Transphorm Inc. is that unusual form of VCbacked startup that has raised money to invest in semiconductor manufacturing, including construction of a wafer fab in California.
Transphorm, which specializes in gallium nitride power ICs, boasts a blue chip list of investors, including Foundation Capital, Google Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Lux Capital. The startup has been cruising along in stealth mode since its formation in 2007. Over the past three or so years, it has raised $38 million. A pilot line at its headquarters, in Goleta, Calif., is up and running, producing GaN-based power semiconductors and modules, and the startup is ramping up for volume production.
In a June filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Transphorm disclosed an additional, $30 million round. The chip maker is in great shape financially, since a power fab is much less expensive than a leading-edge digital CMOS fab.
Transphorm is among a group of companies seeking to leverage the inherent efficiency of GaN and its capability for highspeed switching to reduce energy loses in such gear as switch-mode power supplies, variable-frequency motor drives and solar inverters. Others pursuing the GaN power market include startup Efficient Power Conversion and established power IC provider International Rectifier.
The difference between Transphorm and its competitors, according to Carl Blake, vice president of marketing, is that Transphorm has taken a systems approach in seeking to create a high-voltage process
capability that could work at breakdown voltages of 600 volts while scaling to 1,000 V. The alternative, says Blake, was to take GaN manufacturing processes essentially created for RF applications at relatively
low voltages, then try to extend the voltage regime to 200 to 300 V.
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While I agree with elPresidente over there that power and energy based start-ups have been around for few years, I have to say that they were never in the main stream.
Vast majority of start-ups in the recent decade has been silicon-based in one way or the other. Similar to the internet-based bubble in the 90s, the silicon-based start-up bubble seems to have burst with the 2009 recession. Post-recession, a new group of energy based start-ups are claiming investor attention.
For just another story of a silicon-based start-up folding up, please read http://www.eetimes.com/electronics-news/4083599/Silicon-startups-get-the-squeeze on EE Times.
majority were Silicon based start-ups seems to be out.
Itís true that many companies are already working to improve the efficiency of low-voltagepower conversion. In fact poweer silicon devices are quite good in that area, how ever there is a broader market than the computing market which needs improved efficiency at higher voltages. In fact inefficient high-voltage power conversion costs the U.S. $40 billion a year in power waste, and produces daily carbonemissions equivalent to 300 coal plants. Only Transphorm is targetinghigh-voltage power conversion to eliminate pervasive and costly power waste. We are focused on helping our customers scale up next-generation high-voltagepower converters, which will enable a new wave of ultra-efficient electrical devices and systems.
It depends on your starting point. Different power supplies based on switching silicon transistors have different efficiencies depending on architecture and implementation details. I suggest you sign up to EE Times Confidential to find out more.
Remember - 640k is all the memory you will ever need on a PC. Transphorm needs to figure out how to improve its yield - reading between the lines on what they have said, it apparently can only afford to play in expensive high voltage, not in the efficient, higher volume, lower voltage space. Not as perfect or attractive as you portray - a breakthrough could come tomorrow, or in three decades. Most of the FPGA startups deserved to go down before their A-round. They do not represent what's out there for markets, ideas, and technologies in semiconductors. You are also about 6 years too late in thinking power is an emerging "next generation".
Compared to the silicon-based start ups of the recent times, Transphorm Inc seems to be in a league of its own. Major VCs are interested in funding it. The fact that Transphorm Inc has survived the recession that has killed many startups and yet is negotiating another round of funding, speaks volumes for the faith the investing community has in the energy sector.
One gets a hunch whether the digital-CMOS based start-ups are viable any more. We have seen many FPGA-based start-ups go down in the recession years. Marginal inventions aside, one wonders whether there are any more break-through value ideas yet to be exploited in the digital world. Power and energy related start-ups may be the next generation where the real value-ideas emerge?
Join our online Radio Show on Friday 11th July starting at 2:00pm Eastern, when EETimes editor of all things fun and interesting, Max Maxfield, and embedded systems expert, Jack Ganssle, will debate as to just what is, and is not, and embedded system.