Zeugma Gets $13.5M for Mystery Box

Vancouver-based "next generation broadband networking" company Zeugma Systems Inc. said Friday it has scored a $13.5 million round of venture capital funding, but it won't say what it's building. (See Zeugma Raises $13.5M.)

“We are still in stealth mode, so I have to be somewhat circumspect about what we say about the technology right now,” says Zeugma CEO Andrew Harries. “We are developing a system play for broadband triple-play networks.”

Apparently a requirement for "stealth mode" is putting out a news release on a major U.S. wire service to advertise its financing.

When asked what specific technology problem the company addresses, Harries says: “If I told you that I would be violating an agreement with our board members."

The funding round was led by San Francisco-based Granite Ventures LLC , which is investing in the company for the first time. Also contributing are Ventures West, Yaletown Venture Partners, and GrowthWorks WV Funds .

And the company's venture backers are also keeping quiet. Granite Ventures partner Sam Kingsland said in an email to Light Reading he is “not allowed” to talk about Zeugma or its technology.

Why not? “The usual concerns; there are too many other companies that are doing similar things, and we don’t want to give away the unique approach we are taking to the problem,” Ventures West VP Sam Znaimer told Light Reading. Znaimer added that Zeugma would be hiring a “healthy team of engineers” to get the top secret product into carrier trials this fall.

The job opportunities section of the Zeugma Website gives some clues as to the technology Zeugma is building. The company appears to be building a next-generation subscriber management-box/edge-routing-platform for wireless data networks.

As such, the company is recruiting people experienced in IP multicast and in developing "IP routing protocols" and "high performance embedded packet processing applications." It also asks for experience "developing and supporting the real time Linux kernel for a purpose-built multi-processor multi-blade hardware platform." The jobs also include "package and patch management," "developing kernel modules and user space applications," and "performance profiling and tuning of the kernel." The engineering group at Zeugma will be developing OAMP, broadband subscriber management, and "next-generation application-aware service management software," according to the ads.

Zeugma's trademark filings elaborate ever so slightly, saying the company's mark refers to "telecommunications equipment including networking devices for managing and improving the delivery of internet-based services to consumers by processing, identifying and controlling the transfer of data and images over a computer network."

The past lives of some of the Zeugma execs may provide some clues to the nature of their product. Two of the company's top executives come from Siara Systems, which was acquired by Redback Networks Inc. for $4.5 billion in November 1999.

Founder and CTO Siegfried Luft was a co-founder of Siara, where he and his team developed the first release of the SmartEdge 800, which has been a big part of Redback’s success. Marketing VP Tom Meehan served as director of product management at Siara.

Zeugma Founder and CEO Andrew Harries was a founder of wireless modem company Sierra Wireless Inc. (Nasdaq: SWIR; Toronto: SW) He also spent several years with the Mobile Data Division of Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), where he worked on strategic planning and developed new portable devices. Engineering VP Jeff Dillabough comes from PMC-Sierra Inc. (Nasdaq: PMCS) where he was director of product development.

Zeugma says the new money will be used to further the development of its hardware and software, ramp up sales and marketing, and fund “early customer trials.” Harries says those trials will begin in the fall, and that they involve some North American Tier 1 carriers.

Harries says the company employs 50 people now -- 40 of whom are engineers -- and will likely grow to 60-70 people by the end of the year.

The company was founded in September 2004 and received $1.5 in seed money from the Canadian VCs, Venture West and Yaletown. The $13.5 million round announced Friday is the company’s second major funding event, Harries says.

And, in case you're curious, “Zeugma” refers to an ancient Mesopotamian city at the site of a bridge uniting the banks of the Euphrates River. The name derives from the Greek word meaning "a yoke." [Ed. note: So maybe they're building farm equipment?]

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

materialgirl 12/5/2012 | 3:52:48 AM
re: Zeugma Gets $13.5M for Mystery Box Excellent work. So, those carriers are gunking up the edges even MORE for their "services", huh.
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