Affirmed Networks Exits Stealth, Seeks to Enable New Era of Mobile ServicesNovember 12, 2012
Boston Business Journal
by Kyle Alspach
Acton-based Affirmed Networks, a venture-backed mobile content and service delivery firm competing with the likes of Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Huawei, on Monday emerged from more than two years in stealth mode — during which time the company piloted its technology with numerous wireless providers and grew to a staff of 100.
Affirmed's CEO is Hassan Ahmed, formerly the chief executive of Sonus Networks (Nasdaq: SONS). In an interview, Ahmed said Affirmed offers software that aims to bring a new level of intelligence to wireless operators about how their mobile networks are being used.
The product seeks to enable wireless firms to use the intelligence to offer new mobile services to consumers, while also simplifying their networks and reducing capital costs, he said.
Affirmed, which is offering its software within off-the-shelf hardware, will compete with offerings from incumbents such as Cisco and Huawei, Ahmed said.
As demand for mobile content has surged, wireless firms have invested huge sums of money to build a network to meet the demand, he said. But "other than the subscription revenue they get from subscribers for a data plan, operators haven't really made much money off the services going over these networks. It's going to other players — over-the-top players, fast-moving Internet players," Ahmed said.
Mobile networks "haven't been intelligent enough to participate effectively here," he said. "But if we can add the intelligence and (allow them) to create services at Internet-like speeds, then the operators could play on the revenue side of this equation, and drive revenue from IP services."
For instance, wireless firms might gain new intelligence about which types of mobile devices using their networks, and build new services for delivering content and applications to mobile users, Ahmed said.
A main hindrance to delivering new services in the past was the complexity of re-programming all of the numerous pieces of equipment in the network; Affirmed aims to address that by replacing up to 10 different pieces of equipment with its product, Ahmed said.
Affirmed has trials in progress with a "very large number" of operators worldwide for the product, and some of the operators are approaching the transition from trial to commercial usage, he said. The names of the operators are not being disclosed currently.
Venture backers of the company are Charles River Ventures, Matrix Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Vodafone Ventures and T-Venture, the venture capital arm of Deutsche Telekom.
Ahmed said Affirmed has raised "a lot" of venture capital but declined to disclose the amount. (The company has reported raising $14 million in SEC filings, though the firm has likely raised significantly more for it to have a headcount of 100 prior to its commercial launch.)
Update 1:30 p.m.: An Affirmed Networks spokesperson said the company has raised $52 million in venture capital.
Affirmed Networks employs about 75 of its staff members at its Acton headquarters, with the remaining 25 employees in Europe and Asia.
The company was founded in April 2010 by six veterans of the telecom technology industry. The group includes Ahmed and Terry Durand, VP of carrier relations and business development at Affirmed, who previously led AT&T's launch of the iPhone as the company's VP of national data services delivery.
The other co-founders of Affirmed are VP of engineering Anand Krishnamurthy (formerly of Airvana and Alcatel Lucent); chief architect Tim Mortsolf (formerly of Starent, Redback and 3Com); VP of technology Paul Sherer (formerly of Cisco and 3Com); and VP of sales and operations Mohammed Shanableh (formerly of Sonus, Telica/Alcatel Lucent and WorldCom).
Rounding out Affirmed's executive team are two other veterans of both Starent and 3Com — VP of technology Matt Harper and VP of product management Amit Tiwari.
Ahmed was CEO of Westford-based Sonus Networks from 1999 to 2008, and went on from there to serve as a senior advisor at Charles River Ventures.
Affirmed waited until now to come out of stealth because "we didn't have much urgency to come out sooner," Ahmed said. "We knew all the operators anyway, so we didn't need a website to go meet these guys."