AuthenTec gets large investment

Wednesday, September 1, 2004

MELBOURNE, Fla. - A $15-million round of funding for AuthenTec, a manufacturer of silicon-based sensors used in fingerprint biometrics, is expected to help the company accelerate product development and deployment.

The Series D investment closed in late June and was led by private equity firm The Carlyle Group and its Carlyle Venture Partners business. Though The Carlyle Group has invested in a number of security firms in recent years, the $9- million investment is its first in AuthenTec.

Other investors included Sierra Ventures, Harris Corp., Texas Instruments, Knickerbocker LLC, Advantage Capital, Stonehenge/Bank One, Newlight Associates and Firsthand Technology.

The financing brings the total investment in AuthenTec since its founding in 1998 to more than $63 million. No longer in its initial start-up phase, AuthenTec has now set sights on deploying more of its sensors as the price point for such technology drops in price.

The company sells its sensors to various product manufacturers, who in turn integrator the sensor into their access control, PC, PDA or wireless products.

Scott Moody, president and chief executive officer of AuthenTec, said what drove the recent financing was “the opportunity to accelerate our product and business plan.”

He said the company plans to hire additional people for its research and development and engineering departments, plus expand its geographic reach in the Asia-Pacific market. Approximately 60 people currently work for the company, a number expected to increase to 70 people within six months.

What piqued The Carlyle Group’s interest in AuthenTec was the opportunity to invest in a fingerprint technology company, said Bob Grady, managing director of Carlyle Venture Partners.

“As mobile devices become ubiquitous and as they become more functional . . . it’s important that the security of these devices be enhanced,” said Grady.

Moody is optimistic about AuthenTec’s future. He said the company will ship three million fingerprint sensors in 2004, double that of 2003.

And, the price point for such technology continues to go down. Within the next several months, Moody expects the company’s fingerprint sensor technology could cost OEM manufacturers as little as $10.