Intransa Trades In CEO

IP SAN startup gets new boss following months of executive turnover

July 12, 2005

3 Min Read
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Change at iSCSI SAN startup Intransa Inc. reached the top today when Tom Alexander replaced Avi Katz as CEO (see Intransa Changes CEOs).

Alexander joins Intransa from one of its VCs, U.S. Venture Partners. He was also CEO of optical networking startup LuxN when it was purchased by Sorrento Networks in 2003 (see Sorrento Bids for LuxN and Sorrento Completes LuxN Buy).

Intransa has been in a state of flux for months, as defections left the company scrambling for new talent while the IP SAN market was heating up. Doug Rainbolt joined as marketing VP in April and Nitin Donde signed on as engineering VP in May to replace execs who departed earlier in the year (see Intransa's in Transition and Intransa Appoints Engineering VP).

People close to Intransa have speculated for months that Katz would be sent packing to try and stabilize the ship. Today, that finally happened. According to Eric Benhamou, who is chairman of 3Com Corp. (Nasdaq: COMS) and has been chairman of Intransa since it started in 2000, it was time to find a CEO with different skill sets.” He says Intransa’s situation is different than when Katz joined in 2003, when the iSCSI market barely existed (see Intransa Lands a Third CEO).

“When Avi was recruited into the company, we didn’t have a product yet,” Benhamou says. “Building a startup is like a relay race, and different people play different roles in different legs. We need somebody with different skill sets now.”Alexander considers his skill sets to be primarily sales and marketing, despite his having worked for a VC firm and holding an engineering degree. He says the major changes at Intransa are over for now, and he’s committed to working with Rainbolt and Donde.

“They are long-time Intransa employees compared to me,” Alexander says of two VPs whose combined tenure at Intransa totals less than five months. “I am relying on them.”

Benhamou says Rainbolt and Donde were hired for their storage expertise. Rainbolt was a VP at switch vendors Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) and McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDTA), and Donde was senior director of engineering at 3PAR before joining Intransa.

The storage landscape has shifted for iSCSI over the past year as the market has opened up. IP pioneers such as Intransa, EqualLogic Inc., and LeftHand Networks Inc. increasingly face competition from established Fibre Channel vendors such as Dell Inc. (Nasdaq: DELL), EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC), and Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP). (See EMC Rolls Out IP SAN, NetApp Banks on iSCSI, and SAN Ceasefire!)

That's why stability is important for Intransa if it is going to compete successfully in a blooming market. Alexander says Intransa’s strategy is to leverage its global presence – especially in India and China – and build revenue from software licensing (see Intransa Expands in Asia & Europe). Last month HCL Infosystems Ltd. of India said it would sell IP SANs consisting of Intransa’s StorControl software running on its servers (see Intransa Signs Indian OEM Partner).Alexander says he was not directly involved with Intransa before Benhamou recruited him. He was attracted by the potential of iSCSI, though. “I could see a lot of dollars in front of my eyes,” he says.

For now, he’s counting on those dollars coming from sales rather than his friends in the VC world. Alexander says he hopes Intransa will not have to do another funding round, but he anticipates no problem raising money if he has to. LuxN brought in more than $185 million in funding, and Alexander figures he can talk his old firm into putting up more money.

“My priority is to grow revenue,” he says. “However, if funding is needed, we are supported by good VC firms and I have an association with them.” Intransa has raised $74 million, including a $25 million round last August (see Intransa Scores $25M).

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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