Matrox: Our Story
Tech companies often have great origin stories, tales of brilliance and creativity coming out of unlikely locations. Matrox too, has humble beginnings that belie the international success it enjoys today.
Lorne Trottier, president and co-founder of Matrox, knew that he wanted to build something for the long term, and create something for people who were just as excited about technology as he was.
With backgrounds in electrical engineering and computer sciences, Lorne and his co-founder were both working at the same company, designing interface cards for minicomputers, the precursor to the now-familiar microprocessors. The pair quickly realized there was a market for video interfaces for emerging microprocessors, and saw an opportunity to branch out and join the tech start-up revolution.
Thus in 1976, Matrox was born. The company was founded on the idea that there was a market for interfaces between microprocessors and video.
Lorne’s entrepreneurial spirit was evident from the start. The first phone number associated with the company was actually a second line installed at the Trottier family home; Lorne’s mother acted as receptionist, relaying orders back to her son as he worked at his primary job.
Matrox’s first venture was a specialized video-display device called Video RAM, which interfaced with a computer to display computer-generated alphanumeric data. Matrox found success organically, reaching out to the publication Electronics for a free feature in their new products section, which spurred initial orders. Matrox initially raised $20K to develop this device. They were profitable almost immediately; however, Lorne had no interest in creating a company to sell it for a quick profit, and wanted to push Matrox further. Success followed quickly in the form of the MTX-1632, an evolution of the Video RAM, which remained in production for more than 15 years. These first products would establish the foundation of many future Matrox products.
Lorne visited his first computer tradeshow in Atlantic City in July 1976, a mere two months after Matrox’s founding. There, Lorne collected datasheets from a number of small start-ups in the embryonic personal computer industry, including one curiously named after a fruit. Lorne still has an original copy of the datasheet from the Apple I in his personal archives.
From its earliest days, Matrox focused on specialized professional markets. In the early 1990s, the company split into three distinct divisions: Matrox Graphics, Matrox Video, and Matrox Imaging. Matrox Graphics took on the role of delivering graphics solutions, Matrox Video focused on markets for the broadcast industry and digital video editing solutions, while Matrox Imaging focused on component-level solutions for machine vision applications. The unified thread underpinning the Matrox model remained the original notion of interfacing between microprocessors and video.
From the start, Lorne knew he wanted to build a company in the ethos of the Hewlett Packard model, with a relaxed, informal atmosphere that placed employees at the center of the operation. An admirer of Bill Hewlett and David Packard—the founders of HP and considered the progenitors of Silicon Valley—since university, Lorne sought to emulate their management style, entrepreneurship, philanthropy, and progressive treatment of employees. From the start, Lorne knew he wanted to have profit sharing for employees, as well as a daycare and recreational facilities onsite, to support the Matrox staff. From an initial two founders, the Matrox enterprise soon expanded to a workforce of several dozen, growing steadily to count close to 1,500 employees at its largest iteration.
Over the years, Matrox continued to evolve its technological offerings to establish itself as a major player in fields like medical imaging, machine vision for factory automation, media and broadcast, AV infrastructure, and digital signage. The company has kept pace with the revolutionary changes in the industries it services, and the technologies it offers. Broadcast and AV industries have seen seismic shifts from analog to digital, from HD to UHD to HDR. The broadcast industry is moving from hard-wired, fixed-function equipment to software-based programmable multifunctional network-based devices with cloud-computing capabilities. AV infrastructure is also shifting to software products and network-based video transport. In the field of imaging, vision systems have evolved into powerful software- and PC-based systems that are compact and easier to use, as well as edge devices such as smart cameras. Other new technologies, including 3D imaging and deep learning, are dramatically increasing the capabilities of machine vision and helping drive Industry 4.0, with its emphasis on interconnectivity, automation, machine learning, and real-time data.
Humble about his success navigating ever-changing technologies in highly dynamic industries, Lorne believes in always being alert to technological paradigm shifts, as that is where the biggest opportunities lie. The ability to reinvent itself is part of the Matrox DNA and key to its success.
In 2019, Lorne acquired full ownership of Matrox, declaring renewed commitment to the valued customers, suppliers, and business partners, as well as to its employees worldwide. The following year, Matrox Graphics and Matrox Video merged under a single banner, as Matrox Video. In 2022, Matrox’s story of continuous evolution would add one more twist: the company announced the sale of its Imaging division to Zebra Technologies while Lorne renewed his commitment to Matrox Video. At the same time, Matrox Central Services was born, whose role is to render corporate services to Matrox Video as well as to Matrox Imaging during its integration into Zebra Technologies.
Both Matrox Imaging, now a part of Zebra Technologies, and Matrox Video play a vital role in the definition and evolution of industry-guiding standards. Product designs in both divisions champion industry standards, helping ensure interoperability between Matrox-branded and third-party products, as well as future-proof customer investment in Matrox products. Matrox Video has long been involved in driving open standards and specifications, including AIMS, AMWA, VSF, ST2110, and NMOS. They play a leading role in several international AV and broadcast associations.
Building strong relationships is integral to Matrox’s continued success; it prides itself on the lasting connections fostered with its customers and employees. What Matrox stands for is just as important as the products it produces. Like his role models, Lorne sought to build an inclusive corporate culture that balances the personal and the professional.
Matrox celebrated its 45th anniversary in 2021. Its mission is the same now as it was back in 1976: building exceptional products that solve real-world problems and creating technology that empowers customers to reach their goals.
“After all these years, I still love what I do,” says Lorne. “I love the company we’ve built. It feels like we’re just getting started.”