Hymite: It's All in the Packaging
Hymite is one of a growing list of startups focused on streamlining the manufacture of optical components (see Startups Tackle Optical Manufacturing). That focus seems to be key to its survival: Unlike firms that began life with better widgets for a burgeoning optical market that later collapsed, Hymite didn't get stuck with products it can't sell. Instead, it licenses techniques to help other companies make optical parts faster and cheaper.
It's a strategy with potential for any market, but unfortunately, the one it picked initially -- telecom -- didn't pan out. Still, Hymite doesn't burn that much cash. Funded in 2001 with about $5.3 million, the company claims it still has enough money to last it through early 2004.
Investors include the Danish Investment Fund, Dansk Kapital Anlæg A/S, Olicom A/S (OTC: OLCMF), and Vertex Venture Holdings.
Hymite's got two main offerings: One is a technique for aligning active optical components on wafer substrates; another is a hermetic sealing technique. There are nine patents pending on both methodologies.
Hymite claims it can replace complicated machinery and manual processes required today to "pick and place" waveguides, planar waveguide circuits, and other elements into various subsystems, like transceivers. According to VP of marketing Michael Kylling, the techniques cut at least 50 percent off the costs of traditional manufacturing.
Hymite's target customers are companies that make optical modules for equipment suppliers -- firms like Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), JDS Uniphase Corp. (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU), and even Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA).
Right now, however, Hymite can't claim contracts with any of these. "We're under NDA," Kylling says. But he acknowledges being in a range of development projects, albeit not yet for revenues.
One thing: Hymite isn't counting on telecom alone anymore for its future success. "We are waiting for the industry to get better," Kylling says. "But we see opportunities not in telecom but datacom and fiber-to-the-home applications
Specifically, Hymite sees potential in offering streamlined manufacturing for 10-Gbit/s XFP transceivers. Demand seems to be increasing for these wares (see XFP Gets the Fast Track), which are building blocks for new storage networking gear and high-speed MAN and enterprise switches and hubs.
It's a tack Hymite hopes will get it launched at last, after waiting out the long downturn. The odds are there -- chiefly in the form of increased competition. Other startups, such as Montreal's LxSix Photonics Inc., for instance, have similar plans to sell manufacturing techniques to larger players.
Nonetheless, Hymite's Kylling is guardedly optimistic, and a spokeswoman for investor Olicom says the firm continues to be positive about Hymite and its market.
Hymite was founded by Jochen Kuhmann, a PhD specializing in MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems) technology and a researcher at the Micro- and Nanotechnology Research Center at the Technical University of Denmark. He now serves as CTO. CEO is Niels-Kristian Hersoug (ex-Ericsson, Nettest, and Giga (now Intel). One of Kuhmann's colleagues at the university research center, Matthias Heschel, is VP of engineering. Hymite has about 20 employees.
— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading