Cahoots Coffee Chats: Mo from Movellus
To start us off, how did Movellus begin? What inspired the idea?
I started Movellus when I was still a Ph.D. student at the University of Michigan conducting research on semiconductor design. The goal of the research was to take chips to the next level in terms of power and speed to help nudge Moore’s law forward. Chips have analog portions and they have digital portions. The analog portions are still custom designed and cause a lot of the issues in chips today. We remove the analog bottlenecks from chip design. Around 2012/2013 time frame, I realized that my research was getting serious industry traction — which was the catalyst. This is how Movellus started.
Semiconductors is a really hot industry right now, what differentiates Movellus from other companies in the space?
At its core, our technology. We have eleven patents and counting. Our technology allows us to implement some of the analog portions with as much as 100X shorter design cycles, and they’re smaller and more power efficient.
You were a student at the University of Michigan when you started Movellus. What made you decide to stay in Ann Arbor as Movellus grew and matured?
On the personal side, I was always moved around growing up, and Ann Arbor is the longest I have ever lived in one city. It’s a great town that grew on me. On the business side, we really wanted to take advantage of the talent being developed at the University of Michigan. At times, it’s a bit challenging since they are so new and require training, but Jeff (my co-founder) and I are committed to creating a strong engineering base here.
Also “Silicon Valley” does not have to be in Silicon Valley now. Ann Arbor is going to be a hotbed of startups. I think there are going to be a lot more big exits in the future and I’m excited to be able to see it happen.
Is there anything you see as really crucial for the region to develop as a tech hub?
There are several things that need to happen. A community of willing entrepreneurs has to be there. Investors have to be there. And facilities that connect the two have to be in place. Communities like Cahoots, with a mission to connect startup folks, is absolutely needed. We’ve taken full advantage of the resources available in the area.
A bit of a culture shift where experienced entrepreneurs and investors want to help and develop first-time founders is definitely needed.
So you mentioned Cahoots, how did you hear about us and what made you decide this was the right fit?
I actually heard about Cahoots from someone in my Crossfit class. This was back when I still lived in Ann Arbor. Then I reached out to Jason Costello. Before this, we were in the Startup Garage, but the team was ready for a different environment. We visited in person, did the VR tour, and the team really like what we saw. Cahoots is a great place, my team really likes it.
Final question for some parting thoughts. You emphasized the importance of having a community of entrepreneurs. What advice would you give to other potential entrepreneurs out there?
The best advice I can give is talk to customers as soon as possible. I was pretty fortunate that I received funding from the University when I was still a student solely to facilitate customer discovery through MTRAC program. This really helped us find an earlier version of product market fit with customers.