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Zenastra Reborn?

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
2/18/2002

Joe Savage, one-time CEO of Geyser Networks, appears to be in a position to revive not one, but two bankrupt integrated optics startups.

A Chinese firm and a U.S. startup headed by Savage have joined forces to resurrect the bankrupt integrated optics startup Zenastra Photonics. What's more, Savage's current startup, called Broadnet Inc. (not to be confused with the pan-European telecom provider Broadnet), bears an uncanny resemblance to his previous one, the now-defunct Radiant Photonics, raising the question of whether he might continue Radiant's work as well by buying up its intellectual property.

The news broke yesterday when it was reported in Canada's Ottawa Business Journal that Syracuse, N.Y.-based Broadnet and China's Shenzhen Laserwave Optoelectronics Co. Ltd. have formed a new venture called Broadwave Photonics Inc., which will acquire the majority of Zenastra's capital assets, leases, and intellectual property. The deal was sealed with Zenastra's bankruptcy trustee PricewaterhouseCoopers in late December, the article says.

Roxanne Anderson of PricewaterhouseCoopers told the paper the firm was very pleased to secure a deal with a buyer that would continue Zenastra's work. Zenastra had made significant progress in developing silica-on-silicon optical components such as Arrayed Waveguide Gratings (AWGs) before it went bust in October 2001 (see Zenastra Photonics: RIP).

Savage's involvement was not noted in the article. But given Savage's history, it seems likely that he was a driving force behind the inception of Broadwave. Savage took over the CEO position at Broadnet after his previous venture, Radiant Photonics, filed for bankruptcy in November 2001.

Radiant Photonics had raised $18 million in round A and was set to secure additional funding of $5 million that would allow it to complete development of its initial products. The startup was developing a waveguide-based optical switch and variable optical attenuator products based on a polymer-on-silicon platform technology.

But Radiant's investors pulled out at the last minute, following the terrorist attacks of September 11. In January 2002, the bankruptcy court approved the appointment of Equity Partners Inc. to seek an investor or purchaser for the company's assets.

Broadnet, which is backed by Draper Atlantic (the East coast affiliate of Draper Fisher Jurvetson), certainly sounds a lot like Radiant. Broadnet is developing "guided-wave optical switches," according to its Website. This would make it a direct competitor to companies such as Lynx Photonic Networks (see Look Ma, No Moving Parts!).

But while Savage obviously has experience in this sector of the optical networking industry, one has to wonder whether his current associates are worried by his track record with startups. Like Radiant Photonics, Geyser Networks went belly up recently (see Wu-Fu Chen Startups Hit the Skids).

Savage wasn't available for comment at press time.

— Pauline Rigby, Senior Editor, Light Reading
http://www.lightreading.com

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