RALEIGH — Another cutting-edge semiconductor company is emerging in the Triangle.
HexaTech, a spinout based on research into aluminum nitrides at North Carolina State University, has secured $8.9 million in Series A venture financing. And the investors are convinced the company’s co-founders are ready to capitalize on a huge market for new types of chips and devices.
“It is a multi-billion dollar opportunity,” said John Glushik of Intersouth Partners, which led the round. “Initially they will focus on aluminum nitride substrates to supply the building blocks for other devices. Eventually they will grow devices on their own substrates and sell them.”
Is HexaTech another Cree in the making? RTP already is home to other emerging chip firms such as Nitronex and RTI International spin-off Ziptronix.
The secret sauce for HexaTech, which has five employees and plans to double in size with the funding, is the aluminum nitride substrates. Company co-founders Zlatko Sitar and Raul Schlesser have been working on the technology as an alternative to other chip components for eight years. Sitar remains a professor at NCSU and is the firm’s president and chief technology officer. Schlesser is now working full time with HexaTech as vice president for substrate development, Sitar told Local Tech Wire.
Sitar, who has taught at NCSU for 10 years and is from Slovenia, said aluminum nitride is a “very exciting material” that will enable more high-frequency devices for use in telecommunications, ultraviolet light for lasers and for use in light-emitting diode technology.
“No one could make these crystals,” Sitar said, “so we decided that there was an opportunity for us.” HexaTech has developed a proprietary means of growing and fabricating single crystalline wafers.
The work of Sitar and Schlesser drew Glushik’s attention when HexaTech launched its search for capital. The company was created in 2001.
“The founders of the company are world renowned,” Glushik said. “Through our due diligence, we learned that they really are recognized as the best technology experts in this area. At that point, it was just a matter of validating the market in order to make the investment.”
One application for the aluminum nitride substrates that especially excites Glushik is their potential for use in optical storage, “We could see DVDs and CDs with several higher magnitudes of storage capability,” he explained.
Glushik described the investment as “within the realm” for a startup semiconductor firm. The money is intended to last for several years as HexaTech expands its business development efforts and continues enhancements to its technology. Commercialization is still “two to three years away”, according to Sitar.
Glushik is now a member of HexaTech’s board. Also joining the board as representatives of the other investment syndicate are Craig Burson of HIG Ventures and Dave McLean of Sevin Rosen Funds.
NC IDEA was the other investor.