Solantro Semiconductor Corp. 


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May 25, 2015 Issue

The Most Powerful Name In Corporate News and Information


Power Generation Solutions for Distributed and Scalable Renewable Power Systems



Antoine Paquin



Solantro Semiconductor Corp.


Interview conducted by:

Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published - May 25, 2015


CEOCFO: Mr. Paquin, what is the focus at Solantro?

Mr. Paquin: We are a semiconductor company. Our products form the core of power electronics for the conversions of what you would refer to as distributed generation using renewables and the Internet of Things. When you are dealing with renewables, one tends to pool together large numbers of much smaller individual generators (solar, wind, fuel cells, generators and energy storage units). These result in cost effective power generation assets that are cost competitive with traditional central generation sources using fossil fuels - thus delivering very large numbers of solutions in a scalable and cost effective fashion is central to our business. We tend to work with very large power electronics manufacturers, primarily in Asia, but also in Europe and North America, that are looking at future power generation solutions using renewable sources such as solar, battery storage, fuel cells, generators, and wind that are pooled together to form a complete distributed power generation solution.

In effect, you are looking at solutions that are at the intersection of two massive trends, namely the Internet of Things and much smaller renewables based power conversion units coming together to form an Internet of Energy.


CEOCFO: Does a company come to you and say this is what they need, so design it? Do you have a line of products that you take to the companies?

Mr. Paquin: We offer standard products, which are standard semiconductor chip sets. We offer complete development platforms we release around those, which act as a blueprint on how to best use our silicon to create different power topologies. We have strong interactions with our customers and we also design our products based on our understanding of where our customers are going and intersect their current and future requirements.


CEOCFO: What do you know that perhaps others do not that allows you to create better and more meaningful products?

Mr. Paquin: Most companies in the renewables power generation space tend to be very short term in focus. The current industry has tended to be built around business models that emerge from different tax incentives. This is partially due to the past, where renewables were not yet cost effective with traditional power generation using fossil fuels. However, most of that changed in the last year. There are a growing number of markets where renewables have broken “grid parity” and this trend is only accelerating on a worldwide basis. We thus initially faced a market that was more pre-occupied with seizing tax incentives and is now shifting gears to a self-enforcing cycle of technology getting better and cheaper. Chips take years to develop, so we had to intersect not only the current market requirements but also the future market requirements deriving from this “Internet of Energy” megatrend in order to be of interest for our customers. In essence, to be successful as a company, the main difference between Solantro and most players in the space, is how far into the future our vision needed to be.


CEOCFO: How are you able to see ahead when things change so rapidly? How do you mesh gut feeling, experience and trends to get it right?

Mr. Paquin: It is no different than any other industry or company. Nobody likes to buy from a startup. Startups are always risky- are you going to be funded? Do you have a product? Are you going to be sustainable? The only reason people approach you is because you have something nobody else has. This is my fourth semiconductor startup. I have run three before and it is always the same story. At the end of the day, you pursue a thesis as to what you think the market will need and you correct by validating with customers as you develop. Hopefully by the time you deliver the product, there is strong demand for your devices. It took us a little over four years to get to where we are today but the good news is that I think we have successfully intersected and adapted our products to meet the market requirements and we are now ramping up production.


CEOCFO: Even though Solantro is a startup company, given your personal history, are companies more likely to give you at least a second look or is it really all about the product?

Mr. Paquin: Creating a startup with proven professionals certainly helps to open doors in the beginning. Once the door is open, you still need to bring something special to the table. Then they want to know that you are going to be around to support them in the long term because if anybody builds products through your semiconductor devices, it is very bad news if you do not have staying power and you go bankrupt. Much of what you need to do is not just intersect the right products but make sure that you are strong financially so that your customers know you are going to be around for the long term.


CEOCFO: You recently had a funding. How will that be used to let people know you are around?

Mr. Paquin: People know that we have products. Now they know that we have the capital to deliver the story and to ramp up production. It has helped our operation a tremendous amount. It is being used primarily for working capital.


CEOCFO: For non-technical people like myself, would you explain a couple of the items that are getting the most interest, or that you think are the most interesting?

Mr. Paquin: Through innovation we have a new type of semiconductor solution called digital power processor chipset (dP2). Basically, it processes power conversion events in a very efficient manner to enable not only cost effective solutions but also solutions that enable radically higher switching frequencies. For non-technical people, this means that you will see the cost of power electronics steadily dropping as we eliminate material costs. The result is a category of processor that enables the elimination of a large number of components.


CEOCFO: Why are you able to have one that is more efficient? What have you developed or tweaked?

Mr. Paquin: As I said, it is a brand new category of semiconductor chipset called digital power processors. Most power topologies today would run in the tens of kilohertz for switching frequencies whereas our solutions operate up to megahertz switching frequencies, and in the future in the tens of megahertz which enables radically cheaper power electronics.


CEOCFO: Who is coming to you for products today and who should be?

Mr. Paquin: Very large power electronics manufacturers. Most of the companies that operate in power electronics are relatively unknown because they tend to be hidden inside consumer appliances. A good example is companies that today manufacture power supplies for PCs and laptops. There are power supplies everywhere now. Next generation power applications are not just for power supply but power generation, which is the opposite of a power supply. A power supply brings power to device and power generators delivers power outside of a device to be used externally, such as in power grid support or even further in the formation of a power grid where none exists (bottom-up electrification using renewables)


CEOCFO: What were some of the challenges with the newer forms of energy?

Mr. Paquin: Usually the biggest problem in every start up is nobody believes it until they see it. Imagine you have never seen an iPhone and I explain to you what it is, you would say “Who the heck needs that?” The next day you see an iPhone “Oh well that’s obvious, I want one!” That is the biggest challenge of a startup. The industry needed to see that renewables can benefit from both massive manufacturing scale and the right economics to stand on their own, without any Government incentives.


CEOCFO: How are you reaching out? Do people know the company or is there still a great deal of outreach?

Mr. Paquin: People that need to know the company, know the company, which is primarily our customers and partners, otherwise we are relatively unknown, especially in our own backyard here in Canada. We do not have many customers in Canada. If Intel had not been so proactive in their marketing, most people would not know who Intel is because you do not see an Intel product; you see a PC or a laptop. When you see a cell phone, you do not see that companies like Skyworks or Broadcom have chips behind it. Chip companies do not tend to be known to the public unless the public holds shares in the company and they hold them because it is a good investment in the stock market. Most people tend to not know the semiconductor industry. We are sort of the enabler behind the scenes that you never hear about.


CEOCFO: Would you like people to know or does it matter?

Mr. Paquin: It only matters once you are ready to go public.


CEOCFO: Is that possibly in the works for you?

Mr. Paquin: You always build a company to be self-sustaining and your investors expect a return on their investment. Going public is the de facto route for any company with investors.


CEOCFO: Why pay attention today to Solantro?

Mr. Paquin: We are right at the epicenter of the mother of all markets being developed right now, which will ride on the previous massive markets that have been responsible for the entire infrastructure that has been deployed for wireless, the internet and computing. This market is commonly referred to as the Internet of Energy. The next step is leveraging the existing infrastructure and deploying products that enable distributed power generation based on renewables. This has been contemplated as far back as the 1970s when we had the oil crisis. What was missing back then was the prevalence of computers, communications, the internet and cloud computing. Those are major game changers and enablers that now offer great promise. They just need the right semiconductor technologies to electrify the world using renewable energy permitting us to move away from just fossil fuels and fighting wars over control. There is an infinite amount of energy that hits our planet at any moment. Missing was economics and cost efficiency as well as the infrastructure of the internet and wireless communications. All that is in place today and that is what people refer to as the “Internet of Things.” The biggest “thing” you will find in the internet of things is power generation assets because as a species, we are incredibly power and energy hungry. The truth is there is no shortage of energy, but it is not energy that it is easily tapped without such infrastructure. The next big wave that you will see is the one that leverages the previous massive markets of wireless, internet and the computing industry.


“Most power topologies today would run in the tens of kilo hertz for switching frequencies whereas our solutions operate up to megahertz switching frequencies, and in the future in the tens of megahertz switching frequencies which enables radically cheaper power electronics.” - Antoine Paquin


Solantro Semiconductor Corp.



Seste Dell’Area, Marketing


Solantro Semiconductor Corp. 
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