Wednesday, January 4, 2006

NetCentrex Changes CEOs/Expands in U.S.

I don't often comment on the comings and goings of industry people, but this one did catch my eye. I've had some good history with NetCentrex, both as an analyst at Frost & Sullivan, and in my current life as an indie consultant.

NetCentrex has emerged as a strong player in the Application Server space, where BroadSoft and Sylantro are the major pureplays. They all have widely deployed hosted/managed IP platforms that enable carriers to offer all types of nextgen services. NetCentrex has staked its claim in the video space and are in my view the leading vendor offering Triple Play solutions. They've been quite successful in Europe, most notably with FastWeb in Italy. They're less well known -and I would say not as well understood in North America, and I think that's what's behind the news.

Today, NetCentrex announced two major changes - a new CEO and an East coast office - both seemingly driven by the need to establish themselves more in the U.S., which is poised now for the kind of adoption NetCentrex has been experiencing in Europe.

As the release explains, David Michaud takes over from Alain Fernando-Santana as CEO, who is "pursuing other industry projects". Alain has certainly done a lot to productize his Triple Play vision, but it looks like the company wants a stronger sales focus at the top. In that regard, David Michaud seems to fit the bill. He's got a strong track record building up companies like NexTone, Taqua and Excel Switching, and it sure looks like NetCentrex hopes he can do the same here.

To give him the horses, they've opened an East coast office in Massachusetts, where he's based, as well as other key people he's building his team around. This will be a Sales and Marketing operation, and strategically it makes sense, as it gives them a presence in the dense Northeast, where a lot of large Triple Play deployments should be coming in the near future. This will complement their U.S. presence in San Jose, which as far as I know will remain intact - at least for now. That said, it's not hard to see how they felt the need to have an East coast presence to be close to where the action is for their forte.

In the bigger scheme of things, I think this story is indicative of the kind of moves we'll be seeing quite a lot this year among the startup vendors. Most of these companies are private, but are reaching the point now where they have to get to the next level, especially as the IP space goes through a natural phase of consolidation.

It's all part of the jockeying they need to do, as only a couple of vendors will likely come out big winners within any given vertical segment. With BroadSoft and Sylantro having continued success, my take is that NetCentrex needed to make some moves to stay in the U.S. race.

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