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OCBJ Insider: New Tracks

xSyntiant co-founder and CEO Kurt Busch was already hailed as an innovator. Now you can add corporate godfather to the chipmaking entrepreneur’s bio.

Busch, who won a Business Journal Innovator of the Year Award in 2020, serves on the board of fellow Irvine-based semiconductor upstart Mobix Labs. Regulatory filings indicate he played a big part in that company’s push to go public.

The former CEO of Lantronix contacted an acquaintance, Jiong Ma, president and chief executive of SPAC Chavant Capital Acquisition Corp., to inquire about her possible interest in being introduced to the Mobix leadership, according to filings with the SEC this month.

The rest is history: Mobix is going public in a reverse merger with Chavant, with an estimated valuation around $260 million. See Kevin Costelloe’s story in the April 17 print edition for more on that company’s plans.

“I guess I was the godfather of the deal,” Busch told Costelloe on April 13. “I thought that the Mobix strategy was really an ideal strategy for a public company. I made the introduction, and the management team really took it from there.”

Syntiant is a maker of low-power chips that can perform a specific function, such as responding to voice and speech commands that would wake up a device like Amazon’s Alexa.

Syntiant itself could well have had its own route to the public markets. Last year, it raised $55 million in new funding, bringing the company’s total investment to more than $100 million. “Our plan is IPO,” Busch said at the time of the 2022 fundraise.

For more on Syntiant’s future and its role in OC’s semiconductor industry, see next week’s print edition, and attend our 2023 Innovator of the Year Awards luncheon in September, where Busch will be the keynote speaker.

The long-planned high-speed rail plans that aim to connect SoCal with the Bay Area may seem very much a dream, but the founders of Dreamstar Lines, a Newport Beach-based startup that proposes a slower-paced, luxury overnight train service between LA and SF, say their idea is very much real.

The company aims to have its railway red-eye operations begin next summer, and says it’s working to line up the railcars, financing, staffing and approvals for the project. It would be the first such overnight service between the two areas in decades, according to news reports.

The upstart is led by Jake Vollebregt, who is also partner at Quadrant Law Group LLP.

Masimo’s Joe Kiani told the Wall Street Journal last week that his Irvine medtech firm, No. 8 on this week’s list of OC’s largest medical device makers (see list, page 23), has so far spent $55 million on its lawsuits against Apple, regarding theft of trade secrets.

“He estimates it is likely to cost his company more than $100 million in the end,” the WSJ said. Knobbe Martens represents Masimo (Nasdaq: MASI) in its IP-related work.

The WSJ featured Masimo alongside others last week in a story headlined: “When Apple Comes Calling, ‘It’s the Kiss of Death,’” which detailed several examples of the tech giant allegedly copying ideas from other businesses.

Masimo’s $3.1 billion lawsuit against Apple, which is being heard at the Ronald Reagan Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Santa Ana, is expected to be decided this week.

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Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung joined the Orange County Business Journal in 2021 as their Marketing Creative Director. In her role she creates all visual content as it relates to the marketing needs for the sales and events teams. Her responsibilities include the creation of marketing materials for six annual corporate events, weekly print advertisements, sales flyers in correspondence to the editorial calendar, social media graphics, PowerPoint presentation decks, e-blasts, and maintains the online presence for Orange County Business Journal’s corporate events.
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