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How I watched a holographic storage company implode

InPhase techie talks smoke, mirrors and holograms

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Bart Stuck's view

Bart Stuck said: "Signal Lake led the original Series A round for funding InPhase, and put together the original investor syndicate. Signal Lake has invested in every funding round of InPhase, totalling over $10m, and feels strongly about the great potential for this company as the world leader in holographic storage.

"With respect to the specific employee comments about representations made by Signal Lake in 2009/10, Signal Lake was asked by the InPhase board to provide visibility on its progress in securing funding for InPhase, and did so, both to the board and directly to its employees on multiple occasions...

"The financial assistance that Signal Lake provided to tens of InPhase employees was an illustration of its general good faith as well as its strong belief that Signal Lake would be able to raise funding to operate the company. This is reinforced by the fact that during this period, Signal Lake also provided a multi-million dollar amount of bridge funding directly to IPhase."

Morale destruction

What was the effect of the funding shortfall and unmet promises on the employees?

Our InPhase insider said: "The effect on employees was complete destruction of morale. Because work was scarce we had a lot of time to discuss our feelings on the matter. They ranged from anger (several times during meetings I expected a fight to break out) to depression and hopelessness.

"I was fortunate enough to have a manager who loved his job and to be in one of the more active groups to keep myself busy. However, after enough months of literally being told that the money would be here within 'a couple of weeks', it was more than many people could take."

Do you think the firm's holographic technology has a future?

"Oh, definitely. The technology is amazing and what most people don't realise is that for an archive type drive 300GB isn't small. It's actually pretty amazing. Not only that but the actual disk capacity is about 1.2 TB. The 300GB is just the initial format which had an enormous amount of redundant data.

"Honestly, if the purchase and funding of the company had gone through, I am sure InPhase would have gone to market and be at or near profitability. The technology is amazing and literally a decade ahead of any other holographic storage company. It would be criminal to let that sort of knowledge just vanish.

"The rumour from the former employee rumour mill is that Acadia is trying to hedge Signal Lake out so that they can restart the company without Mr Stuck being attached to it at all. I know that if this were the case I would  go back to InPhase at the drop of a hat. I know there are many of my former co-workers who feel the same way and are eagerly watching the proceedings."

One last push

Bart Stuck said: "Despite the delays in accomplishing this objective, we are optimistic that we ultimately will succeed in moving this company forward toward commercial success. Once this occurs, we hope that we can re-hire as many of the old employees as possible, so they can be part of not simply a technical success (the world's first commercially viable holographic disk drive and storage media) but also a part of commercial success."

With the court case against Acadia won Signal Lake has appointed Art Rancis as InPhase's CEO. He was previously the company's Sales VP. Kevin Curtis, a co-founder of InPhase who was named interim CEO in March, replacing Nelson Diaz, has stepped down from his post. James Russo has been appointed EVP for engineering, promoted from VP engineering. He came from Dot Hill in 2008.

InPhase will now focus on delivering its high-density archival storage product for customers ranging from film and television studios to corporate enterprises and medical institutions.

Rancis said in a statement: "We have reached a critical milestone in the restructuring of InPhase, where we can now execute a clear path to commercialisation for the industry’s first holographic storage product."

Bart Stuck said he is, "working with Art Rancis, CEO, and Jim Russo, EVP of Engineering, to formulate new go to market business plan."

Working in a hi-tech start-up can be incredibly challenging and involving with tremendous camaraderie and fulfilment as the technology is productised and brought to market. But the dark side of this is where there are mismatches between executive management and the development function, and also between the board, the executives, managers and engineers, especially when the funding runs out.

Stuck is now out and about trying to raise the funds so that, at long, long last the Tapestry drive can complete its final push into becoming sellable product. People are still passionate about InPhase technology and the very last thing they are doing is going gently into the good night.

No, they are, literally, raging against the dying of the holographic light. ®

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