Date: Oct 28, 2021 Author: Nitin Dahad Source: EE Times (
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The recent acquisition of startup MixComm by Sivers Semiconductors would allow the Swedish chipmaker to expand its portfolio to deliver 5G millimeter-wave devices while obtaining radio frequency/beam-forming circuits along with silicon germanium and and RF-SOI technology.
Among those listed in the EE Times Silicon 100 startups to watch in 2021, MixComm said the deal with Sivers is worth between $135 million and $155 million, depending on achieving commercial milestones. That represents a more than 10-fold return on $116 million investment by early backer Kairos Ventures.
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The IP portfolio acquired to Sivers also includes a range of mmWave use cases, including unlicensed 5G, license 5G infrastructure, fixed wireless access and satellite communications. The deal also enables the combination to apply MixComm’s antenna-in-package technology to more mmWave applications.
“We realized that the technologies and products were very complementary,” said MixComm CEO Mike Noonen. “We’ll cover all the frequencies, up to 60 GHz. Whatever 5G mmWave is going to be, Sivers will address it. And it won’t just be a complete offering in terms of frequencies, but also device types.”
Noonen has a track record of IPOs and acquisitions. He has emphasized the lean- startup model, working with a combinations of partners. “We are frugal, but looking to make impact,” Noonen said in an earlier interview, noting MixComm’s 20-person staff. The lean approach prioritizes product development and partnerships to attract customers. For example, a partnership with GlobalFoundries helped the startup gain market traction.
Why sell the startup if things were going so well?
“The key aspect of deciding to go on this [acquisition] path is to gain scale and leverage each other’s footprints,” Noonen replied. The “total available market expands, and the merger is well balanced. I’ve seen what can be done when you have global scale.” The deal “also provides affirmation that 5G mmWave is going to be a big market,” he added.
The acquisition allows Sivers to increase its design wins by approximately 70 percent to 44, as well as double the number of design wins expected to enter volume production within the next 12 months. MixComm currently has 18 designs in-house, including a major Tier-1 5G infrastructure customer. It also boasts a significant pipeline of potential new customers. The startup also holds approximately 20 patents either filed, granted or exclusively licensed. It reported $1.3 million in revenue during the first half of 2021.
MixComm estimates its top three customers could generate approximately $70 million in aggregate revenue between 2022 and 2024, and $70 million in incremental revenue from the Tier-1 customer through 2026.
“MixComm has in a short time period been able to build a very impressive customer list as well as [a] sales funnel,” said Sivers CEO Anders Storm. MixComm and Sivers have the same partnership philosophy within the mmWave ecosystem, and “by adding these ecosystems together we will create an even greater combined entity.”
Founded in 2017, MixComm is headquartered in Chatham, N.J., with design centers in Oregon and California. It is active in the U.S. 5G repeaters/base station, SatCom and radar markets. The startup was spun off after a decade of development at Columbia University led by Harish Krishnaswamy, MixComm’s co-founder and CTO. Research projects totaled about $94 million.
MixComm claims to be the first mmWave startup selected to participate in the 5G Open Innovation Lab founded by Intel and T-Mobile. Along with minority investor GlobalFoundries for RF-SOI fabrication, packaging and test services, another partner is Richardson RFPD for global distribution and logistics.
Under terms of the acquisition, Kairo Ventures will become a significant Sivers shareholder when the transaction is completed. The acquisition must still be approved by Sivers’ shareholders; it also requires regulatory approval by the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. The transaction is expected to be completed by mid-2022.