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Right Technology, Right Time: Opportunistic Ocarina CEO Murli Thirumale (Part 2)

Posted on Thursday, May 8th 2008

SM: What was the idea of Net6.

MT: The original premise is very straight forward. We launched during the peak of the dot com boom. Back then it was all about grabbing eyeballs, and the next class of eyeballs to be grabbed was mobile eyeballs. Most companies founded in that timeframe focused on building middleware. There were a few companies who wanted to offer CRM for mobile devices.

The idea we had was that expensive, custom middleware for mobile services was not the optimal solution. We found we could just make an appliance which would do all the necessary transformations required at the network level versus the middleware. We came up with a content transformation engine appliance which would sit on the network. It was a good concept and we had a great OEM deal signed with Cisco. It was a Cisco branded product and was launched by Cisco. The problem was that our targets were the ISPs. Towards the end of 2001 they all went away. We had to go reform the company around a different business.

SM: What did you decide was the turnaround strategy?

MT: The content transformation engine actually did OK. We sold quite a bit of stuff through OEMs with Nortel, Cisco and Avaya. The device was IP telephone derived, so we started providing services to IP phones, and for us that was not the big business.

As we looked at the last mile of our technology, we found there were a number of times where we were asked to encrypt data and secure it. That became the kernel for our new product line which we adapted from the old code base. That product was an SSL VPN product.

At the time we launched the SSL VPN line, and we did it right. The SSL VPN product we built was a different because instead of building it around security technology, which is how most VPNs were built, we built it around the user experience. It was dramatically easier to use as a VPN. It was much easier to use than IPsec. We launched that in March of 2004, and by September of 2004 we had 100 customers.

SM: Where you able to use the channels you had put together, such as Cisco and Nortel?

MT: No, it was completely different. We did a lot of that business via telesales. That was a very different channel. It was very profitable and became a cash cow for us to start this business. We were not really able to leverage the channels but we were able to leverage the technology. A lot of the code base which was adapted. There is a lot of transformation required to be able to secure data.

Business grew pretty fast, and we became ankle bitters for Cisco and Nortel who were selling IPsec VPNs. They became pretty interested in us, and we got a lot of other acquisition interest as well. Through a referral of a friend, we ended up having Citrix start to engage us. To make a long story short, we thought they offered the best bang for us as a company. We could have spent a lot more money ramping up channels because this was a lower cost channel play. However, as you know, that takes timeā€¦ the laws of business physics. We decided the best way to grab market share was to be part of somebody who already had the channel, and Citrix had a great channel. We sold the business to them and it ended up doing really well.

This segment is part 2 in the series : Right Technology, Right Time: Opportunistic Ocarina CEO Murli Thirumale
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