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TimeSys names permanent CEO

Apr 10, 2007 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

Embedded Linux development services specialist TimeSys has hired a highly accomplished CEO. Atul Bansal previously served as founding CEO and COO of Linux device-maker Laurel Networks, which sold for $88M in 2004 to Israeli telecom giant ECI.

Interim CEO Joe Raffa will remain board chairman. A partner in TimeSys investor Adams Capital, Raffa stepped in quickly last December following the resignation of long-time CEO and company investor Larry Weidman.

During his four months at TimeSys, Raffa led an aggressive CEO search effort that ultimately gave the nod to Bansal for his operational prowess, fundraising competence, experience as a customer using embedded Linux, and because he is “good on the execution side,” Raffa said.

A former TimeSys advisor, Bansal expressed excitement about the company's upside potential, even while soberly acknowledging that “no one has made money yet in this space.”

Bansal explained, “The messaging of the company needs to be improved. We need to become more recognized as an embedded Linux enablement company, versus a real-time operating system vendor.”

TimeSys was founded more than a decade ago, and originally provided a vertically oriented Linux distribution aimed at industrial and real-time applications. The company two years ago adopted a more horizontal business model, in which it offers subscriptions to continuously updated, tested binaries from which developers can assemble custom embedded Linux distributions.

Bansal noted, “Sixty percent of people are rolling their own Linux. They figure out that it's not easy. Our LinuxLink service excels at providing a good starting point [for embedded developers].”

Bansal added, “There's a lot of innovation in open source, but how do you harness open source innovation into devices as quickly as possible? At TimeSys, we are delivering that base for innovation under a subscription model.”

In addition to software innovation, TimeSys aims to support innovative hardware. Noting that semiconductor vendors bring up Linux first on new silicon, Raffa explained, “The position we are trying to earn with semiconductor companies is to be involved in processor bring-up, in order to gain access to preliminary patches and build the patches back into our own repository.”

Bansal said he chose to use embedded Linux in 1999, shortly after founding Laurel Networks. Because the company's edge routing equipment required constant updates — unlike, say, a consumer device such as a phone — Laurel switched from the MontaVista Linux OS that came with its chosen single-board computer to a home-grown solution. Bansal said, “We ended up rolling our own, because the support wasn't there [for what we wanted to do].”

Other TimeSys initiatives

In addition to hiring Bansal, Raffa put in place measures to staff TimeSys up by 50 percent, across all departments, including engineering, sales, and marketing. Raffa said, “What's exciting about TimeSys is that it is exploiting a few discontinuities, [including] open source, software-as-a-service, and the automation and intelligence of our 'factory,' as far as the hunting-and-gathering of software components, and our software cross-building and testing systems.”

Raffa was also encouraged by a pattern he observed in which large companies bought extensive LinuxLink bundles, after observing the success that individual project teams had using the service to ship products quickly with reduced engineering risk. He said, “We have opportunities to help small single projects over the Web, but also to aggregate demand inside of large companies.”

In order to better serve larger customers, TimeSys has begun to staff up a direct sales team under Lisa Frankovitch, another Adams Capital employee “on loan” to the company. Raffa said, “We have the beginnings [of a sales team] now, and we're beginning to expand that. Lisa is full time now — essentially working as interim VP of Sales — but will eventually replace herself with a sales executive.”

In related news, TimeSys on March 30 announced the appointment of Edward Nash, an embedded industry veteran of 20 years, to the post of vice president of engineering. Nash is charged with ensuring the company “delivers on-demand access to continuously updated processor-optimized Linux packages, components and tools,” the company said.

Adams Capital has invested about $30 million in TimeSys to date, Raffa said. The company currently has between 30 and 35 full time employees, not counting contract relationships with additional engineering and open source development personnel.

In a statement, Bansal said, “TimeSys has enormous potential and delivers an innovative service that is unmatched in the embedded Linux industry. The company is positioned very well for success due to its unique business model, automation and alignment with customer's development processes, as well as the expertise of a dedicated group of employees. This is an exciting opportunity that leverages my experience in bringing Linux-based telecommunications platforms to market.”

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