The Silicon Review
Founded in 2001 by Greg Schmergel and Dr. Thomas Rueckes, Nantero is the world leader in carbon nanotube electronics. The company was founded to develop a new kind of memory that would revolutionize the memory and electronics industries by combining the speed of DRAM with the non-volatility of flash, in one low-cost memory. This kind of new memory allows the creation of new devices and new features, such as faster artificial intelligence (AI), more powerful virtual reality, smartphones with longer battery life and higher speeds, and more.
Nantero was able to develop this memory by using carbon nanotubes, which are considered to be the strongest material known to man and are as small as 1/50,000th the diameter of a human hair. Using these incredibly small, powerful materials, the company developed the world’s first methods and materials for using carbon nanotubes in production semiconductor fabs, without requiring any new tools.
Today, Nantero owns a highly significant family of patents and its intellectual property can also be used for a wide range of products in addition to memory, such as transistors, sensors, and more.
In-Conversation with the CEO of Nantero, Greg Schmergel:
Q. What kind of organizations survive and flourish into the distant future?
The future will hold innovations that the world has only dreamed about — from exciting AI applications to flexible mobile devices that can store millions of songs and hundreds of movies while also offering months of standby battery life. The companies that will survive and flourish will be the ones that deliver the technology that enables these exciting new capabilities.
Q. What challenges did you face in your initial years? What can your peers learn from it?
When Nantero started, carbon nanotubes had never been used in semiconductor production and as a field in general, nanotechnology was still in its early stages. Therefore, we were at the forefront of a new industry — nanotechnology, and also pioneered the use of a new material — carbon nanotubes.
This resulted in a lot of skepticism, as the team was trying to do something that had never been done before, which was to use a new material and operate at the nanoscale. This required a lot of innovation and willingness to ignore statements that it would be impossible and do it anyway.
Q. Tell us about Nantero’s most successful project roll out.
We have now had our carbon nanotube memory (known as NRAM) running in standard CMOS fabs around the world with no new tools required for many years. NRAM is now being designed in by more than a dozen partners and customers in the consumer electronics, enterprise systems, and semiconductor industries. And Fujitsu has already publicly committed to being the first partner to bring NRAM to mass market in 2019.
The potential of NRAM to change the electronics landscape is significant, and as a result, some of the world’s largest companies have joined forces with Nantero. We have received strategic investments from many well-known strategic investors, including Dell Technologies Capital, Cisco Investments, Kingston Technology Corporation, CFT Capital, Schlumberger and many more.
Q. Building a culture of sustainability inside an organization is very important to maintain a reputation in the global market. How is it true for your company?
Nantero has won awards for being a “best place to work” and also from the American Heart Association for having a health-friendly culture. Most of Nantero’s team members have stayed for many years, growing and supporting each other as the company continues to innovate. So, I believe we definitely have a great work culture that keeps every one of us motivated during the day at the office, in the lab, or in the fab.
Q. A company’s behavior is as important as its economic performance or the quality of its products. How do you interpret this saying?
No company should ever sacrifice the integrity of its people or its products to further its growth and development. At Nantero, we believe we can continue delivering the best products and best customer service while also maintaining a happy and productive workforce.
Q. Is Nantero a ‘leader or follower?’ Do you formulate your own core values?
We are definitely the world leader in carbon nanotube electronics and we are a pioneer in the field of nanotechnology. Our core product, NRAM, is an innovative memory offering performance that no other memory can deliver, and at a reasonable cost.
Talking about our values, at Nantero we have formulated our own core values to support being a highly innovative company while being a sustainable place to work. Our mission is a long-term one, and one that has been done less than once in a generation. Not since the introduction of Flash and DRAM more than 30 years ago has a company been able to develop a new mass market memory chip.
The Future Roadmap
Nantero’s goal is to have its memory in mass production and be used in a wide variety of applications, from smartphones to data centers to AI, laptops, cars, wearable devices, and more. Fujitsu has already announced its plans for a line of NRAM-based products, and more announcements from global leaders are coming.
Looking into the future, Nantero’s goal is to not only change the memory industry, but also the electronics industry for which memory is a key enabler, and support the development of exciting new products that everyone uses in a range of categories.
Meet the Chief
Greg Schmergel, Co-founder, Chairman and CEO: Before Nantero, Greg Schmergel was Senior Vice President, Corporate Strategy for About, Inc. He also served as the President and CEO of ExpertCentral.com, Inc., which he founded. Prior to that, Greg was a Case Team Leader for Bain & Company and held a senior position at TowerGroup.
Greg holds an AB Magna Cum Laude from Harvard University and an MBA from the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration. He was previously selected as the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award winner in New England, in the emerging technology category.
“Installed in multiple production fabs today, our NRAM is already being designed into next-generation consumer and enterprise products to deliver innovations the world has only dreamed about.”