Israeli Memory Company Poised for Success in Global Market

With a revolutionary product in the field of non-volatile memory (NVM) and despite still being in early commercialization stages, Israel’s Weebit Nano is already worth 1.2 billion shekels. It seems as though investors believe in the Hod Hasharon company’s potential, as its activities in an ever-more demanding market only seem to grow. Coby Hanoch, the company’s CEO, explains the advantages of the ReRAM technology Weebit Nano developed, and discusses the company’s penetration of new and exciting markets

Ronit Morgenstern, in conjunction with Weebit Nano
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From right- Coby Hanoch, Amir Regev, David Perlmuter & Dr. Yoav Nisan-Cohen
From right- Coby Hanoch, Amir Regev, David Perlmuter & Dr. Yoav Nisan-Cohen
Ronit Morgenstern, in conjunction with Weebit Nano
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In June of 2020, Israeli company Weebit Nano’s stock, traded on the Australian ASX stock exchange, was worth 28 Australian cents. Today, that same stock is worth 3.50 Australian dollars –over 1,000% growth! In other words, within just 18 months, the company’s market value grew more than ten times to a half-billion Australian dollar valuation (roughly 370 million US dollars). All this, even though the company only completed its first commercial deal last September.

According to Coby Hanoch, the company’s CEO for the past four years, their investors’ faith in the company, which has only recently launched its commercial activities, stems from two sources: the first is the innovative Resistive RAM (ReRAM) technology that the company developed to take the non-volatile memory (NVM) field by storm. NVM is semiconductor memory that stores information even when disconnected from electrical sources, like a USB card or hard drive. The second is the fact that the NVM market is currently valued at 60 billion US dollars. It is expected that, by 2025, it will surpass the 100 billion dollar mark.

Hanoch explains that this is driven by increasing demands for storage in applications such as the Internet of Things (IoT), smartphones, robotics, autonomous vehicles, 5G connectivity, and artificial intelligence. “Every vehicle sold today has roughly 1,000 electronic components, and most of their chips contain NVM components,” he says, demonstrating the significant role this technology plays in our daily lives, and adds that “the demand for memory has surged at a dizzying rate; every street corner is outfitted with cameras meant to store images. Even our daily use of WhatsApp, Instagram, Tik Tok… it all requires memory. We produce insane amounts of data and store it in the cloud, and the cloud needs NVM to back up all the information it holds. The entire semiconductor field depends on it; every semiconductor needs its own NVM, and semiconductors can be found everywhere.

Coby Hanoch, Weebit Nano’s CEO

“The chip industry has been plagued by a global crisis for a long time now, influencing nearly every aspect of our lives. NVM technology serves critical data processing and information storage roles for nearly every electronic product, and the more connected we get, the more demand continues to grow.”

Faith, also from the institutions

Weebit Nano was founded in Hod Hasharon in 2015, leveraging patents and a license received from Rice University in Houston, Texas. Former Intel President Dadi Perlmutter collaborated on the company’s establishment, helping to recruit the initial development team, and using his globally recognized name and connections in the chip industry to drive the company’s rapid growth. Presently, Perlmutter serves as the company’s chairman. To promote technological development, the company forged research and development partnerships with French research institute CEA-Leti.

In June of 2020, the company successfully raised approximately nine million Australian dollars (roughly seven million US dollars) through the issuing of stocks and options on the Australian ASX stock exchange, opening the doors to a series of consistent stock gains. With respect to investors’ faith in the company, Weebit Nano gained the trust of Israeli institutional investors last November, after raising approximately 25 million US dollars through the issuing of stocks worth 2.84 Australian dollars apiece. The funding round was led by Meitav Dash, in conjunction with two Israeli investment funds.

Unlike many companies that issue stocks and are traded on the NASDAQ, you decided to go public in Australia. Why?
“When the company was established, the venture capital markets were focusing on cyber and artificial intelligence. The semiconductor industry wasn’t particularly popular. Conversely, Australia was and is a huge home for ‘old world industries,’ and the Australians were looking to bring high-tech companies to their stock market. The Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) sent emissaries to Israel to search for companies like ours – companies that wanted to raise funds – and they offered us great terms, so we went public there. At the end of the day, we are happy, and they are too. That said, I’m not saying we’ll never go public on the NASDAQ or in Israel.”

1,000 times more power-efficient than flash memory

Coby Hanoch has been active in the semiconductor world for over 40 years. He started out in the chip industry at a company called National Semiconductor (which birthed Tower Semiconductor). He co-founded Verisity and served as the company’s vice-president of sales and head of overseas operations. Verisity was sold to Cadence Design Systems in 2005 for approximately 315 million dollars (USD). Hanoch then served as VP International Sales for American company Jasper, which was also acquired by Cadence, for 170 million dollars (USD). For years, Hanoch provided consultancy services for startups looking to establish external sales channels, leveraging his network of salespeople around the world.

What is so special about ReRAM compared to other NVM solutions?
“Existing NVM technology is mainly ‘flash’ technology, which has been around since the days of M-Systems and SanDisk. This technology has its limitations, and the world is searching for new, more advanced solutions. Weebit developed ReRAM technology, which is stronger and faster than flash, while requiring less energy. We estimate that our product is 1,000 times more efficient, and 100 times faster than flash memory.

“Also, important to note, is the fact that our technology is simple to produce and is therefore cost-effective. From a commercial perspective, it provides more value for money. What makes our ReRAM technology special is the fact that its production is based on standard materials found in all semiconductor manufacturing plants, which are called fabs. Establishing a large fab requires funding in the billions of dollars. As such, simple and cost-effective production capabilities are a huge advantage. Flash memory cannot reach geometries below 40 nanometers, while Weebit’s ReRAM can be easily produced in smaller geometries. In addition, it also offers technical and commercial advantages that alternative technologies simply do not present. We use standard materials from the chip manufacturing field, so we can knock on any chip factory’s door in the world and, with minimal adaptations, start manufacturing. Most of our competitors use less-than-standard materials and experience many challenges throughout their production processes. Additionally, our product is less expensive to produce and requires less power, lengthening the lifespan of any smartphone or IoT device’s battery.”

“Weebit has world-class leadership, with a managerial team and board of directors comprised of well-known veteran semiconductor industry members"Credit: shutterstock

Weebit’s goal is to operate as an intellectual property (IP) company. The company supplies its technology licenses to semiconductor companies and manufacturing plants, using the typical IP licensing model that includes licensing income, Non-Recurring Engineering (NRE) support, and royalties from end product sales.

Down the line, the company plans to supply full, dedicated memory chips based on their ReRAM technology.

A few months ago, the company reported additional significant advancements in the commercialization of its ReRAM memory. For the first time, the company presented production capabilities in geometries of just 28 nanometers. The company’s previous prototypes had geometries of 40 and 130 nanometers, respectively. Additionally, the company has begun manufacturing its chip in 300 mm silicon wafers, which increase the components’ potential profitability.

Chip industry giants sit on their board of directors

Weebit Nano’s transition to commercializing its technology is being executed in conjunction with three local and global chip industry giants. This first is Dadi Perlmutter, who has been accompanying the company since its establishment. The second is Dr. Yoav Nissan Cohen, one of the founders of Tower Semiconductor, and that company’s first CEO. Nissan Cohen currently serves as Weebit Nano’s executive director. Also, on the company’s board of directors is Atiq Raza, one of the most senior players in Silicon Valley’s semiconductor industry, who served as the president and COO of AMD between 1996-1999, during which he transformed the company into Intel’s chief competitor.

“Weebit has world-class leadership, with a managerial team and board of directors comprised of well-known veteran semiconductor industry members,” Hanoch emphasizes. “Dadi Perlmutter, our chairman, is extremely involved in the company and opens many doors for us. Yoav Nissan Cohen, who established Tower Semiconductor, knows this world very well from the inside. He completed his PhD under Prof. Dov Frohman, who previously managed Intel Israel and invented the first NVM. Nissan Cohen also works for the company