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Chip Stocks Are Down, But Pockets Of Semiconductor Startup Funding Still Robust

For the semiconductor space, these are not looking like the best of times.

Intel stock plummeted to its lowest point in over five years Friday, following a disappointing earnings forecast predicated on slowing PC demand and sinking profit margins. The news follows several downward-trending quarters for big U.S. chipmakers, with Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices also well below last year’s peaks.

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Still, it’s not the worst of times either. Even with the markdowns, big chipmakers still rank high among the most valuable American companies, with the leader, Nvidia, in the No. 7 slot. As for semiconductor startups, venture funding may be down in recent months but we’re still seeing big deals getting done.

In an effort to see where the money is going, we used Crunchbase data to put together a list of top funding recipients. The curated list below includes 17 semiconductor startups that have collectively pulled in more than $1.1 billion since last year.

Among recent funding rounds, the standout deal is Astera Labs, a Silicon Valley-based developer of system-aware semiconductor products, boards and services. The 6-year-old company raised a $150 million Series D round in November, led by Fidelity Management at a valuation of $3.2 billion.

A much newer company, 2-year-old Eliyan, also scored a sizable funding. The Santa Clara, California-based startup, which manufactures semiconductor interconnects to accelerate chiplet-based systems, pulled in $40 million in a November Series A.

Early-stage action

In the past few weeks, the space has also seen some seed and smaller early-stage action. Most recently, Rapid Silicon, a 2-year-old, Los Gatos, California-based startup described as “an AI-enabled field-programmable gate array company,” picked up $15 million in a January Series A financing. And New York-based Xscape Photonics, a photonic chip provider, landed $10 million in December.

Current market conditions in the semiconductor space, meanwhile, look rather different than they did  a year ago, when headlines about semiconductor supply chain shortages were a regular feature of the news cycle. Global venture funding to companies tied to the semiconductor industry hit a record $6.4 billion in 2021, per Crunchbase data.

Exit activity, however, has slowed since those bubblier times. The paucity of public offerings has put a damper on pre-IPO financings. The collapse of Nvidia’s planned $44 billion acquisition of Arm last year also put an end to what would have been the largest M&A deal in semiconductor history.

For semiconductor startups, however, there’s certainly a case to be made. The future looks bright, as humanity’s ongoing addiction to ever-smaller and more powerful devices ensures any technology that ups performance and saves power ought to find a welcome market.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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