Traditionally, electrical engineers have to choose: high-power switches that are unreliable and slow, or high-speed, high-precision switches that can’t handle that much power. Menlo Microsystems’ Ideal Switch shakes up that paradigm with a new type of switch that completely turns generations of electronic design on its head. The company is tooling up to switch things up even further, developing what it describes as the “biggest innovation since the transistor”. A bold claim, but, $150 million of fresh investment says that at least a slice of the investment community thinks the company is onto something.
If you’re not an electrical engineer, it’s hard to understand quite how big of a deal the company’s innovation is — and it’s hard to overstate how important this tech may turn out to be. These switches have an enormous impact, making certain types of circuits 100 times smaller and 100 times more efficient. If you’ve ever had to install a smart light switch in your home, you may have noticed that the electronics in there are enormous and that you can only fit the switches in the wall with brute force, vaseline and a lot of swearing. This is because it relies on a relay to turn the power on and off. With this technology, these light switches could be a hundredth of the size and a fraction of what they cost today. In fact, if the company’s tech comes down in price even a little bit, it’s likely that its switches — or their equivalents — will be in use in every installation, building and vehicle you set foot in.
In addition to far smaller footprints, the company claims that the Ideal Switch takes vastly less power to actuate (less than a milliwatt), consumes less power when it’s active, has a remarkably high switching speed (less than 10 microseconds) and are rated for billions of operations, whereas typical switches it replaces can be expected to fail after a few million actuations. All of this means that we’re talking about a vastly different type of component than what has been available before. On top of all that, the company maintains that the component can handle thousands of watts’ worth of power.
The company today announced its $150 million Series C, bringing Menlo Micro’s total cumulative funding to over $225 million. Vertical Venture Partners and Future Shape led the round, with participation from new investors Fidelity Management & Research Company, DBL Partners and Adage Capital Management, along with existing investors. The investment is earmarked for its domestic manufacturing and supply chain expansion.