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Mukesh Chatter
Friday, November 21, 2008

Age 40
Place of Birth India

Residence Massachusetts

Family -

Came to the U.S. 1980

Education M.Eng from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, B.E. from Birla Institue of Technology and Science, Pilani, India

First job and career Intertel Inc. in 1982 as a Sr. Design Engineer

Company started January 1997

Year did an IPO The company was acquired by Lucent in 1999

Year became millionaire -

Favorite charity -

Lifetime goals -

Net worth

Philosophy of life Keep it simple

Most inspired by Bhagvad Gita

Most excited by Philosophy, debates, politics

Most expensive thing ever bought If it’s expensive, we don't buy!

Three years ago, when Mukesh Chatter started Nexabit Networks, he was virtually unknown. Even in the renowned high-tech area of Boston, he was greeted by skepticism from both financiers and potential employees. Chatter, an engineer with formidable credentials including stints working on a supercomputer project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, contends that neither past successes nor failures can predict future successes or failures.

He finally achieved a breakthrough when he presented his idea for a terabit-speed router to Ray Stata, a self-described novice in networking technology and a pioneering entrepreneurial force that founded Analog Devices.

The meeting took place in the basement of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, where Stata served as a board member. Stata saw “huge economic value” in the proposal, also saying, “The Nexabit router is way ahead of anything coming down the pike.”

He not only funded Nexabit, but also joined the company as its chairman and secured funding from Paul Allen’s Vulcan Ventures and Fidelity Investments, among others.

But the skeptics didn’t go away yet. Chatter faced up to a lot of doubts from the industry, which questioned Nexabit router’s promised speeds of up to 160 times faster than the fastest router on the market (6.4 terabit-per-second-per-chassis). Besides, some other companies including Juniper Networks, whose router was not on the market then, claimed they had also achieved terabit speeds. Chatter maintained that nobody had a terabit router. Avici had the fastest router, he conceded, but it still only measured up to 10 percent the speed of a terabit router.

In the end, Chatter may have convinced a lot of the skeptics. The company grew to 120, and was listed among the hottest companies by many industry folks and media. Final proof of what lay inside Nexabit came when, last June, telecommunications heavyweight Lucent Technologies acquired it for about $900 million. The routers are seen as key to the bandwidth problem facing networks. The next-generation routers, such as Nexabit’s, ease bottlenecks at the “core” of networks, multiplying speeds at which data are transferred.

The sale to Lucent came as a big surprise to Chatter, who says he was hopeful of succeeding but did not have “the foggiest idea of its magnitude.”

“I had done exciting work in technology but this one of building a company was different,” Chatter says. “I have done sales, architecture and many others (in previous jobs) but nothing like soup-to-nuts as the lead guy.”

“When you’re a small company, you go through three phases,” Chatter once told the magazine Red Herring. “First they laugh at you, then there’s jealousy, then there’s guarded admiration, and I suspect the fourth phase will be us saying, ‘I told you so’.”

Although the Nexabit routers are yet to hit the market, there are not many skeptics left. But since the deal, Chatter acknowledges others’ perceptions of him have changed. “It is almost as if I am a genius in everything I do, whereas I may have looked an idiot four years ago,” Chatter says.

“Neither is, of course, true,” he adds.

Bala Murali Krishna

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