Montréal-based fabless semiconductor startup Stathera has secured $20 million CAD ($15 million USD) in Series A financing to bring its first-generation microchip clock to market.
Stathera’s all-equity, all-primary Series A round was co-led by BDC Capital’s Deep Tech Venture Fund and San Francisco-based, deep tech-focused venture firm Celesta Capital. The financing, which closed in mid-April, was supported by strategic investors from the semiconductor and electronics spaces, including Taiwan’s MediaTek and TXC, and Japan-based Seiko Epson.
Stathera specializes in micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) and develops MEMS-based timing solutions for semiconductors. As Stathera co-founder and CEO George Xereas told BetaKit, nearly all electronic devices today require the use of a clock to synchronize the different components of microchips.
Stathera builds “modern semiconductor clocks” that its CEO argues will help the market transition away from traditional crystal oscillators.
Traditionally, crystal oscillators have provided these reference clocks, but Xereas claimed that these crystal oscillators are beginning to bump up against “their physical limits in terms of performance and miniaturization, and can no longer keep up with advances in [microchips].”
As Celesta Capital founding managing partner Nicholas Brathwaite noted in a statement, “It is clear that next-generation electronics are in great need of new solutions that can meet the growing demands of performance and cost.”
Enter Stathera, which builds “modern semiconductor clocks” that Xereas argues will help the market transition away from crystal oscillators. According to the CEO, Stathera’s tech will enable manufacturers of wearable IoT electronic devices to replace multiple components with one, helping them simplify their supply chains while also saving space.
The startup’s origin dates back to 2015 when Montréal-based Nxtsens Microsystems was founded based on tech initially developed at McGill University. Stathera was spun out of Nxtsens a few years later with the goal of commercializing Nxtsens’ MEMS timing solution. It officially began operating as a separate entity in 2020, with funding from Nxtsens as part of a $4.8 million USD seed round in July 2020 that also saw support from South Korea’s Doosan and Congo-based Groupe GSIM. Stathera’s Series A round brings the company’s total funding to $20.8 million USD, a figure that includes $1 million in non-dilutive capital.
Stathera is one of two Canadian tech companies spun out of Nxtsens, alongside Montréal-based MY01, which develops MEMS pressure sensors for medical diagnostic equipment and recently closed a $12.5 million CAD Series A round of its own. Xereas, Nxtsens’ CTO, initially worked as CTO of MY01 before splitting off to help launch and head Stathera.
According to Xereas, beyond traditional crystal oscillator suppliers, only two incumbents exist within the MEMS timing space that Stathera is focused on. These two include California’s SiTime—which Xereas claims currently has the majority of market share—and Arizona-based Microchip.
For his part, Xereas sees room for Stathera to enter the market as an alternative to SiTime. Compared to its competitors, Xereas says Stathera’s “key differentiator” is its “DualMode MEMS,” which he claims is “the world’s first dual output resonator that can simultaneously generate both the kHz and MHz outputs from a single resonator”—enabling one Stathera device to replace the two needed from other players.
Stathera plans to use its Series A funding to fully commercialize its initial product line and invest in developing the company’s next-generation tech. To support these efforts, Stathera has inked a commercial collaboration agreement with Doosan, which backed Stathera’s seed round and is pursuing partnerships with two of its Series A investors in MediaTek and TXC.
As it gears up to go to market and enter the commercialization phase early next year, Stathera plans to expand its 15-person team to 25 by the end of 2023 with hires in engineering, operations, and sales. Stathera also plans to scale up its production capacity.
With its first-generation product, Stathera plans to target companies that make smart watches and fitness bands, such as Samsung, Apple, and Garmin. The startup hopes to move into other markets and applications via future offerings.
As part of Stathera’s Series A round, Charles Lespérance, partner at BDC Capital’s Deep Tech Venture Fund, and Celesta partner Terry Gilton are joining the startup’s board. In a statement, Lespérance expressed confidence that Stathera’s forthcoming products “will enable new capabilities in sectors like IoT, computing, automotive, and telecommunications.”