Luxtera: Taking the Road Less Traveled

By Peter Hébert

At Lux, we’re proud of taking big risks on scientific and technological breakthroughs that have the potential for truly radical change. Of course, many ambitious and audacious endeavors that begin with great promise later suffer technical setbacks or find commercial traction to be elusive. In the past several decades, few semiconductor technologies have offered more tantalizing benefits and transformational potential than Silicon Photonics. The technology integrates high-bandwidth optical communications systems and low-cost, high volume semiconductor manufacturing. It’s what enables cost-effective 100Gbs data networking — that is 100 billion bits a second — roughly the equivalent of downloading more than 3,000 songs every second.

For more than a decade, the innovator in leading this emerging field was not a publicly-traded Silicon Valley behemoth, but instead a tenacious, never-say-die Caltech-spinout Luxtera, operating on the outskirts of San Diego. The company rode straight through a buzzsaw of scientific challenges, Gartner hype cycles, and financial crises — but due to its brilliant and relentless team led by CEO Greg Young (and a world-beating technology), emerged on the other side with a hell of a story to tell.

From government-funded academic research, to early commercial development, to global scale, Luxtera is a case study in taking an extraordinarily difficult path and proving naysayers wrong. The company has shipped millions of Silicon Photonics transceiver products since inception and its tech quietly powers many of the largest datacenters in the world. Today marks another significant milestone for Luxtera, with Cisco Systems announcing its intent to acquire Silicon Photonics leader for $660M. We’re thrilled for the entire Luxtera team, our long-standing co-investors NEA, August Capital and Sevin Rosen, and that we could play a supporting role in propelling forward technology’s arrow of progress.