Electrical Engineering PhD graduate is on a mission to invent the fastest wireless technologies

Esmael Dinan alumni

Since earning a PhD in 2001, Esmael Dinan has worked for several large wireless technology companies, and he founded Ofinno Technologies in Herndon, Virginia.

Esmael Dinan, PhD Electrical and Computer Engineering ’01, wants to be a major player in the wireless technology world.

Since earning a PhD in 2001, he has made considerable headway toward that goal. A prolific inventor, Dinan has worked for several large wireless technology companies, and he founded Ofinno Technologies in Herndon, Virginia.

He talked about his work in the fall issue of ECE News, the Newsletter of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Dinan will be a guest speaker at 2 p.m. October 23 in room 163 of Research Hall, as part of ECE’s Distinguished Seminar Series.

Why did you decide to come to Mason for your PhD?

I was a PhD student in École Nationale Supérieure des Télécommunications in Paris in 1997 when I met Bijan Jabbari, a professor of electrical and computer engineering from Mason. He was in Paris for a research project involving the two universities, and we clicked. I was fascinated by many of his research ideas.  I moved to the United States to work with him and get my PhD at Mason Engineering.

What did you like most about your academic experience here?

I had a lot of choices on which courses I wanted to take, and the professors were very dedicated and friendly. I spent a lot of time in the Communications and Networking Lab, founded by Dr. Jabbari. We were a group of graduate students working as a team. I always had funding for research projects. WorldCom (now bought by Verizon) was one of the companies that funded my research, and they hired me right before I graduated.

How did your career unfold?

I was always passionate about research and innovation. My dissertation was about advanced wireless systems, and Mason filed six patents for my inventions. After graduating with my PhD, I worked in the research and development departments of technology firms. I led research and development projects in various areas of wireless and wireline networking technologies.

In 2011, I was laid off by Sprint, which motivated me to fulfill my dream to start my own company. [My wife and I] called it Ofinno Technologies. It was my wife’s idea. It comes from “of innovations.” I love inventing and teaching other people how to invent.

We are a technology research lab and develop some of the most amazing wireless technologies implemented in LTE-advanced and 5G wireless networks. 5G wireless technology brings ultrafast wireless speeds and intelligence to people and machines.

I want to have a company with the greatest number of prolific inventors from all over the world.

I want to create the same sense of community in Ofinno that Mason created for me. We are a proud winner of the Corporate Culture Award from CEO Report, which honors “companies that foster a creative, collaborative workplace culture to enhance performance and sustain a competitive advantage.”

I am an inventor in more than 700 patents or patent applications. However, Ofinno was by far my most important invention.

How do you know when something you’ve invented is worth patenting?

The challenge is in identifying great ideas from the ones that are not so great. Even some of the large enterprises don’t know how to figure it out. Unlike what most people think, innovative solutions are not formed in a flash of insight. Most inventions come from lots of research and the clash between different ideas.

First, we spend a lot of time to research existing technologies and their deficiencies. Second, we work in teams that criticize each other’s work in a trusting environment. Then, we identify the inventions that are worth filing as a provisional patent.

How did you make the transition from engineer/employee to owning your own company?

I read a lot of books about research, leadership, and business. I had to re-invent myself a few times. For two years, I worked in my basement. I provided consulting services to cover the cost of operations and spent almost all my savings on a few research projects. The risks were dramatically higher at that time.

Now, my challenges are about scaling the business model, maintaining an innovative corporate culture, collaborating with other companies, and supporting everyone on my team. We had an unconventional approach about growing the company. We have achieved so much without a penny of loan or investment money and plan to continue growing with this approach. That is very challenging.