Small Business Q&A: Sean Mitchell, co-founder of Movidius

For this week’s Q&A, Kehlan talks with Sean Mitchell, co-founder of Movidius, which recently achieved one of Ireland’s largest ever venture capital investments at €35m.

What does Movidius do?

Movidius is a silicon chip company. We produce what is called a ‘vision processing unit’, which is essentially aiming to bring the capabilities of human vision to what you would call the internet of things. That is a way of describing a whole range of devices that are connected to the internet and covers home automation, wearable devices, head-mounted displays for virtual reality and robotics.

How did you go about getting €35m in venture capital funding?

Well, it was a long process, as you can imagine. This is not our first round of funding, we’ve done a number of them before, but I suppose every time you look for a new round of funding you need to be doing better than the last time you looked for it. So, for us to attract this level of funding shows the level of market traction we are getting right now. We have been in development stage for the past number of years and are now on the cusp of deploying onto the marketplace. That being said, it’s still a very protracted process.

What happens within this venture capital deal? Is it shares or money interest?

Usually there would be a straight equity investment into the company, where they would take shares in the company and then purchase them. That means they would then have a shareholding in the company.

What is €35m going to get you?

Well, it gives us a number of things. The main one is that it gives us the ability to scale the business now. As I said earlier, we are planning to put this into production now so we are going to have to be able to scale that up pretty quickly. We will need to be able to support multiple customers in parallel and build all the infrastructure required to support high-volume production. So we’ll be hiring about 100 people in Ireland over the next few years. They will be engineering roles focused on integrated circuit design, software, and computer visions applications, in particular.

Is that what venture capital funding like this gives a company — speed to market?

Yes it does. If you imagine it as putting the foot down on the accelerator of your business. The nature of this type of industry is you have to have a very aggressive approach when getting and bringing it to market. As well as that, we will need to develop new products. So, we’re trying to be in a situation where we develop the new architecture in the design once a year. That means you have to be constantly developing and researching. That takes time and a great deal of money. What we’re looking to do is influence the future of devices and how computers understand things visually as well. When you look at the cost of uploading video content onto the cloud, in terms of the infrastructure costs of servers and bandwidth, it means the future of that is that computers need to get smarter in determining video and what is essential and non-essential.

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