Terry Brown and I developed the story after we had nailed down Cerent’s tag line--The Revolutionary Network Element—with our colleagues.
Once Terry and I crafted our company’s narrative, Terry delivered it at Cerent’s coming out party—Supercomm ’99—in Atlanta, Georgia. The Insider’s Breakfast presentation was delivered on a big screen in a massive conference room at the Wyndham Garden Hotel in downtown Atlanta.
It was an event to remember.
The presentation was oversubscribed, primarily because of the buzz Cerent and its product generated prior to the show.
Terry wrote the first draft of the state of Cerent and how the company’s product was built, with customers in mind, on May 17, 1999. Terry and I then went through many iterations of the content during the next three weeks, held a number of dry runs at the Wyndham that extended beyond midnight, and, by then, Terry had the content and context for the rise of Cerent down pat.
“One, how is it that a young, high-tech company from Petaluma, California is taking significant market share away from five of the world's largest telecommunications and data communications equipment providers?”
“Two, how is a single box the size of a small TV enabling savvy customers to better anticipate, evolve to, and even control their future?”
This captured the attention of the audience, especially new prospects curious about what Cerent could do for them in their optical transport network.
Terry intoned, “We listened.”
“For the answers to these two questions, let’s go back briefly to 1997 when three of us from Cerent—that young, high-tech Petaluma company—went on an extended road trip to find out what transport service providers really wanted. In all, we talked to more than 50 service providers . . .”
“Our conversations went something like this . . . ”
The service provider said, “We think we're fine.”
“Are you sure?”
The service provider thought twice, “Well, come to think of it, no. To get a DS1 circuit out of an OC-48 architecture is too complex. I have to stack boxes. And then data's really coming, and I've got no mechanism for offering data service out of here. We're running low on fiber. Also, everybody prices products the same way.”
“Actually, you talked, and we listened . . . ”
“This is what we learned: that you were tired of playing catch-up, tired of trying to cobble together solutions . . . ”
“Instead, you wanted an optical transport system that would enable you to evolve from where you were to where you wanted to be . . . wherever that may be . . . ,” that is, “from voice to voice and data; from cable operator to handling video transport.”
“And along the way, you wanted to reduce complexity, expand functionality and drive down costs . . . and maybe even enjoy some unexpected profit opportunities . . .”
“With your needs foremost in mind, and starting with a clean sheet of paper—not with a cash cow of legacy solutions we had to keep milking—we took a year and developed the solution you asked for . . . ”
“You know it as the Cerent 454. We like to think of it as the worlds first truly evolutionary optical transport platform . . .”
“[The] revolutionary network element . . . ”
After describing some of Cerent’s customers, the competition, and the company’s rapid growth rate, Terry said, “Today, we're already operating in the Metro, we're performing in inter-office networks, and we're adding value in the Wide Area Network. That's today's transport space . . .”
“Informed by your needs, our vision of tomorrow is to take you beyond that transport space, to expand and broaden our portfolio to enable you to expand and broaden your business and develop exciting new profit opportunities . . .”
“It’s a vision of more services. You’re already telling us you've never seen 12 DS-3s on a single card before. Well, get ready for even more impressive single card solutions going forward . . . ”
“It’s a vision of bandwidth expansion and management—to enable you to keep up with demand as it grows . . . whether it’s more pipe—as in more wavelengths, or scaling up to OC-768 bit rates—or integrating IP over glass, or [more bandwidth management capabilities and additional multi-service interfaces]. . .”
Terry continued with a number of planned developments for the Cerent 454, both near-term and long-term. Then he summarizes, “And as you requested, along the way we’re going to continue to help you reduce complexity, increase functionality, drive down costs, and realize new profit opportunities…”
“#1, because we listen, learn, innovate and deliver on your needs and on our promises.”
“#2, because we have something that customers want and our competitors don’t offer.”
“And, how is a single box no larger than a small TV enabling savvy customers to better anticipate, evolve to and even control their future?”
“#1, because that single box is the world’s first and best evolutionary optical transport system . . . and . . . ”
“#2, because it is so function-rich, easy and cost-effective to use, that it is nothing less than [the] revolutionary network element.”
 For the full text of Cerent’s compelling narrative, please see Appendix 5 in The Upstart Startup (2014).