Brite Semiconductor: Design Services

Company leverages tight relationship with foundry and packaging house to speed time to market and cut costs.

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These days it’s increasingly common for large commercial foundries to have a design services counterpart—TSMC has GlobalUnichip. GlobalFoundries has an entire ecosystem as well as a dedicated partner, Invecas. And China’s SMIC has Brite Semiconductor.

Brite was founded in 2008 by Open-Silicon as a way to tap the Chinese market, but the startup has taken some twists since then. It now is under different ownership from a group dominated by SMIC with a different road map. Rather than developing ASICs, the focus is on platform-based solutions for the IoT, as well as consumer and mobile chips that are aimed at the North American market.

Charlie Zhi, Brite’s president and CEO, said the goal is to compete with a total package—design services from Brite, manufacturing from SMIC, and a packaging component. The packaging component involves Singapore’s STATS ChipPAC. In December, a Chinese-backed investment group led by SMIC and Jiangsu Changjiang Electronics Company (JCET) made a $780 million offer to buy STATS.

Brite’s chief competitive weapons will be time to market and price, said Zhi. “We want to position ourselves as a hardware provider,” he said. “We are investing more on platforms. The goal is to be a hardware provider for the IoT.”

He said the company currently can tape out a chip in 9 months and will cut that time even further by combining platforms with customized offerings. He said consumer and some industrial markets are becoming so competitive that slipping schedules is not an option. “In the IoT, if you miss a few months, you miss the whole thing,” he said.

Zhi expects to leverage a multiple chips in a package to reach this market. While much of the focus in 2.5D or system-in-package has been on performance and/or low power, the market has been slowed by the cost of the packaging and the interposer. Zhi said that by leveraging logic and memory platforms, the cost and time it takes to get a chip out the door can be significantly reduced.

Brite has received funding from SMIC, Norwest Venture Partners and Gobi Partners.