Ambiq Micro Continues Growth From Austin Base

When we last caught up with University of Michigan spin-off company Ambiq Micro, it was moving its microcontroller development operation to Austin, TX. Co-founder Scott Hanson told at the time that the reason behind the move was Texas’ wealth of talent. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that one of Ambiq Micro’s lead investors, DFJ Mercury, happens to be located in Houston, but Hanson insists that’s not really a factor.

“Austin and Ann Arbor are very similar,” he says. “Austin is attractive because of the concentration of semiconductor and chip-design companies. It’s very easy to recruit talent here. All of our suppliers are here, too. But two of our co-founders are University of Michigan professors, so we maintain a relationship with the university.”

Hanson says Ambiq Micro, which grew out of doctoral work he was doing at U-M, is generating revenue and growing quickly. The company specializes in developing low-power microcontrollers that are capable of lasting years or even decades in applications like smart credit cards, wireless security sensors, and fitness monitors. “We’re developing the world’s most energy-efficient chips,” he explains.

Ambiq Micro has just launched its first product, a real-time clock that can be used in virtually every electronic device. Hanson says the company has been shipping the clock to mostly industrial customers, and he expects volume to increase significantly in the coming year.

Ambiq Micro is focusing on a small but key number of markets, Hanson says, like smart credit cards, wireless sensors, and watches. Ambiq has developed a proprietary platform it calls SPOT. SPOT lowers system power requirements, allowing power to be harnessed from leakages from transistors that have been turned off.

Hanson says that Ambiq Micro, which has a 10-person team in Austin, recently filed a number of patents to protect this SPOT technology. “It’s challenging, but we’re excited about building new products with the SPOT platform,” he notes.

As Ambiq Micro works on developing new products, it has continued to raise money beyond its $2.4 million seed round from a set of investors that includes DFJ Mercury, the United Kingdom-based ARM Ltd., and the Ann Arbor-based Huron River Ventures. “We’ve got a very good set of investors that have continued to invest in us as we’ve grown,” Hanson adds. “Our products require a significant design time and ramp-up time. In the meantime, we’re spending money in a very capital-efficient way.”

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