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Alien Gears Up For Production

The startup has brought Stav Prodromou, former CEO of Peregrine Semiconductor, to be CEO and launched the manufacturing effort.
Tags: Standards
Sep 19, 2002Sept. 19, 2002 -- It's been nearly a decade since a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, devised the process that has become known as fluidic self-assembly. That breakthrough method of assembling tiny microchips on a substrate is now ready to be tested in the real world, and Alien Technology, the Morgan Hill, Calif., company founded to commercialize the process isn't taking any chances.

This week, Alien brought in a new CEO, Stav Prodromou, to succeed Jeffrey Jacobsen, who has been running the company since 1998. "We are moving from research and development to large scale manufacturing, and the board felt more comfortable with someone who had been in the position of running a large-scale manufacturing operation," says Jacobsen, who will stay on as senior VP of new market development.

Prodromou comes to Alien from Peregrine Semiconductor Corp., where he was CEO. Peregrine is a privately held company that develops and manufactures high-speed integrated circuits for wireless and fiber optic communications. The company shipped more than a million of its specialized silicon-on-sapphire chips per month, which was the expertise that made him attractive to Alien's board.

An electrical engineer by training, Prodromou served as president of Poqet Computer Corp., which developed a one-pound IBM-compatible computer back in the late 1980s. He has also worked at Integrated Circuit Systems, a maker of silicon timing devices, and Fairchild Semiconductor Corp.

While Prodromou focuses on running the company, particularly the manufacturing operation, Jacobsen will continue to develop partnerships and build the market for fluidic self-assembly and nanoblock technology. "My experience and strengths are in building strategic relationships and being the guy who evangelizes the technology," says Jacobsen.

When Jacobsen took over Alien, the company was called Beckman Displays and was focused on creating low-cost screens for laptop computers and other devices. It was quickly running out of cash. Jacobsen raised $1.5 million to keep the company afloat, changed the name and rewrote the business plan.

Eventually, Jacobsen raised more than $90 million for Alien and moved it out of the display business and into low-cost RFID. The company's technology is a key to the Auto-ID Center's hope of creating a low-cost system for tracking products using RFID. The chip design and manufacturing systems are now virtually complete, and Alien is about ready to begin producing millions of tiny chips for RFID tags.

"Jeff has done an excellent job in taking the company from a concept to the world's leading technology for low cost, high volume RFID manufacture," says Arno Penzias, a member of Alien's board. "Stav will lead Alien as it moves into high volume production, and Jeff will focus on developing new markets for FSA and applications of RFID."
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