Pittsburgh has gained national attention as an economy that could benefit from American manufacturing of semiconductors, and this local startup wants to make ensure the materials industry can keep up with those advancements.
Heat dissipation tech startup Arieca announced this week that it closed a $6.5 million Series A round, led by Nissan Chemical Corporation and Pittsburgh-based 412 Venture Fund, with follow-on support from ROHM Co. Ltd., Monozukuri Venture Funds, Mountain State Capital, Innovation Works and Carnegie Mellon University.
Arieca was founded in 2018 as a spinout from CMU and specializes in the development of thermal interface materials based on its patented liquid metal embedded elastomer technology. It focuses on the opportunity to resolve heat transfer and dissipation problems in the semiconductor industry. One of the startup’s two main products, TIMbber, resolves some of this problem with an adaptable thermal interface material for high-power devices and semiconductors. Its other product, Thubber, is a thermally conductive rubber material that can dissipate heat for electronics that might be prone to overheating.
“The Series A funding will allow us to accelerate product development of our liquid metal based thermal interface materials for the applications as a TIM for high performance microprocessors i.e. Servers, PCs, and laptop CPUs and GPUs, as well high power semiconductor devices,” Arieca cofounder and CEO Navid Kazem said in an email to Technical.ly. “Additionally it will allow us to scale up manufacturing of our material to support high demands of semiconductor customers.”
Kazem added that the startup will maintain its Pittsburgh office and lab while also launching a Phoenix office to support employees in customer engagement and semiconductor application engineering. There are plans to eventually open a Japan office as well. Kazem said Arieca will be primarily hiring for roles on its technical team in the near future, including for polymer chemists, material scientists and process engineers.
In 2018, Arieca participated in local Innovation Works-run hardware accelerator AlphaLab Gearand obtained a Small Business Innovation and Research (SBIR) grant from NASA to develop versions of technology to operate in space. In 2019, it raised a seed round for an undisclosed amount, led by the Industrial Technology Investment Corporation.
“The semiconductor industry is facing an acute heat problem. Further progress in manufacturing of microprocessors with node sizes of 7nm, 4nm and even lower sizes in the roadmap require an acceleration in packaging technologies to compensate for the ever-growing heat densities in the next generation of devices,” Kazem said in a statement. “We, at Arieca, are developing liquid metal-based TIMs to give the designer the performance of liquid metals with the ease of manufacturing of thermal greases.”
The funding announcement comes about one week after a Series A round closed for another CMU spinout, OtterTune, and is the latest funding news for Pittsburgh after a successful start to the year. Still, the second quarter of this year is not yet on pace with the success of the first, which marked a big comeback after paltry deal volumes for the city in 2021.
There’s hope that the venture activity of the first quarter will continue throughout the rest of the year, with recent announcements from a slew of local VC firms like Magarac Venture Partners and Black Tech Nation Ventures that they’ll be starting to invest in companies this year. And it’s clear that’s already started to happen, as 412 Venture Fund (one of those local VC firms) is a lead investors in this round for Arieca.
“We have followed Arieca’s progress since their formation and have been impressed by their progress attracting customers and partners in the semiconductor industry with a large market size,” 412 Venture Fund General Managing Partner Ilana Diamond said in a statement. “We are delighted to be partnering with a world class team to help them bring an innovative material solution to a growing market.”
As for why Kazem and his team have chosen to stay in Pittsburgh after starting to move past their early growth stage here, he said that the support network here has made it possible to keep taking the company to its next step.
“Pittsburgh is the home place of Arieca. Carnegie Mellon University and the entrepreneurship community (i.e. Innovation Works, local VCs and angel investors) have been instrumental in supporting the growth of Arieca through providing connections to customers and investors as well as giving access to early capital,” he wrote in an email. “We look forward to continuing our engagement with them moving forward, by getting support for attracting top talents to Arieca and connections to investors.”Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.
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