Si-Ware Systems, a Cairo-based microelectronics company, has recently closed a funding deal of nearly $9 million, a remarkable figure given the scarcity of regional investments in deep-tech.
Emboldened by the development of a unique sensor that founders believe can revolutionise the field of material identification around the globe, Si-Ware aspires to eventually emerge as the region’s first deeptech unicorn.
According to Bassan Saadany, one of Si-Ware’s three co-founders, semiconductors and electronics, which are not well established in Egypt or in the broader Mena region. “We aspire to become a success story in this field [and] can eventually inspire others in the region.”
In late January, Si-Ware Systems founders told Zawya in an exclusive interview that the recent funding round was led by the Cairo-based Sawari Ventures and that Egypt Ventures was a major contributor.
Since its inception in 2004, Si-Ware has raised a total of $19 million in funding. With bootstrapping over the years, founders have also been able to raise another $20 million from the company’s side business in microchip design.
Hesham Haddara, the company’s CEO and co-founder, noted that this is very rare in a Silicon Valley company, where startups are purely funded by VCs. “A side business is widely seen as a waste of time and resources. But the situation in our region is very different from that in the Silicon Valley.”
A veteran microelectronics engineer and former professor at Ain Shams University’s school of engineering, Haddara has been disappointed by the reluctance of local and regional investors to inject cash in deep-tech business models. “My life mission has been to develop the electronics industry in Egypt. We have come a long way, but we are still facing many challenges. Deep-tech needs more VC funding and better legislation to facilitate operations and logistics.”
Si-Ware Systems first started selling microchip designs to global semiconductor companies, revenues from which were regularly channelled to the development of the company’s own R&D.
“We started from scratch to build our own technology,” said Saadany, “This is something that usually takes place in big companies in Silicon Valley. We have always wanted to do something quite distinguishable on the global level.”
In 2016, Si-Ware released its first chip, which was as big as a large match box and cost nearly $2,000. In 2019 the company manufactured its NeoSpectra micro device, which can only be seen with an electronic microscope. Where spectrometers used to be bulky and based in the lab, the new technology means that, as Saadany puts it, “Now, the lab can go to the field where the sample lies, instead of having the sample sent to the lab.”
The first purchase order was placed by Henkel, the German chemical and consumer goods company, which used the Si-Ware’s sensor to build its own handheld hair scanner. This scanner is designed to allow salon professionals to assess the nutrient needs of a customer’s hair.
“This is revolutionary in the field of material identification and analysis,” said Haddara. “The device has endless applications and can have an impact on our lifestyles and the way we do things.”
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