Archive for September, 2008

Herb Reiter Interview on Fostering Static Timing Analysis Adoption

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 4 Finding your Niche, 5 Scaling Up Stage, Customer Development, skmurphy

I have followed Herb Reiter‘s consulting career over the last five years or so:  there aren’t very many business development consultants who work with EDA firms, fewer who have the mix of semiconductor and design background that Herb accumulated on the way to honing his business development expertise. He is personable, methodical, and always interested in talking with new start-ups. He gives good advice informed by a perspective on both industry and technology trends. When he met with PicoCraft a while back he mentioned that he had been part of the team at Synopsys that helped to establish PrimeTime as a de facto standard for STA (Static Timing Analysis), building on experience he had gained doing the same for Motive at Viewlogic before they were acquired by Synopsys. I caught up with him recently and asked him to tell the story of PrimeTime’s early customer development and lessons it may hold for other EDA companies, especially start-ups. What follows is an edited (and hyperlinked, good blogging is good linking) transcript of our conversation.

Q: Can you give me a brief bio and some background on the events that allowed you to establish static timing analysis as a viable new tool in the ASIC design flow and PrimeTime as a key player in that market?

I spent almost 20 year in semiconductors, I have seen the consequences of insufficient design tools. For example, in the early to mid 80’s I was part of National Semiconductor‘s plan to bring their impressive portfolio of micro controllers, communication chips, and other ASSPs as mega-cells into the rapidly growing ASIC world. A lack of good tools was the primary reason for this failed attempt.

When I joined VLSI Technology in 1989, VLSI had the best cell-based tools and flows. Their design centers were world-class, working with leading edge IC design teams at very successful companies. I got a close up view of the challenges the development of ASIC core technology represented. As VLSI’s lead in cell-based design methodologies waned, revenues and profits declined and eventually Philips acquired VLSI. After VLSI I joined Viewlogic. After I had been working there for a year, successfully encouraging many ASIC vendors to qualify Motive STA and VCS gate-level simulation as sign-off methodologies. Then Synopsys offered around $400M to Viewlogic’s shareholders and we merged with our former competitor.

Q: It’s rare that a larger EDA firm is able to develop and launch a new product in a new area. As you said, you were part of the Viewlogic acquisition at Synopsys. How did you build internal support to enable PrimeTime to achieve not just traction in the market, but ultimately dominant market share?

At Viewlogic we had been winning accounts with Motive against Synopsys/PrimeTime at Viewlogic. When I “changed sides” many members of the PrimeTime team were interested in our approach. The first thing that I did for Motive and then for PrimeTime, was to narrow our focus from dozens of potential partners to the top dozen technology leaders. Both at Viewlogic and Synopsys my team used the same basic formula:  We worked hard to understand our partners’ requirements, developed trust relationships with a dozen ASIC semiconductor vendors. This allowed us to make Motive and then PrimeTime an integral part of their ASIC design flows and the key to timing sign-off.

Just like my semiconductor partners, I had engineering sites all over the world, I wanted my people to be as close to these partners as possible. One of my engineering experts even worked at TSMC in Taiwan, and was instrumental in implementing Dr. Ping Yang’s vision of TSMC’s reference flow number one.

We also waived the PrimeTime training fees for the ASIC Design Centers of our partners. Synopsys’ product group gladly covered the training department’s exploding expenses and was rewarded with a flood of PrimeTime bookings from these Design Centers and their many ASIC customers. Just like TSMC‘s first and second reference flows–which were dominated by Synopsys tools–increased Synopsys revenues at fabless IC vendors, these ASIC Design Center seminars did the same at our big partners and their ASIC customers.  Most of the smaller ASIC vendors adopted PrimeTime quickly, after seeing its benefits giving their larger rivals a competitive advantage, and a de-facto Timing sign-off standard was established in about two years.

Q: What were a couple of lessons learned?

Introducing new EDA design tools is a lengthy and difficult process. Gate-level timing simulation was the proven and trusted methodology for timing verification through the 0.35 micron process node. But at 0.25 micron  chip complexities and clock speeds increased the challenge of chip level timing closure, 0.18 micron was even more difficult, such that simulation run times approached eternity. Mask and re-spins costs, coupled with the economic impact of being late to market meant that an exhaustive method that guaranteed timing closure was urgently needed. PrimeTime’s static timing analysis offered a comparatively very fast way to do exhaustive timing verification and the product group as well as my team offered excellent support during this transition.

It’s important to note that static timing analysis had been around for more than a decade, Motive had originally been used for board level design. When my ASIC Vendor team at Viewlogic together with the Motive developers introduced it to the semiconductor vendors, we learned a key lesson: People were not willing to abandon a methodology that is working until it seriously hit their pocket book. Eternal runtimes of 0.18 micron chips and expensive re-spins because dynamic simulation is not exhaustive, helped us win STA converts.

Q: How big an issue was library management for the ASIC vendors?

Huge, ASIC vendors were at first reluctant to take on creating and supporting yet another library. One common complaint that I heard many times from ASIC vendors: supporting different libraries for different process technologies was a never ending effort. This huge effort got multiplied by the number of tools that relied on accurate libraries and, to make matters even worse, required a complete update and re-verification, whenever a new tool revision was introduced. I knew that we had to make it much easier for our customers to manage these libraries.

Q: When you talk about AEware (scripts written by Applications Engineers to supplement and extend the base product?

Already at VLSI I have seen our design centers developing a lot of what you call AEware, primarily to overcome tools deficiencies or extend the life of a proven tool. My Silicon Vendor Program team at Synopsys worked very closely with the strong corporate CAD groups at our partners to temporarily give Synopsys tools important capabilities for chip design within existing flows and to demonstrate to the Synopsys product groups the importance of such features–with remarkable success. The product groups, especially the PrimeTime team, adopted many of these scripts and made them integral and professionally supported parts of the next tools releases.

Q: Can you talk about how this experience led you to form EDA 2 ASIC Consulting and what your business is today?

In my role managing the Synopsys Silicon Vendor Program team I really enjoyed being a bridge between the powerful ASIC industry and the innovative EDA industry. I saw PrimeTime, VCS, TetraMax, Physical Compiler and other Synopsys tools getting accepted widely and really making a big difference for our highly interdependent industries. When I started my own firm in 2002 I wanted to replicate my dream-job: Being a bridge between these two industries and bringing to my friends in the semiconductor industry innovative EDA solutions, now primarily from smaller EDA vendors. In the 7 years of managing my own firm I have been able to make a number of contributions to the semiconductor industry. But I still look back at the work I did at Synopsys. Together with the product group and the training department, we laid the groundwork for PrimeTime’s market dominance as a lasting contribution. PrimeTime is still at 87% market share today, almost ten years later, according to Gary Smith EDA.

Quotes for Entrepreneurs–September 2008

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Quotes, skmurphy

Continuing my twitter experiment I have selected a quote every couple of days that I believe is applicable to the challenges of entrepreneurship. At the end of the month I collect these quotes for entrepreneurs into a blog post. Enter your E-mail if you would like Feedburner to deliver new blog posts to your inbox.

Here are my choices for September:

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“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear–not absence of fear.”
Mark Twain

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“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”
Winston Churchill

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“When an owl comes to a mouse picnic, it’s not there for the sack races.”
Banacek (TV) “The Two Million Clams of Cap’n Jack”

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“All reform comes from below. No man with four aces howls for a new deal.”
John F. Parker in “If Elected I Promise

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“…the fear that we may be lesser sons of greater fathers…”
Bill Whittle on the perspective that Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” offers on 9/11 in “The Undefended City.”

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“If men could only know each other, they would neither idolize nor hate.”
Elbert Hubbard

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“Almost all enduring success comes to people after they are forty. For seldom does mature judgment arrive before then.”
Henry Ford

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“Markets are complex…we have to act before we can fully know…shift from fail-safe design to safe-fail experimentation.”
Dave Snowden

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“Successful business people will be more like designers in the future: mastering heuristics more than managing algorithms.”
Roger Martin

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“Life is run by poker players not systems analysts. Back away because you’re afraid of what might happen: it will happen.”
John McCain Jr.

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“If you do not have the capacity for happiness with a little money, great wealth will not bring it to you.”
William Feather

Financial Modeling for Startups Workshop–Early Bird Ends Tomorrow

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 5 Scaling Up Stage, Events, Funding, skmurphy

Update Tue-Sep-23: Sold Out, No Walk-ins. We will offer it again: you can sign-up to be notified of upcoming workshops

We just finished our last rehearsal for next Wednesday’s (Sep-24) “Financial Modeling for Startups” workshop we are doing jointly with Nathan Beckord of Venture Archetypes. I think it will be a good lunch and learn opportunity (of course I am biased).

The workshop attempts to offer an approach for modeling your start-up that spans bootstrapping and developing a business plan that merits investment. Nathan addresses the first question that many entrepreneurs have about developing a financial plan: Why Bother?

  • A good financial model is an operating plan and roadmap for your business…sales targets, hiring plan, marketing, etc…
  • A financial model is a framework for thinking through key assumptions regarding growth rates, pricing, costs, etc
  • A good financial model is a mark of credibility and can help convince investors of the overall potential of your opportunity
  • A well thought out financial model gives you an idea of how much money you need to raise and when, as well as overall ROI.

It’s an interesting mix of topics that address the needs of teams that are bootstrapping and want a roadmap as well as teams that are preparing to seek outside investment:

  • Philosophy of Modeling: Top Ten To-Do’s
  • Getting Started: Revenue Build-Up
  • Cracking The Pricing Code
  • Prospect’s View of Cost
  • Product Mix Strategies
  • Forecasting Expenses
  • Hiring Plan Hat Chart
  • Roll It Up and Analyzing It
  • Adjusting Forecasts for the Real World
  • Pitching the Numbers

It’s only $20 if you sign up by tomorrow and includes lunch. It’s Wed. Sept. 24 at 11:30 to 1 at Plug & Play, more details and registration here:

Good Blogging is Good Linking

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Blogging, skmurphy

I have been reading too many blog entries lately where the authors don’t seem to realize that they are writing hypertext and can link to their referenced content, or do a poor job of using links. A good blog entry leverages the fact that it’s HTML and can link to the sources or material. Here are some guidelines I follow in trying to craft a useful blog entry:

  • Try and combine three sources (one or two can be personal experience) don’t just recapitulate and annotate (what’s been call “cross-examining”) a story or blog entry.
  • Incorporate key summary material as a quote.
  • Add a link if it will add useful context or provide a good reference for readers unfamiliar with the topic.

Here are some other guidelines for good linking to bear in mind as well.

John Barger wrote about “adding value to your links” on May 16, 1999. His advice is still excellent. Here is an excerpt, read the whole thing:

  • Extract some pull quotes that capture the best the page has to offer. Nothing ‘sells’ an article better than a sample of how good it is.
  • Don’t just link to the top page of a site– pick the best page. Readers in a hurry will be grateful, readers at leisure can find the rest on their own.
  • Have you checked for similar pages that do the same job even better? Look at them all and link only the best.
  • If a version-for-printing is offered, link to that. It will load faster and is usually easier to read, without all the distracting side-columns.
  • Warn about formatting oddities. Does it take a long time to load? Does it require Java or RealPlayer? Are there annoying interstitial pop-ups?
  • Choose the most descriptive word (or three) within your long description to highlight as anchor-text. Lots of underlined-blue is hard to read, so limit it to a word or two that describes what the page is: “essay”, “hotlist”; or what it’s about: “tutorial on animation”.

Phillip Lenssen (author of the “How Linkable is Your Blog” tool, reviewed back in 2006 by us with “Philipp Lenssen’s Tips For Crafting a Linkable Blog Post” ) wrote “11 Link Usability Tips” in October of 2007, here are my picks–retaining his original numbering scheme–for the top 4:

1. Make sure there’s enough space to click on for a given link. Do you know those A-Z link lists? They’re a common navigation element on top of some directory-style pages, going like this: “A | B | C | D | …” etc., where each letter is linked. In this case, some letters – especially the “I” – become much too small to comfortably click on. Use a non-breaking space around each letter (”… I …”) to increase the clickable area, allowing for easier navigation. You might also want to use this approach for link text like numbers (e.g. “1”) or symbols (e.g. “#”).

2. The first link should be the most important. As a rule of thumb – and there may be exceptions – the first link in a blog post or article will gain the most attention, and the highest click rates. So make sure it’s also the most relevant one for your article. If you are discussing new website XYZ, then make a link to XYZ the first link in your article – not necessarily within the first sentence, but just the first link – and put links to related material over subsequent words. This allows visitors to be guided best.

3. Select which links are important, and don’t link to everything. If you write an article you are often filtering for your audience. One such filter is to only link to pages that are truly relevant to get your point across (or to allow readers to cross-check it for validation). If you include a link in every second word of a sentence, then it will hurt readability as people don’t always know which links are worth to follow. (One noteworthy exception are those “train links” which, on purpose, link e.g. half a dozen words to different reference sites. It can be a style element to indicate for instance “a lot of people discussed this issue before.”)

8. Make link text flexible enough so that it “survives” even the removal of the link. This is more an issue of readability than usability, actually. In some cases, people may read your content in places where they can’t follow up through to your link. For instance, they may have printed out your article. Or they may have saved your article on their laptop but they don’t have an internet connection at the time. Or they may click on your link but the page in question has been removed, or is down, or has been changed dramatically.

In these cases, a good link will a) contain enough information on its own so that the article doesn’t fully depend on the external source, and b) is phrased in such a way that its link can be ignored.

Link text like e.g. “click here” both disturbs the reading flow – no one would write “click here” on paper, yet your article may be printed out (or be navigated without a mouse, e.g. the keyboard) – and also may lack crucial information to continue reading your article.

Four Startups at Office 2.0 Worth a Second Look

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Tools for Startups

We plan to take a closer look at four services that exhibited at Office 2.0 last week. They each have one or more compelling features that may fill gap in our current set of productivity tools.


  • It’s a zero configuration (100% browser based, provided you have Flash and Java installed) conferencing service that makes it easy to initiate a web conference.
  • We will try it for white board collaboration on flowcharts and block diagrams.


  • It can import PowerPoint and make each slide editable in a slide tray paradigm. This could be very useful when you are collaborating on a new pitch and want to play mix and match from what you have.
  • Collaborating on PowerPoint is a real problem for us. Today we are left emailing PowerPoint documents around.
  • PowerPoint output and stand-alone presentation tool also look interesting.


  • The most speculative of the four. Worth exploring as we need to move beyond slide-based presentations to animation and multi-media in the next two to three years.
  • It can also import PowerPoint and make each slide editable in a slide tray paradigm.


  • Combining on-demand meeting rooms and office space with SaaS productivity tools is a very compelling concept.
    • Our real challenge is to move away from PowerPoint toward an HTML/CSS solution that would allow us to create wiki pages, word output, and presentations from a common source.

    Software Demos on YouTube

    Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Demos, Events

    I checked out some software demos on Youtube. There are all types. But here are a couple I want to talk about.

    First the bad … Nokia N800 Internet Tablet … Reggie Suplido of Internet Tablet Talk takes a look at the software that comes pre-installed on the new Nokia N800 Internet Tablet

    Next the good … Bling! It Photography Software … A quick look at how to use Bling It to remove unwanted backgrounds in your photographs by Cindy Shebley.

    A couple of difference worth talking about.

    • The bad–even worse than the video quality–is the litany of features. Reggie starts at one end and just goes with no thought to his viewers. Also, while the side by side comparison was interesting, instead of holding the tablet, why not down lay it flat and get the focus fixed and steady.
    • The good: Cindy spends time up front on who should watch the video and why. Then she walks you through how you would use her product to get something done. She does not list product features because she understands that customers are buying her product to get something done.

    Before you make a software demo for YouTube, check out Peter Cohan’s Great Demo Webinar If you are interested in an interactive class with him, space is still available for the class on Saturday September 13, 2008.

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