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October - 2000 - issue > Cover Feature
Brainstorming As A Road To A Startup
Sunday, October 1, 2000

That’s not really the way it happened in the case of Amber Networks. Founders Prakash Bhalerao and Amar Gupta had been wondering for some time what the real breakthrough in networking would be. In late ’98, when it became clear to them that optics were going to change the face of communication, they were sure they wanted to start a company, and so they did exactly that. The only thing they didn’t have was a specific idea.

Says Bhalerao, “The company didn’t know exactly where it wanted to go from day one. It generally knew the area where it needed to focus - the network edge, multi-service provisioning, some level of aggregation, et cetera.” He continues, “After we got the company up, we put together a business plan and the business plan went from one end of the spectrum to the other.” Finally, the company ended up where it is today - focused on network edge aggregation routers.

Bhalerao, an angel investor who typically starts between two and four companies a year, implemented his own unique investment style by taking on a very active role in the company and assuming the title and responsibilities of the CEO. For Bhalerao, that’s Amber’s recipe for success. He explains that usually founders “end up becoming superhuman” when they found companies, because they try to design the business while dealing with funding and the myriad other tasks involved in getting a company off the ground. He relates, “Amar knew his piece very well and left all the other pieces to me - finding management, raising money, finding the right lawyers, et cetera.”

The company was incorporated in November, and by late February ’99 it had grown to 50 employees. Sam Mathan is now CEO of the company, with Amar Gupta as CTO. Bhalerao has stayed on as chairman of the board.

Mathan explains, in laymen’s terms, that Amber products “aggregate the current legacy traffic and move it onto the IP service layer at optical speeds.” According to Mathan, RHK, an industry research firm, projects this particular space to be around $22 billion by 2003. The company currently comprises 176 people and expects that its most recent round of funding ($91) will be its last private round. Amber Networks has signed agreements with four beta customers and expects to have general availability by the end of the year.

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