Austin nanotech firm raises$30 million

Third-largest venture deal this year


By Kirk Ladendorf
Austin American-Statesman
Tuesday, December 2, 2003

Molecular Imprints Inc., a 3-year-old startup that develops advanced equipment for microchip manufacturing, has raised $30 million in venture backing.

It's the third-highest amount raised by an Austin company this year.

New investors include Carl Zeiss SMT AG and Hakuto Co. Ltd. of Tokyo, which also obtained exclusive rights to distribute Molecular Imprints' equipment in Europe and Japan, respectively.

Norman Schumaker, a 28-year veteran of the chip industry who is the company's president and CEO, said the new money would allow the company to expand operations "to satisfy growing customer demand, especially in Europe and Japan."

Founded by University of Texas professors, Molecular Implants focuses on lithography, a critical step in chip manufacturing during which microscopic circuit patterns are embossed onto silicon wafers. But the technology, which is licensed from UT, can also be used in such advanced fields as nanomanufacturing, which involves the fabricating of tiny devices. The company is part of Austin's small community focused on nanotechnology, using tiny particles to develop advanced processes or tools. It has applications in everything from the chip industry to biotech.

Molecular Imprints received its first backing in early 2002, when it raised $9.2 million from venture capital firms, Alloy Ventures, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Asset Management. Motorola Inc. is also an investor.

The company also has received federal Small Business Innovation Research and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency contracts.

Molecular Imprints has just a few dozen employees at its North Austin headquarters, but it has raised more money this year than all but two larger companies.

Telecommunications provider Grande Communications Inc. raised $45 million and chip design firm Intrinsity Inc. raised $35 million.