An Interview with Conor McAuliffe, CEO of Ikon Semiconductor

At Strategies in Light, your humble editor interviewed several CEO.  Below is my conversation with Conor McAuliffe, CEO of Ikon Semiconductor

Randy:  I know nothing about Ikon Semiconductor or your technology. 

Conor: Ikon Semiconductor’s main product is a digitally controlled Integrated Chip for LED bulbs that will be used primarily in the retrofit market. Our specific focus is AC to DC conversion.  The LED retrofit bulb market offers unique challenges and our IC is optimized for performance, low cost, reliability and dimmability.   

ikon.jpgRandy: How does your chip lower cost? 

Conor: Our patented IC reduces the BOM for the retrofit bulb. Intelligent Digital Control enables innovative algorithms which eliminates the need for other PCB external components. Thus, it drives down the cost.  With fewer components, reliability is also increased.

Randy: Does your IC allow the retrofit bulb to be dimmed?

Conor: Yes, again using Proprietary Algorithms we offer Intelligent Compatibility with most dimming systems. Dimming compatibility is very important. The consumer does not want to have to get on the internet to see if their bulb is compatible with their dimmer. They also don’t want to purchase the bulb and bring it home only to find out that it is not compatible.

Randy:  But what makes your IC different from other ICs in our industry?

Conor: Our IC is a single-stage controller which supports dimmer compatability and active PFC (Power Factor Correction). Many ICs used in LED bulbs today are two-stage.. A single stage solution enables cost and size to be optimized.

Randy:  About how many components can be eliminated with your single stage chip?

Conor:  Up to 25%.

Randy:  Are you VC funded?

Conor: Yes, we have received funding of $3.5M to date. We have received funding from the Irish Government agency, Enterprise Ireland, which is a VC program of the Irish government as well as an institutional VC firm in Ireland.  

Randy:  When did you start?

Conor: We became an entity is June of 2009. Initially it was just me. In the fourth quarter of 2010 we received our first seed money. Today we have 15 employees and we will be sampling to customers in the second quarter with production in the fourth quarter. 

Randy:  How will you go to market?

Conor: Ikon Semiconductor sells to either the bulb manufacturer or to the LED driver module manufacturer.     We will sell through distributors in various markets. Our peers typically sell about 75 % through distributors and 25% through direct. We will provide our customers with reference designs which will have everything they need from the BOM as well as the layouts.   Customers want everything they need to hand to their manufacturer, BOM,PCB layout files etc. We will make it very easy for our customers.

We see the market as 300 million LED retrofit bulbs sold in 2012. That number should grow to 450M this year.   There is legislation driving this demand (such as the EU Ecodesign Directive) as well as the similar legislation in Japan.

Randy: What makes all the hard work worthwhile?

Conor: It’s amazing to be at the cutting edge of digital chip design and to see what we can achieve with new technology that has come out in the last few years.  It’s not just being able to design more easily, we now have products that increase reliability and cut cost, yet still have the same power.  I’m looking forward to seeing what strides Ikon Semiconductor will make in innovative chip design as we continue along this journey.