LONDON – Ambiq Micro Inc., a 2010 microcontroller startup, has announced it has received a $2.4 million in venture capital funding from backers that include ARM Holdings plc and Cisco Inc.
The seed funding round was led by DFJ Mercury. Other investors include: ARM, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Cisco, The Frankel Fund, Huron River Ventures and a number of undisclosed private investors.
The money will enable the expansion of engineering, sales and marketing teams, the company said.
Ambiq (Ann Arbor, Michigan) claims to be working on advanced power management techniques to provide the world's most energy efficient microcontrollers. Indeed, the company states that extensive research has produced 32-bit ARM M-class processors that are more energy-efficient than the simplest 8-bit microcontrollers. The company's website says it has already developed the world's most energy efficient "semiconductor solutions" but no parts or datasheets are listed.
Ambiq, founded in January 2010, is likely to find itself in competition with Energy Micro AS (Oslo, Norway) which started down the low-power ARM microcontroller track in 2007.
However, Ambiq has powerful fans. In July 2010 the company was the winner of the second annual global business plan competition for university and business school students, sponsored by Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Cisco. Scott Hanson and Phil O'Niel, from the University of Michigan, were the successful presenters and won $250,000 in seed backing from Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Cisco. And clearly they have been able to leverage that handsome prize into $2.4 million.
"DFJ Mercury is excited to support Ambiq Micro in its efforts to bring world-class ultra-low power microcontrollers to market," stated Ned Hill, managing director of DFJ Mercury, in a statement issued by Ambiq. "Ambiq provides proven technology that enables new products where the requirements for significant battery life extend far beyond the capabilities available today."
"Ambiq Micro is extremely pleased to be supported by DFJ Mercury, ARM and the other investors on this stellar list," said Scott Hanson, CEO of Ambiq, in the same statement. "This vote of confidence in Ambiq provides the capital needed to accelerate our business and provide product to a much wider range of customers."
I have discussed with a Professor in Computer Architecture at Ann Arbour,
and he said that Asynchronous CPUs
are nice, except that they are twice the size, twice the power consumption and half the performance of synchronous CPUs.
Funny that it pops up at Ann Arbour...
Sub-threshold transistor is interesting for low power BUT it is very hard to get any foundries to consider developing a new process to accommodate this.
I heard Mike Muller, CTO of ARM, say something along those lines earlier this year see "Clients to become more like servers, says ARM's CTO" http://www.eetimes.com/electronics-news/4199578/Clients-to-become-more-like-servers-says-ARM-s-CTO
Toumaz Technology Ltd. has some ideas on sub-threshold operation but rarely mention them these days.
They are bringing out low power ARM implementation's in to the market so what they do internally don't matter. They could use async clock or device physics or any other fancy technique, but if finally it reduces the power cost of the OEM they would be happy to keep them in business.
When ARM came out, its low power credentials were overlooked for years, until it got into mobile phones. Asynch, as stated above, has similarly been slow to take off. Maybe the two will synergize nicely?
Good to see a semi startup receiving some VC funding. Watched Ambiq's pitch @ Rice business plan competition. Impressive.
Looking at their publication titles (http://vlsida.eecs.umich.edu/resource.php?grp=1
)it seems they use Subthreshold / asynchronous design techniques to reduce the power. If so it may not be a huge competitive advantage in the long term.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.