Fiberlane Founder Finds Another Startup

These days folk looking to be millionaires watch Regis Philbin on ABC, but those looking to be multi-millionaires are watching Rajvir "Raj" Singh, founder and general partner of Redwood Ventures Partners LLC http://www.redwoodvp.com, a venture capital firm that focuses on seed and early stage investments in high technology companies.

The 53-year-old native of India has a golden touch when it comes to starting and selling successful start-ups. In this past year, he personally took home over $300 million from the sale of three optical networking companies he helped to found. And he isn't done. As a venture capitalist, he is now making another move with a company called Roshnee Corp. http://www.roshnee.com

Singh's most famous for founding Fiberlane Communications in 1996 -- a company that focused on wide-area time division multiplexing technologies. In 1998, after Fiberlane was riven by internal diputes, the company was broken up into two different entities: Cerent, and Siara Systems. Meantime, Singh also started a third company, semiconductor vendor StratumOne Communications. By the end of 1999, StratumOne and Cerent had been sold to Cisco Systems Inc. http://www.cisco.com for a combined total of $7.3 billion. And Siara was sold to Redback Networks Inc. http://www.redback.com for $4.3 billion.

The big question now: what will Singh do next? His shift from start-up founder to financier has put him smack in the middle of the optical networking industry. The group's latest interest is Roshnee, which is developing an optical transport system for metropolitan area networks that will allow automatic provisioning of bandwidth. Details about the technology are still under wraps.

That may sound like the same pitch that's coming out of about 30 other optical networking start-ups right now, but if Singh's track record is any indication, Roshnee is one to watch.

It announced last month that it has received $11 million from New Enterprise Associates http://www.nea.com and Raza Venture Investments, along with Redwood Ventures. The management team is top notch, also. Vinay Kumar, a former VP from PictureTel Corp., is president and CEO, and Joe Skorupa, a former engineer and marketing exec for Fore Systems, is the VP of marketing. Not only has Singh's firm backed Roshnee, but Singh also sits on the company's board of directors.

Singh certainly has the chutzpah to make his mark. In an email sent to Light Reading, he took time out to comment on our selection of Carl Russo, group vice president of the optical networking group at Cisco Systems Inc., and a former employee at Fiberlane, as one of the top ten movers and shakers in optical networking (see The Top 10 Movers and Shakers in Optical Networking).

"I hired Carl Russo to run the company [Fiberlane]," writes Singh. "What he has done is an excellent execution of the ideas, plans and products done by others. I don't know how you decide this list. Is it based on vision or execution? The ones on the list [IE Russo] are not 'movers and shakers' they are executioners."

Some think that Singh is indulging in revisionist history. "Fiberlane was nearly a 'smoking hole' before Carl Russo took it over," says one industry watcher.

Still, if Singh is on a roll with picking start-up winners, and it appears that he is, Roshnee could mean big bucks for investors.

--Marguerite Reardon, senior editor, Light Reading


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