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Mojo Vision closes $22M round to develop quantum-dot micro-LEDs

06 Apr 2023

California startup attracts series A funding a couple of months after pivoting away from ‘smart’ contact lenses.

Mojo Vision, a Silicon Valley startup developing micro-LEDs for next-generation displays, says it has raised $22.4 million in a series A round of venture funding.

Led by existing investors NEA and Khosla Ventures, the funding comes less than three months after the Saratoga-based firm changed focus and pivoted away from the “smart” contact lenses that it had been developing previously.

The company has also appointed a new CEO, with its previous VP of displays Nikhil Balram - formerly at Google’s displays unit, as well as occupying executive roles at Ricoh, Marvell Semiconductor, and National Semiconductor - replacing co-founder Drew Perkins, who becomes chairman.

GaN and quantum dots
Mojo says that it has identified market opportunities in augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), automotive, light field display, and large-format displays that require high-performance micro-LEDs.

The company had previously developed what it called “the smallest, densest dynamic display ever made” as a key component for its contact lenses - claiming a world record pixel pitch of over 14,000 ppi (pixels-per-inch).

Commenting on the funding round, Balram said: “The market opportunity in the display industry is big - over $100 billion. Sometimes in order to do something very big, you have to start very small. That is exactly what we are doing at Mojo.”

He describes the firm’s technology, which is based around gallium nitride (GaN)-on-silicon blue emitters and quantum dot “inks” to produce red and green light, as offering “breakthrough” performance and up to 28,000 ppi.

“Mojo is combining breakthrough technology, leading display and semiconductor expertise, and an advanced manufacturing process to commercialize micro-LEDs for the most demanding hardware applications," he said.

“This round of funding will enable us to deliver our breakthrough monolithic micro-LED technology to customers and help bring high-performance micro-LEDs to market.”

Lens pivot
In a company blog post in early January entitled “A New Direction”, former CEO Perkins said that Mojo had faced significant challenges raising capital to support its development of AR contact lenses.

“Last year, we demonstrated the first feature-complete prototype of the lens, and I was the first person to wear and test this breakthrough technology,” he wrote.

“The slumping global economy, extremely tight capital markets, and the yet-to-be proven market potential for advanced AR products have all contributed to a situation where Mojo Vision has been unable to find additional private funding to continue its development of Mojo Lens.”

He went on to explain that in order to capitalize on a more immediate market opportunity, the company had decided to pivot away from the lens work, and focus its resources on micro-LEDs.

“With this shift in focus of our business comes a significant change in our organizational structure, and Mojo Vision has reduced staffing across a variety of departments and functions,” he admitted. “The reduction represents approximately 75 per cent of the company’s workforce.”

Mojo says that its approach is compatible with high-volume production on 300 mm-diameter GaN-on-silicon wafers and custom microlens optics, to deliver very-high-brightness devices operating at high efficiency and offering a slim form factor.

Within a month of changing focus, Mojo's VP of product management, Grace Lee, discussed the firm's approach in a presentation at the SPIE AR/VR/MR event in San Francisco.

Other venture backers to buy into that vision in the series A round included Dolby Family Ventures, Liberty Global Ventures, Fusion Fund, Open Field Capital, Edge, alongside Drew Perkins himself.

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