Soraa raises $88M for energy saving lighting

Soraa, a three-year-old startup that uses the semiconductor gallium nitride for lighting and laser applications, has raised a round of $88.6 million, according to a filing. The company has been largely under the radar, but was backed early on by Khosla Ventures, and at a Khosla event last year the company described its LED technology as using 75 percent less energy for lighting.

Soraa lists investor Ravi Viswanathan from NEA on the new filing. Soraa was founded in 2008 by Shuji Nakamura, Steve DenBaars, and Jim Speck. According to Khosla Ventures, Nakamura is the inventor of the blue laser and other LED tech, DenBaars founded a startup called Nitres that was later acquired by Cree, and Speck is a Professor from U.C. Santa Barbara’s College of Engineering.

The idea behind the innovation is to use gallium nitride as a substrate for LEDs, but to do so in a lower-cost way than has previously been done. Gallium nitride is expensive, but the company is seeking to achieve a high enough light output to justify the high cost of using the semiconductor. The company makes gallium nitride chip-based lasers using its founder’s green and blue laser diodes.

Soraa says it has built a fabrication facility in California’s Silicon Valley and Santa Barbara. I would speculate the large $88 million round would go toward commercializing the laser diodes or a bulb itself. The company is looking to close $90 million in total, which is one of the largest rounds this quarter. Soraa looks like it has the funding to try to make it through the so-called Valley of Death.