CipherOptics Inc., a new provider of high-speed data encryption, has named Cisco executive Ron Willis as president and chief executive officer.

Willis will take the reigns, starting Tuesday, from company co-founder and former President Mike Doss. Doss will continue his primary roles in corporate strategic direction and operations guidance.

Both men are in Las Vegas at NetWorld+Interop 2002 demonstrating the company’s high-speed network encryption device. CipherOpitcs spokeswoman Barbara Capone, also in Las Vegas, says Willis will not return to the company’s Raleigh offices until May 17.

The appointment of Willis comes just days after CipherOptics secured $5 million in its first round of venture capital. Kodiak Venture Partners of Concord, MA, was the sole investor, and Kodiak partner Ilan Carmi has joined the company’s board of directors. Founded in August 2000, CipherOptics had been funded by Doss and Dennis Toothman until now.

“This has been a very pivotal time in the development of our company and the realizations of our dreams to introduce the first true Gigabit-speed data encryption product,” Doss said in a prepared statement. “Ron is clearly the right person for this job as CipherOptics moves from product development to a more customer-focused, sales and marketing operation. We are extremely pleased to have someone of his caliber and experience to lead CipherOptics into its next phase as the market leader in the high-performance network security marketplace.”

Willis brings over 20 years of experience in sales and marketing management in information technology and networking markets. Most recently he was vice president of worldwide commercial marketing for Cisco Systems where under his direction a number of key programs were developed, including some that made secure, high speed Internet and intranet access from public access facilities possible.

“This is an exciting time to join a company committed to high-performance security and data encryption,” said Willis. “The network security marketplace is positioned for tremendous growth and that, coupled with the unsurpassed encryption technology created by CipherOptics, makes this a most promising opportunity.”

Willis joined Cisco through the acquisition of Aironet Wireless Communications, where he was senior vice president of sales and marketing. Before his current assignment at Cisco, he directed the marketing launches of the Aironet 340 and 350 Series of wireless LAN products for residential/small business/branch office and enterprise facilities.

Previously, Mr. Willis was employed with Digital Equipment Corporation for over 14 years where he held management positions in marketing and sales.