In Memoriam Jan Melles 1940-2024

Jan Melles started his career in the Dutch Army Intelligence branch after receiving his BS in electrical Engineering. In the early sixties he moved to California with his wife Jennifer to make their American Dream come true. In Santa Anna, CA Jan Melles met Dick Griot, with whom he started Melles Griot in 1969 as a distribution company for optical products. The sales and marketing strategy was to offer a complete range of optical and opto-mechanical components for the R&D and OEM markets, promoted through a professionally written catalogue that contained exact product data and background engineering data. Under Jan’s leadership Melles Griot quickly became known for its complete catalogue for optical products, also referred to as “the Photonics Bible”, that was distributed all over the world. In 1973 Jan Melles opened the companies European Distribution Centre in the Netherlands to expand the business to Europe and the ROW. When Opening local offices in the different European Countries Jan looked for entrepreneurial local General Managers, who would be able to earn a share in the local companies. In 1979 Melles Griot started to manufacture their own products, as Jan was convinced that being a Distributor was always a catch-22. If you overperformed the supplier would start it’s own subsidiary and if you didn’t reach your targets, you would be kicked out. In 1988 Jan and Dick decided to sell Melles Griot to Barloworld Ltd, and Jan stayed on-board as CEO for a few more years. As Jan was not the person to retire, in 1991 Jan founded his own Photonics Investments BV in the Netherlands and invested in and Co-founded small startups in the Photonics Industry worldwide. Jan also served on the board of a number of Photonics companies, such as Excel Technologies, Nynomic AG, Gooch and Housego and Access Laser. Jan was a great entrepreneur and mentor for the CEO’s of many of these startups, in my own experience for Avantes, where he was Co-founder. His advise would always be to focus on the customer and be market driven, instead of a technology push, which was the strategy of most tech entrepreneurs. Partnerships should always be such, that you keep your decisive freedom on how to expand your business. Jan was a great example of a focused entrepreneur, who would always believe in success. Jan will be missed and remembered as a true icon of the Photonics Industry.