13 January 2010


Bridgelux boosts Series D financing round by extra $50m to $80m

Bridgelux Inc of Sunnyvale, CA, USA, which claims to be the only vertically integrated maker of LED solid-state light sources specifically for the lighting industry, has appointed William D. Watkins as CEO and a member of its board of directors. Mark Swoboda (CEO since June 2007) becomes president, leading product development, R&D initiatives and sales & marketing.

The firm has also raised an extra $50m in its Series D round of financing (now oversubscribed), led by VantagePoint Venture Partners and joined by all other existing investors (DCM, El Dorado Ventures, VentureTech Alliance, Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital and Harris & Harris Group) as well as new investors (including an undisclosed strategic investor).

Bridgelux closed the first tranche of Series D equity in April 2008 at $30m (making $80m in total), along with a $10m line of credit from investors. That $40m was used to develop new products, some of which were rolled out in 2009. In total, the firm has now raised $113.5m in venture capital, including $23m in August 2007, $8.55m in May 2005, and $2.5m in angel funding in 2002.

“We view solid-state lighting as an advanced technology capable of rapidly transforming the $100bn lighting industry by offering a more cost-effective, efficient and environmentally sensitive lighting solution, and Bridgelux is uniquely positioned to drive its adoption,” says Alan E. Salzman, CEO of largest investor VantagePoint Venture Partners.

While continuing to drive R&D activities (including expanding R&D staffing), Bridgelux intends to use the latest capital to meet increasing market demand by aggressively developing its manufacturing technologies and expanding its global manufacturing infrastructure (potentially through international partnerships). While using foundry partners in Taiwan, Bridgelux manufactures its products at two locations in Sunnyvale, but this quarter it is consolidating that into one plant in Livermore, CA.

Watkins joins Bridgelux after a 13-year career at Seagate Technology (the world’s largest hard disc drive and storage solutions company), having been CEO for the last five years (leading growth strategies and improvements, including increasing revenue from $6.5bn to over $13bn) and president & chief operating officer from 2000 to 2004 (responsible for hard disc drive operations and transforming manufacturing processes to yield significant increases in capacity and efficiency).

Watkins joined Seagate in 1996 as part of its merger with Conner Peripherals, where he established the Conner Disk Division and was senior VP of Worldwide Operations as well as president of Disk Operations. His more than 30-year career in technology manufacturing includes Domain Technology, where he led the team that developed the MINT (Magnetic Information Technology) disc media manufacturing process. Previously, on three separate occasions, he was part of management teams that took companies public. He currently serves on the board of Maxim Integrated Products, Flextronics and Vertical Circuits Inc.

“Bringing on a leader of Bill’s caliber and adding to the company’s financial resources mark the beginning of what we believe will be a remarkable growth phase as the company continues driving down the cost of its solutions, which in turn opens successive new markets for them,” comments Salzman.

Peter Moran, DCM general partner and Bridgelux board member, describes having seen Watkins' operational experience running technology manufacturing businesses on a global scale while they served together on the board of another private company. “We will also use the new capital to support our ongoing core technology development and market penetration efforts, as we look to grow substantially in the years ahead,” he adds.

“Bridgelux experienced substantial growth over the past two years and has achieved scale and a perfect market position given the opportunity we have in the near term,” says Watkins. “We intend to seize this opportunity and dramatically grow the company,” he adds. “In the coming weeks we will be announcing several initiatives that will further underpin our growth strategy as we pursue this huge market opportunity.”

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