60 GHz Chipmaker Phiar Fizzles & Shuts Down

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Phiar Corp., a 60 GHz chip company that had created some truly impressive semiconductor technology, appears to have shuttered its operations. Sources tell me the Boulder, Colo.-based company is no longer in business, though as of April 15, Phiar had not filed for bankruptcy in Colorado Bankruptcy Court.

My calls to Bob Goodman, CEO of Phiar, and its sole investor, Mark Siegel at Menlo Ventures, were not returned. And five out of seven of the people listed on the Phiar management web page, including Goodman, stopped working at the company in March, according to their respective profiles on LinkedIn.

Phiar raised $9 million in funding last October in a recapitalization, and was seeking a Series B during the first quarter of 2008. The seven-year-old company was formed to commercialize technology from the University of Colorado related to new materials for building chips. Calls to the UC tech transfer office were not returned, either.

I’m sorry to see Phiar go because it represents another blow for semiconductor startups. The company was attempting to do something really unique by building chips on new materials that allowed them to exploit the benefits of quantum tunneling to make cheaper, faster chips. It had a development partnership with Motorola to make devices in the 60 GHz band that will be used for fast wireless transfer of HD video.

But it appears that Phiar may have had a hard time raising a follow-on round of funding — a situation that’s becoming increasingly common as potential investors look at the costs and risks associated with putting money into a chip firms and opt to take a pass. Just a few weeks ago, Montalvo Systems laid off two-thirds of its staff after failing to raise additional rounds. Semiconductor investments in new companies have fallen in the last few years, which makes me wonder if the days of novel chip startups are coming to an end.

7 Comments

Jon Leitner

One of the problems with Phiar was that their technology is good for discrete devices, but with monolithic MMIC/RFIC designs now standard for 60 GHz (IBM, VubIQ, SiBeam…), there is an issue to incorporate their M-I-M technology on the chip with the other circuitry. Just look at the excellent performance with SiGe and even now CMOS. Their qtm tunneling with M-I-M technology should still be applicable and good for niche military, space, radio astronomy applications.

Stacey Higginbotham

@Chris, Thanks, and I too wish they could have kept plugging along. I guess not all revolutions succeed.

Chris Morrison

Very nice catch, Stacey — I’m also really sorry to see this company go. The technology was a gamble, but it would have been great to see it take off.

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