Tellium Founder Joins Xtellus

Krishna Bala, a founder of Tellium and its former CTO, has resurfaced at the helm of components startup Xtellus Inc. , hoping to score a hit in the reconfigurable optical add-drop multiplexer (ROADM) market.

Xtellus named Bala its CEO yesterday, replacing Thomas Dudley. (See Xtellus Has New CEO.) Xtellus isn't specifying reasons for the change, other than to note that Dudley had been commuting between Boston and the startup's Morris Plains, N.J. headquarters. [Ed. note: Whew! Long drive.]

Bala met Yaron Silberberg, the company's chief scientist, in 1993, and got invited onto Xtellus's board soon after the company got funded in 2001. So, that helps explain how Xtellus picked him as CEO. But what's Bala been doing for the last few years?

We last heard from him in 2003 when Tellium, one of the high-flying IPOs of the optical bubble, got acquired by Zhone. To some, the deal seemed to have as much to do with Tellium's cash as with optical switching. (See Zhone Cashes In on Tellium and NetCracker, Wipro Win TeliaSonera.)

Another interesting angle to the deal was that Tellium had loaned millions of dollars to some executives, including Bala, to exercise stock options. Upon acquiring Tellium, Zhone forgave the loans. [Ed. note: But no one else did.] (See Tellium Execs in Trouble? and Zhone Forgives Exec Loans.)

Bala says he's been doing consulting since then, including some work for former Tellium boss Harry Carr at Simpler Networks Inc. [Ed. note: Ahhh. The Simpler Life.] (See Dude, There's My Carr!.)

Xtellus sells the key component of a ROADM: the wavelength blocker or wavelength selective switch (WSS) that adds or drops wavelengths onto a DWDM line. Blockers have been available for several years; the WSS is a more advanced component and is sold by companies like Capella Photonics Inc. , CoAdna Photonics Inc. , JDSU (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU), NeoPhotonics Corp. (NYSE: NPTN), and Optium Corp. (Nasdaq: OPTM). (See Who Makes What: Optical Components 2007.)

Bala likes the blocker and WSS businesses well enough, but he wants Xtellus to broaden its horizons.

"The number of customers has collapsed," he says. "Ultimately, we're going to grow the business by adding product lines. By the end of the year, my mission here is to announce three new products."

He's not giving specifics, but one theme he'd like Xtellus to follow is "making the cost low enough so that it jump-starts the edge business" for ROADMs. A similar sounding idea is coming from Nistica , a subsystems startup founded by Photuris veterans. (See ROADMs, 40G Spark OFC/NFOEC.)

Xtellus hasn't disclosed all of its funding rounds, but Bala says the total comes to around $20 million. Investors include Alta Berkeley Venture Partners and Israel Seed Partners . The company isn't profitable yet.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 3:07:16 PM
re: Tellium Founder Joins Xtellus So, Xtellus is saying its parts, based on liquid crystals, get excellent performance.

Anyone want to crack open an argument about component technologies? Will liquid crystals beat out MEMS in the long run?
Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 3:07:16 PM
re: Tellium Founder Joins Xtellus It's $20M, not $12M -- a mishearing on my part. I blame the cellular network with the "fewest dropped connections." We've corrected the story.
hwg434 12/5/2012 | 3:07:11 PM
re: Tellium Founder Joins Xtellus My understanding is that some liquid crystal based WSS can also do dispersion compensation. This is a real advantage in the adaptive networks where ROADMs are used.
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