CEO interview: Taking mCube into platforms and data

November 13, 2017 //By Peter Clarke
Ben Lee, CEO of MEMS company mCube, is training himself not to say the word startup.

The company, which was founded in 2009, is now a growth company, Lee tells eeNews Europe. And it is a growth company that is eager to break out from success in the smartphone sector into the Internet of Moving Things (IoTM).

The company's success has come from its accelerometers and inertial MEMS sensors in entry- and mid-level smartphones. Its technology is a method of integrating MEMS motion sensors above electronics circuitry and hermetically sealing it from above using standard CMOS wafer processing. Through-silicon via (TSV) connections minimize the use of area-hungry bond wires and it has been used to produce the industry's smallest accelerometers, including devices just 1.1mm by 1.3mm, the size of a grain of sand.

A series C funding round of $37 million funding in June 2014 came from such investors as Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, MediaTek, SK Telecom (China) Ventures and Korea Investment Partners.

Back in 2014 mCube had shipped a respectable 60 million units partly by working with investor MediaTek (see CEO interview: China, not Apple, is way to go, says mCube CEO). As of May 2017, mCube had shipped 300 million units, Lee said. "And in the third quarter of 2017 we shipped 37 million and its climbing quarter on quarter."

Lee estimates that break-even point for the company will come in the second half of 2018. However, 90 percent of mCube's sales are still in smartphones. "We have to expand our IoT business," said Lee. "We are beyond VC now. We are growth player now. We don't need money for working capital but if we want to make acquisitions we will raise money," he added.  

Which is what mCube did so that it could acquire Xsens (Enschede, The Netherlands) from On Semiconductor for about $26 million recently (see mCube buys Xsens for system-level expertise).

Lee explains that the deal made sense for mCube on a number of levels. Xsens is a good business in its own right with a focus on sensor fusion software and installing that software into modules and subsystems. Not only does this take mCube up the food chain to higher value sales but it also takes mCube to more application-specific sales where customers are telling Xsens what specfications are important to them in areas as diverse as medical, industrial, smart cities and smart homes. "The Internet of Moving Things is not really about selling sensors, although sensor sales will result. It is about providing solutions, which might be hardware-and-software, software, or a service," said Lee.

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