Andy Ory Leaves Oracle, Talks Thinking Phones and Acme Packet Sale
Andy Ory has surfaced at last. The wildly successful tech entrepreneur, he of Acme Packet CEO fame, has left Oracle as of the end of August and is taking what he calls a “sabbatical” of six to nine months to recharge and get ready for the next big thing.
In case you forgot, Bedford, MA-based Acme Packet was bought by Oracle for $2.1 billion early this year. The networking-tech company started in 2000, had its IPO in 2006, and saw its stock rise and fall dramatically over the years. At the time, the Oracle acquisition was a bit of a surprise—most people thought Cisco was a more likely suitor—but Ory tells me the deal was “very strategic.”
In particular, Ory says, Oracle figured out that with Acme Packet it could unify the network side with the IT side of the world’s service providers. He agrees it was surprising that network providers like Cisco and Ericsson didn’t fully grasp the value of Acme Packet’s all-IP service delivery architecture. Oracle, he says, “has the same customer base but owns the IT side, not the network side.”
Ory says he was “impressed with how [Oracle] treated us on the acquisition.” He calls Larry Ellison’s machine a “great business that’s generating a lot of cash and has capacity to really grow.” Still, he says, “it was pretty clear my path as an entrepreneur was not to be working inside such a large business.”
Was he sad to send Acme Packet, his baby, off into the big, bad world?
“I am very happy that we had an opportunity to grow with all the folks we had, and build all the customer relationships,” Ory says. “The way those constituents are best served is to be integrated into a broader offering. Sometimes the child needs to leave the nest. This was the right path for Acme.” More philosophically, he adds, “A company is a collection of souls. This is a small industry, and we’ll work alongside each other. It’s more of a transition than a finality.”
While Ory makes his own transition, he is working on a few side projects. One of those is Thinking Phone Networks. The Cambridge, MA, company has just named Ory to its board of directors, and he’s a new investor as part of the firm’s $10 million Series C round, announced earlier this month.
It seems like a good match: Thinking Phones, which has grown to 130-plus employees, is all about cloud-based enterprise communications—software for phone systems, video conferencing, analytics, and so forth. The company is going after mid-market customers, and Ory says its technology is “very sophisticated” and “puts them in a good position.” Ory adds that Thinking Phones’ founders, Steve Kokinos and Derek Yoo, remind him of himself and Acme Packet co-founder Patrick MeLampy when they were 10 years younger.
The connection was made by Bob Hower, an investor in Thinking Phones through Advanced Technology Ventures. Hower previously led ATV’s investment in Acme Packet, and before that he worked at Priority Call Management, Ory’s previous startup. (In turn, Ory is now an investor in Hower’s new fund, G20 Ventures.)
Lastly, Ory, 47, gives some broader advice on work: “Careers aren’t 25 years anymore. They’re much longer. Taking a sabbatical is a really important notion if you’re committed to excellence in your career long-term.”
And, with that in mind, Ory hints that “late in the spring next year” he’ll be ready to “go do something else.”