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Cisco satisfied a critical need in the rise of our networked world. Sequoia first met the team when they operated out of a home in Atherton. Even at that early stage, Sequoia founder Don Valentine saw that Cisco had the potential to transform personal computing.

The story begins with identifying the problem.

Don Valentine
Sequoia Capital

By the 1980s, we knew that the first personal computers needed, in some way, to be networked — although that word hadn’t been invented yet. I had the good fortune of meeting the guy who started 3Com, who invented the ethernet. And the ethernet was the beginning of computer connectivity, which is what caused the problem that only Cisco solved.

Don Valentine

What happened was that IBM and most of the Seven Dwarves had opened offices on the East Coast, and they needed to send information back to mainframes at the West Coast headquarters. So you had packets of information coming cross-country at lightspeed.

Don Valentine

But there was no ability for the packet to recognize the terminal or the mainframe where it was supposed to lodge the data. So you had collisions of information at the wrong destination, called a broadcast storm. And it got worse and worse as corporate computer departments started allowing personal computers and minis into their systems.

Don Valentine

That's why I thought the opportunity was so fabulous at Cisco: Their product was able to route that packet at light speed to the right destination. Many people had products that were like a router but were not a router. And switches were common, but switches couldn't do what Cisco's product did.

Don Valentine

When I arrived on the scene, they had five or six people with no real manufacturing procedures. The company was located in a personal residence in the tiny town of Atherton — until the police shut them down. They’d managed to jury-rig the first products together and ship them out of the house to initial customers, so there were big brown trucks coming by every day to pick up. Neighbors complained, I'm sure.

Don Valentine

It was just a very dedicated, passionate group of people who’d recognized a horrifically technical problem and gone after it.

Don Valentine

The company had an unusual beginning, and unusual things happened continuously. It's the only place I witnessed a fistfight in public in the company. These were very heated people — heated opinions.

Don Valentine

But it was the nature and the size of the problem that excited us. That's one of those things we always look for: What problem are we going to solve by backing a company? And how big is the market — or, how big could it become?

In 2000, a decade after going public, Cisco became the first company in history to reach a market capitalization of $500 billion. Today Cisco is a worldwide leader in IT and continues to pioneer solutions in networking and connectivity.

Cisco
Hardware, software, and services transforming how people connect, communicate, and collaborate.
Milestones
  • Founded 1984
  • Partnered 1987
Team
  • Len Bosack
  • Sandy Lerner