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.