Bridgelux Raises $20M For LEDs

LED chip and array maker Bridgelux raised close to $50 million just a year ago, but is raising even more money, according to a filing. The nine-year-old venture-backed startup which is looking to do for lighting what Silicon Valley has done for communications and entertainment — make it digital — has raised $20.74 million of a planned $21 million round.

The company opened a factory in California and was making an effort to scale up its production last year, so I would bet these funds will likely be spent on continuing that process. Last year Bridgelux also brought in former Seagate (s STX) CEO Bill Watkins as its new captain to help ramp up production. Watkins previously told me that he could use his experience with scaling and streamlining manufacturing of storage products in the lighting space.

A year ago Bridgelux launched its Helieon LED light system, which is a “plug-and-play” LED solution for industrial and commercial building owners (see photo). Bridgelux says at a high enough volume, the product retails for less than $20 per unit, and has a lifespan of more than 10 years.

Bridgelux has been around awhile and raised $23 million in 2007, and another $40 million in 2008. For a couple years it was embroiled in a patent litigation suit with LED competitor Cree (s CREE), but that suit was settled in 2008, and Bridgelux more recently launched a Lighting Services Group, as well as its LED Array Technology. The company is backed by Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital, DCM, El Dorado Ventures, Harris & Harris Group and VantagePoint Venture Partners.

Is this latest funding what they call a pre-IPO round? Bridgelux has been on the short IPO list for about a year, and will need to raise more money to compete with large LED manufacturers. Expansion into a market like China, will also need more funds, and Watkins has talked about expanding the company’s operations to China, because its government offers not only help in financing, but also in creating demand for LED lighting products (through city government purchases).

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