After I left Sun in May of 1994, I became an Entrepreneur-in-Residence with Mohr, Davidow Ventures. My good friend Jon Feiber (Amdahl & Sun) had left Sun to become a venture capitalist there.
The job of an EIR is ill-defined, but it hopefully leads to a company. I had a couple of ideas I thought were worth pursuing, so, ensconced alone in an office annex of MDV, I spent a few months noodling (and getting on a first name basis with the squirrels outside my window).
By November, the idea for Ipsilon was well developed and vetted with a handful of people. First person outside of MDV to hear the pitch was Hermann Hauser of Cambridge/Acorn/ARM fame, who happened to be visiting MDV. As I recall, he was pretty neutral about the idea. Check out the original “pitch”:
Anyways, with Jon’s friend Andy Rachleff, then of Merrill, Pickard, Anderson & Eyre, we put together a $3.5M series A financing and I was off to the races. My first hire was Cyndi Jung, also of Sun, who is a world-class executive assistant, organizer, and socializer; things that I am not.
Andy Rachleff had met Brian Nesmith, then of Newbridge Networks, who was also already working with ATM. We recruited him to be CEO, and by the time he joined I had already recruited a bunch of *great* technical people. I don’t attempt trying to list them all for fear of omitting someone.
To aid in recruiting, we put out a T-shirt that proved to be Ipsilon’s most popular product. This would have been mid 1995 or so, and it had our original logo.
My original plan was just to be a software provider to hardware vendors with ATM switches, but Brian rightfully explained how that would put time-to-market completely outside of our control, so we brought on a very small hardware team (also *great*) who put together a simple ATM switch based on chips from MMC. Six months from start to finish, IIRC – amazing time.
By spring of 1996 we were ready to announce IP Switching as both an open architecture and a solid product line with ATM switch, Ethernet gateways, and host driver support. We took the best of show award at Interop in April.
The level of attention and hype around Ipsilon was astounding. Larry Blair, our VP of Marketing, was a magician with whipping up interest among press & analysts. But there was also a huge amount of interest in the technical community. Both ATM and IP people were very interested, and academics jumped into the fray also.
There is a huge amount more to the Ipsilon story, so stay tuned.