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Former Procket CEO stokes his latest start-up

Randall Kruep, who helped Procket raise more than $200 million in venture funding, eyes union of cellular and Wi-Fi tech.

Master salesman Randall Kruep, who led sales efforts at Redback Networks in its heyday and helped start-up Procket Networks raise more than $200 million in venture funding, is at it again.

Kruep is now CEO of a new start-up called Stoke, according to several sources in Silicon Valley. The company, which has gotten seed funding from prominent venture capital firms Sequoia Capital and Kleiner Perkins, is still in stealth mode.

Stoke's Web site says it is a "telecommunications company focused on designing and manufacturing a new category of service delivery infrastructure that enables fixed mobile convergence and supports any service over any infrastructure using any consumer device."

More specifically, the Mountain View, Calif.-based company is focusing on building products that telephone operators can use to allow wireless users to roam between cellular and Wi-Fi networks in their homes, offices or public hot spots, say sources.

Stoke isn?t the only company working on products that will help carriers link cellular and Wi-Fi networks. Several others including Kineto Wireless, NewStep Networks, and BridgePort Networks are also tackling this problem.

Even though Stoke won't be first to market, it's still early days for the technology, said Craig Mathias, a principal at Farpoint Group, a consultancy specializing in wireless and mobile technologies. Only a handful of companies are even making dual-mode mobile phones capable of roaming between cellular and Wi-Fi networks.

Mathias predicts that cell-to-Wi-Fi technology will help wireless phone companies expand their footprints and sell service to enterprise customers, who could do away entirely with their existing landline phone system.

"You could have one device that does it all," he said. "Companies wouldn't need to put a phone on every desk. They could get rid of their PBX or their land line carrier for that matter. It's a major shift in the whole telecommunications environment."

If anyone can sell Stoke's technology to the carrier market, Kruep can. He has a history of selling start-ups not only to tough customers such as large telephone companies, but also to the investment community.

In 1997, he joined Redback Networks, a scrappy start-up that had developed a new category of broadband subscriber management gear for telephone companies. As senior vice president of sales, he built an impressive sales team that won accounts with nearly all the major telecom carriers in North America.

In 2001, he left Redback and became CEO of one of the most hyped companies in Silicon Valley, routing start-up Procket Networks. During his tenure at Procket, he was instrumental in selling the start-up's mystic to the venture capital community and to Asian carriers, but he was never able to pull off a big win for the company in a United States-based telephone network. Kruep left Procket in June 2003, exactly a year before the company was sold to Cisco Systems for $89 million.

"Randall is a great promoter and sales executive," said one venture capitalist in the Valley who didn?t want to be identified. "If anyone can sell this product, it would be Randall. He was able to sell the Redback product to carriers even when it still had some problems. And that was largely due to his skill as a salesman."