Shenzhen recruits former Elpida CEO to kickstart DRAM startup

Shenzhen recruits former Elpida CEO to kickstart DRAM startup

Business news |
By Peter Clarke

Memory chip startup SwaySure Technology Co. Ltd. (Shenzhen, China), founded in March 2022, has recruited 74-year-old Yukio Sakamoto, former CEO of Japanese DRAM maker Elpida Memory, as its chief strategy officer.

The startup is owned by the Shenzhen government and is the latest attempt by China to break into the DRAM market, which is dominated by one US and two South Korean companies.

In 2021 Samsung held 43.6 percent of the DRAM market, SK Hynix held 27.7 percent and Micron 22.8 percent with just 5.9 percent in the hands of others, according to market research company IC Insights.

SwaySure was founded with registered capital of 5 billion yuan (about US$750 million).

Sakimoto rides again

Sakimoto was CEO of Elpida Memory in 2012 when it declared bankruptcy and was eventually acquired by Micron Technology Inc.

And it is not Sakimoto’s first attempt to use Japanese and Taiwanese expertise and Chinese money to float a DRAM company. In 2016 Sakimoto formed a fabless chip company to design and license non-JEDEC DRAMs called Sino King Technology Ltd. based in Hong Kong (see Ex-Elpida CEO forms memory startup )

That effort seems to have morphed into a role at Tsinghua Unigroup, one of the largest of the Chinese semiconductor conglomerates. Unigroup is often perceived as an instrument of state chip policy (see Tsinghua Unigroup creditors call for restructure) but it has reportedly collapsed under debts built up as it made a series of acquisitions and funded fab investment.

SwaySure’s CEO is Liu Xiaoqiang, who had previously run several wafer fabs for TSMC, according to reports.

Build wafer fabs

SwaySure has said it plans to design and manufacture DRAMs used in data centers, mobile phones and other applications with core R&D teams located in China and Japan.

China has made previous attempts to enter the DRAM market but with limited success. One such Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit Co. was thwarted by US action against UMC claiming the theft of trade secrets from Micron and a ban on sales (see US ban set to thwart Chinese DRAM entry).

ChangXin Memory Technologies Inc. (Hefei, China) or CXMT has had more success and reportedly began mass production of DRAMs in 2019. CXMT was founded in May 2016 and is owned by the state and tech giant Alibaba Group Holding.

It remains unclear where SwaySure will gain its technology patent protection from.

Related links and articles:

News articles:

Tsinghua Unigroup creditors call for restructure

Ex-Elpida CEO forms memory startup

Nanya breaks ground on double-decker wafer fab

US ban set to thwart Chinese DRAM entry

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