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Next-Gen Chipmakers

KURT BUSCH
CEO
SYNTIANT
IRVINE

Syntiant’s low-power chips respond to voice and speech commands and can wake up a device like an Amazon Alexa, or have it perform a specific function. The company has also expanded its products to include sensor and image recognition, as well as other uses. Its tiny processors allow battery-powered devices to hear, speak, see and detect various sound, motion and light impulses in a wide range of consumer areas such as earbuds, wearables, smartphones, smart speakers, laptops, automobiles and other IoT consumer and industrial areas.

THEN: Founded in 2017, Syntiant said it had shipped more than 10 million of its NDP100 and NDP101 processors to customers across the globe as of early 2021. By March 2022, over 20 million chips—which it calls Neural Decision Processors—had been shipped. Syntiant chips, which use a tiny amount of energy when compared to current semiconductor standards, took on even greater importance during the pandemic with consumers increasingly insisting on touch-free devices.

NOW: Earlier this year closed on $55 million in new funding, bringing the company’s total investment to more than $100 million. Latest round of funding is expected to help the company expedite production deployments, while ensuring the firm has the financial backing to continue to expand operations as it approaches profitability in the not-too-distant future.

FUTURE: “Our plan is IPO,” according to Busch. “Future financings will be based on the market situation at the time.”

IN THEIR WORDS: Syntiant’s products make “edge AI accessible to any battery-powered device,” according to Busch, a Business Journal Innovator of the Year Award recipient in 2020.

MARYAM ROFOUGARAN
CEO
MOVANDI
IRVINE

REZA ROFOUGARAN
CTO
MOVANDI
IRVINE

Co-founders of wireless technology equipment maker who are looking to expand deployment of the 5G advances for indoor and outdoor use; company counts deep ties to Broadcom. Movandi specializes in 5G millimeter wave technology to enable multi-gigabit wireless speeds. The company aims to accelerate the adoption of 5G deployment while bringing costs down.

THEN: The privately held firm was founded by the Rofougaran siblings in 2016 and has nearly $70 million of funding announced to date. It raised $27 million in May 2020. It was the first big funding deal for an OC company during the pandemic.

NOW: In March, linked up with San Diego chipmaking giant Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM) to expand deployment of the 5G advances for indoor and outdoor use.

FUTURE: Under the partnership, Movandi’s “5G smart repeater” technology will be combined with “mmWave small cells” powered by Qualcomm platforms, for expanded 5G mmWave adoption and an increased flexibility in operator deployments, the two companies said. The combination of the two companies’ technological advances “is positioned to offer mobile operators cost-effective and fast deployment of mmWave at scale and help unlock the full potential of 5G,” Movandi says.

IN THEIR WORDS: “It’s really a huge deal—it’s very advantageous for both companies,” Maryam Rofougaran told the Business Journal in March. “Qualcomm is a leader in this wireless industry,” and has a 76% share of the 5G baseband shipments, according to Counter Point Research. “Everyone needs alliances to push this market forward,” she added.

RUSS GARCIA
CEO
MENLO MICROSYSTEMS
IRVINE

Company spun out of General Electric’s Global Research Center to commercialize a new microelectronic component called the Ideal Switch. It claims the electronic switch—similar in respects to a semiconductor made by wireless chipmakers like Broadcom, but not the same type of technology—will be “the most disruptive technological innovation in the electronics industry since the advent of the transistor.” The company says the Ideal Switch is 99% smaller, lighter, and more efficient than conventional switches and electromagnetic relays.

THEN: “Our first year of revenue was last year,” Garcia told the Business Journal in early March, saying revenue was more than $8 million. “We expect (revenue) to grow significantly this year,” he said, adding that “we expect to achieve profitability and cash-flow positive over the next few quarters.”

NOW: In March, Menlo Microsystems announced it’s raised $150 million, including an investment from the designer of Apple Inc.’s original iPhone. It brings its total funding to more than $225 million.

FUTURE: Looking to build a new manufacturing facility with at least 160 jobs, and is being lobbied hard by New York to put the plant there. Garcia said “we do all of our product development” in Irvine and “our operations are centered here.”

IN THEIR WORDS: Of latest funding round, Garica said the “milestone underscores the confidence our investors have in Menlo Micro’s transformative technology to fuel the electrification of everything and modernize the $100+ billion market for RF communications, power switching and protection devices in the 21st century.”

FABIAN BATTAGLIA
CEO
MOBIX LABS
IRVINE

JAMES PETERSON
EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN
MOBIX LABS
IRVINE

Chip startup which focuses on next-generation 5G wireless communications. Company was founded in 2020 and is pursuing a twin-track growth approach of organic growth and acquisitions. Its board’s executive chairman is longtime area tech executive “Jimmy P” Peterson, who previously led Microsemi.

THEN: Came out of stealth mode early last year, the same time it announced $10 million in funds. It has since made several partnerships and announced two acquisitions. In April, announced deal to buy Advanced Interconnect Technologies, a St. Cloud, Minn.-based manufacturer and product development firm serving the military, defense, and commercial air and space industries. Mobix Labs last July said it had bought on undisclosed terms Cosemi Technologies Inc. of Irvine, a company that specializes in high-speed connectivity equipment.

NOW: Lining up a new Series A funding round, according to CEO Battaglia. “We launched recently our next financing round and we’re in the midst of doing that. We’re looking to raise $30 million,” said Battaglia, who forecasts 2022 revenue at more than $13 million.

FUTURE: “We’re continuing on the path where we grow organically with the core IP (intellectual property) that we have and we accelerate that growth with an M&A strategy,” according to Battaglia.

IN THEIR WORDS: Of Cosemi buy, Peterson—who oversaw dozens of acquisitions while at Microsemi—said the deal was “the first of many more that will transform Mobix Labs into a household name.”

DONALD MCCLYMONT
CEO
INDIE SEMICONDUCTOR
ALISO VIEJO

Auto-focused technology company’s offerings include semiconductors and related software. Its “system-on-chip” products are used in driver assistance systems that help with parking and collision avoidance, onboard entertainment systems, lighting and car key products, as well as backup and forward cameras used to avoid driving errors.

THEN: Formed in 2007, Indie shipped its 100 millionth unit in 2020. Numerous Tier 1 auto suppliers use Indie’s product lines. Company went public in 2021 via a SPAC, and is currently valued around $1 billion.

NOW: First-quarter revenue was up 171% from the same period a year ago and 16% sequentially to a record $22 million, the company reported this month. Figures exceeded analyst consensus estimates.

FUTURE: “We believe our deeper R&D investments coupled with successful acquisition integrations will leverage the indie platform to accelerate growth, enable us to become the leading provider of edge sensors across all key modalities and, in turn, create shareholder value,” McClymont said this month. The company’s products are expected to ultimately be used with self-driving cars.

IN THEIR WORDS: “Our outperformance versus the industry in the face of continued supply chain headwinds reflects indie’s differentiated product portfolio and our team’s ability to obtain committed volumes from our strategic supply partners.”

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