By Max A. Cherney
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Circuit board design startup Quilter announced on Tuesday it raised $10 million, saying it would use artificial intelligence to reduce the time to design components that power electronics in rockets, computers, smartphones and other devices.
The $10 million Series A round was led by one of Silicon Valley's most storied venture capital firms, Benchmark, which made early bets on eBay, Uber, Snap and Meta Platforms' Instagram. The company did not disclose the valuation.
The Los Angeles-based company's software uses a form of artificial intelligence similar to what Google employed to defeat a Chinese grand master at the ancient game of Go. Quilter's technology becomes better at building circuit boards over time and the company plans to completely automate the process.
"Just because (software) got to 90% completion doesn't mean it did 90% of the work," Quilter CEO Sergiy Nesterenko said in an interview with Reuters. "That remaining 10% of the work that is left is really, really difficult."
Fully automating circuit board design will speed up the process from months to weeks or days, Nesterenko said. There are also ways to reduce costs and increase the efficiency of boards.
The market for printed circuit board design is roughly $40 billion to $50 billion and will continue to grow substantially, Nesterenko said. Labor costs now account for the majority of that spending.
Founded in 2019, Quilter has 12 employees, who work remotely.
Chip software tool maker Cadence Design Systems has a circuit board business, as do others such as Altium and Autodesk. While they use software for some steps in circuit board design, much of it remains manual, Nesterenko said.
The Benchmark general partner who led the investment, Eric Vishria, took a board seat at Quilter, as is typical with the firm's investments.
The Menlo Park, California venture firm became interested in Quilter because the number of electronics in the world is rapidly increasing, and AI has developed the potential to fully automate the circuit board design process, Vishria said.
(Reporting by Max Cherney in San Francisco; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)