Robert Cohn

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Robert Cohn
Born Winnipeg, Canada
Occupation Founder of Octel Communications

Robert Cohn is an entrepreneur and businessman known for the founding of Octel Communications, the company that commercialized voice mail and was largely responsible for making it ubiquitous on cell phones, in companies and on residential phones.[1][2]

In 1982, Cohn founded Octel Communications Corporation. He served as Chairman and CEO of Octel from its inception in 1982 until the company was purchased by Lucent Technologies in 1997. He then served as an Executive Vice President of Lucent Technologies, Inc. and retired April 30, 1999. From 2002-2004, Cohn was a partner with Sequoia Capital. He currently mentors and advises select first-time CEO's and rising stars in technology businesses.

Before Octel, Cohn held positions with McKinsey & Company, and Banque Rothschild in France. He has a BS degree in mathematics and computer science from the University of Florida and an MBA from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.

Octel Communications[edit]

Cohn and Peter Olson founded Octel Communications in September, 1982. Octel started shipping product in 1984, became profitable and started generating cash in 1985, and went public in 1988.[3] Octel was the first technology company to go public after the stock market crash of 1987.[4] Within a few years Octel became the biggest supplier of voicemail in all sectors worldwide.[5]

Octel adopted many of Silicon Valley's successful cultural concepts like employee sabbaticals, 100% participation in stock option plans, comprehensive employee performance reviews and career planning, an internal fitness center, and Octel University to give all employees new skills and ongoing training.[6] Octel was among the first to offer AIDS education, "take-your-daughter/son-to-work" day, and universal medical coverage including pre-existing conditions.[7]

Lucent Technologies acquired Octel in 1997 for over $2 billion in cash and assumption of options.[8] Lucent's Audix products were combined with Octel's to create the Octel Messaging Division based in Milpitas, California. Revenues of the Octel Messaging Division in the year Octel was acquired exceeded $1.2 billion and its profits immediately enabled the Business Systems Group of Lucent Technologies to operate in the black. At the time of the acquisition, Octel was the worldwide market share leader in sales of voicemail systems to corporations and service providers.[8] Cohn was made an Executive Vice President of Lucent Technologies and President of the Octel Messaging Division.

Boards[edit]

Cohn serves on the board of King (makers of the popular game Candy Crush) and as Chairman of RelateIQ. He is a Senior Advisor to Coatue, a NY based tech-only hedge fund, is a trustee of Robert Ballard’s Ocean Exploration Trust, and a Board Member Emeritus of Business Executives for National Security, a volunteer organization of business leaders that works with the Department of Defense.

Cohn previously served on the boards of many companies, private and public. Some of these were Octel, Trimble Navigation (GPS navigation), Charter Communications (cable company), Right Hemisphere (3-D software, now part of SAP), Electronic Arts (video games), Ashford.com (high-end online retail), Digital Domain (special effects for commercials and feature films) and BlueLithium (internet advertising, now part of Yahoo!). He was a member of the Board of Governors of NASDAQ from 1990 through 1993 where he also served on the Executive Committee; a member of the Advisory Council of the Stanford Graduate School of Business from 1993 to 1999; a board member of the National Conference for Community and Justice (a national organization devoted to addressing the issues of bigotry, bias and racism in America). He was a trustee of the Ballet San Jose and Castilleja School, the International School of the Peninsula, and has previously been a member of the American Business Conference, the Council on Competitiveness, and the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he was also an industry governor in the Data and Communications sector for 5 years.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Investor's Business Daily, February 17, 1989, “Investors Waking Up to Octel’s Leadership”; 19.
  2. ^ San Jose Mercury News West Magazine, September 28, 1997, pp. 28-31 and p. 34, “Speaking With the Operator – For Robert Cohn, whose Octel Communications helped make voice mail ubiquitous, the message is the medium”, by Joel Shurkin.
  3. ^ Fortune, March 29, 1988, “Return of the IPO? - Cohn’s Octel Broke the IPO Barrier”
  4. ^ San Jose Mercury News, November 10, 1986, p. 7C, “Off the Consultant’s Pedestal and into the Corporate Fray”, by Steve Kaufman; Fortune, March 29, 1988,
  5. ^ Fortune, May 18, 1992, “Octel – How to Shoulder Aside the Titans”, by Gene Bylinsky.
  6. ^ San Jose Mercury News West Magazine, September 28, 1997, pp. 28-31 and p. 34, “Speaking With the Operator – For Robert Cohn, whose Octel Communications helped make voice mail ubiquitous, the message is the medium”, by Joel Shurkin.
  7. ^ “How They Achieved: Stories of Personal Achievement and Business Success” by Lucinda Watson (March 30, 2001, pp. 77-85).
  8. ^ a b New York Times, July 18, 1997, p. C1, “Lucent Is Set To Buy Leader In Voice Mail”, Seth Schiesel

References[edit]

  • King Taps Industry Veteran Robert Cohn as New Member of its Board, April 11, 2011. Inside Mobile Apps: http://www.insidemobileapps.com/2013/04/11/king-taps-tech-industry-veteran-robert-cohn-as-a-new-member-of-its-board-of-directors/
  • Wall Street Journal, February 24, 1986, “The Electronic Inbasket – Phone Mail is Impersonal but Effective”, by Dennis Kneale
  • San Jose Mercury News, November 10, 1986, p. 7C, “Off the Consultant’s Pedestal and into the Corporate Fray”, by Steve Kaufman
  • Fortune, March 29, 1988, “Return of the IPO? - Cohn’s Octel Broke the IPO Barrier”
  • Business Week, September 19, 1988, p. 144N, “Bob Cohn’s Octel Is Getting It’s Message Across – The Company Is No. 2 in Voice Mail Systems – and Closing Fast”, by Robert Hof.
  • Peninsula Times Tribune, November 7, 1988, page C-1, “Octel Emerges as Rising Star in Voice Messaging Systems”
  • Investor’s Business Daily, February 17, 1989, “Investors Waking Up to Octel’s Leadership”
  • USA Today, Friday, February 24, 1989, page 3B, “Octel’s Stock Gamble Has Paid Off”
  • San Jose Mercury News, April 23, 1989, pp. 1E and 10E, “Reverse start-up: The Technology Came Last”, James J. Mitchell.
  • Filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission for its prospectus for secondary public offering, August 15, 1989, “Octel Communications Corporation”
  • Forbes, October 28, 1991, pp 102–103, “Panic – Robert Cohn Had a New Baby, a New Company, a Great Product – and No Orders”
  • Fortune, May 18, 1992, “Octel – How to Shoulder Aside the Titans”, by Gene Bylinsky.
  • Investor’s Business Daily, January 1, 1996, “Octel’s Robert Cohn – CEO of Voicemail Firm Puts Premium on Speed”
  • Investor’s Business Daily, February 1, 1996. “Octel’s Robert Cohn: CEO of Voice-Messaging Firm Puts Premium on Speed”, by Kathleen Doler.
  • San Jose and Silicon Valley Business Journal, May 20, 1996, pp. 14–15, “Silicon Valley Entrepreneur Bob Cohn”
  • Stanford Business School Magazine, March, 1997, pp. 12–17, “You Gotta Have an Attitude – Have You Got What it Takes to Start Your Own Business?”, Irving Grousbeck
  • The Business Journal (San Jose), April, 1997, p. 83, “Who’s Who in Technology – a Directory of High-Ranking Executives in Silicon Valley.”
  • Fortune, May 12, 1997, p. 172, “All Your Messages in One Place”, Michael H. Martin
  • New York Times, July 18, 1997, p. C1, “Lucent Is Set To Buy Leader In Voice Mail”, Seth Schiesel
  • San Jose Mercury News West Magazine, September 28, 1997, pp. 28–31 and p. 34, “Speaking With the Operator – For Robert Cohn, whose Octel Communications helped make voice mail ubiquitous, the message is the medium”, by Joel Shurkin.
  • “How They Achieved: Stories of Personal Achievement and Business Success” by Lucinda Watson (March 30, 2001, pp. 77–85).
  • PBS documentary, “Silicon Valley, a 100 Year Renaissance” produced by the Institute for History of Technology.
  • Business Wire, "Robert Cohn Appointed to Charter Communications Board of Directors", December 2, 2009.