Pittsburgh, March 2019— The Industrial Technology Investment Corporation (ITIC) has invested in Arieca LLC, a Pittsburgh-based advanced materials start-up that is commercializing Thubber, a thermally conductive rubber with an exceptional combination of elastic and thermal properties. ITIC is one of Taiwan’s oldest and most prestigious VC firms, and is leading Arieca’s seed round with an investment that will accelerate commercialization efforts in the automotive, semiconductor, and aerospace sectors.
“We’re incredibly excited to partner with ITIC and use their investment to find new customers and market opportunities,” says Navid Kazem, CEO and co-founder of Arieca.
ITIC is the venture capital arm of the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), a R&D consortium that has over 6,000 technical experts, 24,000 alumni experts, and 25,000+ patents in a wide range of technology domains, including advanced materials, robotics, and biotech.
“ITIC gives us access to a rich network of manufacturers and domain experts that few other investors can provide,” adds Carmel Majidi, Arieca CTO and co-founder.
A CMU Spin-Off
Arieca was launched by Dr. Kazem and Majidi in May 2018 and is a spinoff out of Dr. Majidi’s research group, the Soft Machines Lab (SML), at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). Prior to Arieca’s launch, Dr. Kazem was a graduate student in SML, where he developed Thubber as the focus of his PhD dissertation. Together with other lab members, Dr. Kazem and Majidi discovered Thubber’s composition and groundbreaking material properties and subsequently filed a patent application through CMU’s Center for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation (CTTEC). After the company was formed, the patent for Thubber was exclusively licensed to Arieca and serves as the foundation of its patent portfolio. CTTEC also provided gap funding to help support some of the costs of transitioning the technology out of the lab and into the marketplace.
“CMU and CTTEC gave us the resources we needed to capitalize on our discovery and launch a startup,” says Dr. Kazem. “From day one, the folks there believed in us and our technology. We’re incredibly grateful for the early support we got at CMU.”
In addition CTTEC, Arieca also received early pre-seed funding from Innovation Works and participated in their AlphaLab Gear accelerator program. Early funding also came from the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program to support a project with NASA to incorporate Thubber in aerospace systems and space technologies.
Connecting with ITIC
Arieca was introduced to ITIC through CMU’s Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship. In April 2018, the Swartz Center and ITIC partnered to form the ITIC Fund, which is intended to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship with the CMU community. The program is being managed by CMU alumna Cinnie Huang, an ITIC investment manager.
“CMU is a source of extraordinary creativity and innovation,” says Ms. Huang. “It’s a delight to work with a fellow alumni like Navid who is passionate about translating their scientific accomplishments at CMU into the commercial space.”
Ms. Huang will be part of Arieca’s advisory team along with Hans Tai, who is president of ITIC and will served on Arieca’s board of directors. Mr. Tai is an accomplished VC who has worked in Silicon Valley and at ITIC to invest in a portfolio of successful companies, including Paypal, Capella Microsystems (which went public in 2010), and Netscreen (acquired by Juniper Networks in 2004 for $4 billion).
“Thubber is a unique technology and strategic fit with products being developed by our partners in the electronics and semiconductor industries,” says Mr. Tai.
About Arieca LLC
Arieca LLC is an advanced materials start-up founded by Navid Kazem and Carmel Majidi in May 2018. It is an exclusive supplier of Thubber, a thermally conductive rubber that was developed by the co-founders in Dr. Majidi’s research group, the Soft Machines Lab, at Carnegie Mellon University. Thubber has applications in a wide variety of industries, from thermal interface pads for semiconductor chips to vibration isolation materials in aerospace and automotive systems. Arieca is currently engaged with global suppliers to incorporate Thubber into heat-producing devices that take advantage of its low mechanical stiffness, high fracture toughness, and high thermal conductivity.
Leaders in Soft Materials Innovation
The discovery of Thubber builds on years of scientific advancements in the Soft Machines Lab to create new classes of soft materials that enable the next generation of machines and electronics to be more mechanically robust. These materials are engineered to uniquely combine the elasticity and compliance of soft rubbers with the thermal, electrical, and dielectric properties of rigid metals and ceramics. Technical studies related to Thubber have appeared in leading scientific journals, including Nature Materials and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and are ranked among the top 1% most cited papers within the field of materials engineering.
Established in 1979, ITIC is one of the oldest and most prestigious venture capital firms in Taiwan, and has invested hundreds of millions in companies across the globe. We’ve nurtured industrial leaders like UMC, AUO and TSMC – the world’s first dedicated IC foundry – and boasts well over US$200 billion in market value.
Our unique value proposition to startups and partners stems from two key strengths: the depth of expertise we draw on, and the breadth of resources we draw from.
Depth of Expertise
Being a subsidiary of the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) – with over 6,000 tech experts, 24,000 alumni experts, and 25,000 patents in robotics, advanced materials, biotech and more – ITIC brings a depth of tech expertise that few investment firms can rival. Whether we’re sourcing deals, doing due diligence or supporting the R&D of our portfolio companies, this expertise gives us a formidable edge.
Breadth of Resources
For nearly four decades, we’ve also built a global ecosystem of partnerships. Our portfolio features industry leaders like UMC, AUO, Epistar and a roster of world-class manufacturers. We also work with giants like Mitsubishi UFJ Capital on joint investments. This network allows ITIC to secure virtually any resource, support and mentorship a portfolio company needs.