SiCortex, Out of Cash, Powers Down

SiCortex, a six-year-old startup building energy-efficient supercomputers in Maynard, MA, has shut its doors. The company ran out of working capital and was unable to raise more from its venture investors, according to a report that surfaced yesterday in HPC Wire, a trade publication in the high-performance computing industry.

Xconomy obtained confirmation of the shutdown news from John Mucci, the founding CEO of SiCortex, who was replaced 10 months ago by current CEO Christopher Stone. Stone himself was not immediately available for comment.

“It is a sad day for all… less competition, unemployed seventy some workers…” Mucci said in an e-mail.

SiCortex had raised $42 million in venture capital, including a $21 million Series A round in 2004 contributed by lead investor Polaris Venture Partners and syndicate members Flagship Ventures, JK&B Capital, and Prism Venture Partners. All of those investors returned for the company’s $21 million Series B round in 2006, with the addition of new lead investor Chevron Technology Ventures. Bob Metcalfe, a Polaris partner frequently quoted about SiCortex in the past, said this morning he had no comment about the shutdown.

According to the HPC Wire report, which was based on information from an anonymous source close to the company, most of the company’s employees have been let go, and a sale of the company’s assets is underway.

SiCortex had been in the process of raising additional working capital; according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on May 13, it planned to sell $1.1 million in subordinated convertible promissory notes. It’s not known whether that debt fundraising was completed.

SiCortex had developed a line of large, multiprocessor, parallel computers that saved electricity by using somewhat slower processors, but made up the speed difference using an advanced internal communications network for shuttling data between processors. The company targeted customers doing technical computing work in areas such as geological exploration, climate simulation, and intelligence. Sales were apparently brisk; the company had announced record growth in the first quarter of 2009. The Royal Military College of Canada was one recently announced customer.

SiCortex had also been emerging as a leader in the field of “green” high-performance computing. Last November it introduced the “Green Computing Index,” a list that ranked the world’s largest supercomputers not according to their sheer speed but according to their power efficiency (expressed in billions of floating point operations per second per kilowatt consumed).

We expect to obtain further details about the shutdown later today.

Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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