Late in the Autumn of 1999 Neil Lethby, former CFO of Bookham received a call from an ex colleague Kevin Ford. Kevin wanted to build a fabrication foundry to produce bespoke micro components for the optoelectronics industry). At the time optoelectronics was one of the fast-growing markets within the microelectronics sector and demand for the tiny devices was soaring. Kevin had just left Bookham where he had been Vice President of Manufacturing and he was sure that he could not only improve on their manufacturing process; but also produce the components more cheaply using 8 inch wafers as opposed to the 4 inch ones used by Bookham. Neil agreed to come on board, Kevin also persuaded Bill McLeod, known to be one of the leading experts in semi conductor plant construction and Dennis Taylor, ex-MD of Hewlett Packard UK to join. With a formidable team in place Optical Micro Devices (OMD) was formed and they were ready to raise the cash they needed to build the factory.
OMD needed to raise £15m. The fund raising was not going to be easy, they faced the same issues of all early stage companies: they had the vision but were pre-revenue with no immediate product. Nevertheless, Neil, who had previously raised funds at Bookham, successfully raised a significant portion of the required funding, however, he was left with a funding gap. In March 2000 he approached us to help and once we had agreed terms, we quickly drew up a target list of VCs in Europe and the States. Our aim was not only to secure the funding, so the round could close, but also to generate as much competition for the deal to secure a better valuation and save more equity for the founding shareholders.
HRH Princess Anne officially opened the HQ and plant on May 22 2001, the factory is the first of its kind in the world. Revenues are growing as OMD build a substantial order book and clients include global giants: Lucent, JDS Uniface and Siemans. The exit for the shareholders is still a few years off, back in May 2000 the company were 12 months away from a float, however, since the telecom markets have collapsed OMD are in for a longer wait whilst they wait for the market recovery. Further funding rounds have included: one round of $10m at 3 times the valuation in June 2000, and a second leasing deal worth $10m.