InSite Partners Company Logo, Principals Jo Major and Marla Sanchez
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Jo Major

Jo holds a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana. Jo started his career in R&D at SDL where he produced a number of patents and commercial products including the first commercially viable pump laser for optical telecom systems. After the sale of SDL to JDSU, Jo stayed on to lead the restructuring of the optical components group returning them to growing revenues and financial health. He left JDSU to join Avanex, an optical components supplier, as CEO. After turning the company around, including 6 quarters of positive revenue and Gross Margin growth, Jo left the company to found InSite Partners along with Marla Sanchez.


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Jo grew up in rural central Illinois, learning how machines around the farm worked, and through the experience of fixing them, how to think creatively about solving problems.

He started his university career at Eureka College, a small, liberal arts school that provided him with wonderful glimpses into the beauty of engineering, mathematics and physics. From there, he attended the University of Illinois at Urbana, where he earned his B.S. (with honors), M.S. and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering. Jo’s Ph.D. work, as an Intel fellow, was performed under the guidance of Prof. Nick Holonyak, whose research in semiconductor materials is unparalleled in brilliance and scope.

Upon graduation, Jo joined Spectra Diode Labs, SDL, a valley start-up specializing in high-power semiconductor lasers. His work in the research group produced a number of patents and commercial products, including the first commercially viable pump lasers for optical telecom systems. Following his stint in R&D, Jo had a variety of roles within SDL, ultimately ending up running the business unit responsible for telecommunications products. Based largely upon the explosive growth of the products of his business unit, SDL was sold to JDS Uniphase in late 2000 for a record $41B.

Within JDSU, he restructured the global optical components group and returned them to healthy growth and financial performance. This work, which took him throughout North America, Europe and Asia, eventually led him to the CEO position with Avanex, a telecommunications equipment supplier in deep financial difficulties. Over the four years Jo was at the helm of Avanex, it to become the most profitable company in its class while winning the Deloitte and Touche "Fast 500" awards in 2004 and 2007, and the "Technology Fast 50" award in 2007.

He co-founded InSite Partners in 2008, with a strong desire to cull new ideas for businesses, understand the teams that will turn these ideas into businesses, fix existing businesses when needed, but to above all support and grow businesses. Of particular interest are companies that seek to improve the human condition, including renewable energy, affordable medical solutions, and communication systems.