“Middle-of-the-road” is not a phrase that comes to mind when talking about Selina Lo, the high-profile CEO of Ruckus Wireless. But the middle of the road is exactly where Lo’s company found the route to success with its Wi-Fi hardware, software and services. “We were one of the first to focus on the mid-tier enterprise,” says Lo. “Prior to Ruckus coming into the market in 2008, if you looked at Cisco, Aruba, and HP, they were all chasing tier-one universities and Fortune 1000 companies. We were the first to say ‘we want to go after the mid-tier enterprise.’ ”
The strategy clearly paid off. Last year, revenue at Ruckus doubled to $120 million, and this year the company is said to be talking to some of Wall Street’s most prestigious underwriters about an IPO. Lo is no stranger to the world of corporate finance; she was a VP at Alteon WebSystems when that company went public, and was a key player in the $7.8 billion sale of Alteon to Nortel Networks.
Now Lo is on a mission to bring Wi-Fi connectivity to everyone. “Wi-Fi is the new Ethernet,” Lo told RCR Wireless News. “The new generation, when they sit down in a public place, they look for Wi-Fi first. All public facing enterprises are finding it necessary to offer Wi-Fi hotspots.” Lo thinks the trend toward Wi-Fi-only devices will accelerate during the next five years. “More people are going to carry devices that do not have an Ethernet port,” she says.
While more and more companies now see Wi-Fi as a cost of doing business, many also see a revenue opportunity. Retailers are especially interested in using Wi-Fi networks to deliver real-time promotions to customers in their stores. “Since Wi-Fi is the de facto indoor solution for wireless, if we want any of the commercial apps to work such as coupon sending and promotions and payments, we need to do a much better job with location services,” says Lo. Ruckus is working on new software that will help pinpoint a network users’ exact location. “Our partners are very interested but they haven’t seen the applications that are going to make this a new revenue stream, but I think they are going to see that emerge by the end of this year,” says Lo.
Ruckus is also focused on international growth. The company is projecting that half of all Latin American businesses will have indoor access to the Internet within three to four years, and is working hard to develop Latin American clients.
Ruckus won’t comment on the timing of a possible IPO, but Lo does expect her company to make some headlines this year one way or another. “We like to make a ruckus,” she says, “so there will be news… I can just promise that there will be news.”
Selina Lo has been chosen by RCR Wireless News as one of the Top 10 Women in Wireless for 2012. Look for this feature report later this month.
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