Bridge Doctor Mistras Floats IPO

In August I recognized a license plate, ‘MISTRAS,’ in the McCaffrey’s parking lot and figured it had to belong to Sotirios Vahaviolos, who has a company on Clarksville Road, Mistras Holdings. Indeed it was, and we had a chat. I hadn’t spoken to him since U.S. 1 did a cover story on his company in 2002.

Vahaviolos was excited about floating his long-awaited IPO to raise money to go into alternative energy solutions. He had immigrated from Greece (and, as I remember, it was from the town of Mistras) and gone to Fairleigh Dickinson (Class of 1970), then earned a PhD in EE from Columbia and worked at Bell Labs. In 1978 he founded Physical Acoustics, which “listens” to faults in bridge infrastructure. It has grown to be a global company with many parts, under the Mistras umbrella, to do “nondestructive” testing, meaning that plants don’t have to be shut down.

He had hoped to do the IPO last fall but the market deepsixed that idea. Sure enough, the offering took place, a year later, last Thursday (NYSE:MG). It fell below the $12.50 offering price but as of two days later is up past $12.60. At least some of his employees are part owners, so congrats to them as well. I think I remember him saying that he has company gatherings in his hometown olive grove, lucky them! May Mistras have the success that another employee-owned firm, Greg Olsen’s Sensors Unlimited, has had. With 68 offices in 15 countries, Mistras has such useful technology that one would think it would do well.

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