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Amplifier Start-Up Rewarded for Avoiding Smartphones

March 10, 2017
The start-up, Guerrilla RF, has patented designs that prevent large radio frequency inputs from turning on amplifiers. The technology stands out for its high isolation.
Guerrilla RF, a start-up looking to freshen up the market for amplifiers and other wireless infrastructure parts, said on Thursday that it raised $2.8 million in its latest and largest round of funding.

Based in Greensboro, N.C., the company has patented technology that stops large radio frequency inputs from inadvertently turning on amplifiers. That technology is the basis of its low-noise amplifiers, which it sells to manufacturers of cellular base stations, backhaul equipment, and small cells.

Ryan Pratt, a former director of engineering at Skyworks Solutions’ Greensboro design center and an engineering manager in the network components unit of RF Micro devices, founded the company in 2013. Ryan’s father is Bill Pratt, one of the founders of RFMD and a minority investor in Guerrilla RF.

The funding will help the chip maker build up its employee ranks, from 12 current staffers to 20 by the end of the year. The start-up has already hired Billy Pratt, a former director of product development at RFMD and Ryan’s brother, as Guerrilla’s vice president of technology. He started in January, according to his profile on LinkedIn.

Though semiconductor start-ups have struggled to lure venture capital funding in recent years, Guerrilla RF has raised a total of $7.8 million, with its biggest previous round hitting $2 million. It has started mass-producing 30 products based on massive microwave integrated circuits, signing distribution deals with Mouser Electronics and East Coast Microwaves.

Over the last year, the company has shown considerable growth. A spokeswoman said in an email that 2016 revenues were 20 times higher than those in 2015, when the company only raked in tens of thousands of dollars. The company projects “triple digit [percent] revenue growth” this year, she said.

That growth comes in spite of breaking with the strategy of larger peers like Skyworks and Qorvo, which formed after the 2015 merger between RFMD and Triquint. While these companies are serving up chips for billions of smartphones and other gadgets, Ryan intends for Guerrilla to thrive off the equipment that generates wireless networks.

"I saw an industry preoccupied with the needs of smartphones," Pratt said in a 2015 interview, about his motivation for starting the company. "But there is also an enormous opportunity to innovate in the high-performance space aimed at the infrastructure markets. Knowing our industry as I do, I see a lot of stale MMIC products that are ripe for disruption."

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