.

What two books have you read recently, and why? Favorite author? Genre?

Without a doubt, my favorite author is Ayn Rand. I re-read her two classics each year: The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.

Most recent movie you saw?

Any of the Godfather movies — I received the trilogy for Christmas.

What do you do to relax? Hobbies?

I am an avid astronomer and also an author (short stories). I also race motorcycles.

What’s your top priority in life?

To use fundamental mathematics and physics to solve every day problems.

What’s your secret of success?

My secret is simple: Doing whatever it takes to be successful. This includes knowing when you need help and getting it.

Wednesday: Talking about Nitronex the company and its technology.