Computing at the Speed of Life
Velocity Micro is a leading manufacturer of high-performance computers with a wide range of custom products including gaming desktops, notebooks, professional workstations, and more. “We’re focused exclusively on the highest end of the personal computing space,” says President and Chief Executive Officer Randy Copeland. “We take the best components, meticulously craft them, and support them right here in our Virginia facility for people who need an elevated computing experience.”
Although officially established in 1997, Velocity Micro’s roots reach much further back to the late 1980s when Randy Copeland was working as an independent cabinet sales representative. He was looking for a way to stand out from his competition and realized that many of his customers could benefit from a computer.
He had some experience in this area already, having built a computer for his own business. He understood how to put one together, how to operate it, and how to troubleshoot problems. He began building computers for customers and offering technical support as an unofficial technician.
By 1992, he was building powerful custom computers on his kitchen table for local customers. Each system was carefully tailored to the distinctive needs of each customer. At first, Copeland saw it as a side venture, and his primary effort was toward his cabinet business, Smart Interiors. However, building these computers gave him valuable experience and built a skill set that would prove very useful later.
He officially established the company under the name Velocity Micro in 1997, but its first big break was in 2002 when he received a letter from Maximum PC Magazine. They were working on a piece about smaller computer manufacturers and asked him if he would be interested in submitting a machine to be rated.
“I had to put together a computer, but I didn’t really have any industry connections at the time,” says Copeland. “It was literally parts I bought at local computer shops over the weekend. They rated it a seven out of ten. I was very happy that they were impressed by the performance and the craftsmanship.”
Maximum PC wrote that while Copeland’s entry did not use the latest, expensive components, it was “put together with the kind of care and craftsmanship the behemoth manufacturers can’t offer.” Copeland had managed to impress industry professionals, and that was the moment when he decided to shift his attention to Velocity Micro.
Today, the company operates from a 20,000 square foot facility in Richmond, Virginia. Every aspect of the business from research and development to engineering, assembly, technical support, logistics, and much more is managed by an expert team of thirty people. After more than two decades, the company has remained competitive by concentrating on exclusive, performance systems. “We’re not interested in entry-level, low-quality,” says Copeland. “That’s not the market that’s going to make a company like Velocity successful.”
This expertise in fast, powerful equipment has enabled the company to find success in an industry that is encumbered by giant multinational manufacturers. Copeland recognized early that while the larger entities mass-produced mainly low-cost machines, there was an opportunity for low-volume production of high-end machines. Velocity Micro has been strategically designed to avoid competing with the larger companies by building a unique skill-set geared toward filling that gap in the market.
As a result of this, Velocity computers have found use in industries with the most demanding requirements and challenging environments, and the reliability of those products has made them desirable. Government and military clients use custom Velocity machines; architectural and engineering firms use them for computer-aided design, and publishing companies use them for image and photo processing. In the video media space, Velocity computers have been used for editing everything from YouTube videos to movies for major studios. For the medical industry, this level of computing is critical for everything from research and development to monitoring, recording, and assisting right on the operating room floor.
Velocity Micro’s product development emphasizes two sectors. About half of its business is for high-end gaming. These users are looking for quality gaming systems with state-of-the-art graphics processing hardware. Velocity provides this sector with computers that provide the ultimate immersive gaming experience.
The second-largest percentage of its client list is in business. Where gamers are looking for an immersive experience, business customers are looking to save time because time is money. Things happen faster on a Velocity Micro than on any other computer that money can buy. These are two very different markets, but the common thread is a need for the highest possible performance.
To achieve that level, Velocity Micro uses only select components from the world’s top manufacturers such as Intel, ASUS, AMD, NVidia, and Samsung, but how the company fine-tunes those components is what makes the real difference. More than twenty years of experience and investing in research and development has given the company an unrivaled ability to tweak components to operate at their absolute limit.
Through incremental improvements to the acoustics, thermal design, airflow, and much more, Velocity can take a computer component and make it run faster than anyone else can, and this is what differentiates the company from any other player in the industry.
For example, Velocity routinely ships its systems overclocked which drives the components to run faster than the speed for which they were designed. Essentially, overclocking a processor makes it run faster than the manufacturer intended it to run. However, this often comes with drawbacks. Overclocking a processor can cause it to burn out, if not done with extreme care. Velocity Micro engineers have a keen understanding of exactly how to assemble and configure a system such that an overclocked processor will operate safely for a very long time.
“It seems on the surface that, if you have a list of parts, those are always going to give the same output,” says Copeland. “In reality, the same list of components will vary greatly depending on the craftsmanship, the acoustic design, the thermal design, et cetera. If we build an architect an overclocked system, he still has the expectation that it’s going to be absolutely rock solid for three to five years. We know how to overclock it so that it will run reliably for a long time. That’s a differentiator that other manufacturers just can’t offer.”
In 2018, Velocity won ‘Best in Performance’ in the Intel Extreme Rig Challenge. Intel gave a wide selection of high-end boutique manufacturers a ten thousand dollar budget to build the best computer they could. Velocity beat the second place finisher in the performance category by seven percent.
The company’s leadership believes that the key to having a successful, long-lasting business is that everyone is a partner in the management of the company. Employees are aware of what the goal is and are empowered to make decisions and run their part of the business toward that. Copeland believes that success is about working together as a collaborative force and having trust in the expertise of the team.
“Whether it’s someone who’s in charge of the inventory department or the marketing or production people, everyone knows what needs to be done,” says Copeland, “and we give them the autonomy to work together and come up with solutions so that everything doesn’t have to bubble to the top.”
Going forward, Copeland sees the market moving in two directions simultaneously. Low-cost computer manufacturers are in a race to the bottom, and Velocity has no intention of joining. However, on the high-performance side, he foresees a growing need for high-end systems that remain accessible to small and midsized companies. That is the area in which Velocity Micro will continue to operate and innovate.
Just over two decades after its genesis as a hobby project operating out of Randy Copeland’s kitchen, Velocity Micro has become the premier choice for high-performance computing. Copeland said the secret is in treating people with respect. “You do the right thing, even when nobody’s looking. You’ll end up with a happy customer, and that’s what’s going to make you successful.”