Optical/IP Networks

New Jersey Startups Clean Up

The past six months have been a nightmare for Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) and its stockholders, with the company's shares down almost 70 percent from last year. But Lucent’s bust has been a boon for the startup scene in New Jersey, where Lucent is headquartered, creating a recent glut of engineers for hire in the area.

Large telecommunications companies like Lucent, Telcordia Technologies Inc., and AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T) have always provided a base of qualified people in what has been dubbed the “Silicon Parkway.” But Lucent’s recent stock plummet has sent many employees packing, and those getting out haven't had to forage far from home (see Ex-Lucent Execs Question New Plan and Lucent Faces "Exodus of Nexabit Staff").

“Up until six months ago it was hard to find the right talent to really scale the organization,” says Jeff Matros, president and CEO of Tachion Networks, a softswitch vendor based in West Long Branch, N.J. “But it has gotten so much easier.”

Employees in New Jersey traditionally haven’t moved around very much. (After all, when one lives in Paradise. . .) But it seems that Lucent’s sagging stock price has jarred a few of those more conservative telecom employees referred to as “Lucent Lifers.”

Former Lucent employees have a great deal of experience and expertise in optical technology. Tachion's Matros claims that the average number of years of experience of the employees he's hiring has increased from about eight to 16 years (see Tachion Tackles Its Critics).

Last spring, Tachion hosted the First Annual Silicon Parkway Summit, where startups like Tachion and Tellium Inc., along with larger telecom players like AT&T, Lucent, and Telcordia got together to discuss how to attract even more business to the area. While no one has officially tracked the number of new startups in New Jersey over the last year, Matros says that the number is close to 20 and rising.

-- Marguerite Reardon, senior editor, Light Reading, http://www.lightreading.com

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