Light Reading

Ex-Cisco Execs Form Cable Set-Top Startup

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner
6/1/2012
50%
50%

Some former Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Scientific-Atlanta employees have gotten the band back together to create iNovo Broadband Inc. , a startup angling to become a new source for cable set-tops, cable modems and other consumer premises equipment (CPE).

If operators buy in, iNovo would set the stage for fresh competition against cable's incumbent set-top suppliers, especially Cisco, Motorola Mobility LLC and Pace plc .

A startup's lower overhead and lack of an installed base will let Duluth., Ga.-based iNovo provide CPE gear "at a very competitive price," said CEO Jack Miller, during an interview at The Cable Show last week in Boston.

Miller worked for Scientific-Atlanta for nine years before starting N2 Broadband, a video-on-demand (VoD) backoffice vendor that was sold to Tandberg Television in 2004 for $118 million and is now part of Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC)'s video product lineup. He and Himanshu Parikh, iNovo's CTO and a former VP and GM at Cisco/Scientific-Atlanta, are the principal founders of iNovo, and they began assembling their team about a year ago.

Most of the iNovo team also hailed from Cisco/Scientific-Atlanta and is comprised of cable vets who have not just designed, managed and sold cable CPE, but have also managed relationships with manufacturers such as Foxconn Electronics Inc. , Askey Inc. and Unihan Corp.

Ajith Nair, iNovo's VP of engineering, helped develop SA's first set-top box and was the main hardware architect for eight generations of boxes. Doug Woodhead, the company's principal engineer, directed the ASIC development group at Cisco/S-A. And Benny Hsu, iNovo VP of manufacturing partners, once managed the offshore, high volume manufacturing relationships for Cisco's home networking business unit.

"We have all the disciplines and experience needed to compete in the CPE business," Miller said.

Shaking things up
iNovo arrives amid a cable set-top shakeup. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) acquired Motorola Mobility, and Panasonic Corp. (NYSE: PC) recently exited the domestic cable set-top business. Cisco recently sold its set-top box factory to Foxconn but keeps saying that it remains fully committed to the set-top box market. (See Google Closes $12.5B Motorola Deal , Will Moto Go Back to the Future?, Foxconn Buys Cisco's Set-Top Factory , Panasonic Exits US Cable Set-Top Biz and Why Cisco Wants Out of Set-Tops (Or Not).)

"There's a lot of turmoil in the market," Miller said, and iNovo took advantage of it as Cisco scaled back its operations on Sugarloaf Parkway in Lawrenceville, Ga. "There were some very good people available."

Miller thinks iNovo has the institutional knowledge and technical know-how to take MSO-defined CPE specifications through the hardware integration and building phases by shepherding that work through the manufacturers -- expertise that cable operators don't have.

iNovo got off the ground last November, has already shipped one product to a customer for evaluation and hopes to notch its first deployment deals before the end of 2012, Miller said. He's mum on which product is being evaluated, but the company lists a sizable lineup of CPE categories it's pursuing, including standard- and high-def digital transport adapters (DTA), IP-based set-tops, Docsis modems and gateways, and indoor and outdoor Wi-Fi access points.

The company has raised more than $1.5 million in seed financing and has begun to pursue an "A" round targeting about $10 million.

iNovo is also looking for "strategic investment from MSOs," Miller said. That's a path he's travelled before. Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) participated in N2 Broadband's A round and deployed N2's OpenStream, a VoD backoffice system that let operators use video pumps from multiple vendors and played a big role in dropping costs to about $100 per stream from $300 in less than three years.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

(5)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Pete Baldwin
50%
50%
Pete Baldwin,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:31:23 PM
re: Ex-Cisco Execs Form Cable Set-Top Startup


I certainly appreciate iNovo's credentials, but... weren't set-top boxes supposed to go away?


I'm only half kidding. These guys sound capable of doing good stuff, but this could also be a recipe for a commodity-box contender.

AESerm
50%
50%
AESerm,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:31:21 PM
re: Ex-Cisco Execs Form Cable Set-Top Startup


And margins here will, of course, be thinner than in a software-centric business like n2Broadband.

gconnery
50%
50%
gconnery,
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/5/2012 | 5:31:20 PM
re: Ex-Cisco Execs Form Cable Set-Top Startup


Yeah, I don't get why somebody would enter this business now.  The business is already in decline as margins have been reduced to nothing even for the major players.  Samsung has a chance because they're fully integrated, but these guys are either going to have to use commodity silicon (at high prices because of their low volume) or develop their own ASIC (on $1.5M... hah, they'll be out of business before they get it done, VCs don't have the stomach for ASIC development anymore) which will take forever.


And the whole innovation thing?  Please, Motorola and Cisco had lots of good ideas for innovations.  But the cable companies don't want any of that.  They want the cheapest possible set top and they want it to be a commodity at multiple vendors built to THEIR specifications.


These guys are going to have their heads handed to them.

Soupafly
50%
50%
Soupafly,
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/5/2012 | 5:31:18 PM
re: Ex-Cisco Execs Form Cable Set-Top Startup


I think your all missing the point.


These guys are using a "virtual company" model to create a set of competitive platforms. They are not saying they are going to build silicon themselves or design and build a ene-to-end integrated platform including components.


It seems from the piece and quick read of the website that they are going to work with the chinese & global ODM/OEM and Silicon communities to define, spec, manufacture & build a box thats targetted & relevant to the MSO community.


My Impression of the Key ingredients they offer are;


1) Expertise in "anchor customer" acquisition & execution.


2) Platform depth & breadth encompassing the silicon, hardware & software layer reqs.


3) Domain Expertise; These guys KNOW this industry. They have contacts & credibility to burn.


My key concern is whether they can consistently add value over various generations of their platform?


Fail to do that and what you guys predict will happen quickly. They will enter a battle to the bottom "war" of attrition. Very few exit such battles, fewer still with no bruising.


OR; They could be planning to exit the business by that point, hence the VC cash for a spin-out / in vehicle to a vertical or horizontal integration player.


Time will tell...


SF

Jeff Baumgartner
50%
50%
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:31:13 PM
re: Ex-Cisco Execs Form Cable Set-Top Startup


Although iNovo has someone in-house with lots of ASIC expertise, I didn't get the impression that they'll be making chips, particularly now that cable's got a variety of sources now for those components, including Broadcom, Marvell, Entropic (thanks to the purchase of Trident's assets), and Sigma Designs, to name just a few. But it will be interesting to see if they can indeed bring these MSO-specified products to market for less than the incumbent suppliers. It stands to alter the business model a bit if they can pull it off. And while the long-term of the STB is in doubt as more of that functionality becomes virtual inside connected devices, i still think the death of the STB is still a ways out.  The nearer term question is whether suppliers like Cisco and Motorola really want to stick it out in that market, or if the market conditions make this a great opportunity for a much smaller company like iNovo, with the relationships and the know-how,  to step in and be successful. JB


 

Flash Poll
From The Founder
Networks of the future will rely on "white box" switches and servers rather than proprietary hardware and that's going to alter the shape of the communications industry. Who says so? John Chambers.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Power Play With GrupoGiro

4|1|15   |   2:51   |   (0) comments


Daniel Heredia, CEO of Energiro, the power management services part of Spain's Grupo Giro, explains why his company has just struck a partnership with Huawei for uninterruptible power supply products and how he hopes it can take the partnership into other markets.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Intros Smart Device for eLTE

3|30|15   |   05:25   |   (0) comments


Huawei has developed a secure, location-aware multimedia smartphone for its eLTE trunked radio solution, says Huawei's Norman Frisch.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Win Video, Win All

3|30|15   |   06:44   |   (0) comments


Video is going to be the next main source of revenue for operators. Operators have big opportunities and advantages to monetize video services. Globally, Huawei has helped more than 70 operators achieve over 30 million video subscribers. Watch this video for more.
LRTV Custom TV
The Benefits of HyperScale Clouds for NFV

3|27|15   |   01:50   |   (0) comments


Hyperscale cloud has been developed by the Internet giants to support the creation and delivery of software-based services at blistering speeds, and at the lowest possible cost. The original ETSI NFV vision was to adopt hyperscale cloud architecture and practices. This vision has become somewhat obscured along the way, due to misunderstandings about the hyperscale ...
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
eLTE Rapid Meets the Need for Speed

3|26|15   |   4:45   |   (0) comments


Designed especially for emergency and dedicated ad hoc local mobile communications coverage, Huawei's eLTE Rapid solution can deliver trunked voice, video and data coverage for multiple users over a 6km range and be set up in just 15 minutes, explains Huawei's Norman Frisch.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
On Videos: Challenges & Opportunities

3|26|15   |   5:56   |   (0) comments


Most everything is now connected. And along with 4K and 4G technologies, everyone could be creating and broadcasting video contents. Users are expecting better video experience with any screen, anywhere and anytime. Operators will meet new challenges, but also see some big opportunities.
LRTV Custom TV
JDSU: Delivering Dynamic Networks for a Personalized Experience

3|26|15   |   5:59   |   (0) comments


Light Reading speaks to JDSU at Mobile World Congress 2015 about new solutions in the areas of HetNets, VoLTE, backhaul, virtualization, big data analytics, and real-time intelligence.
LRTV Custom TV
Smarter Service Chaining & New Ways to Benefit From Qosmos Technology

3|25|15   |   03:11   |   (0) comments


David Le Goff, director of strategic and product marketing at Qosmos, explains how the company has added application awareness to subscriber information to make service chaining more efficient and reduce costs for networking and infrastructure. In addition, Qosmos technology, which has been delivered as C libraries, is now also available as a virtual machine, ...
Between the CEOs
Qosmos CEO: The Changing Face of DPI

3|24|15   |   13:53   |   (0) comments


LR CEO and Founder Steve Saunders sits down with the head of Qosmos to talk about the changing state of the art in deep packet inspection technology, including its role in SDN and NFV architectures. Also, how the comms market is becoming more like the automotive industry.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
FC Schalke Scores With Its Agile Stadium

3|24|15   |   6:23   |   (0) comments


Top German soccer club FC Schalke 04 has deployed a new, agile WiFi network from Huawei in its Veltins-Arena stadium and is reaping the benefits in terms of customer satisfaction and business opportunities, explains marketing chief Alexander Jobst.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei’s Insights on Mobile Video

3|24|15   |   7:51   |   (0) comments


More people than ever are now watching videos on smartphones. Seventy percent of mobile traffic will be video traffic until 2018. In this video, Huawei's exports give their insights on mobile video in terms of business model, network planning and 4G network construction.
LRTV Documentaries
The Rise of Industry 4.0

3|24|15   |   02:26   |   (9) comments


Are you ready for the fourth industrial revolution? It's a big deal for influential operators such as Deutsche Telekom.
Upcoming Live Events
April 14, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City, NY
May 5, 2015, Hyatt McCormick Place, Chicago, IL
May 6, 2015, Georgia World Congress, Atlanta, GA
May 12, 2015, Grand Hyatt, Denver, CO
May 13-14, 2015, The Westin Peachtree, Atlanta, GA
June 8, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 10, 2015, Chicago, IL
September 29-30, 2015, The Westin Grand Müchen, Munich, Germany
November 11-12, 2015, The Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
More and more traffic is traveling within data centers, and operators need new networking approaches to manage this growth. Pica8's infographic shows how operators can confidently and painlessly deploy white box switches into existing networks today and leverage the benefits of SDN.
Hot Topics
AT&T Woos SMBs With Small-Scale WiFi
Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 3/26/2015
Just Don't Say IBM Is 'Relaunching' Networking Business
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 3/26/2015
TV Everywhere Nears Mainstream Adoption
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 3/27/2015
Carriers Are Bright Spot in BlackBerry Q4
Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 3/27/2015
Comcast Says TWC Deal Will Close Later
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 3/26/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
LR CEO and Founder Steve Saunders sits down with the head of Qosmos to talk about the changing state of the art in deep packet inspection technology, including its role in SDN and NFV architectures.
Chattanooga’s EPB publicly owned utility comms company has become a poster child for how to enable a local economy using next-gen networking technology. Steve Saunders, Founder of Light Reading, sits down with Harold DePriest, president and CEO of EPB, to learn how EPB is bringing big time tech to small town America.