Movidius: the company that’s anything but an overnight success

Irish tech firm fought for over a decade to make it big with its cutting-edge hardware

Chief operating officer Sean Mitchell, chief executive Remi El-Ouzanne, chief finance officer John Bourke and chief technology officer David Moloney of Movidius

Chief operating officer Sean Mitchell, chief executive Remi El-Ouzanne, chief finance officer John Bourke and chief technology officer David Moloney of Movidius

 

For anyone not familiar with Movidius, the news that it has been acquired by chipmaker Intel might make it seem as though it is yet another tech start-up that came nowhere and suddenly made it big.

But the company, which was established by Sean Mitchell and David Moloney over a decade ago, is in the founders’ own words, “an incredibly long overnight success.”

While well-respected among their peers for their groundbreaking technology, it has been a long hard slog for the firm, which just three years ago was on the ropes to the extent that its co-founders were paying staff wages out of their own pockets.

Hardware

Movidius, which designs specialised low-power computer vision hardware that is increasingly being used in drone and camera technology, initially started out designing chips for mobile phone devices. By 2011, the firm was trying to tap into the 3D market with the Myriad, a silicon chip that could be integrated into phones to work with software that delivered glasses-free 3D. While that particular plan didn’t succeed, it did help lead to the company being seen as a significant player in the vision-sensing technology field.

Myriad 2, Movidius’s follow-up “always-on” vision processor has led to the company become much more widely known.

Vision-sensing tech has a wide range of applications and can be used in everything from self-driving cars to mobile phones, enabling augmented reality and improving camera technology. However, developing its flagship technology was not only time consuming but also expensive for Movidius and convincing investors to stay onboard was not easy.

Losses

The company was described as being “at death’s door” shortly before a $16 million A-round investment co-led by Atlantic Bridge and Draper Esprit in 2013 gave them the breathing space they needed to keep going.

Indeed, the latest available accounts for the company show it made a $15 million loss in the following year, bringing accumulated losses to €63 million from €47.9 million in 2013.

In recent years there have been a number of successes with the firm announcing deals with the likes of Lenovo, Google and the world’s largest drone maker DJI Innovations, all of whom are keen to use its technology in their solutions.

Intel, which earlier this year announced plans to cut 12,000 jobs worldwide, has found it difficult to move away from its traditional business of selling chips used in personal computers. By acquiring Movidius it has arguably make a canny purchase that will help it to move far beyond PCs.