Monday, December 22, 2014

Metamaterials May be the Next Big Thing: Gates, Allen Bet On Echodyne

Wouldn't it be funny if two guys who had no use for venture capitalists* end up creating the future, again?

From Xconomy Seattle:
Metamaterials Moguls: Gates, Allen Back New Radar Startup Echodyne
Microsoft’s co-founders are backing a Seattle-area startup that wants to apply proprietary metamaterials technology to radar.

Bill Gates is co-leader with Madrona Venture Group of a $15 million Series A funding round for Echodyne, which will seek to commercialize the metamaterials technology portfolio of Intellectual Ventures “for a wide range of new radar applications,” Gates says in a news release. Vulcan Capital, the investment vehicle of Microsoft’s other co-founder, Paul Allen, is joining the investment, along with other investors including Lux Capital and The Kresge Foundation.

Intellectual Ventures (IV), the controversial patent holding and invention shop co-founded by former Microsoft chief technology officer Nathan Myhrvold, has now spawned three companies focused on different applications of metamaterials—artificial materials often assembled in patterns and with structures engineered to have specific effects on light, sound, radio, or other waves.

Gates and Lux Capital are also among the investors in Kymeta, the best-known IV spinout in the field, which is applying metamaterials to satellite antennas. The Redmond, WA, company earlier this week announced a $20 million funding round, on top of $62 million it had raised since spinning out of IV in 2012. It also installed co-founder and CTO Nathan Kundtz as interim CEO as it looks for a permanent replacement for Vern Fotheringham, who is stepping down at the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Evolv Technologies, based in Boston, is applying related technology to advanced imaging, and last year raised $11.8 million.

The latest spinout, Echodyne, is co-founded by Eben Frankenberg and Tom Driscoll, who had senior leadership roles at IV. Frankenberg, Echodyne’s CEO, was previously in charge of IV’s efforts to spin out companies and was its chief operating officer. Driscoll, who is CTO, directed IV’s Metamaterials Commercialization Centerdescribed as “a team of engineers, physicists, and scientists dedicated to furthering the development and commercial readiness of our metamaterials inventions.” Driscoll also researched metamaterials at Duke University and University of California, San Diego, with which IV has collaborated on the technology....MORE
*As I've mentioned a few times:
Microsoft famously didn't need venture capital either.
(Technology Venture Investors was the sole VC investor and got that plum only because Marquardt and Ballmer were buddies)
That's the Holy Grail, finding a company that doesn't need you but will let you in.

The battery on the other hand....that's going to be a longer slog than the press releases would lead one to believe.
-Batteries: The Venture Capitalist's Holy Grail