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WaveSmith Overhaul Ousts Founders

WaveSmith Networks Inc. has overhauled its management team yet again (see WaveSmith Hires More Guys), in what's gotten to be a habit at the multiservice edge switch startup. In the process, one of the key founders, Robert Dalias, has given up any day-to-day supervision of the company, and another, John O'Hara, has left.

Dalias is leaving his post as WaveSmith's CTO, a job he took after being replaced as CEO by Thomas M. Burkardt in November (see WaveSmith Gets New CEO). Dalias remains on the board but has given up any position on the executive team (more on that later).

Today's announcement puts in place a team chosen by Burkardt, whose appointment was trumpeted by WaveSmith as part of a campaign to bring the company to the next level in its evolution. That level involves selling to carriers, specifically, RBOCs -- a challenge that sources say calls for people with certain kinds of contacts and expertise.

"RBOCs don't just buy the greatest new product," says Michael Howard, principal analyst and cofounder of Infonetics Research Inc. Carriers generally like to work with folk they know, he says, ones familiar with RBOC requirements and procedures.

Burkardt himself says carriers have more stringent requirements for equipment, longer sales cycles, and often present surprises in the process of buying equipment -- all challenges that call for specific skill sets and expertise.

WaveSmith's new execs seem to fit the bill, but they have another key attribute: They've worked with Burkardt before and he knows them, too. Here's a rundown:

  • Michael Regan, who replaces cofounder John O'Hara as VP of engineering, was a founder of Castle Networks, as was Burkardt. Although he worked only briefly with Burkardt, he apparently has the track record that the CEO was looking for. (O'Hara is apparently taking time off, remaining an outside consultant to WaveSmith.)
  • Robert O'Neil, who replaces Brian Fitzgerald as VP of worldwide sales, worked at Cascade with Burkardt.
  • John Burnham, the new VP of marketing, who's now overseeing the work of corporate marketing VP Pamela Nelson, worked at Unisphere and Cabletron with Burkardt.

  • One of the new hires, Gregg Savage, is an exception. He hails from Appian Communications Inc. and New Oak/Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), as well as Wellfleet. Savage replaces Tom Amato, who was hired as CFO in January 2002 and who left in September, because, according to a WaveSmith spokesman, he didn't like commuting from New Jersey to Massachusetts. (Well, who would?)

    At least one analyst says the changes shouldn't surprise anyone. "It is no surprise that Tom Burkardt has selected a team of old chums to help him take WaveSmith to the next level. CEOs always surround themselves with people that have contributed to their past success," writes Mark Bieberich, senior analyst at the Yankee Group in an email today. All the hires, he notes, have solid RBOC experience.

    While the reorg may turn out best all around, it represents yet another substantial change of management in a company that's still relatively young and has just about 100 employees. After all, WaveSmith only announced the hiring of Fitzgerald, along with Amato, last January (see WaveSmith Adds Execs). Director of marketing Chad Dunn left in September 2002. Is WaveSmith replacing its front door with a revolving model?

    Both Burkardt and Dalias say no, definitely not. "I have to build a company with the best chance of success," Burkardt says. "The [founders] did a very, very, very good job... but we have to shift gears and change mindsets."

    Dalias seems to agree. "This is the normal course of events. The company has to grow and change." He says WaveSmith's investors and partners have wanted him to be happy with the changes, and he is. Those partners include representatives of Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN), with which WaveSmith has a sales arrangement that many view as key to the company's future (see WaveSmith Gets $30M, Signs With Ciena).

    Not all the execs are leaving, either. Pam Nelson remains VP of corporate marketing, although she'll be working for Burnham. Bob Doucette remains as VP of manufacturing; and Frank Fiorillo is still VP of customer support.

    Despite Dalias's departure, two other founders remain on board, although they've been taken off the Website's main management listing. These include Gary Styskal, director of hardware, and Jim Philippou, director of software. Two other founders -- Abe Schryer, the first VP of sales, and Andrea Carr-Evans, the first manufacturing VP -- left over a year ago.

    For his part, Dalias says he'll be back on the telecom scene sometime this year. "Sometime in the first half of this year, you'll see me turn up in a new endeavor for sure."

    — Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading
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    jokers 12/5/2012 | 12:54:42 AM
    re: WaveSmith Overhaul Ousts Founders Mary, how about qualifying the party line that Burkardt and others have the much coveted RBOC experience? Did Cabletron sell to RBOCs? No. Did Castle Networks sell to RBOCS? No? Burkardt has never contributed to a RBOC sale. (Unisphere's sales to RBOCs were on the Redstone side. Burkardt had nothing to do with it!)

    Mike Regan had the experience Burkardt was looking for? Mike Regan tried to pull together a box that never quite worked. (Why do you think Juniper demanded that Unisphere divest the Castle assets before it acquired the Redstone box? It wasn't simply because the SMX was outside of Juniper's scope. The box didn't work!)

    What about John Burnham? What RBOC experience does he has? Last I heard he was a used car salesman in a lot just outside of Nashua, NH. But seriously: he has NO business being employed in this down market. His career is a phenomon of the bubble where anyone could hang their hat on a high title.

    Obviously, these are my very biased opinions and should be taken in that light. But the next time you mention that someone has RBOC contacts, be a good journalist and qualify it for the readers.


    fright_reading 12/5/2012 | 12:54:42 AM
    re: WaveSmith Overhaul Ousts Founders For his part, Dalias says he'll be back on the telecom scene sometime this year. "Sometime in the first half of this year, you'll see me turn up in a new endeavor for sure."

    That's right he'll be dialing 10-10220 to save a buck or two. Hey lightreading why not tell the REAL story on this idiot?
    Zoozz 12/5/2012 | 12:54:40 AM
    re: WaveSmith Overhaul Ousts Founders "Mike Regan tried to pull together a box that never quite worked. (Why do you think Juniper demanded that Unisphere divest the Castle assets before it acquired the Redstone box? It wasn't simply because the SMX was outside of Juniper's scope. The box didn't work!)"

    The box worked quite nicely, thank you. The sales staff at Unisphere never bothered to sell it! Why would they when the sales cycle was 6 months and up for the internet offload switch and the sales cycle for the edge router was significantly less? The sales team was supposed to have a minimum quota for both products, but I don't think it ever happened.
    You might be thinking of the core router taken over at the time that Unisphere was put together. That one never worked!
    Just my two cents...
    tiadakola 12/5/2012 | 12:54:39 AM
    re: WaveSmith Overhaul Ousts Founders JMO...burkhardt, excellent leader and motivator...regan, nice guy and competent...we'll see if he's the right person...burnam, the biggest job hopper telecom has ever seen (not sure what that means) and savage, a great hire...but as with post #1...RBOC?...NFW.
    saxophone 12/5/2012 | 12:54:37 AM
    re: WaveSmith Overhaul Ousts Founders ONeil's got a strong carrier-close pedigree.

    This whole thing should be fun to watch.

    lights_out 12/5/2012 | 12:54:33 AM
    re: WaveSmith Overhaul Ousts Founders Zoozz:
    "The box worked quite nicely, thank you. The sales staff at Unisphere never bothered to sell it! You might be thinking of the core router taken over at the time that Unisphere was put together."

    Then again, maybe not. The Castle box was the box that didn't get sold, and it didn't get sold not because sales wouldn't sell it, but because they couldn't sell it.


    tiadakola:
    "regan, nice guy and competent"

    He's neither a nice guy nor is he competent. His engineering prowess (or rather lack of it) is perhaps the reason why the box didn't perform. His networking knowledge is immature and he is a micromanager. He calls all the shots and if you don't like them, he doesn't attempt to work out the differences with you, he shoves you aside and that's the end of you.

    Whatever became of his Octave venture? I understand it hasn't gone well either. So, the Castle product was an underperformer, the Octave product never got off the ground, and now he will be meddling in another project. This ought to be interesting.

    lights_out
    Upside_again 12/5/2012 | 12:54:32 AM
    re: WaveSmith Overhaul Ousts Founders He and steve kelly rode the good times at cascade. Castle was bought and burned down. Dolce at Unishere was the driver and Tommy-boy rode his butt-tails. Wavesmith just got real bad. IMHO.
    zoinks! 12/5/2012 | 12:54:31 AM
    re: WaveSmith Overhaul Ousts Founders Dick Hatch said: "I'd be suspect of anybody touting 2-3 year old "carrier contacts" these days...many of those contacts are probably not currently employed or in a completely different division through a reorg."

    This is an excellent point. Probably only Bob O'Neill has contacts even close...but that was a long time ago in a much different world.

    Zoinks!
    Richard Hatch 12/5/2012 | 12:54:31 AM
    re: WaveSmith Overhaul Ousts Founders Sales undoubtably DID try to sell that Unisphere I/O box, but no wonder nobody bought it...it was a dog! Some engineer that worked on it may think it's got some neat tricks but come on. I'm not buying a Neon just because it's got some cute headlights!

    I'd be suspect of anybody touting 2-3 year old "carrier contacts" these days...many of those contacts are probably not currently employed or in a completely different division through a reorg.

    Wavesmith's fundamental problem is its product architecture...a bunch of pizza boxes strung together with spaghetti wire. Unless you work at Telecom Italia, it ain't a tasty solution. Not to mention that they overpromise and underdeliver to get some RFP attention.
    Zoozz 12/5/2012 | 12:54:30 AM
    re: WaveSmith Overhaul Ousts Founders The sales weenies at Unisphere were all used to selling in the quicker world of data, not voice. RBOCs are notorious for having long sales cycles, and why waste the time when the edge router was selling like hotcakes? Unisphere also was going after CLECs (with moderately long sales cycles)and when those dried up then they had to start all over again at the bigger fish (with even longer sales cycles). When I was there they changed their sales direction many times and they never really committed themselves to a country or customer. IMHO the product was just as good/bad (in different ways) as the equivalent Sonus product, and the biggest problem was in going after the customer of the minute and not holding on for the long haul (pardon the pun). I think that this was due to a combination of sales' ignorance, impatience, and the ease with which the edge router sold. Unisphere also didn't offer warrants in the company if you bought the toys, and that can make a difference in heady days of crazy stock, too...
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