Zepton Has an $86M War Chest
Zepton Networks Inc., the stealthy startup backed by a number of top-tier VCs, is quietly building up a healthy stash of cash. The company has bagged $86 million in venture capital funding since the beginning of this year.
In only two funding rounds -- a $50 million Series A round in April and a $36 million Series B some months later -- Zepton has amassed quite a war chest in a year when convincing venture capitalists to part with their money has been as difficult as teaching a mermaid to do the splits.
What's even more impressive are the names behind the company. Zepton's funding came from several investors, including Accel Partners, Applied Materials Ventures, Benchmark Capital, Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR), Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Sprout Group, Venrock Associates, and WorldView Technology Partners. CommVest LLC says it provided some debt financing for the company in June.
So, what is Zepton doing? Sources remain tight-lipped, and the company declined to return phone calls. But given the backgrounds of Zepton's managers, it stands to reason it would be a new kind of optical transport system with proprietary component-level technology.
It's clear that one reason the VCs involved are so giddy about the company is because of its management team. When times are tough, it's easier to bet on someone with past successes.
Jagdeep Singh, Zepton's founder and CEO, co-founded Lightera Networks (now a part of Ciena Corp. [Nasdaq: CIEN]). Later, he helped start a metropolitan area service provider company called OnFiber Communications Inc., which also attracted investments from KPCB (see Kleiner Perkins Scales Back).
The rest of the team is a combination of people that had worked with Singh on his two previous companies and others from large component and software companies. Drew Perkins, another Zepton founder, followed Singh from his two previous startups (see Zepton: Take Me to Your Leaders and OnFiber: Bottoms Up!).
"The majority of optical startups should not have been funded because they have no differentiating intellectual property to add to the industry," says Venrock's Tony Sun. "The problem is that there is too much capital available in the venture industry and every fund believes they are funding the winner. We believe Zepton is one of the few winners in the industry."
The company opted to close a second round partly because "they were being proactively contacted by interested investors and interested partners who wanted to invest," says Peter Wagner, a general partner at Accel. "Obviously, it's important to have the cash to fulfill your [business] plan and, given the interest that was there, it seemed sensible for the company to bring in some of these folks onto the team."
Founders Singh, Perkins, and David Welch; Benchmark's Alex Balkanski; KPCB's Vinod Khosla; Applied Materials' Dan Maydan; and Juniper's Pradeep Sindhu sit on Zepton's board.
- Phil Harvey, Senior Editor, Light Reading