Bridgelux appoints William Watkins CEO, raises $50 million (updated)

Jan. 20, 2010
Ex-Seagate CEO Bill Watkins takes reins at LED maker Bridgelux, which has also announced $50 million in Series D financing.
LED maker Bridgelux, Inc. has announced the appointment of William D. Watkins, former CEO of hard-disc-drive manufacturer Seagate Technology, as chief executive officer.
Bridgelux LED array The company has also raised an additional $50 million Series D financing, led by VantagePoint Venture Partners. DCM and all other existing investors also participated. The round, which is oversubscribed, also included new investors.

The company says it will use the capital to "aggressively develop its manufacturing technologies and expand its global manufacturing infrastructure to meet increasing market demand while continuing to drive its technology R&D activities."

The company has yet to formally announce how it will spend the additional capital beyond the general statement about expanding their manufacturing infrastructure. But the web site is reporting that Bridgelux will move to the East Bay city of Livermore, CA. Apparently, the company will occupy two buildings in Livermore, each of which is 120,000 square feet in size. The new site could provide the needed manufacturing space. The aforementioned article predicts that the new manufacturing facility will open in April or May.

Mark Swoboda, who has served as CEO of Bridgelux since June 2007, will remain with the company and become president, leading product development, R&D initiatives and sales and marketing efforts.

“Bridgelux experienced substantial growth over the past two years,” said Bill Watkins. “We intend to dramatically grow the company. I look forward to working with the team to build upon the strong foundation they have established. In the coming weeks we will be announcing several initiatives that will further underpin our growth strategy as we pursue this huge market opportunity.”

Alan Salzman, CEO of VantagePoint Venture Partners, the company’s largest investor, said “Bringing on a leader of Bill’s caliber and adding to the company’s financial resources mark the beginning of what we believe will be a remarkable growth phase as the company continues driving down the cost of its solutions, which in turn opens successive new markets for them.”

Peter Moran, Bridgelux board member and general partner at DCM, said “Having seen the benefits of Bill’s extensive operational experience running technology manufacturing businesses on a global scale while serving together on the board of another private company, we are thrilled to have Bill leading the Bridgelux team at this important and exciting juncture in the company’s history.”

Watkins joins Bridgelux after a distinguished 13-year career at Seagate Technology, the world’s largest hard disc drive and storage solutions company, where he most recently served as CEO. Seagate's revenue doubled in Watkins' five-year tenure as CEO. From 2000 to 2004, Watkins served as Seagate’s president and chief operating officer, where he was responsible for the company’s hard disc drive operations and transformed its manufacturing processes to yield significant increases in capacity and efficiency.