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Brier Dudley's blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

December 18, 2014 at 9:00 PM

Bill Gates, Madrona fund radar startup Echodyne

Local billionaires and venture capitalists have quietly launched a company building radar systems using exotic “metamaterials.”

Called Echodyne, the company is building radar products using materials technology developed by Bellevue-based Intellectual Ventures in collaboration with Duke University and the University of California at San Diego, according to a release.

Echodyne is emerging with the disclosure that Bill Gates and Madrona Ventures have led its first round of funding, totaling $15 million. Other investors include Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital, Lux Capital, The Kresge Foundation and others who weren’t disclosed.

Echodyne is the third spinout from Intellectual Ventures using metamaterials, which the release describes as “artificially structured materials used to control and manipulate a range of physical phenomena including electromagnetic radiation.”

Metamaterials were also the basis of satellite broadband antenna company Kymeta, which was started in 2012 and backed with $50 million from Gates and others. Gates is also a primary investor in Intellectual Ventures, known mostly for amassing patents and licensing them to companies developing and manufacturing products.

Echodyne co-founders Eben Frankenberg and Tom Driscoll previously worked at Intellectual Ventures. Frankenberg, a veteran of Onyx Software, was leading Intellectual Ventures’ efforts to create spinouts. Driscoll was working to commercialize its metamaterials work, after doing research in the field at Duke and UCSD.

“Echodyne’s innovative use of metamaterials holds great promise for a wide range of new radar applications,” Gates said in the release. “I’ve worked with Eben for almost a decade, and I’m looking forward to what Echodyne will accomplish with his leadership.”

Frankenberg said in the release that metamaterials-based radars “stand to be disruptive to existing radar markets, but also enabling for whole new categories of radars never before contemplated or thought possible.”

The company was licensed in October and is in Bellevue. Other details aren’t being released until early 2015.

Comments | Topics: Bill Gates, Billionaire techies, Intellectual Ventures

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