Four optical start-ups plan collaboration

Adding another wrinkle to the optical networking investment craze, a new incubator is set to announce a quartet of start-ups that plan to create complementary technologies.

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A new networking incubator will add another wrinkle to the optical networking investment craze Monday, announcing a quartet of newly funded start-ups that plan to create technologies that complement one another.

The Iris Group's approach is based on the vision of Michael Zadikian and Zareh Baghdasarian, two co-founders of Monterey Networks. Monterey, an early optical start-up, was acquired by Cisco Systems last year in a $500 million deal.

What is novel about the Iris Group's approach is that all of the funded start-ups will adhere to a common set of networking concepts to build optical equipment that can work together and can take advantage of common technologies, Zadikian said. Iris Labs will provide a common set of network software for the start-ups.

The Iris Group has amassed $100 million in investments from a variety of venture capital firms such as the Mayfield Fund and Sevin Rosen Funds, among others. As a result, Iris Group's research arm, Iris Labs, garnered $7.5 million; Metera Networks got $24 million in initial funding; and Latus Lightworks reaped a $28.1 million windfall. A fourth start-up, Coree Networks, is expected to close initial funding soon.

Iris Group members will remain legally separate entities, according to the company.

Though details are sparse, all the equipment start-ups will target various niches in optical networking, a market that has received unprecedented funding in recent years as telecommunications companies look to upgrade their networks with faster and more versatile technologies.

Separately, Agility Communications, a start-up maker of optical tunable-laser technology for fiber-optic networks, has received $70 million in second-round financing from Amerindo Investment Advisors and Berkeley International Capital, among others.