Archive for August, 2009

The Limits of “I Will Know It When I See It” at SFBay ACM Sep-16-2009

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Events

Sean Murphy, CEO of SKMurphy, Inc., to speak at Silicon Valley’s SFBay ACM on September 16, 2009 at 6:30pm. He joins an international scientific and educational group dedicated to advancing the arts, sciences, and applications of information technology. Join us for a briefing on how teams can become more effective at reaching a working consensus and making decisions quickly. The talk will cover team decision making and the challenges in blending human expertise with automation. Whether you are a solo entrepreneur, a talented engineer, a manager or a CEO you will leave with practical tips for leading your team to successful decision making.

Sean Murphy has taken an entrepreneurial approach to life since he could drive. He has served as an advisor to dozens of startups, helping them explore new options and bring their businesses to new levels. His firm, SKMurphy, Inc. ( ), focuses on early customers and early revenue for software startups, helping engineers to understand business development. His clients have offerings in electronic design automation, artificial intelligence, web-enabled collaboration, proteomics, text analytics, legal services automation, and medical services workflow

Location: Hewlett Packard, Oak Room Auditorium Bldg. 48, 19447 Pruneridge Ave, Cupertino, CA 95014

Cost: Free and open to the public.

For more information see or contact Theresa Shafer

About SFBay ACM ( )

Founded in 1947, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) is the world’s oldest and largest educational and scientific computing society. ACM provides a vital forum for the exchange of information, ideas, and discoveries. With a world-wide membership, ACM is a leading resource for computing professionals and students working in the various fields of Information Technology, and for interpreting the impact of information technology on society.

See also

Nanette Collins On Volunteering: Lessons Learned from the Trenches

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Community of Practice, skmurphy

I have known Nanette Collins for the better part of two decades and was delighted when she took me up on my offer of a guest blog on volunteering and managing volunteers. She is the principal at Nanette V. Collins Marketing and PR with offices in Boston and San Francisco and one the web at

Working as a volunteer is the hardest job you’ll ever have, or so advised my officemate after she finished a phone call with the principal of her daughters’ parochial school. My friend and colleague had once again been bullied into a pro bono writing project that clients of our Public Relations firm would otherwise pay for … and dearly.

This long-ago memory came flooding back to me after Sean Murphy of SKMurphy asked me to write a guest post about volunteering. You see, I’ve just finished serving for many years as the volunteer Publicity Chair for the Design Automation Conference, an interesting, stressful, complex, demanding, but ultimately rewarding job.

As Sean points out, volunteerism is on the rise as new kinds of communities are built online or at face-to-face events. In my experience, good management skills are just as important to a volunteer corps as they are in a business setting, and perhaps even more so. As a result, the quality of the volunteer experience and the quality of the work performed depend on the management skills that volunteers are subjected to.

Throughout my career, the best managers have been the ones who have helped define my responsibilities, gave me the authority and allowed me to get the job done without much interference. They could be counted on to pave the way or remove obstacles when necessary, helping to make me a better, more productive employee. And, did I mention a happier employee? This management practice should be the way in which volunteers are managed as well.

Volunteers come in all varieties and motivations. Some want to burnish their own image, others want to give back or need to fill out their resume or curriculum vitae. And then there are some who are moving their employer’s agenda forward. Other volunteers thrive on the kudos. No matter, all need constant care and nurturing to make them productive participants. Open lines of communications help to keep everyone on track and enthusiastic. Volunteers should understand and be committed to the mutually stated goal, and the strategy and tactics to achieve it. Each volunteer should be recognized and thanked on a regular basis, along with continual and positive reinforcement.

It seems that volunteers often have more invested in the outcome than normal knowledge workers and, as a result, want to be far more involved in decision making. My advice to leaders of volunteer corps is to let them be as involved or uninvolved as they want to be. Inspiration and creatively can come from the unlikeliest of sources.

Of course, the quality of work produced by volunteers varies widely, from exceeding expectations to being barely passable. It can be inconsistent as workloads shift and situations change throughout the year. Micromanaging, discouraged in almost any business setting, doesn’t prompt loyalty or improve sub par or inconsistent work. Neither does second guessing because it wastes time and demotivates otherwise productive workers. My advice is to take the level of volunteerism you can get and quietly fill in the rest yourself, without micromanaging, criticizing or drawing attention.

A volunteer should not commit to a project or an assignment where they lack the training or expertise, or the time it takes to get it completed. Taking it on with the understanding that you’re learning a new skill or for professional development is fine and often encouraged — within reason, of course.

I sometimes think that the school principal had nothing on some of the volunteers I came across in my many years of service to DAC. It’s no different than working at a company — you can expect both excellent and not-so-great managers and colleagues. In my many years of service to DAC, I worked with both types with varying degrees of success. But then, I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything. I walk away proud of the accomplishments of the Publicity Committee that recently included Peggy Aycinena, Annette Bley, Paul Cohen, Colleen Moran, Gabe Moretti, Emily Taylor and the team from MP Associates. All distinguish themselves with outstanding work, professionalism and a strong sense of community.

If you’re given a chance to volunteer for DAC, an online or face-to-face community or anything else, do it! You’ll be glad that you did. You may find, as I did, that the chance to give back is a thrill. The satisfaction that comes from a job well done and the opportunity to meet and work with some of the sharpest minds in our industry far exceed any perceived negatives.

Bootstrapper’s Breakfast Announces Roundtable Conversation on Early Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Events, skmurphy

SAN FRANCISCO, Sean Murphy, CEO of SKMurphy, Inc., will speak at Bootstrappers Breakfast® August 21, 2009 in San Francisco. ‘Join other entrepreneurs who eat problems for breakfast’ on August 21, 2009 at Boudin Bakery, 4 Embarcadero Center at 7:30 a.m. Sean will lead a roundtable discussion on Early Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make when starting their business. Attendees are invited to share their own mistakes and participate in this lessons-learned topic.

Please register at as seating is limited.

Sean Murphy has taken an entrepreneurial approach to life since he could drive. He has served as an advisor to dozens of startups, helping them explore new options and bring their businesses to new levels. His firm, SKMurphy, Inc., focuses on early customers and early revenue for software startups, helping engineers to understand business development. His clients have offerings in electronic design automation, artificial intelligence, web-enabled collaboration, proteomics, text analytics, legal services automation, and medical services workflow.

“At a Bootstrappers Breakfast we have serious conversations about growing a technology business based on internal cash flow and organic profit. You will find this group to include a seasoned venue of serial entrepreneurs, C-level execs and passionate innovation people for coffee and good conversation. The format starts with introductions and a roundtable discussion about business issues the group brings up. Think of it as sort of an ‘informal board’ to run ideas off of and get insight on a variety of topics. We have been offering the breakfasts for years in Silicon Valley and now offer two in San Francisco,” said Brandon Farrell, facilitator of San Francisco’s Bootstrappers Breakfast.

About Bootstrappers Breakfast

Bootstrappers Breakfast ( are for founders of early-stage technology startups. It is a chance to compare notes on operational, development, and business issues with peers. These breakfasts were designed for entrepreneurs to share ideas and leverage thoughts with other folks who are serious about growing their business. The first breakfast was held at Coco’s in the heart of Silicon Valley in 2005. Since that time, they have grown to multiple locations throughout Silicon Valley and now in San Francisco.

Impressions From DAC09 Panel on “Tweet, Blog, or News: How Do I Stay Current?”

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in EDA, Events, skmurphy

I was on the “Tweet, Blog, or News: How Do I Stay Current?” panel at the 2009 Design Automation Conference. The panel was moderated by Michael Sanie of Maestro International and my fellow panelists were Ron Wilson, Executive Editor EDN Magazine, and John Busco, CAD Design Implementation Manager at NVIDIA. What follows is my notes and impressions:

New media in a variety of forms–on-line, user-generated, social–are affecting more than EDA and Semiconductors. I brought three magazines as props with the following stories on their cover:

This is a wave sweeping into the EDA tide pool. See these blog posts for some background

Michael Sanie asked the audience about their use of various social media tools, asking “how many….”

  • Read Blogs – most
  • Write Blogs – most
  • Use Twitter – about half
  • Use Facebook for business – about 1/4
  • Use LinkedIn – almost everyone

So it was an early adopter audience. Michael also suggested that they consider using to track recent information on hot topics and trends.

Ron Wilson characterized himself as the representative for “legacy media” who started out in the industry when the two primary vehicles for engineers to get information were print publications and technical conferences. Print media was viewed as a reference resource, with engineers allocating two to three meters of shelf space to technical publications. He felt that they had a “synthetic sense of community from consuming a common set of media.”

John Busco talked about the “fire hose of information” that engineers wanted to sip from as needed. He relies on the traditional print publications as his primary information source, he reads about 25 blogs using the Bloglines RSS reader and he also blogs at John’s Semi-Blog “sharing high quality news and opinions about semiconductors and Electronic Design Automation (EDA).”

I made three opening points

  1. My use of twitter is non-standard, I borrow brilliance from others by twittering quotes that I believe are relevant to entrepreneurs.
  2. In preparation for the Blogging Birds of a Feather at last year’s DAC, we counted 60 blogs, which surprised a number of people. After the conference I predicted that we would see 500 by 2011. Which seemed really preposterous to some folks who contacted me. This July we are already at about 220 and on track for 500 by 2011.
  3. I think individuals in the industry are going to maintain three professional profiles:
    • LinkedIn: seems almost mandatory now.
    • Blog: for many people who are customer facing.
    • Twitter: given it’s rapid adoption in EDA in the last month it seems like micro-blogging will also be popular.

Ron Wilson observed that EDN uses blogs as a rapid publishing tool, to complement print output. He observed that increasing circulation, or what they now call “audience development” requires a brand focus and continuous investment. If you want folks to read your blog you are going to have to have a marketing plan.

John Busco liked to read blogs that have a clear focus and deep domain expertise, citing John Ford’s DFT Digest and Harry Gries’ “Harry the ASIC Guy” as two that were EDA focused. He noted that he really wants a firewall between personal and professional life, using Facebook for personal connections and LinkedIn for professional relationships.”

Michael Sanie enjoyed following Karen Bartleson’s twitter feed, calling her the “Guy Kawasaki of EDA.”

Everyone liked Paul McClellan’s “EDA Graffiti” blog.

I am impressed by the Hacker News model–which is similar to Reddit or Digg-as a way to share, promote, and markup common article and blog links to create a socially constructed news site. It’s a mechanism for shared surveillance on a topic area, in this case entrepreneurship (and other things of interest to hackers). It hasn’t made it’s way to EDA yet but it will.

There was an interesting question from the audience: “How useful is Wikipedia?”

  • Ron Wilson: at EDN we decided we couldn’t site it as an authoritative source, but could use it to find authoritative sources.
  • John Busco: Wiki model is a great approach to collaboration for project info, FAQ’s, best practices. It’s nice that you don’t have to know HTML to publish.

Project Health BoF at DAC2009 Recap

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in EDA, skmurphy

A couple of high level impressions.

Here my notes from the “Managing Project Health” BoF at DAC 2009.

  • After sitting through the presentations back to back I saw the outline of a four layer model for design management
    • data stability – essentially what companies like Cliosoft or open source tools like CVS offer
    • provisioning – what Flex-LM for license enablement and LSF for machine allocation offer
    • flow definition and management – where Lynx and Runtime Design focus
    • project level status and semantics – Achilles, SiBridge, and SatinIP are wrestling with different aspects of this.
  • The Mentor Xtreme environment addressed all four layers at once and enabled real time shared write access. I think this is a very under-appreciated application.
  • Runtime presented an anonymized customer flow with 26,000 jobs in a complex mesh, and showed a table of applications that included a 500,000 job library verification flow. There was a question from the audience as to why any of this was necessary with “make -j” available. The answer was in an environment with homogeneous resources and an homogeneous job mix (e.g. a typical verification environment running a lot of random seed simulations) “make -j” was serviceable. If either the resources or job requirements were complex it would not give as good an outcome.
  • The Runtime Workload Analyzer enabled what if analysis, an existing job mix could be replayed against a computing environment with a different set of computing resources or software licenses.
  • The Achilles heat map that showed a year’s worth of project status on one dashboard generated a lot of discussion.
  • Cliosoft and Runtime are more than 10 years old, Xtreme is more than 6, Achilles is four years old (although it was their first year at DAC). None of these problems are new and there is an interaction between project organization structure, multi-firm collaboration

Managing Project Health Birds of a Feather at DAC 2009

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in EDA, Events, skmurphy

Game Plan: Where Are We? I suggested that the “Managing Project Health” Birds of a Feather was one of the “Opportunities for Serious Conversation at DAC 2009” and it proved to be a very thought provoking session. When design teams try and assess “Project Health” they are normally trying to determine where they are (or what’s been accomplished and what remains to be done), what their options are, and when will they be done.

Management oversight reviews sometimes simplify this to “what’s been accomplished and when will you be done?”

The format for the meeting:

DAC 2009 Blog Coverage Roundup

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Blogging, EDA, Events, skmurphy

See DAC 2010 Blog Coverage Roundup for 2010 Roundup.

Sunday Events

Monday Events

Tuesday Events

Wednesday Events

Thursday Events


Please leave a comment or contact me to let me know if I have overlooked or incorrectly categorized anything. I will update this list for posts in August that offer substantive coverage of events at Design Automation Conference 2009 (see also “DAC46 in the News” for pre-conference coverage).

Update Mon-Aug-3: As I mentioned in my comments to John McGeHee below:

If you write a blog post that reviews an event, a day, or DAC as a whole with some substantive commentary I will include a link to it. I assume that more reports will come in until the end of August, so go ahead and take the time to write up your impressions and insights.

Update Tue-Aug-4: Continuing to refine structure by adding subcategories to day by day and conference recap organization.

Update Sat-Aug-8: More updates, Mike Demler‘s daily recaps are detailed, he has also made them available upon request as a single PDF. Kevin Morris analyzes attendance and other data from the last half a dozen DAC’s in “Dueling DACs.

Update Sat-Aug-22: More updates, list now covers more than 110 posts by more than 50 authors. Please let me know if I have overlooked any, I will continue to update this list until the end of August.

Update Mon-Dec-29: Richard Goering included this post in his “Notable EDA Blog Posts For 2009” roundup. It’s a good list, and worth reading if you found the list below useful.

Bouncing Back

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 4 Finding your Niche, skmurphy

Bouncing back from a setback is a challenge that entrepreneurs need to navigate repeatedly.

Bouncing Back

On Hacker News about 18 months ago someone posted a question on “Dealing with Post Startup Depression” that read

I recently shut down my first startup ever. I am having a really tough time getting over it and starting all over again. A feeling of extreme weakness and failure has taken all over me, clouding my judgment. Any tips on getting back to normalcy would be highly appreciated.

My answer was as follows.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill

Exercise and a break from the computer are both a good idea.

I think you have to reflect on what happened but with some emotional distance.

Remember Thurber’s observation that “humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility” and write down your lessons learned once you can laugh about it (at least a little) so that you are not just re-opening wounds.

Some amount of lateral drift (reading books, seeing folks you’ve neglected as your firm was failing, etc..) can also give you perspective on what to do differently next time.

I had a painful failure about a decade ago and concluded “I am through with being an entrepreneur.” After five years at a big company I realized that I had mis-assessed and that I couldn’t help being an entrepreneur.

Failing at a startup doesn’t mean you should give up being an entrepreneur, but you should get some perspective on how to make “new mistakes” the next time out.

Michael Jordan: I have failed over and over and over again in my life.

Dan Vogel posted a pointer to this YouTube clip of Michael Jordan on Failure where he says the following:

“I missed more than 9000 shots in my career.
I have lost almost 300 games.
26 times I have been trusted to take the game winning shot… and missed.
I have failed over and over and over again in my life.
And that is why I succeed.”

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