Startups Search for Star Status

Heavy Reading survey shows young companies have lots working against them in the battle for mindshare

March 3, 2005

4 Min Read
Startups Search for Star Status

With all the hype they're capable of, equipment startups can't seem to get sustained name recognition in the real world, according to Heavy Reading's "2005 Wireline Telecom Equipment Market Perception Study," released last week.

“Routinely, private companies and startups have a name recognition of under 20 percent, while companies like a Cisco score in the 70 percent range, and Juniper, Lucent, and Nortel are in the 60 to 70 percent area,” says Heavy Reading managing director Dennis Mendyk.

That's bad news for startups because those are the companies most in need of name recognition and the perception that they're a market leader. Mendyk says startups tend to take their eye off marketing for a while after they launch because they're so focused on product development.

Some startups also suffer from being in the wrong space. The Metro DWDM category features nearly 30 companies, including heavyweights like Cisco, Nortel, Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA), and Fujitsu Ltd. (OTC: FJTSY; Tokyo: 6702). “What chance do you think a startup has getting known in that crowd?” Mendyk asks.

Brian Drachman, director of product marketing at OpVista Inc., a maker of Metro DWDM equipment that came in tied for 23rd in the category with 4.3 percent recognition, says he’s not surprised at the company’s low name-recognition ranking.

Drachman points out that only 8.1 percent of the 160 people surveyed for the report are from the Cable/MSO space, which is the area OpVista has chosen to focus on. “We made a conscious decision to target the MSOs, who we target by attending tradeshows and advertising in cable trade publications,” he says. “But we have designed a carrier-grade platform that would be just as effective in a telecom environment. When we make the decision to focus on new markets –- like the U.S. telecom market –- then we will begin to look at telecom advertising to get our name out there.”

A few startups are recognized as key competitors in their categories and have the potential to emerge as segment leaders. White Rock Networks Inc., which beat out incumbents Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN) and Adtran Inc. (Nasdaq: ADTN) to land the No. 7 position in the Sonet MSPP category, is one. Calix Networks Inc., which finished seventh overall in the DSLAM/3G DLC category, and Force10 Networks Inc., which grabbed the sixth spot in the 10-Gbit/s Ethernet switch market, are others of note.

Table 1: Top Startups by Equipment Category

TOP STARTUP

PRODUCT CATEGORY

White Rock Networks

Sonet MSPPs, Metro DWDM Equipment

Calix Networks

Ethernet MSPPs, DSLAMs, and 3G DLCs

Force10 Networks

10-Gbit/s Ethernet Switches

Movaz Networks

CWDM Equipment, ROADM Equipment

Allot Communications

Traffic Managers

Inkra Networks

Content Switches

Infinera

Terrestrial Long-Haul DWDM Equipment

Laurel Networks

Broadband Remote Access Servers

Optical Solutions

FTTx Equipment



While some startups in the survey may rank low in name recognition, often their products are used by service providers that get their equipment from larger names that have OEM deals with them. Mendyk points to Tropic Networks Inc. as an example. In the ROADM equipment category, Tropic is listed as No. 9, with a 13 percent recognition rating. But Alcatel, sitting in the No. 1 spot with a 74 percent rating, is a reseller of Tropic gear.

One of the more notable drops in the survey includes 10-Gbit/s Ethernet switch maker Atrica Inc., which dropped one position to the No. 9 spot with 5.9 percent name recognition since the last survey in fall 2003. Not a good thing in a category with only 10 vendors competing.

The survey does show that startups cannot depend on solely using good press to get their names out in the marketplace in a sustainable way. That works for a short time, but without a long-term marketing and strategic plan to get their names out in front of the people making purchasing decisions, they are doomed to bit-player status. And, even those that partner with the right players aren't doing themselves any favors if no one knows who they are.

— Chris Somerville, Senior Editor, Next-Generation Services

The new Heavy Reading report, 2005 Wireline Telecom Equipment Market Perception Study, is available for purchase here.

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