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Silicon startups reveal keys to success

Posted: 12 Nov 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:startups? silicon? CMOS? software?

More than 250 companies have made it to the EE Times 60 Emerging Startups since the first list was published in 2004. The 250-plus tally includes 13 new names that appear on version 11.0, our latest iteration.

Here's what we've learned from six years of startup watching: First of all, be wary of the big technology bet; instead look for value in the simplebut not trivialdevelopment that comes with a clear sales proposition. Secondly, the industry's fundamentals still boil down to CMOS and software.

The ranking, known as the Silicon 60 list gives readers a lineup of privately held technology-based companies that EE Times' editors believe are worth watching. Companies are included in the list for many reasons, and its inclusion in the list is not an assurance that it will be successful in the marketplace.

It would be impossible to have a 100 percent hit rate, especially in recent years. Hard times have befallen the chip industry's venture-capital-funded startup model, which depends on initial public offerings or generous buyouts by market leaders to repay the equity sunk into technology development. Developments seem to be taking longer; the IPOs have been fewer, the buyouts less generous.

First listers
Several names in the first Silicon 60 list published in April 2004 are still trading as private companies, including Discera, Dust, Fulcrum Microsystems, Icera, Innovative Silicon, Kilopass, Molecular Imprints, PicoChip and Plastic Logic. Because they are privately held, it is hard to know precisely how they are faring and whether their latest funding rounds were simply keep-alive money or were measured investments in companies on the brink of making it big. In either case, their ability to last this long suggests these companies are doing something right by their investors, their customers or perhaps both constituencies. (Indeed, in some cases their corporate investors are also their customers.)

Version 1.0 of the Silicon 60 list also included Alphamosaic, Intrinsity, Memsic, Saifun and Transitive Technologies. Cambridge, U.K.-based Alphamosaic, a developer of multicore video processors, was spun out from Cambridge Consultants in April 2001 and raised about $25 million in venture capital before being acquired by Broadcom in 2004 for $123 million. Intrinsity was founded in Austin, Texas, in 1997 and spent many years offering its dynamic-logic approach to achieving higher processor performance. Its work with Samsung tweaking an ARM Cortex-A8 processor design called Hummingbird brought the company to Apple's attention, and Apple acquired Intrinsity last March for a reported $121 million.


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