company_name = C-Cube Microsystems, Inc.
company_type = Former public company CUBE on Nasdaq. Acquired by Magnum Semiconductor in 2007
location = Milpitas, CA
foundation = 1988
key_people = Dr. Edmund Sun, co-founder
Alex Balkanski, co-founder
Bill O'Meara, CEO
Don Valentine, Chairman
industry = Semiconductors
products = Video Compression chipsets

C-Cube Microsystems was a pioneer in video compression technology as well as the implementation of that technology into cost-effective semiconductors. C-Cube was the first company to deliver on the market opportunity presented by the conversion of image and video data from analog to digital formats enabling markets such as VideoCD, DVD, DirecTV, Digital Cable, Non-linear editing (NLE) and more.


C-Cube was founded on 8/8/1988 (the number eight being significant in Chinese culture representing money) by Dr. Edmund Sun from Weitek and Dr. Alexandre Balkanski. The company name originally stood for "Creative Circuits Corporation" but over time the three C's in C-Cube referred to the markets being served by video compression technology, specifically "Computer", "Consumer" and "Communications". Early funding came from VC firms Hambrecht & Quist and JAFCO America Ventures as well as Japanese farm equipment manufacturer Kubota Ltd.

Image and video technology was just beginning to make the transition from analog (VHS, Betamax, etc) to new digital-base formats. The key issue was the amount of bandwidth required to transmit or store the digital content. Digital video compression was a key enabling technology that made digital video practical. C-Cube engineers drove the early standards for digital compression - including Eric Hamilton, chair of the JPEG committee and Didier LeGall, chair of the MPEG video committee. As a result of their familiarity of the standardization process and the standards themselves , C-Cube was able to gain advantageous knowledge in the implementation of the algorithms into high-performance silicon.

Early on, the company was recognized for technical leadership but was largely unable to turn leadership into revenues and profits. The company found focus with the hiring of Bill O'Meara as CEO in 1991. He hired a new professional management staff and procured $10M in added investment from Sequoia Capital, Texas Instruments and AMD in late 1992 and enabled the company to drive toward profitability based on the development of leading-edge chips including the CL550 JPEG codec, the CL950 MPEG II (prototype) decoder and the CL450 MPEG I decoder.

These early-to-market devices proved the concept of digital video compression to a number of large OEM customers and led to the development of next-generation industry-enabling products including the CL4000 MPEG II encoder family that enabled the DirecTV program from Hughes and the CL480 MPEG I decoder that drove the VideoCD market in Japan and China in the mid 1990s.

C-Cube went public on the NASDAQ exchange under the symbol CUBE in 1994. O'Meara built a very strong board of directors including Chairman Don Valentine of Sequoia Capital, T. J. Rodgers of Cypress Semiconductor and Gregorio Reyes of Sandisk. O'Meara retired in 1995, turning over the reins to founder Alex Balkanski. Balkanski was responsible for incubating video compression equipment company DiviCom starting in 1993 and C-Cube eventually acquired them in 1996. After this acquisition, the company changed its focus from strictly semiconductors to being both a chip and system supplier. Other acquisitions bolstered PC driver software and reference design expertise including the purchase of the software driver unit of Ring Zero in 1995 as well as MCT in 1996. Umesh Padval was brought in to run C-Cube Semiconductor in 1998. In January 1999, the company acquired system provider TV/COM International of San Diego, CA to bolster its settop box position.

During the late 1990s, C-Cube was unable to repeat its runaway hits seen earlier in the decade. The company sold its DiviCom division to Harmonic Lightwaves in May, 2000 for nearly $1.7B. C-Cube Semiconductor (Nasdaq CUBED) was eventually sold to competitor LSI Logic in March 2001 in a stock transaction worth $878M [ [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C00E6DB1E3CF934A15750C0A9679C8B63 Technology Briefing: Deals; Lsi Logic To Buy C-Cube Microsystems - New York Times ] ] . Balkanski is now a general partner at Benchmark Capital. LSI sold off the consumer products business (including what was C-Cube) to Magnum Semiconductor in 2007 [ [http://www.lsi.com/news/corporate_news/2007/2007_06_27a.html Magnum Semiconductor Agrees to Acquire LSI Consumer Products Business] ]

Key Products

= Notable Alumni =

*Mark Allen - Transmeta
*Alex Balkanski - Benchmark Capital
*Prakash Bhalerao - Amber networks, Ishoni Networks, Alopa Networks, Optim Networks, ECTone
*Brian Connors - LSI Logic, Synopsys, Venture Capital
*Didier LeGall - LSI Logic, Ambarella
*Bill O'Meara - LSI Logic, Early director of Cisco Systems
*Rick Rasmussen - LSI Logic, @Road, BuzMe
*Steve Zadig - Marvell


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