Sand 9 Finds $12M to Improve Wireless Devices

Sand 9 has secured enough venture capital to grow from a pre-revenue startup to—if all goes as planned—a profitable company, Vince Graziani, the firm’s CEO, says. His Cambridge-based startup, a developer of tiny timer and frequency control technology for wireless devices, has raised $12 million in a Series B round of funding led by a new investor, Commonwealth Capital Ventures of Waltham, MA.

Sand 9‘s technology could potentially help make mobile phones smaller, more integrated, and offer more functions than current models, according to Graziani. The firm’s invention is a new type of resonator—a device that ensures that circuits in wireless devices operate on the right frequencies—which is made with ultra-tiny electronics rather than the relatively large quartz crystals that are historically used to make the resonators.

The company’s technology, originally developed at Boston University, has cleared many of the hurdles that have prevented others from making improved resonators that can match the performance of the quartz-based devices, Graziani says. The firm’s progress helped attract new capital from Commonwealth as well as its previous investors, Flybridge Capital Partners and General Catalyst Partners, both based in Massachusetts, and California’s Khosla Ventures. The previous three backers invested in the company’s $8 million Series A round of funding in 2008.

“There’s been venture dollars following into this space because there’s a big payoff if someone can finally come up with a very competitive technology versus quartz crystal,” Graziani says. “There have been several other players before us that have attracted significant venture dollars, but until now nobody’s been able to compete for the high end of the market.”

Sand 9 aims to begin production of its resonators for products such as GPS receivers, mobile phones, and wireless routers later this year, Graziani says. The company’s plan, he says, is to reach profitability without needing to raise more venture capital. Talk of profits is likely music to the ears of the firm’s board, which now includes Stephen McCormack, a general partner at Commonwealth Capital.

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