Kanwal Rekhi co-founded Excelan Inc. in January 1982 with Dr. Inder Singh and Navindra Jain. Excelan became a leading LAN firm; one built by first innovating “smart Ethernet” cards that unwittingly led the company down the path of doing way too many products. By fiscal year end 1984, Excelan had sales of $5.2 Million but a loss of $2.6 Million. The company had proven to lack the discipline to avert the financial problems created by their overly ambitious product strategy. The Board of Directors responded by removing Dr. Inder Singh as president and promoting Kanwal Rekhi to the position of interim president.
Rekhi immediately refocused and simplified the company’s product strategy to one of Ethernet boards with the TCP/IP protocol. The result was virtually instantaneous with sales doubling to $10.1 Million in 1985 with a small profit. 1986 was another great year with sales of $ 22.3 Million and profits of $3.5 Million. Anticipating another great year, the Board acted to dress up the company for an IPO they hoped would happen in early 1987. Concerned that having an Indian president would be viewed as a risk, they hired a successful HP executive, C. Richard Moore and went public in February of ’87. Under Moore’s leadership, the company’s sales began to slow down. After returning from a needed vacation to a “decidedly downbeat” mood at the company, Rekhi was able to add additional marketing spending that again boosted growth. The board began looking for an exit strategy later in ’87, and found one in Network Equipment Technologies (NET), which was interested in a merger. Before the merger, Moore left the company after a falling out, and the board appointed Rekhi CEO again to take his place. Rekhi was against the merger, however, and they called the deal off. Only a few months later, news became public that NET had been “cooking their books.”
In this interview, I was interested in learning more about Rekhi’s role at Zilog and Excelan and his early focus on TCP/IP and Ethernet, long before many of the other networking firms that were pursuing a much wider array of networking solutions. I was also interested in getting another perspective on Dan Lynch’s role as a consultant to Excelan and Rekhi’s view of Lynch’s Interop Conferences.
Keywords: Zilog, Excelan Inc, TCP/IP, Ethernet, Interop