SAN JOSE, Calif. Add ultrawideband pioneer Pulse~Link to the list of UWB companies struggling for survival in the current downturn. The company lost its lead investor late last year, laid off most of its employees and is seeking new financing partners.
"We were closing up a round of financing late last year, had a lead investor and everything going fine when the global economic downturn hit," said Bruce Watkins, co-founder and president of Pulse~Link.
"Our lead investor was outside the U.S. and they saw their portfolio crash 50 percent in 90 days," Watkins added. "They said, 'Nothing about you guys, but we need to sit on our cash right now,' so we battened down the hatches."
Pulse~Link laid off as many as 45 employees, but a core group of 15 including the founders are still active in the company as it seeks new investors. A handful of UWB startups have already shut their doors or been acquired including WiQuest, Tzero and Artimi.
Pulse~Link hopes to avoid that fate. It aims to close a deal in the next three to six months similar to what it was proposing last year—a round of about $25 million including about $10 million from existing investors.
"We have a consortium of groups we are putting together including [some of] our old shareholders willing to participate," said Watkins. "We have a few investors on the hook, but you never know who is going to see it through to the end," he added.
The company's CWave chip set had design wins in digital TV products at Westinghouse and Geffen. When the company lost its lead investor Watkins "had to call them to say I can't deliver [chips] to them."
Today most of the interest in CWave is for use in UWB over coax applications to carry Ethernet or HDMI traffic, Watkins said. The chip set consists of a CMOS baseband and separate RF and LNA devices in silicon germanium.
The chip set demonstrated 500 Mbits/s TCP/IP throughput in a November 2007 test it co-sponsored. That was an order of magnitude ahead of competing wireless USB devices at that time.
Since then, competitor Staccato Communications has announced an integrated UWB chip in CMOS likely to cost much less than the Pulse~Link part. However, the Staccato RipCord2 still cannot match the CWave on performance.
The company has raised a hefty $92 million since it closed its first round in June 2000, a few months after dotcom bust.
"We've been through two recessions already," said Watkins. "My board and shareholders don't want to shut the company down," he added.
The company also has about 340 patents granted or filed. "We have a lot of assets we are sitting on," he said.