LONDON – Fabless mixed-signal chip company Silicon Laboratories Inc. (Austin, Texas) is set to acquire fabless low-power microcontroller startup Energy Micro AS (Oslo, Norway), in a move that attempts to create critical mass in the pursuit of the wireless embedded market and the Internet of Things.
The deal is said to be worth $115 million in cash up front with an additional $55 million payable over time in deferred and earn-out payments and if the acquired company meets certain performance goals.
Energy Micro, a late stage privately-held company, was co-founded in 2007 by Geir Forre, president and CEO, who had previously founded Chipcon ASA, a mixed-signal and wireless chip company, which he sold to Texas Instruments in January 2006 for $200 million.
Energy Micro was one of the first companies to develop 32-bit microcontrollers based on a licensed ARM Cortex-M3 core with an emphasis on low-power and battery operated applications. Energy Micro has been largely self-funded although the company did announce a venture capital round of $13 million in March 2010. At the beginning of 2013 Alf-Egil Bogen joined Energy Micro as chief marketing officer (CMO) from Atmel Corp. and made an investment of $2 million into the fabless microcontroller company. However, it remains unclear if any, Silicon Labs purchase would represent.
Energy Micro is developing multi-protocol wireless RF solutions based on the Cortex-M architecture and the combination of low-power MCUs and radios are designed to enable applications for the Internet of Things (IoT), smart energy, home automation, security and portable electronics markets.
However, Energy Micro did make a mis-step as it tried to add a radio capability to its Gecko range of low-power MCUs. Energy Micro's Draco radio product family was originally announced on March 2, 2011 at the Embedded World exhibition in Nuremberg, Germany with the claim that parts, including a Cortex-M0 based system-chip, would sample in the fourth quarter of 2011.announced that it would. That now overdue line of radio-enabled microcontrollers is now due in the fourth quarter of 2013.
Silicon Labs has its own line of ARM-based microcontrollers but the company said that Energy Micro's portfolio complements Silicon Labs' 32-bit MCU, Ember ZigBee and sub-GHz wireless products and targets a growing embedded market. The acquisition will expands Silicon Labs’ MCU portfolio, adding nearly 250 products ranging from low-power Cortex-M0+ based devices to up Cortex-M4 based MCUs' capable of DSP and floating-point operations.
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At the signing of the agreement for Silicon Labs to acquire Energy Micro are Torleif Ahlsand, chairman of Energy Micro, Northzone VC, Tyson Tuttle, CEO of Silicon Labs, Geir Forre, CEO of Energy Micro and board director Steinar Fossen of Investinor VC.