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1 August 2007


ACCO raises $10m in first-round funding for RF CMOS PAs

Analog and RF IC design firm ACCO S.A. of Saint Germain en Laye, France has raised $10m in first-round funding. UK-based Pond Venture Partners (Europe’s largest early-stage technology venture capital fund) and Partech International (which invests exclusively in information technology) join Siparex Ventures, a seed-level investor since October 2005. Pond partner Jamie Urquhart (a former chief operating officer at ARM) is interim CEO, tasked with helping to find a permanent CEO.

Founded in 1994 by chief technology officer Denis Masliah, ACCO previously provided high-frequency chip design services to fabless semiconductor companies and system companies. However, it decided earlier this year to raise venture capital funds to support the transition of its business model to itself being a fabless semiconductor company, based on its demonstration of what it claims is an innovative approach to using RF CMOS silicon for power amplifier (PA) design that can enable lower-cost, more reliable and more highly integrated handheld mobile devices. Some of the first-round funds have already gone into funding the manufacture of proof-of-concept prototypes. ACCO is currently filing patents for the CMOS power amplifier.

CMOS has previously been used for PAs in GSM cell phones and Bluetooth and wireless LANs, but not for the higher frequencies of 3G cell phones and WiMAX, where GaAs-based PAs predominate. But now Masliah claims that the problem of the low breakdown voltage in conventional CMOS (especially as device dimensions are scaled down to achieve higher operating frequencies) is overcome in ACCO’s MASMOS technology for all current CMOS nodes (from 180nm to 65nm and beyond to 45nm), enabling it to compete with GaAs on performance for 3G applications.

“The wireless handset market is always looking for innovative solutions to satisfy continuously growing consumer expectations in terms of cost and battery life,” says Richard Irving, managing partner at Pond Venture Partners. “We are convinced ACCO will play a significant role in meeting these needs.”

ACCO aims to have CMOS PA products in cell-phone handsets in 2009, according to Masliah.