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ASIP Gets $16M Boost

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
7/23/2003

ASIP Inc., a laser startup with its eye on integrated photonics, picked up $16 million in venture funding, the company announced yesterday (see ASIP Banks $16M).

New investors included Nokia Venture Partners, which led the round, Finaventures, and Intel Capital, joining prior investor Redpoint Ventures. Transceiver vendor Multilink Technology Corp. (Nasdaq: MLTC), which is being acquired by Vitesse Semiconductor Corp. (Nasdaq: VTSS), is also an investor (see Vitesse to Buy Multilink).

ASIP came out last year with plans for an uncooled 10-Gbit/s electroabsorption modulated laser (EML) (see Startup Has an 'Uncool' Laser). The company has been shipping a 1310nm version for small amounts of revenues, and a 1550nm version has recently begun sampling, says CEO Mike Decelle.

The Series C money will be used to ramp manufacturing, which so far is done at ASIP's own indium phosphide (InP) fab. The company can use foundries -- semiconductor contract manufacturers -- but it chose to use its own fab at first, to perfect some of the proprietary process technologies required for its parts.

It's the InP manufacturing, not just the laser, that is ASIP's core technology. Eventually, Decelle wants to move the company beyond lasers to develop integrated optical devices, combining multiple functions on to a single InP chip. One key has been to find a higher-yielding manufacturing method, because InP is brittle and produces more defects than silicon.

For now, the company is sticking to the EML business, which provides more immediate revenues. "We're going to be cautious about doing [massively integrated] 'hero' chips," Decelle says.

Decelle wouldn't name any laser customers, but it seems telling that Multilink was an investor, and that Ignis Optics teamed up with ASIP for an OFC demonstration (see Ignis, ASIP Demo 40km XFP).

Startups with new laser ideas have had some luck picking up funding this year. Optium Corp., which is developing an uncooled EML that appears to be ASIP's most direct competition, picked up its Series C in February. And on the more exotic front, Zia Laser Inc. nabbed $5 million to pursue its idea of a quantum-dot laser (see Optium Raises $12M and Dotty Lasers Draw Investment).

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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