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Khosla's Back, Backing Stealth Startup

Its been a whirlwind first week for Darren Thomas, former VP of Compaq Computer Corp.’s (NYSE: CPQ) enterprise storage group, now the president and CEO of storage networking startup,
Zambeel Inc.

Thomas got the job thanks to legendary Silicon Valley VC, Vinod Khosla, general partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the lead investor in Zambeel’s first round, which raised $26.5 million earlier this year. New Enterprise Associates (NEA) and Integral Capital Partners also participated, and Zambeel expects to close another round any day now.

Khosla convinced Thomas to take the CEO’s job at Zambeel, and now Thomas wants Khosla to serve on the board. “I want to keep him on a close string,” he says, “although they already drop his name around here like he’s a local employee.” Khosla is currently on sabbatical but told Byte and Switch Zambeel is “a top play” in the Kleiner Perkins portfolio.

With Redback Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: RBAK), Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR), and Cerent -- sold to Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) for a whopping $7.2 billion -- under Khosla's belt, it’s easy to see why Zambeel is keen to have him in the wings. (For more on Khosla, see BBO Files for Bankruptcy Protection.)

Either way, Thomas has big plans for Zambeel. “We can do in one year here, what it will take them three years to do at Compaq,” he claims.