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System semiconductors

Fadu, Mobilint emerge as S.Korea's system chip startup dark horses

Nov 24, 2020 (Gmt+09:00)

Park Young-sun, minister of SMEs and Startups, visits Fadu
Park Young-sun, minister of SMEs and Startups, visits Fadu


South Korea's two semiconductor startups, Fadu Inc. and Mobilint, have emerged as the country's system chip industry dark horses as their competitive technologies attract global IT powerhouses as clients.

The Ministry of SMEs and Startups (MSS), which champions the system semiconductor industry as "a core business to achieve digital transformation," is supporting chipmaking startups, according to Minister Park Young-sun during a media roundtable on Nov. 23.

The ministry has identified system semiconductors, bio and health, and future mobility as three key areas of technology that will drive the nation's future growth. The government has also supported Fadu and Mobilint to gain permission to use the intellectual property of UK-based ARM Holdings, one of the world’s largest semiconductor design firms.

Fadu and Mobilint will also receive 760 million won ($684,000) and 560 million won, respectively, from the ministry to boost their business operations and R&D projects.

Fadu, Mobilint emerge as S.Korea's system chip startup dark horses

Fadu is a fabless startup that develops architecture for solid-state drive (SSD) controllers and storage products. Founded in 2015, the company surprised the market when it developed a competitive flash storage solution for NVMe controllers, formerly produced only by tech giants such as Samsung Electronics Co. and Intel Corp.

Fadu is known to be supplying its NVMe SSD controllers to global IT companies in the near future, as the product enables ultra-high performance on low power and solid reliability just like global semiconductor products.

Fadu's competitive technology enabled the startup company to secure 80 billion won ($72 million) in funding from investors despite its meager revenue of just 200 million won ($180,000).

Won Jong-taek, Fadu's chief financial officer, said, “The rising demand for NMVe SSD and SSD controllers is driven by global IT companies competing to expand data centers.”

“Our goal is to achieve hundreds of billions of won in revenue by 2025," he said.

Meanwhile, another domestic startup Mobilint has also distinguished itself as a rising champion in the system semiconductor industry. The company was the first to develop an intelligent semiconductor (edge-type neural processing unit) optimized for deep learning via image recognition in 2016.

The company came in first place in an intelligent semiconductor performance test hosted by Google this year. Currently, Mobilint is working to supply semiconductors for CCTVs, drones and self-driving cars.

Write to Dae-kyu Ahn at powerzanic@hankyung.com

Danbee Lee edited this article.

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