Wu-Fu Chen

Light Reading: There are now at least 11 companies working on Sonet multiservice provisioning platforms for the metro market, including two of your companies, Astral Point and Geyser. Do you foresee a shakeout in this market?

Wu-Fu Chen: The market for those products is huge, but at a certain point, sure, you have to say that not everyone is going to make it. But it’s definitely not the case that only one of them will make it. You have to remember that there are a lot of new service providers competing with each other, and to do that they need to be able to differentiate themselves. That means they will sign up for different networking models. And some products will be better for some models, some worse. So that just naturally creates a diversified access market, with different tiers of solutions, and room for different companies. Look at the Williams network and how many products are in there; the companies supplying those products really don’t sell the same thing.

Light Reading: It sounds like you don’t believe in the ‘God box’ model, where companies set out to develop a platform that does just about everything.

Wu-Fu Chen: No. There can’t be a single product that covers every space. A lot of new startups are claiming they’ll do everything, but you can’t optimize a product to do it all. The startups that succeed in the optical networking space will be the ones that know how to position their product well, and who don’t try to please everyone. Look at Sycamore. They understand that you only have to please a few customers to be successful.

Light Reading: What about the companies that don’t succeed? Why do startups fail?

Wu-Fu Chen: Well, it’s not the technology—it’s the marketing. The number one reason is always the people: the management team and the marketing decisions they made. Did they enter the market in the right way? That’s crucial. Everyone can see that the market is there. Seeing it is not enough.

Light Reading: So what do you think of the marketing people at other optical networking startups?

Wu-Fu Chen: Most of them are really good. The problems happen when someone that has had a success in one space, with one startup, then thinks that they are invincible and try to do the same thing in another area. That’s when they run into trouble—when they’re dealing with something they don’t know.

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