Company Logo Tuesday, August 22, 2000

Sirific Wireless gets $1-million boost

Kevin Crowley,  Record staff

Sirific Wireless Corp. of Waterloo has landed $1 million in seed financing from two local venture-capital companies.

Waterloo Ventures and SoloWave Investments have put $500,000 each into the high-tech start-up, which was incorporated this spring by University of Waterloo associate engineering professor, Tajinder Manku.

"It was really important for me to deal with Waterloo guys so that I could go see them whenever I need to," said Manku, 32, who has focused on wireless technology for the past seven years.

Sirific's core technology addresses a key challenge in the wireless communications industry -- converting radio frequency signals into digital data.

The technology is on the leading edge of the impending convergence of handheld wireless devices like cellphones, personal digital assistants and other mobile communications gizmos.

Sirific says its technology will allow multiple wireless-communications standards to be supported on a single computer chip and a single circuit board, replacing the need for dozens of components on multiple boards.

Several functions
This would play a key role in enabling a single handheld unit to carry out several functions: voice transmission, e-mail delivery and Internet access.

"This is leading-edge technology and I think it has the potential to change the way the (radio-frequency) section is done on handheld devices," said Richard Boyer, president of Solo-Wave.

SoloWave is a recently created investment vehicle Boyer launched after he sold Backyard Products, a wood products company he started in 1992 and sold six years later.

SoloWave's first investment was in PrinterOn, a Kitchener high-tech start-up launched this spring by Spicer Corp. founder Steve Spicer.

The Sirific investment is also the second deal for Waterloo Ventures Inc., a spin-off of the Working Ventures Canadian labour-sponsored investment funds.

The $5-million Waterloo Ventures fund was launched a year ago to provide initial investments of $250,000 to $500,000 in early-stage computing firms.

Its only other investment to date is a $500,000 commitment to Ardesic Corp., a Waterloo company that develops e-commerce software.

Fund manager Andrew Abouchar said he was attracted to Sirific by the technology and the reputation of the company's founder.

Manku, an associate professor and past leader of UW's radio-frequency technology group, holds seven patents in the area of wireless technology and is a consultant to big-league corporate players like Lucent Technologies, Nortel Networks and Motorola.

Active role
While both Abouchar and Boyer said they respect Manku's sense of entrepreneurship, both investors are taking an active role in Sirific.

Abouchar is on the board and is performing the functions of chief financial officer until a permanent CFO is hired.

Boyer is serving as interim chief executive officer.

One of his first tasks is to build a management team and find a permanent CEO.

Sirific already has a team of approximately eight engineers and designers, and has an office at 1 Bluesprings Dr. in Waterloo.

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