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Raj Singh's Sour Note

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
8/11/2000

Raj Singh’s high-flying days as the guy who knows how to pick winners in the optical networking arena could be coming to an end. It seems as though trouble is brewing at Roshnee Corp., one of Singh’s top picks (see Fiberlane Founder Finds Another Startup).

Not even six months after the company got its initial $11 million in venture funding, key execs are leaving. Joe Skorupa, former VP of marketing, left the company over a month ago to become CEO at a start-up called Bravida Corp. When asked why he left Roshnee, Skorupa would only say, “It became apparent that this was what I needed to do.”

Cliff Davidow, the VP of hardware systems development has also left and is now working for the Anila Fund, an early stage venture capital/incubator fund, which coincidentally just announced that it has provided $1.5 million in financing to Skorupa’s stealth-mode startup.

So what’s going on over at Roshnee? Well, no one is talking. When reached by phone, CEO Vinay Kumar would not comment, and Raj Singh, who is one of Roshnee’s directors, could not be reached. After months of silence and much buzz surrounding its first round of funding, some in the industry think that this kind of breakup so early in the game spells trouble for the metropolitan area equipment vendor.

“It’s really rare for a startup to lose people before a second round of funding,” says Scott Clavenna, principal analyst at Pioneer Consulting. “It’s worth paying attention to.” Singh’s role in a company he started called Fiberlane has become legendary in optical networking circles after it was broken out into three very successful companies: Siara Systems, acquired by Redback Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: RBAK); Cerent, acquired by Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO); and Cyras Systems Inc., which has also been pegged as a winner.

The sale of Siara and Cerent definitely made Singh a rich man, and since then he has continued to dip his fingers in lots of optical startup pots. He is founder and general partner of Redwood Venture Partners LLC, acting CEO of a startup called Campio Communications Inc., director of Roshnee, and a founder of an incubator called Comstellar Technologies Inc., which targets first-time entrepreneurs (see Campio Communications Inc. and Life-Long Incubator Launched).

The big question now is: What will happen to Roshnee? That is yet to be determined. Two fleeing execs does not a flop make. But, statistically speaking, it may be time for Singh to lose one.

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

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