Homegrown semiconductor startup Fadu is in the supplier qualification process in a bid to ink a deal with US tech giant Apple, according to industry sources on April 16.
Fadu is looking to supply NAND flash memory controllers for Apple’s cloud data center infrastructure, the sources said. If Fadu is able to seal the deal, it would be a precursor for deals with other major global cloud-based companies such as Google, Facebook and Amazon.
One source close to the matter said qualification process appears to be a bit delayed due to the coronavirus, which has slammed the breaks on various aspects of business.
Fadu is a fabless chip-designing company established in July of 2015. The company received KRW 8 billion of seed-level investment from SK Group. At the end of 2017, it received a total of KRW 13.6 billion from series A investment from Korea Development Bank, Company K Partners and others.
At the end of 2018, it received KRW 20 billion in series B round investment from Reverent Partners. By then, Fadu had already received KRW 41.6 billion of investment.
The company’s valuation also shot up from KRW 60 billion at seed-level to around KRW 300 billion as of the latter half of 2019. Fadu is seen to have received further investments this year.
So far, however, the company has posted no sales. In 2019, operating deficit stood at KRW 16.2 billion. In 2017 and 2018, deficit had stood at KRW 6.1 billion and KRW 10 billion. Recent external audit reports show the company to be holding KRW 3.1 billion of cash as of the end of 2019, down significantly from the KRW 21.7 billion early that year.
The deal with Apple, therefore, would be a game-changer for Fadu.
Fadu is headed by Lee J-hyo and Nam Yi-hyun, who respectively hold a 27.63% and 20.66% stake in the company. Lee is formerly from global consulting firm Bain & Company, while Nam previously developed chip controller technology at SK Telecom. SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won’s son-in-law also works at Fadu.
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