Sometimes, timing is everything. In January, 1996, Scott Kriens left the networking company where he had worked for 10 years. Three months later, Cisco Systems (CSCO)--the 800-pound gorilla of Internet equipment makers--bought the company. Had Kriens stayed, he would have been subject to a noncompete clause from Cisco. Instead, Kriens was able to accept the top post at Juniper Networks (JNPR), an upstart maker of Internet routers that's now giving the gorilla fits.
Juniper has gained about 30% of the market for Internet routers, the big computers that zip data around the Web. It has persuaded companies such as WorldCom Inc. (WCOM) and Cable & Wireless PLC (CWP) to use its products. And reflecting that success, its stock rose 96% in 2000. Says Kriens of Juniper's success: "It's focus, not magic." Juniper, he says, has never strayed from its simple goal of just building the best Internet equipment. And it helps, says director Vinod Khosla, who lured him to Juniper, that Kriens is a gifted strategist and team-builder.
As an undergraduate, Kriens, 43, fixed cars to meet expenses at California State University at Hayward. Now he collects European sports cars. One of his favorite models is the Aston Martin--James Bond's car. Like the fictional spy, Juniper seems to be speeding ahead of its rivals with ease.