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5th place: Ambiq Micro
5th place: Ambiq Micro
From left: David Landman, Phil O'Niel, Scott Hanson
School: University of Michigan
Business concept: A tiny, low-energy microprocessor, designed from the ground up, aimed at a big $2.7 billion market
Judge's comment: "It's impressive how far they've been able to stretch grant dollars to develop their technology. They should get to market on much less equity investment than a typical semiconductor company."

Imagine a microprocessor so tiny and long lasting that it can be implanted in the eye of a glaucoma sufferer to measure the progress of the disease. That idea is what got CEO and co-founder Scott Hanson excited about commercializing ultra-low-power, minuscule microprocessors he developed with his professors.

But "the time to revenue is very long, and the reliability requirements are very high," he says. The RFID market, which the company also targeted, has "horrible pricing pressures," says MBA student David Landman, director of sales.

Now, having raised $5 million in grants, Ambiq is trying to get its chip embedded in small wireless devices like smart credit cards. The group is seeking $7 million. But if they're unable to offset costs by making semi-customized chips, that figure could soar to $17 million.

NEXT: 6th place: Reveal Design Automation

Last updated June 11 2010: 1:32 PM ET
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