[The Mercury News] Launching a company during the coronavirus pandemic

Chipmaker Perceive, of San Jose, looks to provide more security to consumer gadgets

By Rex Crum 2020-03-31

Source: https://www.mercurynews.com/2020/03/31/launching-a-company-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic/

Starting a business at any time is a bit of a gamble. You may have a groundbreaking idea to reshape an industry, financial backing and the best of intentions. But, in the end, there is always the risk factor of putting yourself on the line and not getting enough customers to come through the door to make your business a success.

So, why would anyone want to start a business now, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, people are being implored to stay away from each other and the federal government is spending $2.2 trillion in an effort to prop up a staggering economy amid a record number of unemployment claims?

“Life goes on, despite the uneasiness,” said Steve Teig Chief Executive of San Jose-based security semiconductor company Perceive. “We are going to move past this, and we saw some value in having a bright spot now, with some cool technology from what we think is a cool company.”

That company, Perceive, is also brand new. So, new, in fact that it officially launched Tuesday after about two years of developing its chip technology, called Ergo, and reaching out to potential customers that are looking for ways to provide more security in products ranging appliances to toys to home security cameras and cloud-connected video systems.

“What we do is make gadgets smarter,” Teig said in an interview conducted via a Zoom conference call. “The idea is to enable every sensor to understand what it’s looking at, but without seeing your private data.”

Teig wouldn’t disclose who some of Perceive’s customers are, but it is initially focusing on home security camera and doorbell makers. Such companies commonly make use of cloud-based technology to store and analyze video and data, and which individuals can access remotely via devices like their smartphones. Teig said the issue sending such information to the cloud is that it opens things up to being compromised by security flaws and hackers.

“Today, to the extent that gadgets try to be smart, they either send all the raw data to someone else’s cloud, and that can lead to violations of privacy,” Teig said. “Or they provide very lightweight analysis of data within the gadget itself. With Ergo, you get a high level of analysis without the creepiness of violating your privacy.

While Perceive is launching at what might be seen as a difficult time for a new business to try to make its mark, the company isn’t coming out to the public alone. Perceive has been incubated by Xperi, a San Jose chip company that specializes in products for industries such as computing, communications, memory and data storage. Teig, who had previously been chief technology officer at Xperi, said that company owns a majority share of Perceive.

Teig said launching Perceive at a very unusual time for all of society is something that is not lost on him, or the company. Perceive’s March 31 debut had been in the works for some time before the coronavirus pandemic exploded, and there was some consideration around delaying the company’s launch.

Teig said that with millions of people working from home under the shelter-in-place edict, which has been extended around the Bay Area until May 1, “we did a gut check” and decided that the best thing Perceive could do was to not let the coronavirus situation keep it from proceeding with its goals.

“We’re still able to meet with customers, we’re just doing it remotely,” Teig said. “This is a way to tell the rest of the world we exist.”