Startup leverages data technology to enable buying, selling of chip manufacturing equipment.
Most startups in the tech world are done by engineers or scientists. The idea behind Moov, a platform for buying and selling used equipment, is the brainchild of investment bankers.
In effect, Moov has built a futures platform for semiconductor manufacturing equipment, with prices updated every few minutes from all over the world.
“The basic idea is that every few years, companies upgrade their equipment,” said Steven Zhou, Moov’s CEO. “But that equipment is usable for 15, 20 or even 25 years. So what we discovered is there’s a ton of value being left on the table. If a company is no longer using equipment and it costs $1 million to buy, they’re either moving it to a landfill or an off-site warehouse. We estimate there’s about $50 billion worth of fair market value of idle and surplus equipment in semiconductor manufacturing equipment. And if you start branching out to other closely related segments, like PCBs, SMD, LEDs, photonics, solar, or whatever, there’s literally hundreds of billions of dollars worth of equipment that’s offline and that needs a channel through which it can be re-purposed or moved.”
Zhou and his partner, Maxam Yeung, started Moov in 2018, and within the first year about 150 companies had signed up. This number of participating companies is now more than 1,000, and the value of equipment listed on the platform is $830 million today and growing rapidly.
The equipment business also provides some insights into where chipmakers and VCs are investing.
“The larger sizes (300mm) are moving a little bit less than the 150mm and 200mm equipment, especially with the constant rise of the IoT and edge,” Zhou said. “We’re also seeing a shift back down to 100mm. We serve all sizes, whether it’s an etcher or a reactor, and we serve everyone from large enterprises to smaller companies and even universities and R&D facilities. The key is using market data plus software to ensure a fresh and accurate supply, o we’re working on the supply and the demand concurrently.”
He noted that companies are beginning to supplement new equipment purchases with used equipment. “Second-hand is a really unique back-door into the workings of a company. In Q1 we’re seeing budgets approved for new equipment, while Q2 is always a strong quarter for used equipment. It has been the strongest quarter for the last three years because companies are either running out of budget or they’re having difficult securing new equipment. That continues for the rest of the year, too.”
Equipment is being moved across the world.
“China is really trying to double down on building domestic fabs, and they’re trying to fill that with domestic new equipment,” he said. “At the same time, there is a rush to fill capacity or anticipated capacity by buying second-hand equipment. We’re working with all the largest fabs in each of the major manufacturing hubs. If you go back 10 years, the appetite for used equipment was not nearly at the same level as it is today. There was a lot fear about quality. Legacy brokers had a bad reputation because a lot of people got burned and listings were managed by humans, not software. We rolled out buyer protection and other value-added services along with this, and other value-add services are still being added incrementally. We think the secondhand market can catch up to the new equipment market as people gain more confidence that you can buy used equipment safely and reliably.”
Moov, headquartered in San Francisco, was funded by Mark Cuban, NFX, Great Oaks Venture Capital, Decent Capital, and Darco Capital.
Ed Sperling is the editor in chief of Semiconductor Engineering.