Industry veterans back Silicon Catalyst semiconductor startup incubator

Silicon Catalyst has launched what the group says is the industry's first incubator for semiconductor startups.

Silicon Catalyst has launched what the group says is the industry's first incubator for semiconductor startups.

The group aims to address the challenges faced by startups when going from idea to company formation to prototype, along with the industry-wide concern about the lack of fund-worthy startups to drive novel innovation and growth.

Traditional investors have mostly abandoned early-stage semiconductor investing; however, Silicon Catalyst and its partners believe this is one of the most exciting times to be innovating with semiconductors. Opportunities in Internet of Things, biotech, wearables, energy, transportation, and mobile will all have new semiconductor innovation at their core. In addition, most of these markets do not require bleeding-edge technologies and enormous R&D budgets to create novel and valuable products, the group believes.

The Silicon Catalyst founders state that, if upfront costs can be reduced, startups will become much better investments, and follow-on funding will go to true innovation and value creation. In turn, they hope that this will stimulate renewed investor interest in semiconductor startups.

Silicon Catalyst believes its business model is unique. The organization wants to incubate a select number of startups each year and provide them the tools and support needed to get to work, rather than hunting for funding. The startups will be backed by a coalition of companies with appropriate experience to help reduce the complexity of semiconductor innovation.

Key to the business model is providing access to mentors who believe it is in the interest of the entire industry to support startups. The first of these mentoring companies include electronic design automation company Synopsys, test and measurement equipment company Keysight, and pure-play semiconductor foundry TSMC.

"A vibrant start-up community is a valuable component in the development of any business and the multi-trillion-dollar industries that we enable," said Aart de Geus, chairman and co-CEO, Synopsys.

To expand the network of mentoring companies, Silicon Catalyst is in discussions with firms from across the semiconductor ecosystem ranging from enablement to fabless to systems companies that will help mentor qualified startups admitted to the incubator.

Silicon Catalyst's managing team is made up of semiconductor industry veterans. They are:

  • Mike Noonen, board director at Ambiq Micro, Adapteva and Kilopass, formerly EVP at GlobalFoundries and NXP Semiconductors, Global Semiconductor Alliance board director, and National Semiconductor executive
  • Dan Armbrust, formerly CEO of Sematech and IBM Microelectronics manufacturing executive
  • Rick Lazansky, board director Sand Hill Angels; Board Director i-GATE Innovation Hub; serial entrepreneur and founder Vantage Analysis Systems, Denali Software; former VP of Engineering at Xpedion Design Systems, acquired by Agilent.

Silicon Catalyst operations are expected to begin in Silicon Valley, CA, in the first quarter of 2015. Startups are anticipated to come from not just Silicon Valley but from all around the world. Silicon Catalyst plans to collaborate with local startup incubators to enable these entrepreneurs to leverage the Silicon Catalyst partner resources without needing to relocate.

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