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22 June 2015

Transphorm receives $70m investment led by KKR

Transphorm Inc of Goleta, near Santa Barbara, CA, USA (which designs and provides gallium nitride-based power conversion devices and modules) has announced a $70m investment round led by global investment firm KKR. This follows initial funding rounds led by funds affiliated with Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, Foundation Capital, Google Ventures, Soros Quantum Strategic Partners, INCJ and Fujitsu. Transphorm will use the latest funding to support its growth, product innovation and expansion.

"Transphorm was launched to address the urgent and important problem of losses in power conversion," says chairman Dr Umesh Mishra. "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," he claims. 

Transphorm believes that there is a large market for its products as its ultra-efficient power devices and modules can eliminate more than 40% of all electric conversion losses by using gallium nitride.

Transphorm's products have a power efficiency of up to 98% in data centers and telecom applications, resulting in energy savings of over 10GWh annually in a typical data center (equivalent to the annual electricity usage of 1000 typical US homes), it is reckoned. In addition to solar photovoltaic (PV) inverters and data centers, other applications include power supplies, motor drives and automotive systems.

Manufacturers are now producing what are reckoned to be the world's smallest PV inverters by leveraging Transphorm's technology. Transphorm has established strategic partnerships with customers and suppliers including motion control, robotics and systems engineering firm Yaskawa Electric Corp, which earlier this year used Transphorm's GaN technology to power what is said to be the first GaN-based commercially produced PV inverter launched on the Japan market. Transphorm's products enable approximately 50% smaller PV inverters in residential and small commercial installations up to 5kW, resulting in lower system, installation and service costs while delivering more energy per solar panel to the grid, it is claimed. Tata Power Solar (India's leading power conversion player) has also teamed with Transphorm to develop PV inverters. To provide customers with volume production, Transphorm partnered with Fujitsu Semiconductor to produce its products in Fujitsu's automotive-class wafer fabrication facility in Aizu-Wakamatsu, Japan.

"Right now, Transphorm is the only place where customers can acquire reliable, production-volume GaN products that meet or exceed required performance specs for commercial products," says KKR's senior advisor David Kerko. "Long term, we believe this has the potential to replace all of the existing silicon-based technology used in high-voltage products, and wide adoption of this technology will dramatically reduce the amount of energy that is wasted by electric devices." 

For KKR, the investment is part of the firm's growth equity strategy, which is focused on market-leading, high-growth companies for which it can be a unique partner in helping to reach scale and the next level of growth. The firm is funding the investment from the balance sheet of KKR & Co LP.

As part of the transaction, KKR's David Kerko, Brittany Bagley and Eiji Yatagawa will join Transphorm's board of directors, and KKR has also nominated semiconductor industry veterans Mario Rivas (former president & CEO of Anadigics Inc) and Michael White to the board.

See related items:

Fujitsu begins mass production of Transphorm's GaN power devices

Tags: Transphorm GaN-on-Si GaN HEMT

Visit: www.transphormusa.com

Visit: www.kkr.com

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