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Employment

Caspian Names New CEO

Caspian Networks has hired a new captain -- and it's battened down the hatches for the storm.

The company plans to announce tomorrow that it has hired a new president and CEO -- Bill Sickler, formerly CEO of Gadzoox Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: ZOOX), a publicly traded maker of Fibre Channel gear. Company officials also confirmed it has laid off about 8 percent of its staff in order to lower its burn rate for the lean times.

Founded by Internet luminary Lawrence Roberts (see Dr. Lawrence Roberts), Caspian was faced in March with the surprise defection of its CEO, Grahame Rance (see Caspian's CEO Suddenly Bolts). Sickler is notable for his experience in taking Gadzoox public and having several decades of experience in the networking market.

According to Caspian, the layoffs affected about thirty of the company's 300-odd employees at all levels in the legal, sales, marketing, and operations groups. Engineering was "untouched," the firm said.

As a result of the layoffs, some employees are answering to interim bosses until the affected divisions can be restructured. Caspian says it made the cuts to "reduce its burn rate," citing the need to "[manage] cash reserves wisely, especially in today's lean investment climate."

Compared to some other startups, Caspian has a nice pile of cash to manage. It has obtained $140 million in three rounds of funding from a variety of sources, including ABN AMRO, Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. (NYSE: MER), Salomon Smith Barney, and U.S. Venture Partners .

This doesn't mean that Caspian will have an easy time getting more money. Caspian spokespeople say the company isn't seeking more funding at this time and instead wants to make the best use of what it's already got. Given the current miserable climate for raising more money, nobody knows how long it could be before the situation improves.

Prior to Gadzoox, at which he was active in preparing the company for its IPO, Sickler spent 12 years with Ungermann-Bass. He also captained the varsity basketball team at his alma mater, Princeton University, from 1970 to 1971.

On the downside, Gadzoox did suffer some financial setbacks under Sickler. But analysts say the problem was fairly straightforward. According to one analyst, Gadzoox focused heavily on Fibre Channel hubs when it turned out the market wanted switches. Subsequently, Gadzoox had to play catchup in the SAN switch market, and just today unveiled a line of SAN fabric switches (see Gadzoox Launches Slingshot).

Sickler faces a technological marketing challenge at Caspian, too. The startup's goal of packet-based optical core switching is highly ambitious, and observers question just how long it will take to get it out the door and into carriers' hands (see Caspian Networks).

But Caspian's undeterred. Spokespeople say Sickler's focused on executing the company's plans as stated, starting with finalizing the reorganization of the divisions that have suffered layoffs

-- Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com
boson3 12/4/2012 | 8:37:44 PM
re: Caspian Names New CEO Would someone at Caspian pls comment on their product?
skeptic 12/4/2012 | 8:37:42 PM
re: Caspian Names New CEO "goal of packet-based optical core switching"

I dont think the above at all reflects what
caspian is really doing. Based on what little
information has leaked out, Caspian looks to be
deploying a new propritary layer-2 technology (maybe) designed around improving QOS. Now part
of the solution involves some sort of switch, but its not clear that its really a core switch. There are lots of questions about the capacity of their solution.

But they still have never really said what they are doing and by light reading's own rules they should be disqualified from any top ten lists.
Xcited01 12/4/2012 | 8:37:41 PM
re: Caspian Names New CEO Mike Litt, Dan Moore, and Penny St. Claire-Holmes were all fired by the incoming CEO! He must have been asked by the board to get rid of all the dead weight after getting rid of Graham Rance!!
iptwister 12/4/2012 | 8:37:15 PM
re: Caspian Names New CEO caspian
the biggest NOTHING of the year 2001
DeeLight 12/4/2012 | 8:36:16 PM
re: Caspian Names New CEO How do you know that they didn't just quit?
Raj_ 12/4/2012 | 8:36:10 PM
re: Caspian Names New CEO Looks like somebody over there at caspian should set up a private message board for their employees. Listening to their employees airing out their dirty laundry is getting old...and frankly, should embarrass them.

Announcing that certain individuals were fired is very naive. Cmon, one VP getting fired is very far fetched, but several?? They were most likely dissapointed with a group of mediocre developers, and decided to move on. I am sure that they are sitting pretty with a nice fat package, and more shares than any common employee or engineer over there. Maybe not fair, but that is how the world works kids.

I believe that your time would be best spent getting back to your computer and hacking out some more code. I sure hope that it is better than your founder's other companies Gadzoox, ATM Systems, NetExpress, and Packetcom. Sure, nobody wins them all, but at least one success story would be compelling. I think that the only thing that is "becoming clear" is your bluff that you have something worthwhile. We will see you all at SuperCom.
1dering 12/4/2012 | 8:35:20 PM
re: Caspian Names New CEO Raj_

To clear up some of your mis-information in a previous post -
The founder has not been involved in Gadzoox (Caspian's new CEO of 1 week is a former Gadzoox CEO).

Packetcom was the original name of Caspian Networks. It seems odd that you would count that as a "failure" since it is still too early to call.

One compelling sucess story I can think of is the very medium you are using to spout your opinion. Check out the founder's association with the design and building of the network supporting the Internet (Arpanet). His contributions have been acknowledged by the National Academy of Engineers (Charles Draper Award - 2001 for founding the Internet) and the LM Ericsson Prize (comparable to a Nobel Prize).
hershey123 12/4/2012 | 8:29:17 PM
re: Caspian Names New CEO I have no comments on Caspian's technology or management team.... except for the new CEO.

I worked at Gadzoox for 2 years while Sickler was there, and there's absolutely no question in my mind, in the minds of the good folks still there, and in the minds of the goods folks who have left since, that Sickler was at the root of most of the problems. Yes, he took Zoox public. Yes, he did right by the VC's and early investors. But he built a house of cards, and it's since fallen hard.

You can point fingers at the strategy, at the technical team, at the sales or marketing teams, but the bottom line is Sickler had all the information he needed, and early enough, so that he could have listened and averted the problems. He didn't, and I'm amazed that he's even found a job in Silicon Valley. The guy is absolutely incapable of making decisions on his own. Ask any of the executives that worked for him, or the current CEO who he left holding the bag.
vapa 12/4/2012 | 8:17:41 PM
re: Caspian Names New CEO Raj_,

It is true that most of VPs got fired. They did not quit. Caspian has some really good engineers. They got laid off because they simply did not perform...., and coming from a big company such as Nortel, they did not know how to run a startup. Trust me, it's a good thing they are gone.

On the other hand, in spite of good engineers, their success is to be seen because they don't seem to be able to work together well and no good, determistic, clear technical leader. It seems like you know something about that as well looking at your comment about them airing out their dirty laundry.
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