SM: You have market potential to build a pretty big business. Is that what you want to do?
FW: I want to build a profitable and sustainable business. We do not want to grow too fast. Our strategy is to have the right technology, the right architecture and the right product mix in the right decade. One of the key insights we based our business on is the emergence of 3D technology. Our current products are based on stacked DRAMs. Future versions will have 4 DRAMs in every package. When you start to stack things, it becomes more important to put in intermediate chips to handle the stacks. If we are right then we will build a big company over the course of a decade.
SM: Do you have your full team in place for the future?
FW: We do. We just have a VP of Finance starting in three weeks. We have sales, marketing, operations and engineering positions filled. We will not do a lot of hiring this year. We are a little over three years from founding, at which time it was two guys with almost nothing. We now have two working chips, one of which has already went to production with no revs. The second one is looking promising.
SM: Did you get a lot of people from AMD?
FW: No, we have quite a mix of people. We hired one individual who left AMD many years ago, and my co-founder Suresh had a friend who came with him. From there is has been friends of friends and recommendations. Pretty much all of our hiring has been referrals. We have a silicon team and a systems team. We have 30 people, and less than half of them are working on chip design. The rest are working on packaging, boards, and signal integrity.
SM: How do you handle the 3D packaging with your current team, and how do you support multiple products with a team of that size?
FW: Today 3D is done by DRAM companies. We have internal expertise which enabled us to design DDP and QDP packages as well as look at various advances. Silicon design always maintains a lot of systems design around it. That is more and more important as things get crunched down and run at higher speeds.
The form factor in the DIMM is a given. We can’t change that. We have to figure out how to stack up the DRAMs and fit in with all the wires already in place. We have to look at the possibility of putting our chips under the stacks of DRAM.
SM: What is your financing story? Did you want a lot of investors right away?
FW: We were able to get some really savvy investors on board in the A round. We went out for funding right away. We had a good PowerPoint.
SM: That is good. Everyone is moving up and refusing to do seed funding. PowerPoint financing, in my opinion, is really important.
FW: You can’t build a chip without financing. My belief is that if there is something worth doing, it is worth doing soon. This was worth doing. There was a period where there was far too much funding based on PowerPoint. In this case there was a clear need, although there was debate about how large the market actually is.
I was in an unusual situation in that I had a reputation which allowed me to provide some credibility. Storm Ventures was incubating this idea with my co-founder, Suresh. They were an initial investor. I brought the idea to Khosla Ventures, and they invested. We brought Perkins in from there. We have three of the four founders of Sun as initial investors as well. That was our A round. Series A was $8M, and, without having spent all of that, we have our first product in production and our second product coming along as well.
We did a B round last year, and Intel Capital invested which was really nice. When I started the company we did not know whether our technology would apply to Intel. It has turned out to be relevant. Between our A and B rounds, we have raised $20M. That is our funding story.
SM: Congratulations, I wish you all the best.