Bruce Campbell, one of the founders of Raynet – a very early fiber to the home company – died earlier today.
Bruce was one of the most classical entrepreneurs I have ever known. Irascible, difficult, intellectually honest, enthusiastic, outside the box thinker – all of these describe him.
But perhaps a couple of stories will do it best.
The first comes from a time when he worked for Raychem and there was a wall that separated their offices from the labs where they would do work. Turns out there was a long walk from the office to the lab but only a wall geographically speaking. So Bruce asked the corporate buildings and grounds group if they could put in a door for him and others of his group to be able to go to the lab. The response was that it was possible but they were currently very busy and so it would take 6 months or more to get to it. In further probing he found out that repairs were handled on a priority basis and often took a day or so. So the next day Bruce brought in a large hand held circle saw and proceeded to cut a near door size hole in the wall. Wham the cut out fell down and moments later Bruce called to report that they needed a repair.
The door was completed the next day.
Some years later Bruce was instrumental in getting Raynet funded by Bell South. As the money came in, Raychem spun out Raynet and brought over senior management that had been with Raychem as well. The ideas for Raynet had come from Bruce’s group but now this was going to be managed. Anyway, I came over to Raynet around that same time though I was had not been with Raychem for very long and I was certainly not a senior manager. Eventually we had to deliver system that would be the prototype of a unique way to do fiber to the home. And this system required that we build “taps” that could extract and inject light into the fiber without breaking it. This can be done by bending the fiber carefully and Bruce was quick to see the potential for this approach. Millions were raised and over time the approach was eventually abandoned. But as a venture, it was classic. Start with an idea and go find a customer. Listen to the customer and innovate around their needs.
During my time at Raynet, Bruce and I clashed many times and I had to lick my wounds but in the end and for many years after, we remained friends.
Later he started a company called Wavelengths Lasers and Finisar did the engineering for the early products of that company. One time we killed a $10,000 laser and Bruce and his team came over to hold a funeral for it and then they made it into a earring for one of the gals. Always able to see the humor even in pretty lousy situations.
So if there is a heaven (or hell) you better watch out because there are likely to be new doors coming your way pretty soon.