Ex-Cisco Consumer Chief Flips for Grilled Cheese

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So after building the world's most popular pocket camcorder, being acquired by Cisco, becoming his new company's consumer chief and then resigning when his company decided to kill his baby, what does Jonathan Kaplan do for an encore? Or entrée?

Why, grilled cheese, of course!

Kaplan, who left Cisco early this year perhaps when he learned the company planned to discontinue its -- and his -- Flip videocam, has a new startup: a chain of grilled cheese sandwich shops. According to a report in Bloomberg Businessweek, Kaplan plans to call his new business The Melt and serve five variations of the school cafeteria staple.

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Kaplan has also enlisted a celebrity chef and some venture backing for The Melt. Board members include the chef, Michael Mina, as well as Ron Johnson, Apple's senior vice president for retail, and Sequoia Capital partner Mike Moritz, an early investor in Google. He hopes to emulate the Chipotle Mexican Grill chain, which has 1,000 restaurants and a $9 billion market cap, the Bloomberg Businessweek story states.

Kaplan was founder and CEO of Pure Digital, maker of the Flip pocket camcorder, when Cisco bought the company in 2009 for $590 million. Kaplan was then tapped to head Cisco's consumer business after the acquisition's close.

After several quarters that fell short of financial expectations -- due in large part to an underperforming consumer business -- Kaplan left Cisco in February. Then in April, Cisco unceremoniously dropped Flip and restructured its consumer business, lopping 550 heads in the process.

The Melt's menu will have five soup-sandwich combinations, each costing $7.95. Kaplan plans to open five restaurants in the Bay Area by Thanksgiving, and 25 across the country by the end of next year.

In keeping with the high-tech spirit of the Bay Area and Kaplan himself, The Melt will tweet its specials on Twitter and offer a smartphone app that allows customers to place an order. The app will also allow The Melt to track the customer's location and time meal preparation at the closest restaurant to the customer, so it's fresh when they arrive.

Kaplan likens The Melt and grilled cheese to his Flip videocam: "Both are all about making memories," he said to Bloomberg Businessweek. "When I think about having a billion people eating grilled cheese, I think about a billion happy people."

As for Flip itself, Kaplan said its demise is disappointing. He says he was contacted by several banks and private equity firms soliciting his assistance in acquiring Flip assets from Cisco as Cisco prepared to just shutter the operations and eat the whole $590 million spent on Pure Digital and its flagship product.

"I'm not John Chambers," Kaplan said of the Cisco CEO, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. "I had a whole different set of priorities and dreams and hopes when I joined Cisco."

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

This story, "Ex-Cisco Consumer Chief Flips for Grilled Cheese" was originally published by Network World.

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