Indians-led power sector tech devices startup gets KKR funding

California-based Transphorm Inc, an early stage semiconductor company co-founded by two Indian researchers and entrepreneurs, has received $70-million investment round led by global investment firm KKR.

KKR's investment follows initial rounds of funding led by funds affiliated with Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, Foundation Capital, Google Ventures, Soros Quantum Strategic Partners, INCJ and Fujitsu.

Transphorm will use this funding to support its growth, product innovation and expansion, the company said in a statement.

''Transphorm was launched to address the urgent and important problem of losses in power conversion, a process that converts electricity from the form it is delivered to the form that is ultimately used. By merging the technological leadership of Transphorm with the semiconductor business expertise of KKR, we are taking a major step forward in solving the global problem of energy wasted in power conversion,'' said Umesh Mishra, chairman of Transphorm.

Power conversion works via rapidly switching circuits, which enable the transformation of electricity from one form to another. Transphorm's efficiency breakthrough comes in the form of a revolutionary material known as Gallium Nitride, or "GaN", which switches at far higher frequencies than traditional components. This material, coupled with innovative circuit design, enables the world's most efficient, most compact, and most cost-effective power conversion technology.

Transphorm believes its technology is paving the way for a revolution in energy efficiency. Easily embedded in virtually any electrical system and protected by more than 30 patents, Transphorm's application-specific power modules represent a complete solution for inefficient power systems.

Transphorm believes that there is a market for its products as its ultra-efficient power devices and modules can eliminate more than 40 per cent of all electric conversion losses by using Gallium Nitride, as it switches at far higher speeds than traditional components.

GaN-based technology, known for its connection to the 2014 Nobel Prize in physics (See: Japanese-American trio who invented LED lamp share 2014 Physics Nobel), creates a brighter, more energy efficient light that today is the basis of the multi-billion dollar LED-based lighting industry. Similarly, when applied to power conversion, GaN components enable significantly more efficient, compact, and cost-effective products.

"Gallium Nitride is the most important new semiconductor in the world today," said Shuji Nakamura, 2014 Nobel Laureate in Physics and Director of the Solid State Lighting and Energy Electronics Center (SSLEEC) at UC Santa Barbara.

Transphorm was cofounded by Indian researchers with substantial research experience in gallium nitride electronics, Umesh Mishra and Primit Parikh.

Mishra, PhD, who is the CTO , had co-founded Nitres Inc in 1996, the first start-up company to develop GaN LEDs and transistors. Nitres was acquired by Cree in 2000, prior to co-founding Transphorm in 2007. Mishra was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2010 and received the IEEE David Sarnoff Award for "The Development of Gallium Nitride Electronics".

He is also Professor Above-Scale (the highest academic rank in the University of California System) in the ECE Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he has been a director of several GaN research centers.

Parikh, Ph.D, transphorm's president, has over 15 years experience in GaN / semiconductor development, technical marketing and intellectual property. Prior to Transphorm, Primit led GaN electronics at Nitres Inc, through its acquisition by Cree, where he served as head of Advanced Technology at Cree SBTC in charge of GaN development and government business. Parikh has over 30 patents awarded / pending in the area of GaN materials, devices and circuits, and has co-authored more than 70 publications and presentations.