Comms chips

Tabula Gets $108M – & Cisco

Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) startup Tabula Inc. is announcing Monday that it's raised US$108 million and landed Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) as a customer.

The fourth-round funding brings Tabula's total to $214 million. Tabula is spending that money developing SpaceTime, a radical technology that lets chip circuitry reconfigure itself while running a process. The result is a chip more compact than a large FPGA but more versatile than an Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC).

Tabula isn't saying what Cisco is using the chips for. Separately Tabula officials say a Tier 1 equipment vendor has completed a base station design using the chips.

Why this matters
Tabula has been fun to talk about, but now it gets serious. Investors want to prove the startup has a legitimate chance against FPGA giants Altera Corp. (Nasdaq: ALTR) and Xilinx Inc. (Nasdaq: XLNX).

It's an expensive gamble. Tabula's ABAX line of chips is being built on 40nm design processes, meaning their manufacturing is very costly (a point that was questioned by a reader last year). Tabula officials say they also need a heavy investment in the software to program the chips. "It's almost like two startups under the same roof," says Alain Bismuth, vice president of marketing.

Some investors are shying away from chips, but Tabula's backers see a rare big payoff looming. "I think they see we have a shot at not just the $5 billion FPGA market but the $110 billion market made up of FPGAs, ASSPs and ASICs," Bismuth says.

For more
The lowdown on Tabula's relatively short history:

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 5:09:22 PM
re: Tabula Gets $108M – & Cisco

So, Tabula is the largest semiconductor funding in at least the last decade, according to the Global Semiconductor Alliance.

Cortina had a bigger round - $132 million - but $100M of that went straight to Intel to acquire their optical networking business, so in a sense it doesn't count.

Here's the GSA list that Tabula sent us:

2000: Transmeta ($88M)

2001: Accelerant ($104)

2002: Mellanox ($56M)

2003: Matrix Semi ($52M)

2004: Fortinet ($50M)

2005: Cornice ($97M)

2006: Cortina ($132M)

2007: Plastic Logic (100M)

2008: Luminus Devices ($72M)

2009: Aquantia ($35M)

2010: BridgeLux ($50M)

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