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After Successful Initial Venture, Businessman Re-Assembles Team

It’s the second go-round for Dirk Gates, the CEO and founder of Westlake Village-based wireless firm, Xirrus Inc. but not because he wasn’t successful the first time. Xirrus’ origins actually began with Gates’ previous company, Xircom Inc., a Thousand Oaks-based maker of notebook computer communications devices that was purchased by Intel Corp. for $748 million in 2001. After Gates and co-founder Kirk Mathews sold the company, much of the management team left in search of other opportunities. But as the summer of 2003 rolled around, Gates found that many of his former employees were testing the job market’s waters. “Many of the former members of the Xircom team were freeing up and looking for the next opportunity. I was excited to pull this group pf people back together,” Gates said. “Suddenly, my former CFO, vice president of engineering, North American vice president of sales and my top marketing representative were all available. I had a get together and we all had the chance to chat about what to do next. Most of these guys said, ‘if you do something else, I’m there.'” The decision to launch Xirrus certainly wasn’t about the money, considering that in his final year as CEO of Xircom, Gates pulled in $1.1 million in salary and bonuses. Additionally, at the time of the Xircom sale, Gates owned 2.7 percent of company stock, a value then estimated at $20 million. Rather than try to add to his fortune, Gates started the company mainly because he saw the opportunity to re-unite his old management team. But first, they needed an idea. “We started brainstorming and we identified enterprise wireless as a huge market ready to be energized with new technology that could take the market space to the next level,” Gates said. “We pulled the team back together in the last quarter of 2003 and first officially leased office space in the beginning of 2004. By that time, we had loosely defined what the product was going to look like. When we showed up on the first day for work, we had a good start.” By the summer of 2004, the Xirrus staff had 10 members. It currently has 50. Gates was even able to persuade his initially reluctant Xircom partner, Mathews onto the staff. The company has recently begun shipping its products to re-sellers across the country. The products in question allow for companies to deploy wireless networks with much greater ease and at a lower price than had been previously available. According to In-Stat analyst Sam Lucero, Xirrus seems to have a bright future. “Gates has a lot of credibility and he’s put together a pretty solid team, consisting of many ex-Xircom members. They have a very solid technology, and they are doing something fairly innovative. They aren’t just coming late to the party with another wireless product,” Lucero said. “Everything I’ve seen so far points to them being well-managed and they are executing very well. They have a very good chance of gaining traction in the market and being successful. I don’t foresee them having any glitches.” Lucero is not the only one lavishing praise on Gates and Xircom. Last month the company was named “Best Startup” at the prestigious Best of Interop Awards in Las Vegas. While many other executives might already be mapping out the timeline for an IPO, Gates insists that he is only focused on the immediate future. “Our primary focus is just to work on building our re-seller channel. We want to get as many people as possible to help distribute the product,” Gates said. “Our goal is to have 100 re-sellers nationwide signed up and actively re-selling our products. That’s our goal for the remainder of the year.”

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