Since mid-1998 there has been a steady hatching of companies dedicated to designing optical telecommunication switches and routers. This rapid growth in firms that design gear to optically switch communication paths has in turn led to another kind of path switching. It has caused thousands of software and hardware engineers from the major telecom equipment firms to switch their career paths to the new startups. This personal shift from the majors to the startups has often represented a major change in life style accompanied by risk, personal and family sacrifice, the chance to make far more money, and a quest for accelerated personal accomplishment. Despite worry over actual worth of these IPOs, they are still in their heyday. But the breed is financially threatened. As late as July 2000, few opportunities enjoyed as much favorable attention from investors as optical switching startups. Money flowed for startups with similar products. Now, after the early 2001 plunge in the prices of high tech stocks, IPOs are under siege. Venture capital, the seed money they depend on, has been much tougher to find. Some view this as a beginning of their end. Others view it as a healthy correction that will make the surviving IPOs a vibrant force in leading edge technology development.
Dallas - particularly the area within 3 1/2 miles of Central Expressway in Richardson, Plano and Northward - has become a key area of optical switch development. It has been fertile ground for development, as it is home to a skilled labor pool, an educational support system for high tech, and a well-established base of major telecom design and manufacturing firms.