Sean Mitchell and David Moloney, Movidius

Fabless semiconductor firm Movidius was founded in Dublin in 2005


Movidius is a fabless semiconductor company headquartered in California, with design centres in Dublin and Timisoara, Romania. The company was founded in Dublin in October 2005 by Sean Mitchell and David Moloney.

Sean has spent more than 25 years working in the semiconductor industry in various technical, business, marketing and general management positions, including five years working at Silicon & Software Systems and 10 years at Parthus Technologies. While at Parthus, Sean was general manager of the applications processing division and was part of the management team that saw the company through its successful IPO in May 2000.

David has worked for 29 years in the semiconductor industry since qualifying with a degree in electronic engineering from Dublin City University in 1985. He has previously worked for Infineon, SGS-Thomson Microelectronics, Parthus Technologies and Frontier Silicon in various engineering and management roles. He is the inventor/co-inventor of 17 issued US patents.

Movidius produces a software programmable multimedia processor called Myriad1. Of the $50 million funding raised to date, more than $25 million has been spent on products and services in the Irish economy.

What vision/lightbulb moment prompted you to start up in business?

We had worked together since 1994 and had always wanted to start a fabless semiconductor company, having tried the IP route in Parthus and found that it left too much value on the table. The “lightbulb” moment came when David, who was working on a PhD in high-performance computing at TCD, talked to academic colleagues about what Havok was doing in game-physics and came to the conclusion that his work could be applied to Havok’s problem-space but targeting mobile devices. We talked to Havok chief technology officer Steve Collins about our idea. He approved, and the company was born.
How did you secure your first investment?

We initially funded the company out of our own pockets from October 2005, with no help from the seed-capital scheme or even Business Expansion Scheme (BES) as the rules precluded us. In August 2007, we brought Enterprise Ireland on board with a €486,000 investment, when we did a BES round for €1.3 million.

What moment/deal would you cite as the “game changer” or turning point for the company?

We had been keeping a lot of the details of our technology confidential as our “secret-sauce” and eventually decided to “open the kimono” in 2011 in an approach to a former Parthus colleague Chuck Moore, who was one of the organisers of the HotChips conference in Stanford.

Our HotChips paper was delivered on August 19th, 2011, and Silicon Valley finally started to take notice. Chuck has since sadly passed away from pancreatic cancer.

The profile we got at HotChips led indirectly to an introduction to Motorola’s advanced technology and projects group, which was looking for a low-power solution for computational video in mobile platforms and the rest, as they say, is history.

What tips would you give entrepreneurs starting out today?

Don’t spend your own money, find a customer who cares early on and continually verify that you are meeting their needs. If applicable, use a crowdfunding platform like Kickstarter or Indiegogo to build a relationship with end customers early in the cycle and fail fast and cheaply. You can always earn more money if you haven’t wasted too long on the wrong idea.