November 8, 2000
Cinta Corp. is making like a duck. Above the water, all appears calm and serene. Underneath the surface, it's paddling as fast as it can.
In the last week alone, it has hired a CEO, announced the date of its first customer trial, got set to land a second round of funding, and given Light Reading the first peek at what it's working on.
Cinta has good reason to get busy. It gave up a controlling interest in itself -- 55 percent of the company -- to secure its first round of funding, Light Reading sources say (see Cinta's Strange Story). If so, by giving away so much of the shop at such an early stage, the startup has effectively limited the number of successive rounds of private capital that it can raise -- especially given that it's a carrier equipment startup, as opposed to a software company. That puts the pressure on it to entertain an equity event (IPO, or acquistion) sooner rather than later.
Hiring its new CEO should help alleviate some of that pressure. Cinta's new president and CEO, John Vaughan, fits the role of "gray-haired chief exec with successful optical networking career" nicely. He was formerly an exec at Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA).
The fact that Cinta managed to successfully lure Vaughn into its fold at a time when Tellabs is posting record gains (see Optical Boosts Tellabs Quarter) suggests that it has some promising technology. But what?
Until now, Cinta has kept mum on its product but, under pressure, Vaughn agreed to give Light Reading a 30,000-foot overview. "We are targeting core networks with a combined DWDM system and optical crossconnect. Our value proposition is that we are combining those two elements into one box, with a very high level of integration between the two," he said. "It has an embedded network management capability, and it will help carriers manage bandwidth on a network-wide basis."
Vaughan says Cinta's product should be entering customer trials in the first quarter of 2001.
For such aggressive plans, Cinta will need much more money than the $15 million in venture funding it's raised so far. And it intends to get it. Vaughan says Cinta's on track to close another round of funding before the end of 2000. He ballparks the second-round amount at around $30 million.
The company has already received $6 million in other financing from Comdisco Ventures and plans to take more during its next funding round.
The makeup of Cinta's board should prove helpful if the company chooses to take the acquisition route rather than going for an IPO. It includes Sequoia Capital's Michael Goguen, who's funded four companies that have been acquired by Cisco. Serial entrepreneur Wu-Fu Chen (see Wu-Fu Chen ) is also on board and Battery Ventures is Cinta's other VC backer.
Vaughan shrugs off suggestions that he's been brought in to accelerate Cinta's IPO or acquisition strategy. "I don't think we've done anything to suggest that we're going to pull out the fastest IPO in history. I look at all the other companies in this space that are going public, and I don't think we're doing anything that different to suggest an accelerated path."
In his first interview on the job, Vaughan seemed happy with his new position. "Hold onto your saddle horn, because it's going to be one held hell of ride," he said.
Yee ha! Or should that be: "quack quack"?
-- Phil Harvey, senior editor, and Stephen Saunders, US editor, Light Reading, http://www.lightreading.com
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