Bobby Johnson, Foundry Networks
He founded Centillion Networks, an ATM switch startup that was bought by Bay Networks in 1995 for $140 million. At the time, this was one of the highest prices paid for a networking startup in Silicon Valley. The company had already reached profitability after only 18 months on the scene, says Johnson. Bay Networks, which later was bought by Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), ended up selling over $1 billion worth of gear based on the Centillion products and technology, he contends.
Foundry epitomizes Johnson's hard-driving style. He brought the Layer 2-7 Gigabit Ethernet switching company to profitability within 18 months of starting it. It later launched a blockbuster IPO conveniently timed with the peak of Wall Street's technology bubble, in late 1999. Shares of the company on its first day of trading rose 525 percent from the offering price and closed at around $166 per share. That gave the company a market capitalization of nearly $9 billion on its first day of trading.
Not bad for a guy who started out as an SNA programmer at IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) back in the early 1980s. During the quarter century he has been in the networking industry, he’s been involved with some of the hottest technologies of his time, including early personal computing, ATM/Token Ring switching, Gigabit Ethernet switching, and now 10-Gigabit Ethernet switching. Whenever the market has shifted, Johnson has managed to change course.
Of course, things aren't as sunny as they were back in 1999 (see Stock Watch: Foundry Networks). The company’s stock is down a tad from a high of $212. But recently the company has deftly managed its way back to profitability and growth (see Foundry Gets a Fed Boost). Meanwhile, Foundry has been able to expand its headcount, increase its revenues, and develop new products.
Johnson is the first to admit Foundry’s perseverance through tough economic times hasn’t been easy. But so far, it appears to be a survivor. While competitors like Enterasys Networks Inc. (NYSE: ETS) and Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR) continue to report losses, Foundry is reporting profits and growth. And judging from Johnson's future product plans, he has no intention of falling behind on the R&D front.
The former Black Belt karate master says he has little time for leisure activities such as golf or tennis. He’s a hard worker and expects nothing less from his employees. That’s one reason Foundry foots the bill for takeout dinners every night for its engineers.
Light Reading was lucky to get some time with this busy executive. Check out the interview and see what Johnson has to say about:Light Reading