30 January 2018
Akash raises $3.1m in seed round funding led by Khosla Ventures
© Semiconductor Today Magazine / Juno PublishiPicture: Disco’s DAL7440 KABRA laser saw.
Akash Systems Inc of San Francisco, CA, USA - which was founded in 2016 by Felix Ejeckam and Ty Mitchell - has raised $3.1m and closed its seed round funding, led by Khosla Ventures and including Social Capital, Data Collective, Ruvento Ventures, Sriram Krishnan, and Backstage Capital.
The funding will allow Akash to further its development of the next generation of small satellites and the RF power amplifiers that power them.
Foreseeing the limitations of existing satellite capacity and networks, Akash is targeting fast, affordable satellite communications using gallium nitride (GaN)-on-diamond technology. “Today’s worldwide data demand is outpacing the bandwidth and power capabilities of our current communication infrastructure,” says co-founder, CEO & gallium nitride (GaN)-on-diamond inventor Felix Ejeckam. “We have the technology and innovation to look beyond current satellite systems in order to enable the design of small satellite (Cubesat) systems and subsystems in the very near future,” he adds. Akash says that its patented GaN-on-diamond science is enabling smaller, lighter and higher-performing satellites that will pave the way to lower launch costs, reduced cost-per-bit, more launch cycles, and increased communications access and throughput.
Ejeckam invented the GaN-on-diamond technology in 2003 while at Group4 Labs Inc by lifting GaN epitaxy from its original growth substrate (for example, silicon) and transferring it to a synthetic CVD diamond substrate. Group4 Labs’ assets were acquired in 2013 by Element Six Technologies (a member of the De Beers Group of Companies).
In 2016, Ejeckam, together with Akash co-founder & chief operating officer Ty Mitchell, entered into an agreement with RFHIC Corp of Anyang, South Korea (which designs and makes active RF & microwave high-power components and hybrid modules) to jointly negotiate the repurchase of the GaN-on-diamond intellectual property (IP), with Akash acquiring all patents and other IP rights related to GaN-on-diamond technology for use in satellite communications and related markets.
“The constant use of communication strains our satellite infrastructure more each year,” comments Sven Strohband, a partner at Khosla. “Akash Systems is here to revolutionize satellite communications by creating high-performance components to get ahead of current satellite limitations such as heat generation and efficient cooling.”
Phase one of Akash’s business plan includes GaN-on-diamond monolithic microwave integrated circuit (MMIC) power amplifiers (currently on the market). The firm plans to move into phase two, working with satellite system makers to design small-satellite (Cubesat) systems and their transmitters, by 2019.