A Return to the Kitchenentals
Some of these are obvious: How much funding do they have? What are their revenues? Who’s buying their products?
All very well (and all very dull). The problem is that these kinds of fundamentals only tell part of the story. In order to get a real feel for how a company is faring it is essential to visit with them in person.
More than that, it’s important to penetrate the heart of their organization — i.e., have a sniff around their kitchen, thus moving beyond the fundamentals to assess their kitchenentals, if you will. What are we looking for in a kitchen? Well... food (duh!). Naturally, it should be plentiful. But — and this is crucial — it should be free.
Free food is very, very important (and not just to poorly nourished journalists on road trips). It shows the staff that the management cares and — more importantly — provides a barometer of the company’s financial situation.
Coffee is also key. Quality counts (think Starbucks, not Folgers). And forget Mr. Coffee (www.mrcoffee.com). An optical networking company’s coffee machine should be like its product: high-tech (futuristic, even); and yet, at the same time, demonstrating a clear understanding of “what the user/customer wants.”
This season, Light Reading is recommending the DA5PRI from Saeco. It’s all the rage amongst optical outfits that are “in the know” and represents the latest in coffee machine technology, delivering — as the good people of Saeco point out — Alta qualità, grande semplicità. (Tellingly, Ciena Corp. has a DA5PRI in its kitchen. Corvis Corp. does not. Enough said.)
Going cheap on the kitchenentals is bad. But it’s equally important not to go too far in the other direction. Wanton expenditure on an overly lavish kitchen sounds alarm bells for Light Reading editors. Bagels? Yes. Six different types of fluffy, buttery croissants, flown in fresh from Paris? We think not. Such “over-provisioning” is often a sign of management desperation to keep staff by pampering them (or overfeeding them to the point that they can’t readily get out of their cubicles).
Light Reading tracks optical companies' kitchenentals on an ongoing basis (sort of). Here, for the first time in public, are some excerpts from our internal reports.
Vendor: Ocular Networks Inc.
Product: Multiservice switch
Kitchen: Frankly, a big disappointment. No free food. At all. Forced to pay for a low-fat health bar from a machine. Worse, offered tiny container of Mini-Moo long-life milk. Unbelievable! Had to steal the real stuff from its hiding place in the fridge behind a Chinese take-out container (General Tsao’s Chicken, I suspect). The only donuts we enjoyed were the ones we pulled in our rental car in Ocular’s parking lot [Note to readers: It was snowing, and we’re children, basically].
Verdict: Engineers cannot work on for-a-fee snack food alone. Ocular’s founder, president, and CEO Ed Kennedy has done a bangup job of making the most of the company’s funds (see Ocular Gets $30M in Second Round), but economizing on staff victuals could be a mistake. It also makes us grumpy.
Vendor: Équipe Communications Corp.
Product: Multilayer Services Platform
Kitchen: Solid fare — including fruit. Plus, Équipe holds a potluck every week — and company provides the liquor! Not too shabby.
Verdict: Way to bond! Enough is as good as a feast for the chaps at Équipe. Two plumbs up!
Vendor: Mayan Networks Inc.
Product: Next-gen Sonet ADM
Kitchen: There are kitchens. And then there are KITCHENS. Mayan has taken the latter approach, with a huge space-age nosh pit where the food is all free, all the time.
Verdict: Definitely the highpoint of our tour of the Mayan facility. But have they gone too far?
Vendor: Lucent Technologies Inc.
Kitchen: A revelation. By far the biggest surprise of the recent road trip was the visit to Lucent’s offices in Virginia. No ham, but their kitchen offered a well-balanced mix of salads (crisp, fresh, wunderbar!), sandwiches, and those little pastries with the gooey red stuff on the top (we like these). Above all, a keg! Stocked with real beer (none of your Budweiser/Coors Light dog-whizz).
[Historical note: It was originally Extreme Networks Inc. that boldly pioneered the kitchen keg. Unfortunately, to judge by the lack of messaging recently, it appears that some of its marketing staff may have been over-imbibing.]
The kicker? Lucent has the Saeco DA5PRI, a la Ciena. Tremendous excitement over this discovery.
Verdict: Strong kitchen strategy bodes well. Things seem to be looking up within this division of Lucent.
— Stephen Saunders, US Editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com
P.S. In case you’re wondering: Yes, it was a slow news day at Light Reading.