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December 3, 2001

Startup Emerges with $16 Million

Backed by more than two decades of proprietary Princeton University research, optical component start-up NanoOpto Corp. emerged from stealth mode yesterday by announcing a $16 million round of venture capital financing. The Series A deal was actually closed way back in February, but the company chose to hold the news until it had both preliminary customer feedback and a new chief executive in place.

“We were in super stealth mode, but one of our goals now is to get in the public eye a bit more, and we’re preparing to go to our first trade show,” said Barry Weinbaum, who signed on as CEO in August following a 21-year career with Lucent Technologies Inc. “We’ve got customer feedback coming in on a fairly regular basis, and we plan to have significant revenue by the middle of next year.”

Rather than generating those dollars by offering a next-generation product, however, the Somerset, N.J.-based company first plans to build a customer base by selling a thinner version of optical components already on the market. It will then leverage those relationships when it commercializes its more advanced technologies late next year.

“We actually have the next-generation technology available, but we want to get started by building replacement parts to gain customer traction,” said Greg Blonder, general partner with Morgenthaler Ventures and NanoOpto board member.

Morgenthaler co-led the Series A financing alongside Bessemer Venture Partners. Each firm committed $5.4 million to the deal, with New Enterprise Associates and U.S. Trust picking up the difference.

As part of the transaction, NanoOpto gave board seats to Blonder and Gary Shaffer of Morgenthaler, and to Rob Soni and Glenn Flacao of Bessemer.

NanoOpto’s technology is based on nano-optics and nano-manufacturing technology research conducted by Stephen Chou, a professor of engineering at Princeton University. The company plans to launch a Series B venture offering late next year, with a close anticipated for early 2003.

Dan Primack

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