Cree

The fabulous Swoboda brothers

January 27, 2010: 8:30 AM ET

LED lighting's not-so-heated sibling rivalry.

Chuck (left) and Mark Swoboda know lighting.

If you cut your teeth on LED technology over the past 10 to 15 years here in the States, chances are good you might have worked with one, or both, of the Swoboda brothers.

Polite, rangy men raised outside Chicago, they are the only two boys in a family of six children. Mark Swoboda, the elder at 53, is president of Bridgelux, a startup based in Sunnyvale, Calif., that makes LED lighting components and systems. Chuck, 42, is CEO of Durham, N.C.-based Cree, which makes, you guessed it, LED lighting components and systems.

Both men took similar paths: Electrical engineering degrees at Marquette University, then jobs at HP (HPQ), which for years served as a training ground for the LED industry. (Mark points out that he got to HP first and helped his kid brother land a gig there.)

Chuck's company, publicly traded Cree (CREE), is the larger of the two. Mark's private company is just starting to really ramp up its revenue under his leadership. The brothers say their companies don't really compete: "I don't have products that can drop into his lineup, and he doesn't have products that can drop into mine," Mark says. "At least not yet."

So are family gatherings dominated by shop talk? Says Chuck: "We spend our time being brothers, and not talking about LEDs." The rest of the Swoboda family is probably relieved.

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