LED Firm Bridgelux Raises $50M, Brings on Seagate Vet

Can a venture-backed startup do for lighting what Silicon Valley has done for communications and entertainment: Make it digital? That’s the aim of LED chip and array maker Bridgelux. This evening the startup announced that it’s raised $50 million and brought on former Seagate CEO Bill Watkins as the new captain, in an effort to scale up its production this year.

In startup years, it’s been a long ride. The 8-year-old firm, which raised $23 million in 2007, and another $40 million in 2008, was embroiled in a patent litigation suit with LED competitor Cree (s CREE) for a couple years. That suit was settled in 2008, and Bridgelux in recent months has launched a Lighting Services Group, as well as its LED Array Technology.

What can the former Seagate (s STX) leader bring to an LED tech business? Watkins told us in an interview that he can use his experience with scaling and streamlining manufacturing of the storage products into the lighting space. He’s also on the board of chip company Maxim (s MXIM), and silicon chip making shares a lot of characteristics with solid state lighting making (Bridgelux uses indium gallium nitride for its chips). Bridgelux is backed by Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital, DCM, El Dorado Ventures, Harris & Harris Group and VantagePoint Venture Partners.

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