*Q&A: Syntiant – Another Meteoric OC Startup
An Irvine startup is having a banner year. It officially launched, and has raised $30 million to date: $5 million in a Series A round and $25 million in a recently-closed Series B round.
This company’s white-hot trajectory is yet another indicator of the vibrancy of OC’s startup/innovation ecosystem.
Here is a Q&A with Syntiant, co-founder and CEO, Kurt Busch. The company builds ultra-low power semiconductors that use AI for battery-powered devices.
OCSN: When did you officially launch your company?
Busch: Founded in April 2017; launch was May 2018.
OCSN: Who are the other founders?
Jeremy Holleman, CTO
Pieter Vorenkamp, COO
Stephen Bailey, VP, software engineering, and chief architect
OCSN: Who led the funding rounds?
Busch: The Series A round was led by Intel Capital. VC firms Seraph Group, Danhua Capital and Embark Ventures also participated in this round.
The Series B round was led by M12, Microsoft Corp.’s venture fund. Other strategic investors include the Amazon Alexa Fund, Applied Ventures, Intel Capital, Motorola Solutions Venture Capital and Robert Bosch Venture Capital.
OCSN: Who is joining your board due to this investment?
Busch: Our board will expand with new members, including Samir Kumar, managing director of M12, and Bret Johnsen, CFO of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), who will serve as an independent director.
OCSN: What will you use the funds for?
Busch: With the new board and additional financing, we will be able to commercialize Syntiant’s neural network technology for battery-powered devices to truly enable pervasive artificial intelligence.
OCSN: What are some of your other recent milestones?
– Demonstrating the company’s proprietary technology working together with Infineon’s microphones during the OktoberTech 2018 Technology Collaboration Forum.
– Demonstrating/unveiling Syntiant’s ultra-low-power analog neural network technology at the Intel Capital Global Summit in Palm Springs.
OCSN: How many prior companies has the founder acquired/started and sold?
Busch: I have extensive experience in product development, driving a culture of innovation for multinational teams at public and private technology companies.
Prior to Syntiant, I founded and was the CEO of Busch-Toschi, where I worked with tech companies in the areas of market strategy, business development, fundraising and strategic options.
Before that I was president, CEO and a member of the board of directors at Lantronix, a global provider of secure data access and management solutions for the Internet of Things and IT assets.
I also served as a SVP and general manager of high performance analog at Mindspeed Technologies, a formerly NASDAQ-listed company that was a leading supplier of semiconductor solutions for communications infrastructure applications.
OCSN: How did those experiences help create the vision/raise awareness of the need for this new startup?
Busch: Experience at Switchcore AB, my first startup, greatly shaped the tactics of Syntiant. I learned how to grow an international business from scratch, while commercializing cutting-edge research.
OCSN: What is Syntiant’s core technology?
Busch: Syntiant merges deep learning with semiconductor design to produce highly efficient, ultra-low-power processors for “always-on” applications in battery powered devices, like keyword spotting, speaker identification, wake word, event detection, image recognition and sensor synthesis.
OCSN: Why is the company relevant/necessary?
Busch: Traditional semiconductor solutions for advanced machine learning are severely limited by excessive power dissipation, which is fundamentally limited by the power penalty of processing and moving data in traditional CPU or GPU architectures.
Syntiant’s neural decision processors (NDPs) completely eliminate data movement penalties by performing neural network computations in flash memory, enabling larger networks at significantly lower power. Ultimately, this will enable OEMs to bring artificial intelligence functionality to smart devices free from cloud connection, size, and power consumption constraints.
The NDP’s focus on the “always-on” applications.
OCSN: Any prominent customers?
Busch: The company has entered into a development agreement with Infineon Technologies AG to complement its NDPs with the company’s high-performance microphone technology.
Syntiant also is deeply engaged with potential customers in the hearable, wearable, mobile phone, IoT and laptop space.
OCSN: Anything else you want to add?
Busch: The market for voice and speech recognition already is at $10 billion and will grow as consumers continue to use and demand spoken commands when interacting with smart devices – from mobile phones and wearable devices to smart sensors and drones.
Syntiant offers a unique solution that enables these devices to be “better listeners,” delivering more than 50 times improvement in efficiency versus traditional digital stored-program architectures, enabling OEMs to bring machine learning to edge devices.