Cloud enablement

AT&T's Ex-CTO Takes a Step Back

Startup LonoCloud announced former AT&T chief technology officer Hossein Eslambolchi as its CEO back in September, but only months into the role he has downshifted to the position of chief strategy officer, freeing up time to attend to some family matters, he informs Light Reading.

He's also given up seats on multiple boards of directors, retaining just one, at Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR). And he plans to continue acting as technical advisor to a handful of startups, including RainStor, a big-data startup that announced a $12 million C-round in October.

So, it's not as if Eslambolchi is going into hiding. Tom Caldwell, who had been Lonocloud's president and who is now adding CEO duties to his role, tells Light Reading via email that Eslambolchi remains an active part of the team, helping Lonocloud with a planned mid-2013 launch.

Meanwhile, the recruitment offers are likely to keep coming.

"I get a lot of calls, almost on a monthly basis," Eslambolchi says, including, he claims, an inquiry about becoming CTO of Nokia Networks . A Nokia Siemens spokesman couldn't confirm this, but at any rate, the recruiting process doesn't sound like it went far.

"I wouldn't go as a CTO to a big company. I've already done that," Eslambolchi says.

If he were to return to big-company life, he'd rather be COO or CEO. "Most of these companies need business transformation, and what I'm good at is technology and business transformation."

The bigger consideration is that he wants to stay close to family. That means staying in the San Diego area, which limits his options.

LonoCloud happens to be based in San Diego, but that's not the only thing that attracted Eslambolchi. The startup is developing software to federate clouds -- that is, to allow workloads to shift freely from one cloud to another.

What Eslambolchi found particularly compelling was Lonocloud's potential to provide a fail-over mechanism. "In essence, you end up with high availability" provided in software, something he hadn't seen in a cloud architecture before, he says. (The hardware alternative would be to build duplicates of data centers, which would obviously be more expensive.)

For more
Eslambolchi wrote a few columns for Light Reading in 2011, examining some big issues that were emerging.

— Craig Matsumoto, Managing Editor, Light Reading

DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 5:16:57 PM
re: AT&T's Ex-CTO Takes a Step Back

While reading this post I recall that it's been nearly 7 years since Dr. Eslambolchi left AT&T and he hasn't, to my recollection, ever held a CEO post except for the Lonocloud role.

Does he know where networks are going? Yes, he's probably as sharp as anyone in understanding both the service provider mindset and the limitations of today's tech. But I think a good discussion to kick off here is one about what qualities make a good CEO, in general.

What do you think are signs of a good CEO these days, especially if the company is a start-up looking to gain traction in a crowded space? 


Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 5:16:57 PM
re: AT&T's Ex-CTO Takes a Step Back

What makes a good startup CEO... What comes to mind first, actually, are connections: to customers (which Hossein would have) and to money (VCs and the like, which I'm guessing Hossein also has).

I'm sure it takes more than that. The so-called intangibles. But it's not a bad starting point.

joanengebretson 12/5/2012 | 5:16:56 PM
re: AT&T's Ex-CTO Takes a Step Back

The VC firms that fund startups seem to pay a lot of attention to a company's management team and the track records of the people on the team. So the ability to recruit that sort of team would seem to be critical for a startup CEO, in addition to the CEO's own track record.

These also seem like qualities/ capabilities H.E. would be likely to have, although I don't know for certain.

shygye75 12/5/2012 | 5:16:56 PM
re: AT&T's Ex-CTO Takes a Step Back

A start-up CEO and a public-company CEO have one thing in common -- the job title. Beyond that, they require very different talents and skill sets. Corporate lifers generally make bad entrepreneurial CEOs, and entrepreneurial CEOs generally make bad public-company CEOs. There are exceptions, but not many.

DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 5:16:55 PM
re: AT&T's Ex-CTO Takes a Step Back

I think you're right. Most of the time I see a big company CxO becoming a small company CEO I assume he's mostly doing it to help the company raise money.

shygye75 12/5/2012 | 5:16:54 PM
re: AT&T's Ex-CTO Takes a Step Back

My first-hand experience with corporados trying to adapt to a start-up environment has not been good. For starters, even if they are willing to get their hands dirty, they have little idea on how to go about doing that. It's not a knock on them necessarily, but they are not well suited (in more ways than one) to a bootstrap operation.

AESerm 12/5/2012 | 5:16:53 PM
re: AT&T's Ex-CTO Takes a Step Back

The suited corporado - nice image, Mendyk. So why does this suit need to dirty his/her hands? Or how dirty do they need to get? More so in startup than corporate, sure, but building the right team of code slingers or designers or other relatively dirtier-handed folks seems the main task here. i've heard HE (his excellency?) is good at that.

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 5:16:52 PM
re: AT&T's Ex-CTO Takes a Step Back

Having worked in both worlds, I can say that CEOs better have another job as well as CEO in most small companies.  What a large company CEO does is really only needed 20% of the hours in a day of a small company.  So, an effective tech startup CEO might actually be acting as the VP of a function as well.  

So, I would agree with Dennis and say REAL dirty.  Once the company has reached the point of shipping product to multiple customers and is looking to be Cash Flow Neutral to Positive things will change.  I am using that as a milestone example of becoming a mid-size business (instead of 20 people maybe 120 people).  There are several inflections like that and very few people are effective in all of them.



shygye75 12/5/2012 | 5:16:52 PM
re: AT&T's Ex-CTO Takes a Step Back

It's like the difference between guerrilla warfare and conventional warfare. In the latter, the top brass isn't in the trenches and doesn't need to be -- and if you put them there, not much good will come of it. A start-up requires leaders to be much more involved because resources are limited. Of course, when that big funding round comes through, things start to change -- and the track record would indicate generally not for the better.

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