Private equity makes moves on GaN startup

July 06, 2015 // By Peter Clarke
Private equity firm KKR & Co Ltd. – formerly known as Kohlberg, Kravis and Roberts – has led a $70 million investment in Transphorm Inc., a 2007 startup using gallium nitride for power switching applications, and taken three seats on company's board of directors.

Transphorm has made partnership deals with Fujitsu and On Semi in recent months. The latest funding brings the amount invested in the company to more than $220 million. Transphorm said it would spend the money on product innovation and expansion.

As part of the investment three executive's from KKR – David Kerko, Brittany Bagley and Eiji Yatagawa – will join Transphorm’s board of directors, and KKR has nominated two other semiconductor industry veterans – Mario Rivas and Michael White – to the Transphorm board. KKR’s investment follows rounds led by funds associated with Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, Foundation Capital, Google Ventures, Soros Quantum Strategic Partners, INCJ and Fujitsu.

Transphorm claims its GaN power devices and modules can cut more than 40 percent of electric conversion losses by switching at higher frequencies than traditional silicon-based power semiconductors. In addition to photovoltaic inverters and datacenters, other applications for GaN technology include power supplies, motor drives and automotive systems.

Tata Power Solar, India’s leading power conversion player, has teamed with Transphorm to develop leading edge photovoltaic inverters.