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Networking chip design company Aquantia went public on Friday and raised $61 million in its initial public offering.
The stock is trading up for the San Jose, California-based maker of network interface cards (NICs) that can transfer data on home and enterprise networks at multiple gigabits per second. The company looks to remove bottlenecks for hyperscale data centers that help companies deal with the tsunami of data generated by computers, smartphones, and the Internet of Things.
The IPO is a big milestone for the company, which was founded in 2004. Aquantia issued 6.82 million shares of common stock at $9 a share, and the stock closed trading at $9.54 a share, up 6 percent on its first day.
Faraj Aalaei, CEO of Aquantia, rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.
“The cost of doing semiconductors has skyrocketed over the last several years, and venture capital funding has gone down in the last nine years for chips,” he said in an interview with VentureBeat. “But Aquantia is a unique story in that we got funded 13 years ago and worked on this transition to high-speed data centers. We were able to compete and get funding for the long term. We are a rare breed in chips.”
The company is speeding up the flow of data at the edge of the networks, such as PCs in enterprises or networks of gaming machines that are wired together. While many Ethernet cable connections have been stuck at 1 gigabit per second (Gbps), Aquantia and its rivals are enabling transfer speeds of 2.5 Gbps to 10 Gbps.
Sadly, this doesn’t mean you will get internet speeds of 10 Gbps. These numbers apply only the speeds that are possible inside a network, such as on an enterprise computer network or in a local area network of game machines. Most homes and enterprises can’t connect at the same speeds to the internet, since the access to the internet is slower than 10 Gbps. (For instance, my cable modem gets me access the internet at about 100 megabits per second.)
Gigabit Ethernet was introduced for PCs in 2000, but Ethernet network speeds stagnated at 1 Gbps. Now Aquantia is starting to create chips that make the transition from 1 Gbps to multiple Gbps.
“We think that is a good opportunity,” Aalaei said.
Aquantia’s investors include Cisco, Intel Capital, Global Foundries, the Venture Tech Alliance, Xilinx, NEA, Pinnacle Ventures, Rusnano, Walden Riverwood, Greylock Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and Credit Suisse. Aquantia was founded in 2005, and it has 253 employees. Rivals include Broadcom, but Aquantia is the only vendor shipping multi-Gbps chips today. The company has been profitable for a couple of years, Aalaei said.
Aquantia started targeting data centers with its technology in 2012. It moved up to enterprise infrastructure in 2015, and today it is moving on to access devices at the edge of the network, from PC gaming devices to enterprise computers. The company expects customers to go into production with enterprise networking devices soon.
Aalaei said part of the proceeds will go to pay off venture debt, while the rest will help shore up the company’s balance sheet. In the most recent quarter, Aquantia lost money and reported revenue of $26 million. The company was profitable in 2015 and 2016, but this year it began investing in the opportunity for data centers and autonomous driving.
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