SiGe Semi Scores $42.8M
The round included SiGe Semi's initial investors and brought in three new investors: Prism Venture Partners, TD Capital, and 3i Group plc (see SiGe Semi Scores $42.8M). Previous financing included a CDN$36.1 million (US$23.3 million) round in 2000 and an initial CDN $6.3 million (US$4.4 million) in angel funding.
As the name implies, SiGe Semi specializes in silicon germanium (SiGe), which is used for making high-speed semiconductors that can outperform silicon chips but are built using complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) processes. Other high-performance options include indium phosphide (InP) and gallium arsenide (GaAs).
The advantage to CMOS is easy integration; as design sophistication increases, multiple CMOS chips can usually be combined into one. But high-speed analog and RF parts made in CMOS with silicon have traditionally needed the most expensive manufacturing techniques to get their performance high enough. Making these parts in another material such as SiGe allows an older and cheaper manufacturing process to be used and still ensures the parts will have the necessary performance characteristics.
"The idea that CMOS is always cheaper is not the case. It is, for some big integrated designs, but not in the field we're in," says Jim Derbyshire, SiGe Semi CEO.
The company's strategy is to partner with CMOS chip vendors, using SiGe to fill particular holes in those vendors chipsets. In the 802.11 market, for example, SiGe Semi provides power amplifiers alone, and the combined set of CMOS and SiGe chips is offered to manufacturers as a whole.
Bluetooth is arguably the company's most successful market so far, and it's dabbled in cable as well. And last year, SiGe Semi made the jump into optical, announcing parts for 2.5- and 10-Gbit/s networks (see SiGe Semi Enters Optical Ring).
Optical won't be a huge seller at first, but SiGe Semi officials want to stake their claim for the time when the market reemerges. "We know the market is seen in the press as dead, and there are a lot of companies pulling out," Derbyshire says. ”But there is still a volume of parts being purchased, and SiGe provides a decidedly improved way of providing those functions."
A similar philosophy is coming from InP specialists, such as Inphi Corp. and Velocium, which also are providing high-speed optical components (see Inphi Moves Beyond InP).
For optical, SiGe Semi plans to build laser drivers, laser modulator drivers, post-limiting amplifiers, and transimpedence amplifiers (TIAs). The company has TIAs shipping at 2.5- and 10-Gbit/s, and within the next month it plans to announce several more 2.5-Gbit/s components as well as an improved 10-Gbit/s TIA.
SiGe Semi was spun out of the National Research Council of Canada in 1996 to provide SiGe manufacturing consulting, but by 2000 it had begun to sell its own chips, outsourcing the manufacturing. The company is based in Ottawa and has 95 employees.
— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading