Data communication products connecting computers to ISDN.
Information Technology, Electronics
NEA Board Members:
Ascend Communications, Inc.
Mory Ejabat joined Ascend Communications in 1990 and was named
President and CEO in 1995. With their first round of funding in place,
Ascend was moving quickly to complete their initial product offerings
and go to market. The business plan was nearly final and they were in
search of their second round of funding.
Why We Invested
Dick Kramlich, who led NEA's investment in the company, first
recognized the balance and depth of Ascend's management team. Add to
that a promising suite of network products and a growing market and
Dick knew he had a potential home run.
Things are not always as they seem. After completing the Series B funding and appointing Dick as a director, the Ascend Management team met to brief the board. With some trepidation, the team presented a plan that fundamentally differed from what was presented to NEA during the funding process. In the intervening months, they recognized the Internet as an infinitely more promising market than the less dynamic sector they had originally targeted.
Dick's reaction? He literally threw the original business plan over his shoulder. Thus began a great working relationship. The entire group immediately began work to shift their business strategy and take advantage of the eruption of opportunities surrounding the Internet.
Ultimately, Ascend produced three types of network access products. Their MAX products were used for WAN access, multimedia access and Internet access facilities. Their pipeline products were used for remote office access and internet access telecommunication. And, their multi-band products were used for multimedia networks.
NEA guided Ascend through a highly successful IPO (NASDAQ: ASND) followed a few years later by a merger with Lucent Technologies. The merger of Ascend and Lucent created the industry's broadest, most powerful and most reliable data networking product line.
Why It Worked
Three key factors combined to make Ascend a success. First, they were agile. A new market appeared and they moved quickly to take advantage. Second, both Ascend and NEA were flexible. It's one thing to create and execute a business plan. It's quite another to shift product, market and business strategies in mid-stream. Especially when you sold your venture partner a completely different bill of goods. Finally, all parties forged a close working relationship that allowed them to, on the fly, craft a new product offering for a rapidly changing marketplace.
Today, Mory is CEO of Zhone, his second stint at an NEA funded company.
What The Entrepreneur Says
Dick was one of our earliest directors and remained on our Board until we sold the company - a measure of his commitment to our long-term success. Dick really does his homework, too. When he was at a Board meeting, he was current and knowledgeable. We also found that NEA could move fast. Quick, decisive actions were vital in the fast-moving markets we served.
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