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Ex-Qualcomm executives launch wireless tech start-up XCOM

As Qualcomm cuts costs, former executives pursue advanced technologies in security and high-speed, low latency system design in wireless.

Three of Qualcomm Inc.’s former top executives, including ex-Chairman and Chief Executive Paul Jacobs, have launched a new company to pursue advanced wireless technologies.

Jacobs is joining former Qualcomm President Derek Aberle and ex-Chief Technology Officer Matt Grob in the start-up called XCOM. It is based in San Diego.

“We have a set of ideas for future wireless technologies that we are going to innovate and drive forward,” said Grob, who left Qualcomm in May after 27 years. “We already have some level of interest in that, and expect more as we become more public.”

The start-up is launching as Jacobs continues to investigate the visibility of acquiring Qualcomm, which Wall Street analysts say is a long shot.

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“Paul and I have been exploring the possibility of a larger bid to take Qualcomm private,” Aberle said. “But this is a complementary and different effort that we are moving forward on. It doesn’t mean we have stopped pursuing the other plan.”

Jacobs — the son of Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs — was ousted from Qualcomm’s board of directors in March after he informed fellow board members of his efforts to raise funds to take the cellular technology giant private.

Jacobs was unavailable to comment Wednesday. In a Twitter post, he said he was excited to launch XCOM “to invent and invest in wireless technology with the world’s most creative engineers and business people.”

Aberle, former head of Qualcomm’s embattled technology-licensing division, stepped down in December after 17 years with the company.

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Grob left Qualcomm this spring, a few weeks after the company laid off 1,500 workers in California. The layoffs stemmed from Qualcomm’s pledge to shareholders to shave $1 billion in annual costs as part of its efforts to fend off a hostile-takeover effort by rival chipmaker Broadcom.

XCOM aims to assemble the top minds in wireless for research and development work that “takes a little time to develop and prove out,” Grob said.

“One of the charters here is to keep the innovation flame of wireless going strong, including in San Diego,” he said. “It is tougher for Qualcomm now, given the times that we are in and they are in.”

XCOM is being funded by its founders, Aberle said. He declined to reveal the funding amount. He expects additional capital will be raised, either directly from investors or through partners who contract for research and development.

Grob said the initial focus of XCOM’s research will be new approaches to security, as well as fast, low-latency, high-reliability wireless systems in which devices can perform their own computing rather than relying on servers elsewhere.

“Our intention is to influence the mainstream course of wireless technology in both the licensed and unlicensed space,” Grob said. “We are talking to some partners, but we are going to have our own team.... We are posting some openings and getting started.”

Freeman writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.


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