Sense Photonics is no longer in stealth mode, having just landing more than $3 million in equity investments from 12 investors. With proprietary sensor technology, the nine-month-old startup is going after the drones and autonomous vehicle markets.
Here’s the backstory but still somewhat clouded by stealth about the rapid rise of a new firm from the ashes of another – Semprius, a solar technology company that raised more than $40 million in venture capital before shutting down at the end of 2016.
Leading the new venture are co-founders Scott Burroughs as CEO and Russell Kanjorski as chief operating officer. The firm already has five employees and a number of patents.
“It has been a lot of hard work to get to where we are. Now, we have to execute to realize our vision,” Kanjorski tells The Skinny.
“As you know, we are just getting started, and we are therefore not going to be publicly addressing too much about our technology [and] plans in the immediate future.”
So, some stealth remains in place.
Sense Photonics disclosed two fundings in a pair of SEC filings – one for $500,000 on Tuesday and a second for $2.8 million from 11 investors early Wednesday. The founders want to raise more than $2 million in additional funds.
The news means Sense Photonics will be one of the star selections at the CED Tech Venture conference next month in Raleigh where it had been selected to be a “Showcase” presenter before the funding was disclosed.
In a Q&A, Kanjorski was somewhat cagey, saying more details about the firm and its technology will emerge over time. For now, he responded to a series of questions about the funding and investors with little detail but an expressed interest to talk to interested backers.
“Beyond the public filings, we are not providing details about our financing at this time,” he explained.
“However, we have a terrific group of leading investors on board, and we expect to add several more in the coming months. We are always interested in speaking with investors interested in our space.”
As for the technology itself, the founders have explained it this way:
“Sense Photonics is developing a disruptive LiDAR solution for autonomous vehicles (AVs), drones, industrial automation, mobile devices and other applications.
“LiDAR, which stands for ‘Light Detection and Ranging,’ is an essential sensor for AVs that uses lasers to create highly accurate 3D maps of the vehicle’s surroundings day or night in most weather conditions.
“According to Goldman Sachs, LiDAR is one of the largest market opportunities that will emerge from the autonomous revolution – growing into an almost $100 billion market over the next twenty years.”
Why a new company?
Asked why the two decided to launch a new venture, Kanjorski said the two saw an opportunity while still working at Semprius where he was vice president of business development and Burroush was executive vice president of technology development and manufacturing.
“Scott and I launched Sense Photonics because we recognized a tremendous emerging market opportunity for which we felt that we had an ideal technical solution that solved a number of key challenges,” Kanjorski said.
“Autonomous vehicles and 3D sensing are extremely exciting markets right now, where new technology is desperately needed to improve performance and lower costs.
“For example, Goldman Sachs estimates that the market for vehicles alone (not including UAVs, industrial automation and other applications) will grow to almost $100B over the next 25 years. We believe that our technology can address this market better than anything else that we are aware of. “
The duo also already knew each other and believed a partnership would work.
“Scott and I had worked together for over five years prior to launching Sense Photonics and really enjoyed that experience, so we wanted to create a situation where that professional relationship could continue,” he explained.
Obvious questions focused on what if any relationship the new firm has with Semprisu.
“Sense Photonics is not a spinoff from Semprius,” Kanjorski noted.
“We are not talking in detail about the technology or technical approach yet, but we do not have any relationship with Semprius, which wound down last year.”
The two left Semprius at the end of November and started Sense Photonics in December.
While declining to talk in detail about Sense Photonics’ technology, Kanjorski provided an overview.
“Scott Burroughs first conceived of the technical approach and market opportunity. Then, a small team of co-founders and early employees refined the concept and product development roadmap,” he explained..
“Our team has extensive semiconductor, laser, photodiode, optics, RF and high volume manufacturing experience. In addition, Scott and I have extensive startup experience in semiconductor and hardware companies.”
As for patents, Kanjorski wouldn’t get into specifics.
“We will be addressing technology-related questions in the future, but our proprietary technology is well-protected with patents, patent applications and know-how,” he said.
Asked to provide photos, videos or graphics about the LiDAR technology, Kanjorski said he could not do so “at this time.”
“Sorry that we are not providing too many details now,: he added, but more information will be forthcoming “as we reveal more details about our company and plans.”