1. You’ve been with Finwave Semiconductor for less than a year now, but you’re a seasoned semiconductor industry veteran with decades of experience leading technology companies into accelerated growth and increased profitability. What attracted you to Finwave? What’s been the first area you focused on?
The unique GaN-on-Si device and process technology the company has developed for the last 10 years and its potential for RF and power applications is what attracted me to Finwave Semiconductor. I also felt I could work well with the founders, with the board and with the Finwave team and that I could have a meaningful contribution to help the company realize its growth potential.
My first areas of focus have been to understand the company and its technology and then to drive the Finwave team to generate a strong product roadmap and engage with customers to start generating revenue as soon as possible.
2. The company was founded in 2012 as Cambridge Electronics, born out of MIT. It stayed in stealth mode for a decade before emerging in 2022 as Finwave Semiconductor. Can you tell us what was going on during that time? How has that stealth period served to shape Finwave?
There are several factors that made Finwave who we are today:
- Unlike most venture-funded startups, in its early years, the company took a different path in developing its technology and product with funding mostly from non-dilutive grants and NREs and very little from the private investors and VCs. For the first 6 years, we only took $1.6 million from private investors.
- What Finwave/Cambridge Electronics has been developing is very different from everyone else from day 1. In order to mature our highly differentiated technology from MIT Research into something that is manufacturable using Si CMOS fabs takes a lot of time and effort. This was way more difficult than we thought when we spun out from MIT. It is also due to the fact that there was a lack of a GaN foundry or a reliable engineering fab for fast prototyping, as we have been doing everything within the U.S., unlike many other GaN companies fully relying on fabs and foundries outside the U.S.
- Also, the technology direction we have been working on was way ahead of the market need at the time. There was no strong need for GaN-on-Si before 5G had arrived. In the power electronics space, the TSMC (now the most popular GaN foundry) GaN technology is good enough for early market penetration.
- During these early years of advanced research and technology development, we developed a significant amount of IP – both patents and trade secrets.
After years of learnings and breakthroughs in technology and also strong market interest in what we do, now is a great time for Finwave to scale up.
3. Can you tell us a little bit about Finwave Semiconductor; the locations, patents or any of the metrics that will give our readers a better understanding of the company?
Finwave employees are distributed in several locations in the U.S. Our device and process technology teams are in Waltham, Mass. and our RF design and product and test engineering team is in San Diego, Calif. with a few management team members located in Silicon Valley. We have over 35 patents issued and pending covering our unique GaN-on-Si technology, from epitaxial structure to device architecture and process technology to certain aspects of RF design. We have received over $20 million in funding from seed and angel investors and from a round-A concluded in the summer of 2022.
4. You have trademarked the term 3DGaNTM for your products. Can you describe that process and how it differentiates from other GaN processes?
Finwave applies a few technologies to improve linearity in RF power amplifiers. One of them is the 3DGaNTM FinFET structure. The Fin structure has been proven, not only originally by researchers at MIT where Finwave has an exclusive license to the IP but also at a few others in the field, to show 10 dB linearity improvement. This has something to do with overcoming the source velocity saturation challenges in the GaN FETs.
Finwave also developed technologies to reduce the GaN FET memory effect, which is also an important contributor to GaN power amplifier linearization challenges. Lastly, the fin structure can be used to “flatten” the shape of the gm curve, reducing the derivates of gm that are major contributors to device linearity.
5. Finwave has assembled an impressive slate of senior management, with lots of expertise in technology, the semiconductor industry and growth strategies. In what functional areas are you focusing as you look to grow the company?
As we look to grow the company, we have a two-tiered approach. On one hand, we are rapidly developing a product roadmap and releasing products such as RF switches and RF power amplifiers and working with customers to get these products designed into their applications in order to generate revenues starting in 2024. On the other hand, our device technology and process technology teams are working on transferring our technology to a high volume foundry partner, while we continue our basic research activity to continue improving the epitaxial structure, device architecture and process technology.
As the CEO of the company, my main focus is on getting all the functions within the company to deliver on their respective areas of focus, with a particular emphasis on working with customers to get our RF switches and RF power amplifiers designed in to generate revenue as soon as possible.
6. How important is packaging to your technology? Is that a capability you envision having in-house or will you partner with packaging houses?
Packaging is not the most important aspect of our products. We are using standard packaging technology from established outsourced assembly and test (OSAT) partners. We do not intend to bring the packaging
technology in-house in the near- to medium-term future. For advanced products for mmWave applications, we are planning to work with our partners on 2.5D/3D heterogeneous integration between Si and GaN.
7. What’s the Finwave Semiconductor business model? Will you be releasing products, licensing IP, etc.?
The Finwave business model is to operate as a merchant semiconductor supplier, designing and selling semiconductor devices directly to OEMs and through the distribution channel. We will operate with a fabless model, both for the front-end manufacturing through a GaN-on-Si foundry partner and for the back-end packaging and test through our OSAT partners.
At this point in time, we do not intend to license our technology or IP.
8. What do you see as the biggest market opportunities for your business today and how do you see that changing in the future?
With an initial focus on RF switches and RF power amplifiers, our biggest market opportunity for the next few years are the markets that use RF products, such as the 5G and 6G telecom infrastructure and handset markets, the telecom/radar defense market and the test equipment and medical equipment markets, among others.
GaN-on-silicon is particularly well suited for high frequency, higher power amplifiers that can’t be built using silicon technologies. By manufacturing our devices in a standard CMOS foundry, we will be able to address very high volume, cost-sensitive markets like handsets.
With some further development, our GaN-on-Si technology can be applied to the power electronics market, so this is a market we also intend to address a few years from now.
9. What is the focus of your current development efforts and how do you see those changing in the future?
As explained before, we have a two-tiered approach. On one hand, we are developing and releasing RF switches and power amplifiers for sale into the 5G/6G Telecom Infrastructure and 5G/6G handset markets among others, while on the other hand, we continue developing our GaN-on-Si device architecture and process technology, both for RF applications as well as for future power electronics applications.
10. What else should our readers know about Finwave Semiconductor?
It is an exciting time to be working on GaN technology. With the limitations reached with silicon in terms of power handling as well as with transistor switching speeds, we believe that compound semiconductors such as GaN and SiC are the next wave of growth for many semiconductor applications in the analog, RF and power space. Finwave has a unique GaN-on-Si technology that delivers superior performance and we intend to capitalize on this differentiation to deliver strong revenue growth in the coming years.