Ex-Cisco Exec Takes Helm of iNovo

Former Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Scientific-Atlanta Inc. exec and cable industry vet Michael Harney is leading a startup that competes with his former employer, as well as with other top cable suppliers, such as Motorola Mobility, Pace plc and Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS).

Harney, who left Cisco in June, has been named CEO of iNovo Broadband Inc. , a Duluth, Ga.-based company founded in 2011 that's developing a line of set-tops, Docsis-capable devices and other customer premises equipment (CPE) for the cable industry. (See iNovo Hires New CEO.)

With Harney coming on board, former iNovo CEO Jack Miller is now COO. Miller worked for Harney at Scientific Atlanta until Miller left in 2000 to help start up N2 Broadband, a video backoffice vendor that's now part of Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC). "The two of us make a very powerful combination," says Harney, who is also being reunited with several other colleagues from his days with Scientific Atlanta and Cisco. (See Tandberg Completes Merger With N2.)

Cable CPE is one of Harney's specialties. Harney, who joined Scientific-Atlanta in 1980 (Cisco acquired Scientific Atlanta in 2006), most recently headed up Cisco's Service Provider Video Technology Group, and, at Scientific Atlanta, served as corporate SVP and president of its subscriber networks group. (See Cisco to Acquire Scientific-Atlanta.)

One of Harney's near-term priorities will be to determine iNovo's future product mix. iNovo has not tipped its hand on its initial product lineup, but Miller says the early work will involve set-tops and Docsis-powered CPE. He expects the company’s first products to emerge sometime in 2012. (See Ex-Cisco Execs Form Cable Set-Top Startup .)

iNovo is tasked with taking on larger, incumbent vendors in an already-competitive CPE market. Harney's convinced that iNovo will become a strong partner to the MSOs and use its situation as a nimble newcomer to its advantage, competing not just on price but on new features and innovations that will attract attention from MSOs as they seek out a new class of cable products.

"We don't have a lot of legacy issues that would cause us to spend a lot of time and money on," he says. "We can completely focus on the next new thing and get it all correct. I wouldn't underestimate how big an advantage that is."

iNovo has raised almost $2 million in seed funding and is in active discussion with strategic investors and traditional VCs, according to Miller.

Why this matters
Harney could prove to be a key addition at iNovo, a company with a deep technical and operational understanding of the CPE ecosystem. Its employees have relationships with cable operators that go back decades.

iNovo's fresh look at cable's CPE market could be coming at an opportune time. Cable's IP video migration is well underway, creating a fresh product cycle that involves a new breed of hybrid QAM/IP gateways and IP-only devices. That's expected to open the door to new entrants and shift MSOs further away from the old Motorola/Cisco duopoly. That market is also seeing some upheaval from Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)'s recent acquisition of Motorola Mobility and its Home business, which is expected to be on the block as early as this fall.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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