EE Times Silicon 60 Hot Startups to Watch

Date : 2014-07-17 Font size : A A A



It has been more than 18 months since EE Times last produced a version of the Silicon 60. The global economic, entrepreneurial, and electronics business climates have all improved in that time, and EE Times has brought 38 recently formed companies on to version 15.1 of its list of 60 firms that we feel are worth keeping an eye on.

EE Times has been publishing the Silicon 60 since April 2004, and it is updated periodically to reflect the latest corporate, commercial, technological, and market conditions. The latest batch of newcomers includes companies active in the fields of materials, IP cores, memory technology, processors, wireless for communications, location and energy transfer, power semiconductors, audio, MEMS sensors, and the Internet of Things.

To make way for the newcomers, 38 companies have dropped off the list. Some of these have been acquired, some have ceased operations -- the last four years have not been easy -- and some have remained privately held but become mature with the passage of time. Those more mature companies, while no longer listed on the Silicon 60, may yet fulfill an equity investor's dream result of public ownership or a high-priced company sale.

The 60 companies in Silicon 60 v15.1 have been selected based on the consideration of a mix of criteria including: technology, intended market, financial position, investment profile, maturity, and executive leadership. They are emerging companies to follow, for a variety of reasons. The names of the companies brought on to the Silicon 60 at this iteration are highlighted in red in the listing that follows on the next 10 pages.

Readers are welcome to nominate their own emerging, privately held companies for inclusion in a future version of the Silicon 60 list. Nominations should be supported by a short citation providing basic details about the company and explaining why the company is suitable for inclusion on the list. (Send emails to EE Times with subject line "Silicon 60" or put your suggestion in the comments section below.)


ActLight SA (Lausanne, Switzerland), founded in 2010, is a fabless semiconductor company developing designs and intellectual property for the combination of photovoltaic conversion and logic circuits on silicon chips, including the use of CMOS for optical conversion for use in energy harvesting. The company has also reported the development of a dynamic photodiode technology where it is the signal delay, rather than the current, that is dependent on the light intensity.

Adapteva Inc. (Lexington, Mass.), founded in 2008, has developed a series of multicore processors under the Epiphany architecture on small budgets. It has also produced the $99 Parallella development and deployment boards for Epiphany processors. In 2013 Adapteva raised $3.6 million in equity funding from Carmel Ventures and Ericsson AB.

Adesto Technologies Corp. (Sunnyvale, Calif.) was founded by CEO Narbeh Derhacobian in 2006. The company has developed a nonvolatile memory based on the movement of copper ions in a programmable metallization cell technology licensed from Axon Technologies Corp., a spinoff of Arizona State University. The company has been shipping CBRAM devices since 2013.

Aledia SA (Grenoble, France) has developed a method of forming light-emitting diodes (LEDs) on vertical pillars of gallium-nitride grown on silicon wafers. The company spun out of CEA-Leti in 2011 and claims the technique produces three times more light per planar area than conventional approaches while using less GaN material.

Allwinner Technology Co. Ltd. (Zhuhai, China) is a fabless chip company founded in 2007 and developing application processor SoCs and analog ICs for mobile equipment.

Amantys Ltd. (Cambridge, UK) was founded in 2010 by former ARM executives as a power electronics company. The company aims to use digital control to transform power electronics in medium- and high-voltage applications. The company was founded with backing from Moonray Investors and ARM Holdings plc, to which it has added Avago Technologies as a strategic investor.

Ambiq Micro Inc. (Austin, Texas), founded in 2010, is a fabless chip company developing low-power wireless processors and mixed-signal systems that operate at sub-threshold voltages. Investors include ARM Holdings.

Arctic Sand Technologies Inc. (Cambridge, Mass.), founded in 2010 as an MIT spinoff, is working on power conversion circuits for high-efficiency power management applications. It has developed power conversion chips using switched-capacitor techniques that are 10 times smaller and 75 percent more efficient that traditional conversion systems, according to investor Arsenal Venture Partners. Strategic investors include Dialog Semiconductor and Energy Technology Ventures.

Aviacomm Inc. (Sunnyvale, Calif.), founded in 2009 by RFIC experts, is bringing to market transceivers that address a variety of radio protocols and architectures, including TVWS, 4G/LTE, 3G, 2G, cognitive radio, software-defined radios, and wireless communication devices for dynamic spectrum allocation.


BeSpoon SA (Le Bourget-au-Lac, France), founded in March 2010, is a fabless chip company with single-chip transceiver for impulse radio ultrawideband positioning.

BlinkSight SA (Caen, France) is a fabless chip company formed in 2011 by engineers from NXP and ST-Ericsson. It released a single-chip transceiver for real-time location system (RTLS) and wireless sensor network (WSN) applications.

Blu Wireless Technology Ltd. (Bristol, UK), founded in 2009, is a silicon IP company developing 60 GHz (millimeter wave) technology for efficient gigabit wireless communications systems for WiGig and 4G backhaul applications. The company is targeting power-sensitive mobile applications, as well as long-range access points.

Brain Corp. (San Diego, Calif.) is developing algorithms and neural processor hardware with Qualcomm, modeled on biological nervous systems. Aimed at applications in visual perception, motor control, and autonomous navigation, the intention is to equip consumer devices, such as mobile phones and household robots, with artificial nervous systems. The company was co-founded in 2009 by neuroscientists Eugene Izhikevich and Allen Gruber.

Brite Semiconductor (Shanghai) Corp. (Shanghai, China) was founded in 2008 and is located at Zhangjiang Hi-tech Park. It is an SoC and ASIC design company that pulls together intellectual property, foundry, test, and packaging technologies to create custom silicon for its customers. Brite is backed by local foundry Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp.

Chirp Microsystems Inc. (Albany, Calif.) was founded in 2013 to commercialize a low-power ultrasonic gesture recognition technology intended for use in mobile and wearable devices. Developed by a team of researchers from BSAC (Berkeley Sensor and Actuator Center) and SwarmLAB at UC Berkeley and UC Davis, Chirp uses MEMS ultrasound transducers to detect and track a user's gestures in 3D space.

Cognivue Corp. (Gatineau, Quebec) was spun off in 2009 from Korea's MtekVision to focus on so-called cognitive processing that uses parallel processing engines optimized for tasks such as image recognition and identification. Cognivue provides SoCs, software, and IP to capture, analyze, and render video and images for smart cameras.

Crossbar Inc. (Santa Clara, Calif.) is a 2010 spinoff from the University of Michigan that has developed a resistive random access memory (ReRAM) based on the movement of silver ions through amorphous silicon to form a filamentary structure. The company is aiming to produce multilayered, standalone terabyte memory dies as well as integrating the technology in standard CMOS logic to provide embedded non-volatile memory.

D – G

Dual Aperture Inc. (Palo Alto, Calif.), founded in 2009, has developed a dual aperture RGB-IR sensor technology that can combine imaging and depth perception in a single sensor. The company is pitching the technology to form the basis of gesture recognition command and control in consumer, automotive, and industrial products.

Electric Imp Inc. (Los Altos, Calif.) was founded in 2011 by a group of engineers who had acquired experience at Apple, Google, and Facebook. They wanted to create a service platform to connect devices to the Internet. The offering includes a hardware module containing WiFi and a processor but also an operating system and cloud-side software.

Ferric Semiconductor Inc. (New York, N.Y.), founded in 2011, is developing innovative DC-to-DC conversion circuits based on a magnetic core inductor process that can be manufactured using CMOS back-end-of-line processes. This enables efficient, high-density on-chip or on-package power conversion at any process node. Ferric is working with foundry partner TSMC.

GaN Systems Inc. (Ottawa, Ontario), founded in 2008, is a fabless semiconductor manufacturer that uses a patented "island" design topology to create gallium-nitride power switches, diodes, and subsystems for power conversion and control applications including renewable energy generation, power storage and distribution, electric vehicles, industrial motors and generators, power supplies, and point-of-load devices.

Geo Semiconductor Inc. (San Jose, Calif.), founded in 2009, is a fabless semiconductor company that designs video and geometry processing integrated circuits (ICs). Its chips have found use in consumer displays and projection systems, and the company is extending its reach into automotive and security applications.

Gpixel Inc. (Changchun, China) develops high-end CMOS image sensor solutions for industrial, medical, and scientific applications. Founded in 2013, the company worked with foundry Tower Semiconductor Ltd. to produce a 150 Mpixel full-frame CMOS image sensor.

I – K

Ineda Systems Pvt. Ltd. (Hyderabad, India), a fabless chip company founded in 2010, is developing the Dhanush family of wearable processors (WPUs) and has announced funding by Samsung, Qualcomm, and Imagination Technologies Group amongst others.

Intrinsic-ID BV (Eindhoven, The Netherlands) was founded in 2008 as a spinoff from Royal Philips Electronics and provides hardware-intrinsic security technology -- also referred to as a Physical Unclonable Function. The technology derives cryptographic keys based on the specific silicon implantation and how that affects nominally metastable structures, which could be considered a silicon fingerprint. Security is enhanced as no key is stored and there is nothing to find in the power-down state.

InVisage Technologies Inc. (Menlo Park, Calif.) is a fabless semiconductor company developing QuantumFilm, an image-sensing technology that it claims has superior performance to silicon. Its first product enables the high-resolution images from handheld devices such as camera phones and PDAs. Founded in 2006, InVisage Technologies is venture funded by RockPort Capital, Charles River Ventures, InterWest Partners, and OnPoint Technologies.

Isorg SA (Grenoble, France), founded in 2010 as a spinoff from CEA-LITEN, converts plastic and glass surfaces into smart surfaces through the application of printed, organic, optoelectronic sensors. The possibility of 3D product integration allows the recognition of many shapes and form factors. The company name is a contraction of Image Sensor ORGanic.

Kalray SA (Orsay, France), formed in 2008, has developed a 256-core processor based on a VLIW architecture together with a C-based programming environment. Its many-core processor is being offered for use in image and signal processing, communications infrastructure, industrial automation, driver assistance systems, and transport.

Kandou Bus SA (Lausanne, Switzerland), a 2011 spinoff from Ecole Polytechnic Federale de Lausanne, is a semiconductor company specializing in the design of high-speed, energy-efficient serial links (SerDes) and associated technologies. The company has developed a 40 nm SerDes that has shown 12 Gbit/s serial transmission.


MagnaCom Ltd. (Petach-Tikvah, Israel), founded in 2012, has developed and patented a modulation technology called WAM, standing for wave modulation, that is claimed to be superior to incumbent technologies such as QAM and able to double spectrum bandwidth efficiency.

mCube Inc. (San Jose, Calif.) was founded in September 2009 and has developed a method for integrating MEMS motion sensors above electronic circuitry in a standard CMOS wafer fab using through-silicon via connections. The process includes hermetic sealing of the assembly. The company claims that this provides an advantage in terms of sensor size that will help it with applications in wearable equipment and the Internet of Things.

MC10 Inc. (Cambridge, Mass.) was co-founded in 2008 by Professor John Rogers of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, to take a stretchable electronics platform out of the lab and into commercial product development. The company has raised about $60 million since its formation and includes Medtronics among its investors.

Merus Audio AS (Herlev, Denmark), founded in 2010, launched an audio amplifier IC, the MA12070, in 2013 based on its Eximo technology. The chip is claimed to be significantly more energy efficient that other Class-D amplifiers and is intended to address home audio and mobile phone applications.

MicroGen Systems Inc. (Ithaca, N.Y.) is developing products based on proprietary piezoelectric vibrational energy harvester technology. These MEMS are micro-power sources that can extend rechargeable battery lifetime or eliminate the need for batteries in some applications. The company has received investment from X-Fab, which also acts as a foundry manufacturer for the company.

Mill Computing Inc. (Palo Alto, Calif.) has been in development for 10 years, most recently under the working name of Out of the Box Computing. Ivan Godard and team have developed a "belt" processor architecture called Mill that is also configurable with specification-driven instantiations called Gold and Tin.

MulticoreWare Inc. (Sunnyvale, Calif.), founded in 2009, is focused on compiler technologies and software for heterogeneous computing. MulticoreWare has engineers in the US, China, India, and Singapore.

M31 Technology Corp. (Hsinchu, Taiwan), founded in July 2011, is a silicon intellectual property firm with experience in IP, IC design, and design automation. The company is focused on high-speed interface, memory, and cell library design. It is named after the Andromeda galaxy, otherwise known as Messier 31 or M31.

N – P

Neul Ltd. (Cambridge, UK), founded in 2010 by several co-founders of Cambridge Silicon Radio, is working on radio network standards and systems to provide a scalable, low-power network for IP-addressed objects in the Internet of Things. Part of its offering is based on the use of television white space (TVWS) spectrum.

Nextinput Inc. (Atlanta, Ga.) was founded in 2012 as a spinoff from Georgia Tech to commercialize a force-sensitive touch technology developed by CEO and co-founder Ian Campbell. The company claims it can provide a tactile, force- or pressure-sensitive method of interfacing with virtually any electronic device. Steve Nasiri, founder of InvenSense, is on the board of directors, and Kurt Petersen serves on a technical advisory board.

Pelican Imaging Corp. (Santa Clara, Calif.), founded in 2008, is commercializing array cameras for the mobile market. Pelican's array camera, essentially replacing a single image sensor with an array of devices, captures depth information and addresses challenges posed by conventional camera design and small pixels.

Peraso Technologies Inc. (Toronto, Ontario), founded in September 2008, is a fabless semiconductor company specializing in the development of chipsets for the 60 GHz marketplace. The unlicensed 60 GHz band has been available for several years, but only now is it possible to implement enabling chips in low-cost SiGe BiCMOS and CMOS technologies. Peraso is an original member of the Wireless Gigabit (WiGig) 60GHz Alliance and was a contributor to the IEEE 802.11ad specification process. The company is targeting the consumer, mobile, and small-cell and back-haul infrastructure markets.

PsiKick Inc. (Charlottesville, Va.) has developed a wireless sensor networking SoC using an operating voltage down to 0.25 V. PsiKick was launched in 2012, based on the work of Benton Calhoun and David Wentzloff conducted at the University of Virginia and the University of Michigan in low-power digital and analog circuit design.

Q – R

Qualtré Inc. (Marlborough, Mass.), founded in 2008, is a venture-backed company commercializing solid-state silicon motion sensors for consumer electronics based on a proprietary, multi-axis, bulk acoustic wave MEMS gyroscope technology. Qualtré has raised $36 million to date from an investor syndicate comprising Matrix Partners, Pilot House Ventures, Eastward Capital, and a strategic investor.

Quantenna Communications Inc. (Fremont, Calif.), founded in 2006, claims to be the first company to introduce a commercially available, standards-based 802.11ac and 802.11n 4x4 Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) chipset. The technology is being used to support whole-home, full HD video distribution and networking services over standard WiFi networks. Quantenna is also developing a 10 Gbit/s architecture that supports 8x8 MIMO and support for multi-user MIMO (MU-MIMO). It has received a series of strategic investments in 2014.

Rocketick Technologies Ltd. (Ramat Gan, Israel), founded in 2008, is a pioneer in GPU-based Verilog simulation acceleration solutions for chip verification. It has received backing from Nvidia and Intel Capital. Its first product, RocketSim, is in use at several semiconductor customers.


Saankhya Labs Pvt. Ltd. (Bangalore, India), founded in 2007, is an Intel Capital-backed supplier of software-defined demodulation solutions -- semiconductor and firmware -- for universal digital TV, analog TV, radio, and other broadcast media.

Sand 9 Inc. (Cambridge, Mass.), founded in 2007, offers MEMS devices that use piezoelectric actuation to meet phase noise and short-term stability requirements for wireless and wired applications. The resonator design, in conjunction with a low phase-noise oscillator provides high-performance timing. The company was backed by Intel Capital, among others, in a funding round in mid-2012 and has reportedly raised more than $100 million.

Senodia Technologies Co. Ltd. (Shanghai, China), founded in August 2008, was one of the first Chinese MEMS gyroscope providers and has expanded its offering to a full suite of inertial MEMS 6-axis and 9-axis solutions and applications for smartphones.

SigFox Wireless SAS (Toulouse, France), founded in 2009, is the developer and operator of a cellular network in France dedicated to low-throughput machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and the Internet of Things. It makes use of ultranarrow-band radio technology and has begun licensing operators in other countries.

Siliconarts Inc. (Seoul, S. Korea), established in April 2010, is a provider of real-time ray tracing GPU technology. The company has designed and introduced the RayCore Series 1,000 hardware system and is developing a ray-tracing GPU chip for use in televisions and game consoles.

Skorpios Technologies Inc. (Albuquerque, N.M.) was founded in July 2009 and is focused on commercializing monolithically integrated active photonics into wafer-scale standard CMOS processes. Skorpios' Template Assisted Bonding (STAB) allows III-V semiconductor materials to be overlaid on silicon wafers in a process called Composite-Semiconductor on Insulator (C-SOI). In this way the generation, detection, and modulation of light can be monolithically integrated with existing CMOS technologies on a single chip. Skorpios has received venture capital from Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Nokia Siemens Networks, Cottonwood Technology Fund, and Sun Mountain Capital.

Softkinetic SA (Brussels, Belgium), founded in 2007, is a developer of sensor-to-software 3D gesture recognition systems. It has licensed its platform to Texas Instruments and Melexis.

Sol Chip Ltd. (Haifa, Israel), founded in 2009, has developed a chip-scale photovoltaic energy harvester, which can provide voltages at between 0.75 and 9 V, useful for autonomous low-power electronic systems. The PV cell can produce 3.3 milliwatts in full daylight and up to 20 microwatts under office lighting.

SoundChip SA (Lausanne, Switzerland) was founded in 2011 by a team of experts in electro-acoustics. The team has developed the High Definition Personal Audio reference model and licenses intellectual property for use in electronic audio systems by suppliers of consumer electronics devices and passenger entertainment systems.

StoreDot Ltd. (Ramat Gan, Israel) was founded in 2011 to develop products and technology around peptide-based, organic quantum-dot materials. These nanometer-scale crystals have physical dimensions so small that quantum mechanics affect the electro-optic properties. The materials are tunable, and the range of behaviors is wide, offering potential applications in displays, non-volatile memories, image sensors, and batteries.

SureCore Ltd. (Sheffield, UK) SureCore is a 2011 spinoff from Glasgow University and is working on memory IP at 28 nm and smaller critical dimensions in FinFET and FDSOI processes alongside simulation firm Gold Standard Simulations Ltd.

T – Z

TeraDeep Inc. (Santa Clara, Calif.) was founded in December 2013 as a spinoff from Purdue University to focus on the design of mobile coprocessors and neural network hardware for the understanding of images and videos.

Trigence Semiconductor KK (Tokyo, Japan) founded in February 2006, has expertise in mixed-signal circuits for analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog conversion and for high-speed interfaces. The company claims its Dnote audio DSP for direct digital drive of multicoil speakers enables reduced power consumption and higher-quality audio with potential in consumer electronics, personal computers, and automotive applications. The company has received backing from Intel Capital and the Innovation Network Corporation of Japan.

Wave Semiconductor Inc. (Sunnyvale, Calif.), founded in 2009, has assembled a team of experienced semiconductor industry executives to introduce a low-power, self-synchronizing logic based on an algebra called Wave Threshold Logic. Karl Fant, chief scientific officer, is an expert on a form of clock-less logic called null-convention logic.

WiTricity Corp. (Watertown, Mass.) was founded in 2007 to commercialize technology developed by company founder Professor Marin Soljacic. The company plans to incorporate the A4WP Rezence specification in reference designs this year.

For more on the list, read Peter Clarke's analysis of the Silicon 60 v15.1.

Other Silicon 60 EE Times lists from years past:

— Peter Clarke writes about the semiconductor industry and was formerly an editor at EE Times.