Thursday, March 15, 2007

Qovia reportedly sold to Cisco; principals mum

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The offices at 7470 New Technology Way in Frederick were locked, shuttered and dark Tuesday morning. A peek through the windows revealed vacated cubicles without so much as a pencil or a mouse pad. All that remained of Qovia Inc., which developed Internet telephone systems, was the company sign hanging outside the building’s entrance.

Qovia, at one time a rising star in Frederick’s burgeoning high-tech sector, has apparently shut down amid conflicting reports.

Cisco Systems, the San Jose, Calif., computer network equipment maker, has denied published reports that it has acquired Qovia, which develops Internet telephone systems, for an undisclosed amount.

‘‘Cisco absolutely did not acquire Qovia,” said Ron Piovesan, a spokesman for Cisco, which was a Qovia client. ‘‘We acquired certain assets of Qovia, but I can’t say which ones.”

Meanwhile, no one remains at Qovia’s offices and the company’s Web site has been taken down.

Qovia, which at one time had about 50 employees, did not return phone calls for comment.

However, Choon Shim, a co-founder and former chief technology officer of Qovia, confirmed that Cisco bought the company in January.

‘‘It was the investors’ decision to sell the company,” Shim said. He would not disclose a purchase price.

Qovia’s investors included BlueRun Venture and Canaan Partners, both of California. Neither company returned phone calls seeking comment.

Another investor, Anthem Capital Management of Baltimore, which invested $10.6 million in Qovia in 2004, declined to comment.

Maryland’s Department of Business and Economic Development, which had invested $775,000 in Qovia since 2002, did not return calls seeking comment.

At one time, Qovia, which was founded in 2002, was considered a small-business success story in the county.

‘‘In just under 24 months, we have taken Qovia from my basement to the point where we are providing more than 50 high-tech jobs in Maryland,” then-CEO and co-founder Richard Tworek of Monrovia said in 2004. ‘‘And we anticipate adding another 30 high-quality technology jobs.

‘‘Our location in Frederick has not only let us attract an outstanding internal team of professionals but has given us access to agencies like the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development,” Tworek said.

DBED officials hailed Qovia.

‘‘Every year, our Maryland Venture Fund looks at dozens of business plans and early-stage companies from across the business spectrum,” then-DBED Secretary Aris Melissaratos said in 2004. ‘‘Qovia, with its clear technology and product vision, experienced leadership and solid support from the technology and venture capital communities, was an outstanding investment from the start.”

Amid some uncertainty, the company laid off 16 employees in 2005, but in 2006, the company was growing rapidly, Qovia’s then-COO Stephen Mank said in October.

‘‘It has picked up a lot this year,” he said. ‘‘We are a private company, but I can say that we have enjoyed triple-digit growth each quarter this year.”

Revenues for Qovia were unavailable.