Sunday, March 23, 2003
Interview with Bruce Brown, Chairman and CEO of Strix Systems
Bruce Brown is Chairman & CEO of Westlake Village-based Strix Systems (www.strixsystems.com), a venture-backed company that recently launched its wireless LAN system.
BK: What does Strix Systems do, and how do you fit into the wireless LAN landscape?
BB: We make wireless network systems for the enterprise, with a vision of "networks without wires." We envision unwiring the enterprise, making wireless networks with all the attributes of the familiar wired LAN such as security and management. But since the network is wireless, it has far more flexibility than the wired network it augments or replaces.
BK: How is your system different than standard WLAN gear?
Strix is not a standalone simple Access Point. Nor is it like some of the recently-announced WLAN switches (Symbol, Aruba, et al). Our differences are:
-We don't need Ethernet cables ... We can backhaul to the wired network, via wireless 802.11a.
-Access/One Network Nodes create a mesh network topology. The intelligence in each Network Node enables it to self-discover, self-tune and self-heal. Network Nodes can discover who their Neighbor Network Nodes are, and route around failure and continue to keep client devices connected to the network. Network Nodes are aware of which users are connected to which Network Nodes within the network, and can reduce broadcast traffic, by routing to the specific Network Node that it is needed on.
- The Network Node is composed of modules, and therefore can contain multiple RF technologies. Users can mix and match the modules to meet their specific needs. For example, within one Network Node, you could stack 802.11b and 802.11a and Bluetooth, for serving notebooks, power user desktops, as well as power-sensitive PDAs. In the future, if you prefer 802.11g over 802.11b, you can simply swap out that 802.11b module, and retain your investment in the other modules. No other product can do this.
-We don't have a single controller or switch through which all traffic must pass (thereby introducing a potential single point of failure). Instead, we have a distributed architecture. Because of this distributed architecture, our scalability is also better, due to the fact that the number of Network Controller modules scales increases proportionately with the number of Network Nodes deployed. Other products require the purchase of additional switches.
BK: What is your background, and why did you start Strix Systems?
BB: My background is executive management, with experience in data communications and telecom systems. I started Strix Systems to bring together a team of people who worked with me in the past and who could build a company to realize our vision of networks without wires.
BK: Is this your first startup, or do you consider yourself a serial entrepreneur?
BB: I have been involved in a total of four venture backed and entrepreneurial companies. I don't think I want to be called a serial entrepreneur, however, as I have been involved with more mainstream companies in between projects.
BK: How long have you been developing your product, and how far along are you in bringing your product to market?
BB: We began development of the network system last year when we created the wireless mesh network features. We have early product in customer trials, and we're deploying new systems over the next few months. We've signed up a manufacturing partner and are moving quickly to build volume production capability.
BK: Who else is on your team, and what are their backgrounds?
BB: The team includes Gordon Almquist, a CFO with strong high-tech business experience; Cyrus Irani, a Business Development executive with prior CEO experience in telecom; Bob Jordan, a Marketing executive with datacomm and optical experience; Leonid Kalika, our R&D head and chief inventor, with experience in real-time embedded software systems; and Brian Ronald, our Operations executive with experience in high-volume, low-cost manufacturing.
BK: Who are your financial backers, and where are you in terms of funding?
BB: We're backed by Palomar Ventures and El Dorado Ventures, with a corporate investment by Siemens. We have raised a total of $19 million, which is sufficient to take us through development and into volume production, and we expect to raise a final round later this year.
BK: Finally, what has been the most difficult part so far in getting Strix off and running?
BB: The most difficult thing has been the development of the technology. We have had to solve some very difficult problems to make our system adaptive and seem simple while actually being very complex. In addition, the venture funding environment became very tight along the way, so raising capital was more difficult than expected.