EPFL spin-off Kandou Bus brings in 56 million dollars

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Kandou Bus has raised 56 million dollars. It will allow the spin-off to market a

Kandou Bus has raised 56 million dollars. It will allow the spin-off to market a new component needed for the recently approved USB4 specification. © 2019 matejmo

In its latest funding round, Kandou Bus has raised 56 million dollars - mainly from Swiss investors. The proceeds will allow the specialist in high-speed, low-power connectivity to market a new component needed for the development of USB-C plugs that are compatible with the recently approved USB4 specification.

Kandou Bus, an EPFL spin-off based at the School’s Innovation Park, has raised 56 million dollars. This third funding round brings its tally of outside investments to nearly 100 million dollars. While US investors dominated the first two rounds of funding, three Swiss groups joined this third round: Swisscom Ventures, Forestay Capital and Fayerweather Capital Partners. The startup focuses on one of the major challenges faced by the electronics industry: high-speed, low-power connectivity inside and between devices. Its advances have already led to the revision of several industry standards.

More than 300 patents in its arsenal

The company, which was created in 2011, develops IT components that improve the speed and reliability of communications between electronic devices while keeping their energy consumption to a minimum. So far it has marketed its systems through licenses but is now planning to draw on its portfolio of some 300 patents to launch a series of products for consumer applications.

This latest round of fundraising was crucial. It will allow the company to market an important component for the development of USB-C plugs that are compatible with the new USB4 specification. That specification was published on 3 September at the USB Implementers Forum, a group of companies - including multinationals Microsoft, Intel, IBM and HP - that is in charge of keeping specifications such as this one up to date. Under the USB4 specification, data transfer capacity will double, meaning that USB-C plugs will be able to handle two 4K UHD resolution screens with a 60 Hz refresh rate, charge laptop batteries quickly and improve video processing significantly. "This market is huge," says Amin Shokrollahi, Kandou’s founder and CEO. He is not exaggerating: the new plugs, which will be compatible with previous USB versions, will be everywhere, including laptops, external hard drives, screens and video game consoles.

"In laboratory tests, our initial prototypes designed for USB-C plugs proved to be extremely fast while consuming very little power," notes Shokrollahi, who is also a professor at EPFL. Kandou’s product could hit the market as early as summer 2020. This is excellent timing for the company, since new and revised standards can take several years to implement.

Upping the ante in the microelectronics industry

The work done by Shokrollahi, who specializes in information and signal theory, and Harm Cronie, a former postdoc, led to the invention of Chord(TM) signaling. The microelectronic industry has integrated this breakthrough technology, which is the basis for the startup, into its specifications. This technology increases throughput by two to four times while halving the amount of energy needed. The secret lies in an algorithm that encodes the signal to be transmitted, ensuring it travels fluidly and reliably in a bus, which is a sort of data highway shared between several components inside a computer system. In addition to reducing power consumption and improving connection speed in many types of electronic devices, Kandou’s work will also help unlock new capabilities for customer peripherals and systems.