SAN FRANCISCO—An analog IC startup with a seasoned management team and a throwback business model emerged from semi-stealth mode Thursday (June 23) to disclose the receipt of $12 million in series A venture capital funding and announce several new analog comparator products.
Touchstone Semiconductor Inc.—formed by analog veterans from Maxim Integrated Products Inc., Linear Technology Corp. and Analog Devices Inc. in 2010—plans to cut its teeth as a second-source supplier for commonly used, high-performance analog parts. According to Touchstone CEO Brett Fox, this is the same business model that billion dollar analog firms Maxim and Linear used to get their starts three decades ago.
"It's not an obvious strategy," said Fox, who has 25 years experience in analog ICs, including 11 years at Maxim and four years at Micrel Inc. Fox notes that in the early days of the semiconductor industry, a host of companies—including household names like Intel Corp., Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and National Semiconductor Corp.—got their starts as second-source suppliers. "In the last 20 years, the recipe just got lost."
While Toushstone is initially focusing on marketing parts as drop-in replacements for others supplied by the likes of Maxim and Linear, the company will eventually bring to market proprietary parts, which are already in development (one has already been announced), according to Fox. Starting by attacking existing, high-margin markets will enable Touchstone to build revenue and credibility with customers, Fox said.
"When you look at the analog market today, at least 90 percent of the products are sole sourced," Fox said.
Well it looks like the Touchstone strategy didn't work as Silicon Labs bought their products for $1.5 million today. No mention of the old managekment. What happened??
AUSTIN, Texas--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Silicon Labs (NASDAQ: SLAB), a leader in high-performance, analog-intensive, mixed-signal ICs, today announced the purchase of the full product portfolio and intellectual property of California-based Touchstone Semiconductor Inc., an early-stage power management technology company and provider of high-performance, low-power analog IC products. Silicon Labs purchased the assets of Touchstone for $1.5 million.
Touchstone's low-power analog products and technologies complement Silicon Labs' embedded portfolio of energy-friendly microcontrollers (MCUs), wireless products and sensors for the Internet of Things (IoT) market. The transaction adds almost 70 analog products to Silicon Labs' portfolio including op-amps, current sense amplifiers, low-power analog-to-digital converters (ADCs), comparators, power management ICs, timers, and voltage detectors and references. When combined with Silicon Labs' existing embedded portfolio, these high-performance analog products enable new levels of power savings in battery-operated systems, which are becoming more prevalent in the IoT market. Silicon Labs will continue to sell the Touchstone IC products under the Silicon Labs name and plans to expand this product line going forward.
"As the IoT market expands exponentially, developers require an ever-widening array of low-power MCUs, wireless ICs, sensors and power management technologies for battery-powered end-nodes," said Tyson Tuttle, CEO of Silicon Labs. "IoT end-node designs require the utmost in energy efficiency to maximize battery life without compromising performance. This asset purchase adds valuable energy-saving analog technology and products to enhance our embedded portfolio for the IoT."
Silicon Labs is an industry leader in the innovation of high-performance, analog-intensive, mixed-signal ICs. Developed by a world-class engineering team with unsurpassed expertise in mixed-signal design, Silicon Labs' diverse portfolio of patented semiconductor solutions offers customers significant advantages in performance, size and power consumption. For more information about Silicon Labs, please visit www.silabs.com.
There should be a space for taking designs one better, as higher voltage ratings and designs that function like the original but are not just knockoffs. A older comparator found in many designs is very sensitive to having its inputs out of range, blowing it up. A drop in replacement by a smart team could capture new business as well as MRO.
An older design teams less intent on always faster could create parts that do not require designers to go to links to filter out overfast response where it is not necessary or desired.
Analog requires more precision that digital, and a newer fab like TSMC could provide less variation on key parameters perhaps. And as die get larger eventually, low defectivity will pay off as well. Interesting experiment in any case.
As the Zen Master says, "We will see."
Some interesting comments here. However, competing with the established analog leaders (be it NSM/TI, Maxim, LTC, or ADI) is not easy nowadays, ~30 years after the founding of LTC and Maxim. Everything has a time, as they say, and I am pretty convinced that our time today is not the time for this type of a venture, Pierre Lamond's judgement notwithstanding (Pierre was certainly wrong for example when funding Integration Associates, to name just one). One thing is for sure: this company will be very good news for patent lawyers and patent expert witnesses, because IF they ever become successful they will be tied up in patent litigation to no end.
are you kidding? maxim has a longstanding reputation of claiming outstanding parts that you can't actually buy. i have already resolved never to design in maxim after the last time they burned me, and the same is true for most of my friends at different companies. but i admit, some maxim products are great and i would love to buy those from someone other than maxim if their supply chain was more like LT's, so sign me up for touchstone!
It's hard to imagine that a business model based on cloning Maxim chips in TSMC18 and selling them for less money can be successful. Obviously there's more to this story, otherwise it's even harder to imagine a VC putting $12M into this idea.
These guys will likely do well in an environment where these products are needed. Automotive, Mil-Aero, and Medical spaces can not tolerate loss of supply. That said, it never appealed to me to bottom fish either.
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