ClearPath Networks has had to lay off nearly a dozen employees because of some difficulties with its investment situation.
The 14-year-old company, which in recent years became a network functions virtualization (NFV) play, has raised about $34.5 million, primarily from one angel investor. But now that undisclosed investor needs to pull out of its investment activities and has asked ClearPath to seek additional funding somewhere else.
“This was not due in any way to the company. The company’s doing great,” ClearPath CEO Cliff Young says.
However, the abrupt departure of its primary investor at the end of 2015 left ClearPath scrambling to redo its budget for 2016. The company was forced to find cost savings via the layoffs. It will also be doing less marketing this year and be less involved in industry associations and open source groups in which it’s been very active, including the OpenDaylight Project, ETSI, and the Open Networking Foundation (ONF).
Young says the company has service provider and enterprise customers whose revenues, along with the recent cost cuts, will keep the company afloat. Named service provider customers include Deutsche Telekom, Hrvatski Telekom in Croatia, and BT.
The VC Situation
The venture investors are concerned about “the operators’ ability to do this quickly,” he says.
Even though big operators such as AT&T and CenturyLink have vowed to virtualize the majority of their networks by 2020, this still isn’t specific enough for investors, apparently. They want to know margin projections and timing of profits.
Young says the enterprise side is closer to a revenue model, with its software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN) products.
Although ClearPath has both enterprise and service provider customers, Young says, “I think investors see us as a service provider-centric NFV player. I believe the industry leaders, especially service providers, need to be more proactive in stimulating investment.”
There seems to be a pretty obvious lesson here about not relying on a single investor. But Young says the angel investor gave ClearPath a lot of flexibility and allowed it to “play deeply in the NFV space,” while a group of investors would likely have forced the company toward the enterprise space.