#129 – An Interview with Brett Fox and Dr Jeroen Fonderie – Device Doubling Decretum


Welcome  Brett Fox, CEO and Dr Jeroen Fonderie, VP of Engineering from the (relatively) new,  yet quickly growing analog company, Touchstone Semiconductor!

  • After leaving Micrel, Brett was an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR).
  • Touchstone was officially formed in 2010 with Brett, Joeren and Adolfo Garcia.
  • Invested in by Gill Cogan of Opus Capital and Pierre Lamond of Khosla Venturers. $12 million starting captial (which isn’t much for an IC company!). Gill was an original investor in Maxim, Pierre was a co-founder of National and was involved in funding LT. Wowsa!
  • They use TSMC, among other foundries. They have worked with Rick Cassidy, the North America head of TSMC, which helps facilitate a startup relationship.
  • The foundries provide the designer Process Design Kits (PDKs) which are then used with Cadence toolsets.
  • Surprisingly, people have asked for original designs, in addition to part crosses.
  • Part crosses (and the basis of starting the company) was to provide alternate sources for harder to get Maxim parts.
  • When hiring, they hope the designers will have experience taping out a chip, usually requiring many years of experience.
  • While no one will ever replace Jim Williams, Touchstone has a full apps team (and they’re hiring more!) working on new notes.
  • The name “Touchstone” was chosen after consulting a thesaurus for the word “Maxim”!
  • They seek patents that can be used offensively or defensively, at the circuit level.
  • Touchstone has to wait for technologies to enter the foundry before they can begin designing for them. There will be a new design center working on developing Graphene, as reported by EE Times Europe.
  • Chris gets bad news that two executives from a chip company don’t think a chip printer is feasible. Ouch.
  • Packaging keeps getting smaller, the Touchstone Demo Board program should help getting up and running quickly.
  • Touchstone does a die bank, which helps hedge against high demand at a low cost.
  • Working remotely is difficult. Monolithic systems has tried this, with designers in Asia and management in the US.

You can follow Touchstone Semiconductor on Twitter, Facebook or Google+. Thanks to Brett and Jeroen for stopping by The Amp Hour to talk shop!


  1. Jope says

    I just visited the Touchstone website and looked at the Maxim second-source ICs. I looked up the TSM1285 ADC at Digikey – the price difference to the MAX1285 is impressive.
    But what is also interesting is an obvious error in the table for the MAX1285: the max power column says 2.5 mW, not the correct 471 mW.

  2. Dave C says

    Always good to see a new semiconductor company enter the market to keep the other guys honest!

    Would be nice to see touchstone make a Mid-range Frequency Waveform Generator IC such as the XR2206 and MAX038 which appear to have gone the way of the Dodo. These were great for making cheap function generators for hobbist.