Two former Cisco Systems engineers have teamed up in a new venture aimed at speeding search engine traffic through better semiconductors.
Mihailo Stojancic and Marc Edwards formed ISIC, which stands for Internet Specific Integrated Circuits, last fall. The company recently landed $1 million in seed money from Academy Funds and MCNC Seed Fund and already is lining up investors for a formal first round that could reach $6 million.
The network coprocessors made by ISIC are based on algorithms developed by Stojancic, the company’s president and chief technology officer, and designed with embedded DRAM technology, a fairly new process that combines memory and logic functions on a single chip.
The chips are designed to work in search engine switches and routers to assist in packet flow classification, table processing and other functions, Stojancic says. He points out that networking equipment has “a difficult problem when the table database is large and the key match is long.”
Combining the algorithms with embedded DRAM technology yields dense chips that don’t consume a lot of power but manage to speed the search capabilities of the routers, he says.
Academy obviously is convinced the idea has much merit.
“These guys have a background in working with networking and routers that gives them the perspective to see the need for this product,” says John Ciannamea of Academy Funds. “Some guys build a product and then try to sell it to the market, but they saw what the market needed first and then addressed it.”
University, MCNC partnerships?
In addition to his stint at Cisco, Stojancic also worked at IBM and NEC and at local chip design software developer BOPS and network security firm Celotek.
Edwards, ISIC’s vice president of engineering, also worked at IBM and Cisco before founding Protean Devices two years ago. That firm, which hoped to use technology licensed from NEC to make coprocessors that users could configure to handle various functions, folded last year after it couldn’t attract venture funding.
Although Academy usually backs companies spun out of labs at universities across the state, Ciannamea says ISIC has the potential for university partnerships down the road, which made it an attractive investment.
MCNC researchers also may work with the company in the future, says John Cambier, who heads the nonprofit research center’s two new venture funds. The center’s Advanced Network Research Group understood the problems ISIC is trying to address and Stojancic’s approach, which made the decision to invest easier, Cambier says.
“This is a unique technology … both of these guys have a good pedigree and they’ve gotten a lot of traction already,” he says.
Stojancic says he and Edwards are tapping their network of industry contacts to line up demonstrations of their prototype chips and are negotiating some early sales. They also are working on an agreement with a contract manufacturer to produce the chips since the startup doesn’t have its own fabrication line.
ISIC has five employees, and the seed money will help hire a couple more product developers. Stojancic says he is talking with several out-of-state funds looking to participate in the first formal round, and after that closes, he may also add some sales and marketing punch to the operation.
The deal is the second for MCNC, which created a $10 million seed fund and a $15 million follow-on fund last year during a reorganization. The follow-on fund recently participated in a $17.4 million round for Ziptronix, a semiconductor packaging firm in Raleigh.