Rick White admits that one of the reasons for accepting his new job is that he is a bit selfish. "From a personal experience view, I wanted to run a company again," says White, who this week begins his tenure as President and CEO of Solidum Systems Corp.
White, who served a three-year stint as President and CEO of Accelerix Inc. from 1996 to 1998, is no stranger to the Ottawa technology sector. His 22 year resume includes senior positions at Prior Data Sciences and Nitidus Technology and a six year stay at Mitel Corp.
Prior to Joining Solidum, White was the Vice President of Operations for Extreme Packet Devices. EPD was eventually acquired by BC based PMC-Sierra in March of this year. The multi-million dollar deal, says White, left him in the enviable position of being able to pick and choose his next job. In fact, White was in such demand that he had four firm job offers on the table by late June. Oddly enough, for a seasoned executive with a hunger for the technology industry, the 43-year-old decided to forgo the tempting offers in favour of getting "re-acquainted" with his family.
After a few months of summer vacation, White received the call from Solidum. White liked what he heard. They are almost like a true start-up with no baggage and no history", says White, who notes that like many of the companies he has worked for, Solidum is entering its high-growth stage.
Solidum does have some history, but much of it has been on the R&D side of the company. Founded in late 1996 by Feliks J. Welfeld and Misha Nossik, two former employees of Skystone Systems Corp., Solidum has developed technology for the network processor market that analyzes data packets to determine whether they contain voice, video or e-mail signals.
The network processor market is expected to reach $3 billion by 2004. Solidum has only recently begun delivering product to customers; thus, the need for an experienced CEO. "We wanted someone who could move the company to the next level, and that requires certain skills," says Leo Lax, CEO of Skypoint Capital and Solidum's interim CEO for the past six months. Skypoint is also one of Solidum's financial backers and led the company's recent $2.5 million first-round financing.
Lax began the CEO search at the end of last year and did not have White on his original list of candidates. That's because White was still working for Extreme Packet Devices. When White became available in June, Solidum became interested. Though Lax prefers to label Solidum as a company in its "developmental stage," both he and White agree that the Ottawa-based firm is ready to push past it's R&D stage and begin gathering some big customer wins.
Solidum's target customers are the big telecommunications companies, such as Alcatel and Nortel. However, Solidum is certainly not alone in the high-speed network processing sector. Its main competitor is privately-owned SwitchOn Networks. The California-based firm has 70 employees and has impressed enough to secure investment deals with venture capital giants Sequoia Capital and Redwood Ventures. Another Solidum competitor is Los Altos-based Fast-Chip Inc. Solidum must also battle with potential customers who have begun developing similar technology in their internal design shops.
Though Lax argues that Solidum is the industry leader in technology and "vision," he admits the company is slightly behind the competition when it comes to the operational side of the business. Lax says it will now be up to Solidum to prove that it can deliver, not only promises, but also product - on time and on schedule.
Solidum's other schedule is finding an exit strategy for investors. White says the company is looking at an initial public offering in the latter part of 2001, but has not ruled out being a part of an acquisition.
In a report published earlier this year, Massachusetts-based research firm Cahners In-Stat Group pegged Solidum as a strong acquisition target. "Solidum, with its niche product, will be a highly sought after company in the acquisition dominated market," wrote Cahners.
But, White is not waiting for a large network processor supplier to come around and snap up Solidum. The company, he says, is moving forward and has plans to up its headcount from 60 to 90 within the next 12 months. And, of course, there is that matter of delivering product. "Our challenge will be to execute," says White.
So much for the vacation, it's time to get to work.