Enterprise Semiconductors and 5G

Metalenz Puts $10M Series A Into Focus With Investment From Intel and 3M

Illustration of piles of gold coins to represent money

Metalenz, a developer of meta-optic technologies for new lenses, has secured a $10 million Series A as the company looks to exit stealth and have its chips deployed in smartphones and mobile devices later this year.

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The round included investments from 3M Ventures, Applied Ventures LLC, Intel Capital, M Ventures and TDK Ventures, along with Tsingyuan Ventures and Braemar Energy Ventures. The company now has raised $15.7 million since being founded in 2017 after being spun out of Harvard University.

The Boston-based company is attempting to commercialize meta-optics — or optical metasurfaces — in which the functions of several lenses are combined into a single flat surface which can improve 3D sensing. A single meta-optics lens, which is basically constructed on a semiconductor chip, can replace the several curved lenses currently in devices such as cellphones while also enabling brighter, higher-quality infrared pictures, said co-founder and CEO Rob Devlin.

“We are a fabless semiconductor company,” Devlin said. “We just make lenses instead of electronics.”

Semiconductor partnerships

Metalenz already has two foundry partners to make their chips and two customers, Devlin said. With the company not having to worry about production, it can put its money and time into research and development as the company prepares to enter the end-user device market later this year, he added.

While the company cannot name the customers that will use its chips, Devlin said they are large manufacturers of end-user devices or suppliers to those manufacturers.

While the company will look to disrupt the cellphone lens market currently dominated by the likes of Largan and Sunny Optical initially, Devlin said the company’s meta-optics technology eventually can be applied to a variety of sectors such as automotive and health care.

“There is an explosion in the ‘internet of eyes’ as more and more cameras are deployed everywhere,” said Xuhui Shao, managing partner of Tsingyuan Ventures. “We believe that wafer-level lenses are about to replace every one of these conventional lenses.”

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias.

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