Cradlepoint's chief executive responds to Cisco's claim that it propped up Cradlepoint, talks collaborating with Cisco's rivals, and why 5G will help its new expansion plans in western Europe
"We need to all be honest. For too long, we have walked Cradlepoint into our accounts - into Cisco accounts."
That was Todd Nightingale, the SVP of Cisco Meraki, the vendor's cloud managed networking solution.
Speaking in Las Vegas at Cisco's annual conference, Nightingale's dismissive comments came as he launched Meraki Gateway MG21; a brand-new product line for Cisco which fills a gap in its portfolio it has previously been plugging with Cradlepoint products.
Yet George Mulhern, Cradlepoint's CEO, insists that Cisco's new Meraki offering is not a threat.
For him, it's "a validation that even Cisco can see that the wireless WAN market is going to enjoy huge growth over the next few years."
But Mulhern was eager to dispel any ideas that Cisco has been propping up Cradlepoint in the wireless WAN space.
"I need to correct that statement. [Cisco] has never ‘walked' us into an account. Customers ask for us."
Cisco's Meraki Gateway launch has effectively killed off its partnership with Cradlepoint. As the two firms have parted ways, Mulhern is gearing up for a David versus Goliath-style rivalry with his erstwhile fellow US vendor.
And he won't be alone. He's told CPI that since Cisco's Meraki move, three large networking companies have approached Cradlepoint.
"We're collaborating now…They've come to us - not Cisco - and they are working with us to provide our LTE solution within their own solutions; to provide that deeper integration. It's in the exploratory phases but it is exciting news for us," he said.
"So, we won't be fighting this alone", he added. "Though obviously we're taking it very seriously when a big competitor is saying they're going to target Cradlepoint."
However, Cradlepoint, with a reported $200m in revenues, taking on the might of Cisco's $49bn-sales machine is still ambitious to say the least.
Yet, Mulhern is quick to point out the obvious, that Cisco has many fingers in many pies. And when it comes to the wireless WAN market, he insists that it's Cisco that is playing catch-up.
"These big firms, like Cisco and Juniper, they were our size once," he said.
"But what they did was find a solution that really spoke to the needs in the market and a big star was born.
"Look at where we are already: Cradlepoint is the leader in this space. Others discounted LTE a few years ago, but without LTE there would have been no Uber, for example"
He added. "In the US we are now deployed in 50 per cent of the Fortune 100 companies, and 75 per cent of the world's top retailers. And we're just at the start of our EMEA expansion journey."
To that end, Mulhern recruited James Bristow a couple of weeks ago as his new SVP EMEA.
Formerly of Infovista and Broadsoft (now part of Cisco), Bristow heads up a team of 16 based in the UK.
Cradlepoint's EMEA and APAC business currently accounts for just ten per cent of annual revenues.
"Look - we are just at the beginning, and obviously we're looking to grow that. We're also going to double our headcount over the next year," he said.
"Nobody else has built the value add that we have in this space. And we are recruiting, looking for great partners with a deep experience in networking and with telcos to help us.
"Geographically we are going to target those economies with the highest GDP, so that's the UK, Germany and France. And out top verticals are retail, health care, finance, insurance, and then there's a lot of public sector use cases, particularly with the emergency services.
He added: "Obviously with 5G and IoT we're providing a lot to enable smart cities, municipal buses - we're looking for the low hanging fruit that will help us to grow fast. Our TAM is multi-billion dollars already."
For both Mulhern and Bristow, their market is set to be gain momentum as more businesses embrace 5G.
Cradlepoint is partnering with carriers Verizon and Telstra to enable Gigabit LTE and 5G for enterprise, yet Bristow said that progress in Europe has been slower than in Asia or the US.
"We're really in the infancy but it is going to be deployed in a way that is going to be a game-changer. The applications aren't there yet.
"But why wait for that? To futureproof 5G, accelerate your LTE now. If you don't invest in LTE now, you won't be ready for 5G."
"Our view is anything that can be wireless, will be wireless in the near future. And that's going to be good for business."