Executive Interview: Anders Storm, CEO of Sivers IMA
What are the history and background of Sivers IMA and the significance of the company trading on the Swedish stock exchange, beginning at the end of 2017?
Sivers IMA Holding AB is an internationally renowned supplier within microwave, millimeter wave and optical semiconductors since 1951. There are two main business areas:
- Wireless: Sivers IMA.
- Fiber: CST Global.
The headquarters are located in Stockholm, Sweden, and CST Global’s III-V compound semiconductor foundry is located in Glasgow, Scotland. The company has approximately 100 employees.
In late November 2017, the company moved from a small over-the-counter (OTC) list to Nasdaq First North, which was a very important step for us to attract new investors. Since then, the well-known RF power company Ampleon has invested in Sivers IMA Holding, as well as two well-renowned institutional investors. Our current market capitalization is approximately US$85 million.
Explain the markets where your subsidiaries Sivers IMA and CST Global operate.
The wholly-owned subsidiaries Sivers IMA and CST Global develop, manufacture and sell chips, components, modules and subsystems based on proprietary advanced semiconductor technology in microwave, millimeter wave and optical semiconductors.
The main focus of Sivers IMA is the development of RFICs supporting beamforming and beam steering and active antenna modules for gigabit fixed wireless access (FWA) and backhaul and mesh networks, which are based on WiGig and 5G standards.
CST Global’s main focus is on laser diodes for fiber to the home (FTTH) and data centers. Within FTTH, we offer 2.5 to 25 Gbps DFB lasers, and for data centers we supply customized VCSEL chips supporting 50 Gbps.
What are the main product categories that Sivers IMA produces?
Our main product today is a highly integrated 16 transmit (Tx) and 16 receive (Rx) phased array RFIC based on the 802.11ad standard (i.e., WiGig). This single chip is the only chip in the world today supporting 57 to 71 GHz bandwidth in one chip, as far as we know. We also offer a full RF front-end module, including a patch antenna and the RFIC. This product is currently available and will be ready for mass production by late Q3. We are also developing a 28 GHz 5G version of this RFIC and RF front-end module that will be available later this year.
Discuss the importance of innovation and research at Sivers IMA.
It is of course very important, since we have competitors which are very large corporations. We need to use the best available technology and constantly innovate in our areas of expertise to offer world-class products. However, being small helps us be agile and offers more innovative products in the niches where we want to be best-in-class.
The company has played a leading role in EU-funded research projects, such as the E3Network FP7 Project, DOTSEVEN and MiWaveS. Why is participation important, i.e., what does it bring to the company?
Yes, that is correct, we have been working with a lot of EU-funded millimeter wave research projects within our wireless business. This has been a very important part of our strategy to get us where we are today, and we have learned a lot from these projects.
We have now chosen to reduce the number of EU-funded research projects that we engage in within the wireless business and have, instead, moved into the commercialization phase of products, based on what we have learned in these projects.
However, within our fiber business, we are still very engaged in EU- or government-funded research projects as a means to be in the forefront of technology.
Both technologically and commercially, how do partnerships and collaborations fit in your strategy? What qualities do you look for in potential partners?
We believe that this is the number one key to success in the market for us. It is a big part of our strategy to find the right partners and establish partnerships within the ecosystem. When selecting key partners, we are looking to find companies that offer complementary technology or products that could be combined with our products to create a full system solution, suppliers of world-class solutions with a suitable geographical location and attractive market presence.
What is your primary role at the company and how has your experience bringing high volume consumer products to the market influenced your approach for Sivers IMA?
My primary role as CEO is to formulate the strategy of the company and make sure that the whole team knows where we want to go. I also work a lot with customers and partners, as well as the stock market, to share our vision, products and plans to create the best possible relationship with all of them.
When I started working at Sony Ericsson in 2003, I was the main project manager for one of their early smartphones, the P900, which became a huge success — we even won the President's award for this project in 2004.
To make this successful phone from start to finish in less than a year, I learned how important all our partners were to successfully making a complete product. It also taught me the process to ensure the right level of quality, as well as what is needed to be able to deliver large volumes within a short timeframe, working with teams in multiple time zones.
Discuss the significant millimeter wave technologies that the company has developed and introduced in recent years.
I think the biggest leap we have made within millimeter wave in recent years is our highly integrated 16 Tx + 16 Rx phased array RFIC based on the 802.11ad standard. This chip is the only chip in the world supporting 57 to 71 GHz bandwidth on one chip, as far as we know. It has outstanding phase noise compared to our 60 GHz RFIC, offering modulation schemes up to 256-QAM, which has never been seen before on this type of chip.
I am very proud of the team that has been able to make this chip. A big acknowledgement of our work is that we have been selected to present our RFIC paper at the IEEE Radio Frequency Integrated Circuit (RFIC) sympsoium at the annual IEEE MTT International Microwave Symposium (IMS) in Philadelphia in June this year.
What developments excite you as you take Sivers IMA forward, both technologically and in terms of commercial viability?
I have been working in the datacom and telecom industry since the mid 1990s. I love this industry because it moves so quickly, and it is constantly changing.
I was part of introducing smartphones to the world in the early 2000s, which were extremely fun times, and I am now as excited to be part of making millimeter wave technology “mainstream” by, for example, bringing gigabit speeds to the homes via the FWA technology that Sivers IMA provides.
In recent years, the company has seen significant development and growth. How has this been achieved and can it be sustained?
We have established a long-term strategy plan based on our market insight, which has led to significant development and growth. As a small company, we have found a niche for our products within the wireless business and, hence, been able to generate organic growth; and we have acquired growth within the fiber business.
We now have an interesting mix of products aimed at some of the biggest future growth markets within datacom and telecom. If these markets grow as expected, we should be able to be part of this and grow even faster than the underlying market, if we do the right things.
How is the company planning for the next era of growth, and what are your personal aims for Sivers IMA over the next five years?
In five years, I think we will be able to address an even broader market within millimeter wave and optics. We can already see that, for example, radio (millimeter wave) over fiber is one very interesting new area where we can combine technologies and know-how from our two business areas into one common solution. Another area is the optical sensor market that we are looking into. Also, moving vertically in the value chain in both business areas is a topic high on my list.
Whichever path we decide to take, I am sure that we will be on the main Nasdaq listing in Sweden and that we will be a much larger company than we are today by 2023.
To learn more about Sivers IMA, visit the company’s website.