Sequoia, KP, DAG ‘Stoke’ Up with More Money

Networking startup Stoke is set to announce a $20 million Series C round of investment Monday, with a heavyweight list of VCs backing the rollout of its so-called multi-access gateway.

stoke.jpgWhile you may not want to dive so deep into the particulars of Stoke’s carrier-infrastructure offering, Kleiner Perkins’ and Sequoia’s willingness to keep investing in Stoke indicates that telco capex spending is back. DAG Ventures leads this round. With this round of funding, Stoke has raised a total of $50 million.

The carrier-closet box, which Stoke says is already in trials, is designed to help service providers better manage subscribers from multiple types of emerging access technologies, including WiMAX and dual-mode Wi-Fi/cellular handsets.

Before we get too bubblicious, even Stoke execs don’t see a huge runup for their Stoke Session Exchange offering, which will likely cost service providers who buy it a couple hundred thousand dollars per box. Stoke marketing VP Keith Higgins, who briefed us last week, notes that the market for new-technology FMC subscriber-management gear (which includes startups like Airvana, Starent and Reef Point) may reach $1 billion total by 2008 or 2009.

“[The market] is not really big enough yet to move the needle at Cisco,” Higgins says, answering why the router giant hasn’t built something similar itself. By that measure, Stoke seems like any number of historical networking startups in the telco infrastructure market, with management experience like Randall Kruep and other ex-Cisco, ex-Juniper folks around who had an idea, got tired of the big campus off Tasman and rounded up some venture dough, and went off to start their own company.

What’s fueling the resurgence? Things like expected WiMAX and dual-mode rollouts, says Higgins, who adds that existing gear can’t handle the expected complicated subscriber management needs as cleanly as a new, focused design.

“We are starting to see the RFPs for access-independent gateways,” says Higgins, who added that Stoke hopes to announce a big OEM partner sometime soon, so it doesn’t have to cold-call Verizon itself.