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Durham’s Phononic named to CNBC Disruptor list for second year in a row

Phononic Chief Executive Officer Tony Atti helped the Durham-based company raise more than $70 million last year, which the company plans to use to boost employment and its Asia presence.
Phononic Chief Executive Officer Tony Atti helped the Durham-based company raise more than $70 million last year, which the company plans to use to boost employment and its Asia presence. The Herald-Sun

The Durham-based refrigeration technology startup Phononic Inc. has been named to CNBC’s Disruptor list for the second year in a row – putting its name, again, alongside notable startups such as Airbnb, Spotify and Uber as one of the most innovative companies in the world.

The company, which is based outside of Research Triangle Park, came in at No. 33 on the annual ranking of companies.

It was the only North Carolina company to make the list, which it ranked No. 18 on last year.

The short-term lodging rental company Airbnb and the ride-sharing service Lyft were the top companies on this year’s ranking. The 50 companies that make up the Disruptor list have a market valuation of $239 billion, according to the database PitchBook.

Phononic was started in 2009 by a group of venture capitalists that licensed promising semiconductor technology from the University of Oklahoma and the California Institute of Technology. The company is based on the idea that it can disrupt the heating and cooling industry through semiconductor technology, similarly to the way the lighting industry was changed by the use of semiconductors.

The company is among the top venture capital recipients in the state — raising more than $160 million since it was founded in 2009 and has a market valuation of $284 million, according to PitchBook.

Phononic raised the most money of any startup in North Carolina last year, bringing in $71 million across two separate rounds of funding, from sources such as Venrock Associates and GGV Capital, according to the Council for Entrepreneurial Development.

Phononic, which currently has 110 employees, is in the process of expanding its footprint in the U.S. and abroad.

Earlier this year the company announced it was opening a new office in Taiwan and partnering with a Chinese semiconductor distributor.

The company has long identified Asia as a key market for its technology going into the future. One of the company’s major partners and customers in the refrigeration and electronics business is the Chinese firm Haier, which bought General Electric Appliances last year. The company has already put into a production a line of refrigerators using Phononic technology.

“Taiwan and mainland China are two of the largest untapped markets for our innovative technology and products,” Phononic Chief Executive Officer Tony Atti told The Herald-Sun in March. “As we revolutionize cooling and heating, having a local presence in Asia to support customers and manufacturing in the region is imperative to our business.”

Zachery Eanes: 919-419-6684, @zeanes

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