Venture Capitalists investing in semiconductor technology

Two CSMC-related companies, Inpria and Amphoryx were highlighted at last year's Silicon Innovation Forum (Semicon 2014). An article in Solid State Technology highlights the results from this meeting - "VCs still investing in semiconductor technology, but need strategic partners and capital efficiency

Inpria was chosen as one of the VC's favorite company.

"So where are these investors putting their money in the semiconductor sector these days?  Primarily it’s either towards technologies with potential to solve next-generation semiconductor manufacturing challenges, or towards extending conventional semiconductor technology to new fields, from medicine to agriculture. The strategic investors from the venture arms of Samsung, Intel and Applied Materials all cited innovative materials solutions as the investments about which they were currently most excited, particularly Inpria for its high-resolution metal oxide photoresists"

A whole section was dedicated to Inpria's leverage of grant funds to take university research into commercial production

"The venture arms of Applied Materials, Intel and Samsung have all recently invested in Inpria, and kept citing it as an example of semiconductor development they were excited about for its potential solution to the key problem of resolution of next generation photoresist. Replacing the long, tangled, polymer molecules of traditional photoresist with the smaller inorganic molecules enables cleaner edges and reduces collapse of 7nm and 10nm features.  CEO Andrew Grenville reported that the line-width roughness with this resist is half that of conventional polymer products (0.7nm vs 1.5nm) on 10nm lines and spaces.

Grenville told the tale of the company’s earlier years of leveraging its capital as it developed the metal oxide cluster technology from Oregon State University, starting with NSF/SBIR funding, then a grant from Oregon’s Onami, then joint development funding with potential users. Inpria first developed the material using shared equipment of the Onami university network, then the SEMATECH microexposure tool at Laurence Berkeley national lab, and then in joint development programs at imec’s consortium in projects with equipment suppliers and customers – for about five years before the technology was developed enough for angel investors and Applied Materials. This year strategic investors Intel and Samsung joined Applied in further funding, which then attracted more from the Oregon Angel Fund, with deep semiconductor experience and connections. “We expect we will be interesting for a financial investor in a couple of years,” said Grenville. “It takes leveraging, leveraging, leveraging for capital-efficient development…though the proof will come in 2015 when we go into the fabs.”

Amorphyx won best pitch.

VC panels choose Amorphyx and Aledia for best startup pitches

"Amorphyx, offers a fast switching, low cost backplane solution for displays, using a kind of tunneling effect through a near-perfect amorphous sapphire insulating layer in a metal-insulator-metal device. The company is working at ITRI in Taiwan with a production collaborative it put together  three Asian companies, aiming at start joint production in 2015. “This should save $100 of the cost of a $400 display,” claimed CEO and President John Brewer."

The next Silicon Innovation Forum at SEMICON West will be held on July 14, 2015.