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Selina Lo sees what others can’t. In the highly competitive technology sector, Selina is adept at identifying new opportunities and creating products to capitalize on those markets. From her first startup, Centillion Networks, which she sold to Bay Networks for $145 million, to her IPO of Alteon WebSystems that eventually brought $7.8 billion from Nortel, Selina’s name has become synonymous with innovation in the world of computer networking. Today, she is the President and CEO of Ruckus Wireless, a company she co-founded in 2004 that experienced a staggering growth rate of 4,540% from 2005 – 2008 and generated $40 million in annual revenue last year.
Hong-Kong born, Selina graduated from the University of California at Berkley in 1982 with a degree in computer science. After working for a real estate investment company after college, she moved to Hewlett-Packard where she was part of the start-up team that helped launch UNIX-based products for use in commercial applications.
Hewlett-Packard then moved Selina to help deliver its first network management platform product, OpenView. Although a highly successful member of the team, she missed seeing the impact of her product on the customer. As a result, Selina left Hewlett-Packard to work for NET, a global network equipment manufacturer, but in the early 1990s the company wasn’t doing well.
Frustrated and wanting to do a startup, Selina left NET in 1993 and co-founded Centillion Networks, Inc. Funded by venture capitalists, Centillion introduced the first token ring Ethernet switch. As the Vice-President of Marketing, within six quarters Selina took Centillion from a company launched for less than $6 million to one picked up by Bay Networks for $145 million. According to Selina, “Everyone got a nice return and I created name recognition.”
Selina remained at Bay Networks for a year to integrate Centillion’s switch into Bay’s product portfolio. In 1995, she joined Alteon WebSystems, a company of 20 people. During her six-year stay at Alteon as Vice-President of Marketing, Selina defined a completely new market, server load-balancing and grew the employee base to over 500. Within four years, Selina led the company through one of the most successful IPOs in NASDAQ history, after which Nortel purchased Alteon for $7.8 billion. That’s billion with a B.
As a result of Nortel acquiring Alteon, Selina became the vice-president and remained in that role for a year. After being out of the business spotlight for two years, Ruckus Wireless brought her out of retirement.
Selina was the third person added to Ruckus’ 2004 founding team and currently serves as its President and CEO. In this role, she leads the company’s creative, multi-faceted business and marketing strategies, which have resulted in deals with major value added resellers, distributors and telecommunications providers, and are driving Ruckus Wireless’ current success in the market. Based in Sunnyvale, CA, Ruckus Wireless developed “Smart Wi-Fi” which breaks the conventional barriers that have prevented the reliable transmission of wireless voice, video and data over standard 802.11 technology.
Since arriving on the scene in 2004, major publications consistently recognize Ruckus Wireless for its innovations. Due to Selina’s leadership and inventive foresight, the company has been named a 2009 CRN Emerging Technology Vendor, earned the number 26 spot on the 2009 Inc. 500 list of Fastest Growing Private Companies, garnered PC.com’s Editor’s Choice, awarded 2008 Tech Innovator of the Year by VAR Business, recognized as ACE Award’s 2007 Startup of the Year and cited as a Fast Company 2006 Fast Business.
What we learned from Selina: “I’ve needed to learn patience, specifically the right point between being too patient and too impatient. I’m not a patient person and I’m sure I drove half the people at Alteon crazy. I was the task master, always cracking the whip. I was paranoid, always thinking we’d lose an account. But being a CEO taught me patience and with age, I’ve gotten mellow.”
Smile! You’re in Management
“I learned that when you’re in management, employees look to you as a barometer for how the company is doing. I once had an employee tell me, ‘You need to smile more. You’re making people nervous.’ Sometimes, I need to restrain myself and not let my worries show.”
Learning to Scale
“Scaling a company from a very, very small organization to mid-size is challenging. When the business is small, there are more things to do, and not enough players. There’s no room for marginal people, you’re working with all aces. There are also no organizational boundaries. When growing a company, you run into those who aren’t as invested, and a hierarchy develops. It affects the company.”
Create Your Place in the Market
“At Hewlett-Packard I learned that if you can’t be number one, two or three in the market, create a sub-segment and be number one, two or three there…or don’t play. Launching is only the first step. You have to keep the noise level up and get your name out there. The key is to take a boring story and make it exciting.”