WeAreDeeptech is a series of cross-over meetings between the leading entrepreneurs of the French deeptech and the Supernova Invest team. On the agenda: major innovations, technological leadership, promising sectors … and economic influence. Because tomorrow starts today.
Microelectronics is a global long-distance race, with deep but highly competitive markets such as display devices. What are Aledia’s strengths to enable it to emerge and eventually become a leader?
Georgio Anania. – Two things matter. We have a very differentiated technology to produce new-generation screens based on microLEDs (micro light-emitting diodes), and for the moment we are well financed.
The display market is a very competitive market with a go-to-the-market which can be rather long. It is critical to be able to finance these developments in the long term – it takes at least $300M to bring a display technology to a market. But it is just as important to protect your technology from major competitors (Apple, Samsung, Facebook, etc.).
Big markets mean big competition. For the technology, virtually all competitors developing displays based on microLEDs do so with planar LEDs manufactured on sapphire plates. Aledia produces microLEDs based on nanowires that are produced on silicon wafers with a diameter of 200-300mm; a technology that offers great advantages in terms of production, manufacturability, and cost.
What are the reasons that motivated Supernova Invest to invest early in Aledia?
Régis Saleur. – It was a great combination between a major technological innovation from LETI, the microelectronics laboratory detained by our historical partner CEA, several very large markets and an exceptional team led by a CEO whose entrepreneurial experience was well established.
Spin-off from CEA, Aledia is still in the research and development phase. What will this €120M D series be used for?
G.A. – This money will first be used to accelerate and complete the development of the products (the first ones will be put on the market in 2 years). But also, to install a pilot line to enable us iterating the technology more quickly, and then a plant to start production.
How can investors understand technologies as complex as those developed by Aledia?
R.S. – Supernova Invest has the in-house expertise to analyze the underlying technologies, the intellectual property related issues, but also the product maturation and industrialization process.
The triple technological/industrial/operational expertise of our team is a strength, as is our address book in the industry, which allows us to complete this reading thanks to numerous due diligences with recognized market and technological experts. Starting with those of the CEA as far as we are concerned.
What will Georgio Anania’s “secret sauce” be to reconcile research, business acceleration, and industrialization?
G.A. – As you say, it is a secret. But in a market where end-user demand is almost infinite – it is a highly concentrated market of $120 billion a year – the challenge is above within our teams: if the technology and the first products are progressing well, the rest is relatively easy. With just one client (and we already have three of them as investors and development partners) we can pass the billion dollar a year mark. The technology is complex, and the competition is tough, but client management is easier.
How does Aledia’s industrial scale-up illustrate the different phases of Supernova Invest’s support and echoes its ambition in late-stage maturity?
R.S. – The company’s path is classic, from invention to innovation, from proof of concept to demonstrator. Then, the scale-up begins with the entry of large industrial partners (international players in microelectronics in the case of Aledia, in constant search for innovative but industrially realistic technologies. They define better than anyone the application cases and conditions of the industrial scale-up and provide the company with the technical means to start it. Ambition Industrie brings the complete platform with the network of these manufacturers and the financial means of the scale-up.
What do you expect from an investor like Supernova Invest, whose deeptech positioning is quite unique on the market?
G.A. – Supernova Invest has been at our side from the beginning, 8 years ago. They understand our technology and our business, they understand the deadlines we must honor, and they have shown great patience in this respect. They have supported us in difficult times and have given us good advice when important decisions were to be made. Few funds understand deeptech, especially outside the US West Coast. Supernova Invest is one of them. And now that they have grown from the original funds, their support will become more important.
I think we are going to experience a big wave of innovation in the next 10/20 years, much bigger than the one we have experienced since the Internet bubble 20 years ago. Most of this wave will be based on deeptech innovations, in combination with artificial intelligence. Europe still has few stakeholders in this field. I think Supernova is well placed.