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Think Silicon: From Patras, Greece to its acquisition by Applied Materials

By Endeavor Greece Nov 8, 2021

Every time a smartwatch is being bought, it is very likely that there is a graphics card designed by the Greek startup Think Silicon hidden inside it. When George Sidiripoulos and Iakovos Stamoulis founded their company, they essentially created a new market from scratch. Think Silicon specializes in designing high-performance ultra-low energy graphics processing units for wearables and portable devices, such as smartwatches. Moreover, it has been acquired by the American multinational company, Applied Materials, which is a world leader in the technology materials market. 

George Sidiropoulos and Iakovos Stamoulis met in 2007 in Patras, when they both worked for Atmel, designing chips for Bluetooth and wifi devices. 

As they disclosed to Outliers, Endeavor Greece’s podcast series, whose media partner is MoneyReview, Iakovos had registered the trademark Think Silicon since 2000, as he had the strong belief that at some point he would create a company operating in the field of electronics. 

In the end, Think Silicon was founded in 2007, and in 2009 it started to create graphics. Today, Think Silicon designs graphics accelerators for high-performance low-power devices, such as watches, fitness bands, fridges, washing machines, or thermostats. 

However, at its inception, the company decided to focus on a market segment, which nobody, from the very few, players in the field of graphics chose to address.  

The first smartwatch

One of the first customers of Think Silicon was a very large company, and what at that time was probably the first smartwatch ever made. Sidiropoulos and Stamoulis realized that if large-scale companies aim in that direction, then there is a market for them too. 

Today, George Sidiropoulos is wearing a watch with their own graphics card in it. “It is extremely satisfying for the engineers to be able to visit a shop around the corner to buy something they know they have designed themselves,” he explains. 

However, things have not always been easy for Think Silicon. 

Funding

The company raised its first funding in 2019, which is nearly 13 years after its foundation. How did it operate until then? As the two co-founders explained, when they started looking for financing from venture capital funds, the concept of startups was still nonexistent. As a result, the first capital of the company came from severance pay. Think Silicon developed organically with the aid of research programs, from which they managed to raise $3 million. 

Nevertheless, it made no profits for a decade. As George Sidiropoulos and Iakovos Stamoulis admit, the company managed to keep afloat due to good management in the field of expenses, even if this meant they had to cut down on development, as they were only able to provide low salaries and could not attract experienced engineers. 

In 2018, Think Silicon reached a tipping point, but its co-founders decided against close-down. They fired half of their engineers, and by cutting the costs they ensured their company’s operation for a few more months. At that time, they managed to close customers and raise their seed funding from the Greek fund Metavallon and two private investors. This was followed by the agreement for the acquisition of Think Silicon by Applied Materials. 

The deal with Applied Materials

“What we were doing was very close to what Applied Materials was looking for,” the co-founders of Think Silicon say. A Greek, of course, played a major role in closing this deal. Kostas Mallios, who had been a Microsoft executive for a number of years, had just “moved” to Applied Materials. When the company started looking in this field, he was the one who looked at Greece. 

Today, Think Silicon operates as an autonomous unit within Applied Materials, designs and develops its own products having kept its own sales network. 

It has recently opened a new office in Athens with a small team of 10 engineers, which the two co-founders intend to further develop, exceeding 30 people.