‘The moment of truth.’

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I had a conversation with some students recently, I was telling them just how hard the environment was and is here in Ottawa. And that while there is a lot of good news the truth is we’re not out of the woods yet.They looked at me like I was from Mars… “have you heard of skype or youTube?” they asked.I told them if I wanted to be hockey player and said “have you heard of Gretzky or Lemieux?” – they would have laughed at me.They got the point – its just not a fair comparison (or realistic) the wins and success we hear about are a lot more complicated and stressful than most people know about until they are there. (god that makes me sound old.)Leaving that discussion I had to wonder if they had any idea on what has gone on here in Ottawa over the last 10 years. Do they realize that as Leo Lax said earlier this year we have arrived at the moment of truth. Have they looked at the stories of some of Ottawa’s successes?In this vein it is interesting to see how some of the local Ottawa startups have come along after the recent nuclear winter. Its been a long hard slog for entrepreneurs and for VC’s a trying time. Though from reading a newspaper you wouldn’t get that feel.Case in point, SiGe Semiconductor. SiGe is named after Silicon Germanium (the material used in their Chips) and was launched in 1996 by Derek Houghton, Dave Edwards and my dad, John Roberts. Dave and my dad left to start Sigem a company focused on GPS receivers in 1998/99, it subsequently went public on the TSX. SiGe went on to continue to provide both design advice and to monetize the technology by designing products. The facilities had been built at the NRC and I believe are still there. At no time did SiGe build a Fab which some people seem to think may have occurred, and the lions share of investment occurred post 1999.Yesterday, SiGe announced Sales were up 50% year over year to $48 Million. According to the companies website in 2004 the sales were roughly $20 million, so this is roughly in keeping with year on year growth of 50%. The technology is top notch, I know numerous people in the wireless space and SiGe front ends are considered the industry leader which is probably why Broadcom has begun assuming their customer will be using them in lieu of other manufacturers, including their products. The company boasts Samsung and Nintendo as customers – their front ends are in the Wii and Nintendo DS (for its wifi functionality) and the Samsung blackjack. The company has all the hallmarks of moving forward and I think (though I don’t Know) that if any Ottawa company were to get bought out or go public SiGe would be on a short list for both. By some definitions SiGe is a success. The company today looks ‘primed’ as the term goes.Except for the missing CEO, Jim Derbyshire, who ran the company for the past 6 years – is both MIA on the website and the news release – I assume he has left the company.Beyond that, getting to this success has not been easy.Remember that nuclear winter I spoke of – lets look at how much money SiGe has raised over the years. In 2003 they raised $66.4 Million Cdn (Series D), and in 2000 I believe they raised $36.1 million (series B.) Last year they raised $20 Million (series E) or so. I have no idea where their Series C was – I assume it was a converted bridge loan but I have no real info. In any event SiGe Semiconductor has raised over $120 million (CDN) over a ten year life time.Success or failure? well you can’t argue with the fact that investors are comfortable putting millions on the table. Thats a good thing – it means they see a future there, the revenue growth also speaks to this as well as the customers and Broadcom partnership.But at the same time the you can see just how tough it has been to get to this point, 10 years & $120 million. There are numerous other companies in Ottawa with similar stories. You would be hard pressed to see this by visiting their websites or reading the newspapers. Maybe we should be pointing to these companies occasionally and telling the story of how tough it is to start and create a successful technology company. I think everyone would be better because of it.

The Author

Hi. My name is Matt Roberts, you can find me at www.mattroberts.com.


  1. Lynda West says

    This blog is pretty cool. Just wanted to say hi!

  2. SiGE announces new Financing... « mattroberts.com says

    […] 1st, 2007 · No Comments A company I have a bit of a connection to recently announced another $20 Million in funding, bringing total funding to well over $120 […]

  3. SiGe announces 2007 results « mattroberts.com says

    […] SiGe announces 2007 results I love watching SiGe as they grow. As longtime readers know I have a background with the company. […]

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