Is Movik Networks the Next Starent? A Chat with Highland VC Sean Dalton

Here in Boston we can get a little provincial. It’s us against them, East Coast vs. West Coast, Boston vs. New York, the list goes on. This focus on local applies to the tech community as much as anything else: Who’s leading the resurgence of Boston startups? Why don’t Boston VCs invest in more local companies? Is New York going to eat our lunch? How do we keep the next Facebook here?

These are all fair concerns, but let’s think bigger. Geography need not limit the opportunities for innovators, even if they are based here. (Maybe especially if they’re based here.) Certainly in fields like cleantech and energy, opportunities abound in China, as seized by local companies such as GreatPoint Energy, Boston-Power, and A123Systems.

On the tech side, plenty of Boston startups are thinking global. Jana (mobile marketing), Yottaa (Web optimizing), PeerTransfer (global payments), and Movik Networks (mobile content delivery) are a few that come to mind. It’s the last one that I’d like to take a look at here, with some historical context and investor perspective.

Westford, MA-based Movik Networks started in 2006 (formerly called Lyra Networks). The company has developed networking technology for helping wireless operators distribute content like websites and video to subscribers’ mobile devices more efficiently. What’s intriguing is that some are calling the company “Starent 2”—partly because of its global focus and strategy.

Starent Networks would be the Boston-area mobile tech company that started in 2000, went public in 2007, and got bought by Cisco for $2.9 billion in 2009. That company went after the Asian market for wireless data infrastructure, choosing to focus on the CDMA wireless standard (which was only 25 percent of the global market) rather than GSM (used in Europe, and 75 percent of the market). CDMA turned out to be lower-risk for mobile operators—they could use the same infrastructure for voice, unlike GSM, if the data business didn’t take off—and Starent was able to beat out Cisco and 3Com for a big partnership with Samsung, which helped catapult the company to success. (You can see an in-depth chat with Starent founder and serial entrepreneur Ash Dahod here.)

At a high level, Movik is following the same playbook. For starters, the company has Sean Dalton, a general partner with Highland Capital Partners, as one of its key investors. Dalton led Highland’s investment in Starent and served on its board. Movik is led by CEO John St. Amand, a been-there-done-that telecom veteran from Alcatel-Lucent and Telica (another Highland investment). Also, Movik has established a major R&D facility in India, like Starent  … Next Page »

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