Zepton: Take Me to Your Leaders
Normal formula for a healthy startup: The right backers, some well-known executives, loads of cash, and some interesting technology.
Zepton Networks Inc., a new stealthy startup, has at least three out of the four covered. For the fourth element-- technology -- it's too early to tell.
Before he went on sabbatical this spring, Vinod Khosla, of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, helped Zepton with its first round of funding, worth $50 million in cash. Two other top venture firms, Accel Partners and Benchmark Capital, also participated in the round.
“We were able to close the round in the beginning of April when the market was really tanking,” says David Welch, founder and one of the company’s two chief technology officers. “It’s a real testament to what we are doing here that we can raise that kind of money in a climate like this.”
But Zepton has more than cash and top-drawer VCs going for it. It also has a strong executive pedigree. Jagdeep Singh, founder and CEO of the company, is known in optical networking circles for helping found Lightera Networks, which was sold to Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN) for 21 million shares back in 1999. And just last year, he founded a metropolitan area service provider company called OnFiber Communications Inc., another Khosla startup.
The rest of the team is a combination of people that had worked with Singh on his two previous companies and individuals from big-name component and software companies. Drew Perkins, the other chief technical officer and a founder of Zepton, followed Singh from his two previous startups where he served as the CTO for OnFiber and helped found Lightera.
Welch was vice president of corporate development for SDL Inc. and JDS Uniphase Inc. (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU), where he was in charge of technology and acquisition strategies. While serving in this position, he helped orchestrate one of the biggest technology mergers in history, the $41 billion acquisition of SDL by JDS Uniphase.
Fred Kish, vice president of development and manufacturing joined Zepton Networks from Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A). At Agilent, he was R&D and manufacturing department manager of an optoelectronic device organization for Agilent's fiber-optics business. And then there is Sudhanshu Verma, vice president of software engineering who joined the company from Visual Networks where he was vice president of engineering.
Company executives have been very tight-lipped about specific product plans. In an interview with Light Reading, Welch and Perkins rephrased the vague company description found on the company’s Website, which basically describes some generic optical networking plans.
“We can’t go into too much detail,” says Welch. “But we are drawing on systems- and component-level expertise to deliver a product that will revolutionize optical networking”
When pressed for further details about whether they were working on a component company or a systems product Welch joked: “Let’s just say it’s bigger than a wafer and smaller than a central office.”
But the last laugh could be on Zepton. The last company with a futuristic name beginning with a "Z" funded by Kleiner Perkins, Zephion, met a brutal ending. Zephion, an optical service provider created in an attempt to salvage ailing BroadBand Office Inc., was suddenly shut down last month (see Zephion: Anatomy of a Debacle).
- Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading