By Richard Acello
Small Times Correspondent

SAN DIEGO, April 29, 2002 — LightConnect Inc. says it has the kind of forward-thinking technology that could fundamentally improve transportation of long-haul voice and data traffic.

Using proprietary MEMS technology, LightConnect’s products are designed to control the wavelengths used in optical telecom systems so that operators have the flexibility to direct traffic from its point of origin to any number of destinations and via computer.

“Networks right now are fairly static,” says Daryl Innis, a telecom analyst with South San

Peter Clark,
LightConnect CEO

Vital facts about
LightConnect Inc.

Francisco-based RHK Inc. “Normally, traffic goes from point A to point B.” If the carrier wants to route traffic to point C, for example, a technician must be sent on site to make the change.

But for now, LightConnect must patiently wait on its MEMS platform until the telecom train leaves the station, where the industry has been stuck since early in 2001.

In the meantime, Newark, Calif.-based LightConnect is connecting with a growing base of undisclosed customers gearing up for the next wave of optical telecom technology. LightConnect’s Variable Optical Attenuators (VOAs) are used to manage optical traffic in metro and long haul applications.

Last year, the LightConnect attenuators became the first MEMS-based VOAs to pass the telecom industry’s Telcordia testing requirements. The Telcordia tests measure a wide variety of mechanical endurance factors, including stress, vibration, thermal shock and moisture resistance. The latest entry is a dynamic channel equalizer (DCE), a 4-inch by 8-inch module powered by a MEMS chip of about 3 millimeters. The company says the DCE has the ability to control more than 100 wavelengths in one module.

“We were in stealth mode until July 2001,” says Peter Clark, LightConnect’s president and chief executive officer. “At that time, we had about five customers. Since then, we have well in excess of 50 customers.”

LightConnect’s customers are intent on remaining anonymous because the smaller, less expensive, and more compact components will usher in services that have not been revealed to the public, says Yves Le Maitre, LightConnect’s vice president of marketing.

While LightConnect has been coy about revealing its domestic connections, earlier this year the company inked a pact with Marubun Corp. of Tokyo to act as its distributor in Japan. Marubun is the major distributor of semiconductor components in Japan with FY 2000 sales of about $1.5 billion.

Marubun said it expects LightConnect’s diffractive MEMS technology to be key to the expanding fiber optics market in that country, driven by services with higher bandwidth needs.

Beyond telecom, the privately held company’s MEMS diffractive technology could turn up in sensors, air bags, and high-powered lasers, Le Maitre added.

For the moment, though, LightConnect is craning its corporate neck for a glimpse of that telecom train coming around the mountain. Innis counsels patience. “2002 looks like a flat year,” he says. “2003, maybe?”


COMPANY FILE: LightConnect Inc.
(last updated April 29, 2002)

LightConnect Inc.

35445 Dumbarton Ct.
Newark, CA 94560

David Bloom and Asif Godil established LightConnect in July 1998 to commercialize diffractive MEMS technology developed by Bloom at Stanford University. Bloom and Godil also founded Silicon Light Machines (SLM), which was acquired by Cypress. Originally, the founders intended to explore MEMS-based display applications with SLM and telecom applications with LightConnect. Cypress, however, is now moving into the same telecom component space occupied by LightConnect. LightConnect has filed 10 patents, with three already issued.

Switching and transmission equipment for telecommunications

Small tech-related products and services
LightConnect, which has more than 50 customers, manufactures MEMS components used for bandwidth allocation in optical networks. These components include wavelength- and polarization-independent optical attenuators and dynamic gain equalizers. LightConnect differentiates itself by offering dynamic components that can be controlled and configured to allow for fluctuations in optical network performance. The components can be manufactured in a traditional CMOS foundry.


  • Peter O. Clark: president and chief executive officer
  • Asif A. Godil: chairman and chief technology officer
  • Employees

    Investment history

  • LightConnect received $8.4 million in June 2000 from Sevin Rosen, U.S. Venture Partners, Supertex, Morgenthaler Ventures, Intel Capital, iNCUBiC LLC and Optical Capital Group. Sevin Rosen led the round.
  • About a year later, the company received $16.4 million from the same investors (with the exception of Supertex), with additional financing from US Trust Private Equity. iNCUBiC led the round.
  • Selected strategic partners
    Marubun Corp. is LightConnect’s exclusive sales representative in Japan.

    Annual sales: $4 million

    Agere Systems, Agilent Technologies, Alcatel Optronics, Bookham Technology, Corning, Dicon, Luminent, JDS Uniphase, Silicon Light Machines

    Short-range: “Survival, we don’t have a problem meeting that goal. To do what needs to be done to be well-positioned 12-18 months from now. Long range: “To build a real company. A real company has products, customers, revenue and is profitable.”

    What keeps them up at night
    When and how will the market turn. Other than that, Clark lives in San Francisco and stays awake listening to “Hell’s Angels return from weekend trips” in Northern California.


  • URL:
  • Phone: (510) 713-3120
  • Fax: (510) 713-3119
  • Recent news
    What telecom slowdown? MEMS maker debuts product
    LightConnect links with Japanese firm
    LightConnect launches two MEMS products

    — Research by Gretchen McNeely


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