The journey to becoming a billionaire at the age of 87 of the founder of a company whose customers are Apple, Samsung

In 1995, Mr. Giuseppe Crippa was offered a severance package (including salary and related benefits that employees receive when they voluntarily quit their jobs) from semiconductor manufacturer STMicroelectronics (STM). , officially ending a 35-year career at this company.

But instead of enjoying and settling into retirement, Mr. Crippa, then 60, took the opportunity and founded his own company. With an idea he’d worked on for years, Crippa founded Technoprobe in a small town on the outskirts of Milan to manufacture a semiconductor detector tag, a device used for testing microchips. During the first 15 years of his entrepreneurial journey, Crippa’s major customer was his old company.

The journey to becoming a billionaire at the age of 87 of the founder of a company whose customers are Apple and Samsung - Photo 1.

27 years after its founding, Technoprobe is now one of the two largest manufacturers of semiconductor detector tags in the world. The company currently supplies probes to a wide range of the world’s technology giants such as Apple, Qualcomm, Samsung and Nvidia, as well as semiconductor manufacturers such as AMD, Intel and TSMC.

Last year, Technoprobe finally overtook its top competitor, Livermore, California-based FormFactor. The company posted net income of $136 million on revenue of $446 million in 2021, beating FormFactor’s semiconductor tag business of $436 million.

With this spectacular growth momentum, Technoprobe, now run by his grandson and son Crippa as CEO and Chairman respectively, listed on the Euronext Growth Milan stock exchange in February. This IPO makes Mr. Crippa, who stepped down as CEO of Technoprobe in 2017 and is now 87, and his family to become one of the wealthiest families in Italy. The family’s total assets reach nearly $4 billion thanks to their 75% stake in Technoprobe. Mr. Crippa is one of 8 new billionaires this year, according to Forbes.

Technoprobe’s growth shows no signs of slowing down as big companies like Apple and Samsung release phones and tablets every year, and car manufacturers need semiconductor detectors to make them work. test the screens and sensors on their new cars. In other words, the demand for semiconductor detector tags is still very large.

Born in a small town northeast of Milan in 1935, Mr. Crippa grew up during World War II, so his childhood consisted of running away to shelter in the basement of the apartment complex the family lived in whenever there was a problem. enemy air raids. When the war ended, he attended a technical school in nearby Bergamo and got his first job at the engineering company Breda after graduation.

Crippa got acquainted with the world of microchips at the age of 25, in 1960, when he moved to work at the semiconductor company SGS. That same year, SGS formed a joint venture with Fairchild Semiconductor, a company co-founded five years earlier by technology pioneer Gordon Moore. In 1962, SGS decided to send Crippa to Silicon Valley to learn about Fairchild’s breakthrough technology and bring it back to Italy. He returned to Italy in 1963 and helped start Europe’s first silicon semiconductor production line. It was also the beginning of his decades-long career at SGS, later known as STM.

Decades later, Mr. Crippa began tinkering with the semiconductor detectors in his kitchen. For him, the semiconductor detector tag is a potential market, because all the semiconductor detector tags that STM is using come from US suppliers. At that time, semiconductor detector tags were relatively poor quality consumables, which meant that they needed to be repaired immediately after use.

Crippa’s son Cristiano, then 19, soon joined the research. The father and son purchased some tools, such as microscopes and cutters, and by 1993 they were using the garage, attic, and basement for fabrication, and hired the first two employees along with His wife assists with administrative work.

In 1995, when he reached retirement age, Mr. Crippa decided to quit his job at STM and accepted the severance package.

The severance pay at STM allowed Mr. Crippa to officially start Technoprobe and move his office from home to a nearly 800-square-foot facility in nearby Cernusco Lombardone with about 10 employees in 1996. Soon, the the rest of his family gradually joined the company: his grandson, Stefano Felici, then just graduated from university with a degree in electrical and information engineering, in 1999; and his youngest son, Roberto, then a chemical engineer, in 2002.

The journey to becoming a billionaire at the age of 87 of the founder of a company whose customers are Apple and Samsung - Photo 2.

Technoprobe grew rapidly, expanding to France in 2001 and Singapore in 2004. 40 years after his trip to the Golden State, Mr. Crippa sent his grandson, Felici, to California to open Technoprobe’s first office in San Jose, USA. in 2007. That same year, the company also began developing its own smaller and more advanced probe cards.

For many years, STM was Technoprobe’s only customer. Only in 2010 did the company win more customers as well as new markets such as Taiwan (China) and the Philippines. “We started to tap into markets with the largest foundries in Asia,” says Felici. By 2017, our efforts are also bearing fruit in the US.”

In 2019, the company embarked on a plan to invest $100 million to expand its market share, including $40 million to acquire Microfabrica, a California-based company specializing in the production of 3D-printed parts for sales detectors. guide. “We integrate their technology and this allows us to stay ahead of the competition,” says Felici.

This acquisition enables Technoprobe to create a smaller, more efficient probe card as chips are also getting smaller and more complex. Not to mention, cars are also increasingly complex when fully integrated with tablets and touch screens. According to Felici, this is one of the many reasons why the semiconductor detector card industry still has a lot of room for development.

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