Interview: Sreen Raghavan, President and CEO, Vativ Technologies

Sreen Raghavan is President and CEO of San Diego-based Vativ Technologies (, a startup in the 10Gb Ethernet over Copper market. Vativ recently released closed a Series B funding round and announced availability of its products. Sreen was previously co-founder and CTO of ComCore Semiconductor, which was acquired by National Semiconductor in 1998. I spoke to Sreen about his new company.

BK: It seems like the 10G over copper market seems to be heating up -- where does Vativ fit into the market, and what are your advantages over the others for 10G copper transceivers?

SR: Vativ's V10LAN is unique in the marketplace in that it is the only single chip 10Gb/s Ethernet Transceiver for Cat5e and Cat6 cables. The V10LAN is targeted for low cost short reach stacking and uplinking applications in the datacenter. It replaces expensive, difficult to manage data center technologies such as short reach 10G optical solutions & CX4 based solutions.

We believe that V10LAN is the ideal solution for data center switching & server 10G back-bone applications as it is available in a XENPAK module form and our customers can seamlessly integrate their existing solutions with our product.

BK: Is Vativ shipping its technology yet, and when do you expect products to hit end users that incorporate your technology?

SR: Vativ is sampling V10LAN to multiple customers. We expect V10LAN to be in volume production by early Q3 2005.

BK: How does your 10G over copper technology fit into the efforts in 10GBase-T?

SR: We do not believe that 10GBASE-T is a viable solution for data center applications. 10GBASE-T is targeted for 100m reach with CAT-7 cables (shielded twisted pair). It is being touted as a desktop solution. We do not believe that there is a viable market for 10GBASE-T. First and foremost, since it requires new cabling installations, it cannot be used with existing wiring in the building. In addition, we expect that 10GBASE-T will not be practical or compatible with existing system designs due to the high power consumption of the devices (estimated to be ~ 15W per port in 65 nm CMOS technology). It is also not a scalable solution because it will never fit into an MSA module due to high power consumption. An equally important consideration is that due to the complexity of the architecture and the high power, silicon solutions will be large and require expensive packaging coupled with advanced thermal management. As a result, the overall packaged die cost will be prohibitively high for the foreseeable future. Finally, due to the timing of the standard development, the relative difficulty of the circuit design and the availability of 65nm and 45nm CMOS technology, products won't be available before late 2008. If it requires new cables, very expensive (even compared to optical), very high power (15W per port), and too late (not before 2009), you have to ask yourself the question: Why bother?

BK: You had a great success as CTO of ComCore and a quick acquisition by National Semiconductor. Why did you decide to start on another startup?

SR: After I left National, I saw a great market opportunity in providing multi-gigabit per second copper interconnect solutions using our innovative DSP technology. Until then, this problem has been solved with "black magic" serial analog techniques, and these techniques were beginning to hit a "data throughput efficiency wall" because the bandwidth of a copper cable is quite limited. By using advanced modulation & coding algorithms, and implementing transceivers using high performance DSP, we solved the problem.

BK: How has the "second time around" as the head of startup been? Has it been any easier than your first item?

SR: It has been a learning experience to lead the company. I have received great support and advice from an outstanding set of investors. I am really fortunate in this regard. I am enjoying the challenge of building a successful company from the ground-up.

The funding environment is significantly tougher this time around compared to last time. However, companies with truly outstanding products addressing an important market need are able to attract funding and thrive in this environment. To succeed, startups must be disciplined, conserve cash, and execute their product & business plans in a timely manner. I am simply focused on making Vativ a profitable growth company, and we are on a solid track to accomplish our goal. I believe that the rest will take care of itself.

BK: Thanks!


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