How A Father And Son Ended Up At LBS

David Vatcher

David Vatcher


Vatcher’s efforts were realized as he was awarded two honorary Naval Officer positions and became the first naval architect to be named to the Royal Navy’s submariner service, also known as the silent service, and earned both U.S. and British Dolphins, recognition badges signifying his submariner status for both navies.

The negotiations Vatcher worked on during his three years in the embassy got the wheels churning in his brain on what he wanted to dedicate his career to. “That was the beginning of a transition towards the commercial sector. Little did I know at that stage it would get me doing projects with Disney and Universal,” Vatcher says prophetically.

And just what were those negotiations and details that led to a career shift? “If I told you that, I’d have to shoot you, and I don’t think that’d be a very good idea,” he says.

Fair enough.

The transition to the commercial sector was slow, albeit, slightly calculated. Continuing work for the Royal Navy, he built an organization focusing on the privatization of naval shipyards from three members to more than 100, crediting the team-building skills learned at LBS for the success and massive growth. “We completely transformed a government organization to work in a much more commercial way and achieved an incredible amount of success,” Vatcher insists.

But, akin to a theme in Vatcher’s life, the biggest lessons came from a frustrating situation. “After three years, as what tends to happen when you work in government, the top guys were changed and they put in a new guy from government who did not share the vision that had been shared by the other two,” Vatcher begins. “And what was absolutely shocking to me is that within three months, he reversed all of the phenomenal work that had been done over the previous three years.”

To Vatcher, it demonstrated how fragile changed management is within an organization. “I was coming up to 40 years old, and the thought of sucking up to politicians didn’t exactly fulfill my expectations of what I wanted to do in the future,” Vatcher says with intensity. So he quit.


When Vatcher does something, he throws his entire self into it and does it big. In this instance it meant leaving not only the British government, but the entire country as well. It was the late-80’s and early-90’s and Vatcher chased the modern day California Gold Rush by packing up his family and prospecting for dot-com prosperity. He went to work for Stanford Research Institute spinoff and private aerospace and defense company, Raychem.

“It was a great company and had rapid growth, but it got into a situation where a lot of the work they were doing was in the defense area,” Vatcher explains. “And I was concerned that I was actually doing more of the same I was doing as a naval architect but just from the commercial side. And it really wasn’t giving me the opening I wanted to develop.”

So when the company downsized, he left for a smaller venture, working for an “entrepreneur and inventor” that he didn’t name—or mention anywhere on his resume. “If I thought management was tough in the government, it was nothing like it was in the commercial sector,” he reasons. “The inventor was obsessed that all we were trying to do was steal his baby and in fact, the opposite was true.”

As Vatcher was nearing 40, with a young family, he learned an important lesson at the hands of the manager of that greenhorn startup he’d just joined—don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

“When we were getting investment coming in from a blue-chip company, he decided he could do a better deal himself and started talking to other investors,” Vatcher says, with emotion building. “And then all of the funding was pulled from the company, which was extremely disappointing to me. And I had to make the biggest decision of my life. He owed me over £400,000 when I walked away. I had no idea how I was going to pay my mortgage at the end of the month. And it was the beginning of December—so I was looking forward to the bleakest Christmas of my life.”


Within a week, the phone rang and it was one of Vatcher’s previous clients from the startup. “They said there’s tickets at Heathrow, get on the plane, come and see us, and you start your new job at the beginning of January,” Vatcher recalls.

The U.K.-based company, Denne Developments Limited was the first of a slew of companies Vatcher worked for throughout the 90’s that were keen on replacing hydraulic actuators in motion systems with linear motors in virtual reality and simulation thrill rides. Essentially, he was taking what he learned designing ships, and then aerospace and defense work and applying it to the entertainment and amusement industries.

In 1997, Vatcher went to work for rollercoaster design and manufacturer Vekoma International. “They were very clean and high-fidelity,” Vatcher says. “And they had the ability to revolutionize the industry.” Vekoma approached Vatcher because they wanted to know if the same technology, which he was using to move a two-ton mass, could move a 14-ton roller coaster at 60-miles-per-hour. “The outcome of that was the Rockin’ Rollercoaster in Orlando for Disney and a second one in Paris,” Vatcher explains.

In classic British humor and tone, Vatcher explains there is a “flippant” answer to how we got into rollercoasters. “That is, what do ships do, they go up and down and make some people sick so I looked for something similar to do and came up with roller coasters,” Vatcher explains. “That’s not quite true, but it’s just the flippant answer.”

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