Do You Want to Track 200+ Electronic Design Automation Feeds?

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in EDA, skmurphy

We are working with a semantic technology firm to develop a new portal that will track EDA related blog posts and other content announced via an RSS,  Atom, or other feed protocol . Our goal is to provide a richer level of aggregation and analysis than an RSS reader with 200 feeds offers today (see for example my list of 238 in my July 11, 2009 post “EDA Bloggers 2009“).

This is not intended to compete with any advertising supported sites, it will be a subscription service that will allow you to keep track of new blogs (including micro-blogs like twitter) and new blog posts on an ongoing basis.

If you are interested in tracking blog posts and new announcements in the design automation arena, I would like to schedule a short call to get your perspective and feedback on our plans.  You can use the contact form to reach me by phone or E-mail.

EDA Chiefs Hazard No Guesses on 2010 Market

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in EDA, skmurphy

I covered the EDAC CEO Panel last Thursday for EETimes, what follows is a copy of the article I wrote for them “EDA Chiefs Hazard No Guesses on 2010 Market (02/19/2010 7:12 PM EST)” It differs from the version on-line at EET only in that I have added some links for context.

SAN JOSE, Calif.—With the EDA industry stuck in negative growth, leaders of its three largest firms struck a somber note Thursday (Feb. 18) during a panel discussion at the EDA Consortium (EDAC)’s Annual CEO Forecast and Industry Vision event.Panelists addressed trends affecting industry growth, but left forecasts for the upcoming year to Jay Vleeschhouwer, a senior software analyst with Ticonderoga Securities, who chaired the panel.

Vleeschhouwer predicted “mid-single-digit growth for the year” and was the only one to offer a prediction. Also on the panel were Aart de Geus, Chairman and CEO of Synopsys Inc., Lip-Bu Tan, president and CEO of Cadence Design Systems Inc., Walden Rhines, chairman and CEO of Mentor Graphics Corp, and John Kibarian, president and CEO of PDF Solutions Inc.

Robert Gardner, executive director of EDAC, pointed out that in spite of seven quarters of declining industry revenue, buying a market basket of EDA stocks in Jan. 1, 2009. and holding them for a year would have been a good investment.

While the EDA executives did not speculate on future industry growth, they did offer recipes for growth for their own firms. Tan characterized Cadence as a sales-driven company that is listening to its customers and their need for productivity and profitability. De Geus identified Synopsys as an R&D company that would continue to innovate to maintain leadership. Rhines suggested that Mentor excels at identifying niche applications to allow it to be the leader for those segments. Kibarian positioned PDF as key to semiconductor industry plans to transition to new process nodes at 45 nanometer and below.

Rhines pointed out that engineering headcount growth was 4 percent a year, which might be a constraining upper bound on industry growth unless new market segments can be opened. The panel agreed with the need to explore new market segments, but cautioned that new segments require sustained effort and considerable patience.

In response to question by Vleeschhouwer on whether EDA firms should further consolidate in response to consolidation in semiconductor industry, Rhines said he rejected the premise of the question. He said that in spite of many high-profile mergers and acquisitions in the semiconductor industry it had been on a consistent path of de-consolidation for the past 35 years. He supported this by noting that the market share for the top firm, the combined share of the top five, and the combined share of the top 10 firms had been constant or decreasing over the last 35 years. He added that every decade or so another major technology was driven by a new entrant, allowing them to become a top 10 player. He cited Qualcomm Inc.’s breakthrough in 2008 as the first fabless chip vendor to crack the semiconductor industry’s top 10 as the most recent example of this trend.

When asked by Vleeschhouwer to speculate on growth in the second half of 2010, all of the executives demurred, citing a lack visibility and uncertainty both in the electronics industry and the national economy.

The audience was equally subdued and did not have any questions for the panel.

Updates & Other Coverage

Amazon High Memory Instances Will Enable More EDA Apps to Move to the Cloud

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in EDA, skmurphy

Sometimes paradigms do shift. Amazon announced today that its Elastic Cloud Computing now supports high memory instances:

High-Memory Instances

Instances of this family offer large memory sizes for high throughput applications, including database and memory caching applications.

  • High-Memory Double Extra Large Instance 34.2 GB of memory, 13 EC2 Compute Units (4 virtual cores with 3.25 EC2 Compute Units each), 850 GB of instance storage, 64-bit platform
  • High-Memory Quadruple Extra Large Instance 68.4 GB of memory, 26 EC2 Compute Units (8 virtual cores with 3.25 EC2 Compute Units each), 1690 GB of instance storage, 64-bit platform

From Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud overview of instances:

High-Memory On-Demand Instances Linux/UNIX Usage Windows Usage
Double Extra Large $1.20 per hour $1.44 per hour
Quadruple Extra Large $2.40 per hour $2.88 per hour

These 34.2GB and 68.4GB virtual machines should enable a number of new job types that required more memory than was available from standard instances:

  • Small Instance (Default) 1.7 GB of memory
  • Large Instance 7.5 GB of memory
  • Extra Large Instance 15 GB of memory

In particular for Electronic Design Automation applications this makes the cloud much more viable as a fourth generation computing paradigm:

  1. Turnkey / Custom Hardware / Minicomputer
  2. Engineering Workstations
  3. X86 architecture PC
  4. Virtual Machines / Cloud Computing

Sometimes paradigms do shift.

Update Nov-23: The Amazon Web Services Blog announced “The New AWS Simple Monthly Calculator” available at

Growing the Pie in EDA, Part 3: Add MATLAB

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in EDA, skmurphy

With Synopsys announcing Synphony, a high-level design compiler that reads in MATLAB M code and generates RTL and some other useful outputs, and Mathworks listed in Gary Smith’s ESL 2009 Wallchart, I wonder if it doesn’t make sense to define MATLAB as an ESL language and Mathworks as an EDA player. Harry Gries provides a good overview in “Synopsys Synphony Synopsis” (say that three time fast)

Basically, Synopsys is introducing a high level synthesis (aka behavioral synthesis) product that takes as its input Matlab M-Code and produces RTL Code, a cycle accurate C-model, and a testbench for simulation.

Ron Wilson offers this assessment in “Synopsys introduces Matlab-to-RTL synthesis path for datapaths

On the whole, it appears that Synphony is not intended to be a direct competitor to the other high-level synthesis tools in the industry, such as those from Cadence, Forte, or Mentor. Rather, it is an IP-library-based tool for converting M-files into fixed-precision models for Simulink, coupled to a synthesis engine to convert these fixed-point models into RTL datapath designs for input into Synplify or Design Compiler. It is a rather specialized tool, but a sorely needed bridge between the worlds of Matlab algorithm exploration and RTL development.

Mathworks has been attending DAC for many years, although it is not a member of EDAC [see below]. The Matlab language was also a supported input by AccelChip (now part of Xilinx) and Agility (now part of Mentor, although the tools for going from Matlab to C were sold to the Mathworks).  These were some of the reasons that I had included the Mathworks blogs in my July 11 “EDA Bloggers 2009” list.

It would be interesting to see the Synopsys Interoperability Forum address Matlab interoperability at some point, they clearly have a significant stake in it with the Synphony announcement.

Sanjay Srivastava, the CEO of Denali, offered some excellent advice to startups in his Jul-23 “Can We Afford for Startups to Wind Down” (although he now is blogging on “A Conversation on Innovation” ) outlining two areas where startups have prospered in the last few years and one where they have not:

  • New platform creation. Typically, this happens at the edges of an existing platform (at least in EDA). One of the mistakes we can make is in under-funding the creation of platforms because you are asking the customers to move to a whole new methodology, but they are only going to do it if the platform is complete. Leaving big gaps like “availability of models/libraries” can often render a promising platform useless. […]
  • Provide components to a significantly growing platform. This is where lots of EDA startups have flourished since the last big disruption of synthesis. They provided point tools. The platform owners were growing and could afford to pay big premiums to improve parts of the flow or add to them. […]
  • Improve components for mature platforms. This is the trap startups have been in for the last few years. […]

At first blush Matlab looks like a growing platform, at least in terms of the opportunities for full integration into established EDA flows. It’s not clear where all of the opportunities might lie, but a few come to mind:

  • Timing analysis across Matlab, RTL, and gate
  • Register management across Matlab, RTL, C, and design documentation
  • Power management across Matlab, RTL, and gate
  • Functional Partitioning into Chips / Floorplanning for Chips for Matlab, RTL, and gate
  • High level synthesis tools: certainly Synphony offers a “proof by example” for Oasys and other next generation synthesis tools.

This is part of an ongoing series on “Growing the Pie in EDA”

  1. Getting Back to “Growing the Pie in EDA”
  2. Growing the Pie in EDA Part 2: As Revenue Shrinks So Does Analyst Interest

Update Mon Oct-19: Daniel Payne points out that Mathworks has historically been a member of EDAC even if they are not currently listed as a member. They are listed as a member on slide 29 of the January 14, 2009 presentation by Bob Gardner at the CEO Forecast and Industry Vision meeting.  I will seek clarification from Mathworks and EDAC.

Nanette Collins: Startup Culture is Critical

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 3 Early Customer Stage, EDA, skmurphy, Startups

I am happy to be able to offer another guest blog by Nanette Collins, her first was on “Volunteering, Lessons Learned from the Trenches.”  Nanette is an entrepreneur in her own right, she is the principal at Nanette V. Collins Marketing and PR with offices in Boston and San Francisco and one the web at

It’s All About Corporate Culture by Nanette Collins

In the 15 years that I have owned a marketing consulting business, my focus has been on working with entrepreneurs and startups in the EDA and semiconductor area. This has given me a ringside seat to grand successes, gut-wrenching failures and plenty of case study material. I have seen a lot and learned a few things in the process.

If an entrepreneur were to approach me for advice on the first steps to starting a business, I’d recommend thinking carefully about the kind of culture he or she wants to create. This effort will set the tone and help lay a foundation for success. A corporate culture based on a strong value system and an implicit understanding of ethical business practices will engender loyalty from the team, customers and various other stakeholders.

Corporate culture is much more than Six Sigma, the business management strategy du jour, or Quality Circles implemented by many large companies in the 1980s. It’s also more than the detailed corporate identity list of must haves –– name, logo, tag line, website and so on.

Instead, it’s a careful assessment by a company’s management on how it should operate and be perceived, based on a standard set of ideals that reflect its goals and objectives. The corporate culture should be fluid enough to be able to integrate attitudes, behavior, experiences and personal and cultural values.

A great example is a long-gone EDA startup called Viewlogic that hired the Boston Public Relations firm where I worked as an account executive in the mid 1980s. What quickly became apparent was the thoughtfulness and care the five founders –– Sal Carcia, Alain Hanover, Will Herman, Ron Maxwell and K.S. (Sri) Sriram –– had placed on building the company’s corporate culture. Maybe it was instinct. It may have been good management skills. More likely, it was the experience that they gained from working for a large corporation before going off on their own.

Whatever the motivation, it was the right thing to do, but it took a year’s worth of meticulous planning before they launched themselves. This company taught me many things, but the most valuable insight was the need to pay attention to corporate culture.

As a regular visitor to this company long acquired by a larger vendor, it was clear to me that the focus on corporate culture instilled a set of shared values with employees. The entire team seemed to have a set of customs and traditions that was this company’s and none other, which made it a terrific client and business partner.

Employees were dedicated, focused and all had a sense of purpose. That’s because they understood where they fit within the culture and knew what was considered appropriate behavior. During new employee orientation, Will Herman proudly carried into the session a three-ring binder with the presentation on the company’s corporate culture. This emphasis helped the company navigate through tough times and encouraged the team to keep going. After all, even with a well-conceived corporate culture, it wasn’t immune to the vagaries of a new business.

As the company grew in size and got more successful, a plaque was hung in the reception area outlining its five-point value system, underscoring the corporate culture. Many of the specific points seem to have been forgotten over time, but there are a few that stand out:

  • The first is an emphasis on professionalism and personal integrity that started with the founders who set the example for all.
  • A focus on ensuring a return to all stakeholders –– investors, employees, customers and partners –– may seem obvious, but well worth articulating to the entire team.
  • Providing value to customers may seem obvious as well, but who hasn’t experience lousy quality support from a formerly valued vendor? In recent years, many a large consumer company has been resoundingly criticized for their lack of customer service. A corporate culture focused on successful customers has to be a winning strategy.

I have worked with more than 30 startups and see too few founders give enough consideration to the culture of the firm that they are building, an unfortunate miscalculation. Too many entrepreneurs seem to think this is trite, quaintly old fashioned or don’t consider it at all. And yet, the benefits are numerous, from employee recruiting and retention to loyal customers and repeat business. With a strong corporate culture, there will be no ambiguity about behavior or ethics or what a company stands for.

Just as every startup has a product strategy and roadmap, it should also develop a set of corporate guidelines. It may be the blueprint for success.

I have included a 1985 article on Viewlogic for some background for readers who may be unfamiliar. The company was a pioneer in EDA but does not have a Wikipedia page or definitive history on-line that I could find. It’s from “D&T Scene,” IEEE Design and Test of Computers, vol. 2, no. 3, pp. 10-15, May/June 1985, doi:10.1109/MDT.1985.294730

Viewlogic unveils first CAE product at show Viewlogic Systems, a start-up company formed in October 1984, will show its first product, a desktop CAE system based on the IBM PC, at this year’s Design Automation Conference. The company also announced it has received $1.5 million in first-round financing, provided by company founders and venture-capital firms.

Viewlogic was founded by Alain Hanover, Salvatore Carcia, Ronald Maxwell, Sri Sriram, and William Herman, all from Digital Equipment Corporation. The company claims that its software addresses key elements of a design engineer’s desktop needs, providing facilities for design, documentation, and communication.

An open architecture approach gives users access to a reliable electronic design automation system that fits into existing CAE environments.

Sriram, Viewlogic’s director of marketing, says that the key benefit of the system is that it is priced at a level that allows each design engineer to have a system at his desk, where it is always accessible. The PC-based system is powerful enough for many applications, but the software, written in C, is also available in a version that runs on a DEC VAX operating under VMS for more demanding applications.

The software is currently being evaluated at five beta sites.

Growing The Pie in EDA, Part 2: As Revenue Shrinks So Does Analyst Interest

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in EDA, skmurphy

Ed Lee and I have continued our conversation about the changing media landscape for EDA and addressed some issues that are relevant to getting back to growing the pie in EDA. What follows is an excerpts from Ed’s blog “What’s PR Got To Do With It?” with some hyperlinks added to provide more context, the original post was “Startups, Stories, and Press Releases

Sean: In EDA in particular, how many reporters, editors, market researchers, and financial analysts are there compared to 5 or 10 years ago?

Ed: Well, 5 or 10 years ago, we’d have two dozen or so key targets in the U.S., Japan and other parts of Asia and western Europe.

Sean: Targets? You mean more than editors?

Ed: Yep. Maybe a dozen reporters and editors, several market researchers, maybe half a dozen financial analysts, all of whom had audiences that affected the well being of EDA companies and of the industry as a whole. Today? Geez…can I count the number or reporters or editors on one hand? YES! There’s one market researcher: Gary Smith. The financial analysts are more or less not watching EDA any longer, and they don’t exist as entities working for investment houses.

Sean: In a technologically dynamic landscape, financial analysts would want to be aware of emerging startups, wouldn’t they?

Ed: They would. Today, these analysts cover some of the big guys, and rarely, and in essence, no one follows the space. Of course, there was Jim Cramer recommending Cadence. Now whether or not he’s a business analyst is another question.

I did count of the number of analysts covering EDA for a blog post in December 2006 “Coffee Break With Gary Smith” which marked Dataquest’s exit from analyzing EDA as an inflection point in the industry. Here it is:

EDAC lists 11 public companies

  1. ANSTAnsoft5 analysts
  2. ARMHYARM Holdings4 analysts
  3. CDNSCadence11 analysts
  4. LAVAMagma Design Automation7 analysts
  5. LVGNLogic VisionNo analyst coverage
  6. MENTMentor Graphics7 analysts
  7. MIPSMIPS Technologies4 analysts
  8. PDFSPDF Solutions6 analysts
  9. SNPSSynopsys11 analysts
  10. SYNPSynplicity Inc.3 analysts
  11. VIRLVirage Logic5 analysts

There is a fair amount of overlap in coverage but it looks like there are perhaps 16-18 analysts covering at least one company in the industry and a core of about a dozen covering at least three. As a contrast, Xilinx has 27 analysts covering it and Altera has 30. These two FPGA players probably invest as much in CAD tools as many if not most of the companies listed above.

Updating that for today yields the following changes

  • Ansoft was acquired by Ansys and is no longer a member of EDAC or an exhibitor at DAC.
  • ARM Holdings is not a member of EDAC or an exhibitor at DAC
  • LogicVision was acquired by Mentor
  • Synplicity was acquired by Synopsys

And a comparable table:

  1. CDNSCadence6 analysts (down from 11)
  2. LAVAMagma Design Automation2 analysts (down from 7)
  3. MENTMentor Graphics4 analysts (down from 7)
  4. MIPSMIPS Technologies3 analysts (down from 4)
  5. PDFSPDF Solutions3 analysts (down from 6)
  6. SNPSSynopsys6 analysts  (down from 11)
  7. VIRLVirage Logic1 analyst (down from 5)

Xilinx has 20 analysts (down from 27) and Altera has 22 analysts (down from 30). This this time I am listing the analysts and which companies they cover (except that I am only listing where an “EDA analyst” also covers Xilinx or Altera, not the others who cover the two FPGA firms but none of the EDA firms).

  1. Canaccord Adams – Bobby Burleson: Magma, Mentor, PDF Solutions, Xilinx, Altera
  2. Craig-Hallum – Tony Stoss: MIPS
  3. Cowen & Co. – Raj Seth: Cadence, Synopsys, Xilinx, Altera
  4. DA Davidson – Matt Petkun: Cadence, Mentor, PDF Solutions, Synopsys
  5. Deutsche Bank – Tim Fox: Cadence, Synopsys, Xilinx
  6. JPMorgan – Sterling Auty: Cadence, Mentor, Synopsys, Xilinx, Altera
  7. Kaufman Brothers – Suji De Silva: MIPS
  8. Needham & Co. – Rich Valera: Cadence, Magma, Mentor, Synopsys, Virage
  9. Noble Financial – Gary Mobley: MIPS
  10. RBC Capital – Mahesh Sanganeria: Cadence, PDF Solutions, Synopsys, Xilinx, Altera

The three analysts for MIPS don’t cover anyone else in the industry so the more accurate figure may be 7: Ed’s answer checks out. Also at this time MIPS and PDF Solutions are not listed as exhibitors for DAC 47.

There is an interaction between poor financial performance and lack of analyst coverage, but in three years the number of analysts covering EDA has effectively been cut in half. There have been no new IPO’s and a number of notable VC-backed firms that simply ceased operations without being acquired: Athena Design, Golden Gate Technology, Liga, Silicon Design Systems, and Tera to name a few. Reshape raised $31M and sold assets to Magma but no employees were hired. Daniel Payne blogged about this last December as “Merry Mergers.”

Net net for startups: there are a number of factors that will make it hard to attract investment including six quarters of year of over year declines of total industry revenue and a loss of about half of the analyst community. The fact that investment will be harder to attract means that customers will be more concerned about long term viability and will be even harder to close than they have been historically. The “all you can eat” deals offered by the majors also make it harder to find a foothold unless you are well differentiated. The industry needs to re-think how it will cooperate and how it will compete so that we can start growing the pie again.

The last revolution in EDA was in the 1988-1994 timeframe. Vendors transitioned from selling turnkey systems (e.g. CALMA, Applicon) to workstations (e.g. Mentor, Daisy, Valid) to software (Cadence, Synopsys, Mentor). Customers transitioned from gate level design to RTL based design (e.g. widespread adoption of Verilog, VHDL, and RTL Synthesis).

The last revolution in EDA was led by startups: e.g. SDA, Gateway, Synopsys, Viewlogic. It’s time for another one.

Getting Back to “Growing the Pie” in EDA

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in EDA, skmurphy

From the EDAC website “EDA Consortium News” page the last six quarters of EDA Industry Revenue announcements (all numbers in millions):

  • Jul-3-08: Q1/08 declined 1.2% to 1350.7 vs. $1366.8 in Q1/07.
  • Oct-9-08: Q2/08 declined 3.7% to $1357.4 vs. $1408.8 in Q2/07
  • Jan-12-09: Q3/08 declined 10.9% to $1258.6 vs. $1412.1 in Q3/07.
  • Apr-7-09: Q4/08 declined 17.7% to $1318.7 vs. $1602.7 in Q4/07.
  • Jul-15-09:  Q1/09 declined 10.7% to $1192.1 vs. $1334.2 in Q1/08
  • Sep-30-09: Q2/09 declined 15.8% to $1,125.5 vs. $1,335.9 in Q2/08.

Note that restatements mean that numbers announced for earlier quarters don’t match those in newer announcements and understate the amount of decline in Q1 & Q2 of 2008.

So where does this leave startups in EDA? In February of 2007 Rick Carlson, VP of Sales at Verific, wrote an Editorial in Electronic Business entitled “EDA Industry Needs Revitalizing.” Here are some excerpts:

It wasn’t long ago that the electronic design automation (EDA) industry was filled with boundless enthusiasm and excitement; the possibilities seemed endless. We were at the top of the world, attracting the best of the best and enabling great things, because EDA was—and continues to be—where electronics begins. Many, if not all, of the electronics industry breakthroughs over the last several decades would not have been possible without the software and hardware developed by EDA vendors.

Sadly, somewhere along the way, the EDA community lost its optimism and sense of mission, and it’s shocking. The poor reputation and industry-wide low self-esteem are totally undeserved, and it’s time that we climb back to the top. […]

Let’s cull some nuggets of wisdom from [Einstein] for inspiration.

  • “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
  • “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

[…] Let’s use our collective imagination to revitalize EDA and move the industry into the next phase of its success. After all, it wasn’t all that long ago that we thought we were changing the world … and we did!

Mr. Carlson’s words, written in 2007, are even more urgent almost three years later with the last six quarters showing revenue declines in the EDA industry as a whole. Who is Rick Carlson? On the Wikipedia page for Daisy Systems you can learn that

Dave Millman and Rick Carlson founded EDAC, the industry organization for Electronic Design Automation vendors.

But if you read to the bottom of the “EDA Consortium Background” Page you see this:

1989: Electronic Design Automation Consortium (EDAC) is formed. First officers are elected.

with neither Rick Carlson nor Dave Millman‘s name mentioned anywhere on the site. I think it’s a good time to recognize their contribution and take some of Rick’s advice to start growing the pie again in EDA.

Update Oct-9: This series continues in “Growing the Pie in EDA Part 2: As Revenue Shrinks So Does Analyst Interest.

Conference Testimonial from Achilles Test Systems

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in EDA, Testimonial

When we first started working with SKMurphy our product was complicated and our message was even more complex.  SKMurphy helped us focus our product on a market that we could succeed in and create a message that was sharp, crisp and quickly show value add.  They helped us understand that people’s attention spans were short, and that you only have a very limited time to send your message.  Quality and relevance were of the essence, not quantity or complexity.

SKMurphy helped us select potential customers, set up presentations and demonstrations, and listen carefully to what the customer was saying.  They helped us differentiate between customers that had a real need and what their pain points were from the customers that were just being polite and would potentially lead us on and waste our time.   They gave us advice on how to negotiate evaluation and pricing terms, how to close a sale and strive for a purchase order.

In very short time, SKMurphy helped us get ready for two trade-shows, DVCON and DAC.  Without interfering too much with our day to day business we were able to organize and successfully execute two shows.   Being a small company keeping expenses down was a must.  They knew how to get the most out of a tradeshow with the least amount of money.

Their experience with tradeshows is immense.  They knew what the important things to do were.  And a lot of time these things could be done very inexpensively.  They helped us with slide shows, demonstrations, posters, banners, press releases, press interviews, and all the detail logistics that go into making a show.  Both or our shows went effortlessly and flawlessly. We were not distracted by any unrelated to business and 100% of our energy could go into sales and lead generation.

Sean Murphy’s knowledge of the industry, the individual companies and the people involved is enormous.  He has good instincts determining which people to spend time with and which people to avoid.  He knows which people are going to help you and have upside potential for your company and which people are not, are clear competitors and should be avoided.


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.

1994 List of Net Resources for the EDA User

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in EDA, skmurphy

May 11, 1994 I published this “List of Net Resources for the EDA User” in “Radio Free CAD CAE Issue 4

  • gopher 70 for SIGDA Archives
  • e-mail for ACM (SIGDA parent) membership info
  • ftp for IEEE membership info
  • gopher for IEEE membership info
  • e-mail for IEEE membership info
  • e-mail for Cad Framework Initiative Membership Info
  • e-mail for a subscription or back-issues to the E-Mail Synopsys User Group
  • ftp for the Mentor User Group Archives
  • rn alt.cad for a news on general issues in CAD
  • rn comp.cad.cadence for news on Cadence tools
  • rn comp.cad.compass for news on Compass Design Automation tools
  • rn comp.cad.synthesis news on synthesis issues; frequently Synopsys issues are posted here.
  • rn comp.lang.verilog news on verilog as a language
  • rn comp.lang.vhdl news on VHDL as a language
  • rn comp.lsi news on IC issues and CAD, frequently cross-posted to comp.lsi.cad and vice versa.
  • rn comp.lsi.testing news on LSI test issues; also attracts a fair number of “Test, please ignore” posts.
  • rn Newsgroup for ACM info;
  • rn alt.sys.intergraph Intergraph users news; seems to have obsoleted/superseded comp.sys.intergraph.
  • rn comp.sys.mentor Mentor User Group news;
  • rn ieee.announce announcement from IEEE
  • telnet 2110 to subscribe to ASIC & EDA Magazine (step by step entry of sub qualification form)
  • e-mail generates a reply outlining the benchmarks available via ftp from MCNC. A summary of the automatic reply message appears in section 4.3.2 of this issues of Radio Free CAD CAE.
  • ftp for benchmarks from past IEEE/ACM sponsored conferences.
  • e-mail to get on Scott Adams ( Dilbert mailing list. Make the first line of e-mail read: subscribe dilbert_list first-name last-name

Internet protocols were:

  • Net news (rn was a newsreader, kind of like a feed reader today)
  • ftp – file transfer protocol
  • telnet an emulation of a bidirectional teletype, allowing you to login and interact with a remote system via a command line.
  • gopher a text menu alternative to the world wide web, also allowed for searching and backward compatibility with older protocols.
  • E-mail – the only protocol that survives in widespread use today.

The World Wide Web was starting to come onto the scene, but not yet for EE’s, it was particle physics leading the way. DAC in June of 1994 had a DACNET LAN local to conference. There was a local web server that presented pages on Sun workstations at the conference that Steve Evanczuk, Jeff Leader, Bruce Pinsky, Bryan Preas, Kathy Preas, and I worked together to do the first DAC website. So we could see the web coming and see that it would have a big impact on information and software distribution. But the resources on this list was what was actually available and in use in May of 1994.

I thought it would offer an interesting perspective to look back 15 years and see how completely things have changed in some ways, but the information needs haven’t really changed. ESNUG still continues as DeepChip, comp.cad.cadence has become the Cadence on-line community, comp.sys.mentor has become the Mentor on-line community, etc.. Something to consider in looking ahead at the next 15 years

A Conversation with Ed Lee on the Changing Media Landscape for EDA

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

Ed Lee and I have been talking about the role that bloggers play in the EDA Industry since we put together the Blogging Birds of a Feather at ICCAD in November 2008. In the last week we decided to formalize some of our conversation and blog about it. We wanted to share our current assessment of a complex and evolving situation and invite both comments and further dialog.

From Ed’s perspective, bloggers are a near-unknown entity to the PR people in EDA. Compared to the traditional journalists and publishers, bloggers are perplexing as to their intentions and motives for blogging. What follows is Ed and I ruminating about bloggers and their role in EDA, in light of the gradual disappearance of the old-line journalists, market researchers, and financial analysts covering the industry.

Ed and I have known one another since our VLSI Technology days together in the mid-1980s. He went on to various public relations firms – and worked for EDA clients such as Valid, Mentor, ECAD – and at Cadence before opening his own shop in the early 1990s. Since opening Lee PR, his firm has worked primarily with EDA and IP clients such as Chronologic, Compass, Cooper & Chyan, Epic, IBM EDA, Nassda.

This conversation was originally published in two parts on Ed’s blog “What’s PR Got To Do With It?” with an introduction from his perspective:

I have added hyperlinks to provide more context. Ed and I first talked about some common questions that we have heard from other PR people:

Sean: What’s your perspective on the role blogger community plays in informing potential users about current and new EDA offerings?

Ed: This is the big question. We’re in a period of tumult and transition. The old-line journalists are disappearing and the ones who survive are blogging themselves. What bloggers bring to the EDA industry is perspective and personal opinion that’s informed by their individual focus, interests, and the span of their information gathering. But it seems to me that bloggers are more like newspaper columnists than reporters. Where will the basic reporting come from? What will provide a basis or a context for these bloggers/columnists to wax prolific?

Sean: I see bloggers as more of a blend of columnists and reporters. They often write about product announcements, report their observations and issues. Usually they have a wide set of resources both on-line and in-person. Good blogs take a lot of reading and gathering information. But you are right, good blogging is also good linking and bloggers will link to other bloggers, perhaps who have either firsthand knowledge of events or deep technical knowledge. Because of the links, bloggers are often more transparent on their sources than traditional news sources sometimes are.

Ed: Who are the bloggers?  I see them as a mix of indies,  those employed by  EDA and IP vendors and editors who write for industry publications. As with the industry press,  we need to know the specific focus of each blogger. But now, we have a second need to know: who signs their paycheck. The bloggers seem to me to be very transparent on that count.  So that helps us  understand how to work with a blogger’s area of interest AND consider that blogger’s perspective.

Sean: Most bloggers are industry evangelists. I was surprised at the BoF how many many bloggers had a customer facing role (e.g. marketing or customer support) in their company. Another large segment of bloggers are independent consultants who are looking for more visibility–trying to get better known and find a job. Often blogs are started to provide pointers to other helpful resources, share perspectives, and to learn from others who share a common interest. Some bloggers use their blog as a repository or chronicle of an issue: these can be useful for a community of interest that can leverage proven approaches or explore new ones to solve common problems or issues. Reading about approaches that others have tried is extremely valuable to the community and usually these types of blogs are not written by marketing folks but evangelists or other experts like independent consultants.

Ed: So the next question is: how to work with the bloggers in EDA and IP?  One thing I wrestle with is when does it make sense in time and money to reach out to bloggers for coverage. And how to do it effectively. Do we separate the old-line press from the bloggers? Consider them all part of one group? So we invite them all to one meeting or hold two? For sure, we don’t want to blast press releases to bloggers.

Sean: I think it definitely makes sense to reach out to bloggers who are providing a valuable service to a community you are interested in reaching. This doesn’t necessarily mean the blogs with the highest traffic, especially when you have a niche product; it’s blogs that are read by your prospects. One effective way to reach out to bloggers is to leave well written, informative, and germane comments on their blog. You can include a one or two line signature that links back to your website if people are interested in more information. I agree with you: one of the least effective ways to reach bloggers is to send them press releases.

Ed: So how do these independent bloggers monetize their blogs? What are the incentives and potential conflicts?

Sean: I think most bloggers are building social capital and don’t really have a plan to monetize their blog directly. I do think independent bloggers are often promoting their expertise and want to build influence within their network. Employers or current clients are going to bias the blogger at least as far as self-censorship.

Ed: Clearly, the bloggers will play – if they’re not already – an increasingly influential role. But are they a separate and new community onto themselves? After all, they’ve got their own room at DAC this year. So either DAC isn’t giving them press badges or they want to be seen as a separate and distinct community.

Sean: Brian Bailey has an interesting perspective on what the bloggers may become. He wrote an interesting blog post at the end of March on “Unintended Consequences.

“Will the independent EDA consultants, like myself, be the only source of impartial information about what the EDA companies are up to, and if the claims they make are true? But even consultants rely on the trade press to bring things to our attention. It could also mean a lot more work now for us to keep up with the tool introductions and developments.”

By the way, our first conversation got picked up on Twitter. Take a look at what Paul Lindemann wrote on — “Promising Ed Lee blog on #pr/#eda – post with @skmurphy on “Bloggers in EDA

Ed: No, I didn’t see that tweet, but thanks for pointing it out. Yeah, that’s my concern. There needs to be basic reporting being done by someone. From that basic reporting, the opinion makers can analyze, comment, criticize, vent. Who’s going to do that basic reporting now? The bloggers? Of course, this dilemma isn’t limited to us. The New York Times is the only newspaper that staffs a full bureau in Iraq. If or when it shuts down, then how do we or any commentators – say on the Huffington Post – get our basic news?

Sean: It may be a matter of function. I agree with you that the basic reporting function may not be the role of the bloggers. However, I agree with Brian Bailey that many good blogs are written by independent consultants. Many of these bloggers blog to promote their expertise. So bloggers don’t blog to provide news, so to speak. For bloggers, their blog content is a way for them to demonstrate their expertise and draw visitors to their site. Just looking at the website traffic for one client, over 30% of the visitors entered on the main blog page, and then more than 80% of blog visitors clicked deeper into the blog or the website pages.

Ed: All well and good, but the question remains: who’s going to report the news, give us context and insight? The vendors can easily distribute all manner of announcements. Will the bloggers pick up the role that Richard Goering used to play at EE Times, and fitfully, at SCDSource? I suspect not. We seem to agree that bloggers are basically columnists, opinion makers for their specific audiences. So they do demonstrate their expertise…but what’s their role in molding industry wide pubic opinion…beyond their specific target audiences?

Sean: So your question may be, are we heading into an era where bloggers will have an increasing role in molding industry opinion? I think Karen Bartleson’s “Standards Game” blog on EDA standards has changed perception of Accellera, and standards efforts in general, as a vital part of our ability to make progress. With her “Ten Commandments of Standards” series I think she has offered some excellent suggestions for how to take part effectively in standards efforts–and how to interpret, by comparison, other developments in the standards arena.

So that’s an anecdote, one data point, I am not sure what it looks like in another two to four years. In the last year we’ve transitioned from about 60 bloggers writing on EDA-related topics to what looks like perhaps 200. A year ago I thought we would get to 500 in three years (2011). Now that may be there next year if this trend continues.

Ed: But of those 200, perhaps a dozen or so are frequent.

Sean: To be honest we are still crunching the numbers. Out of approximately 100 that we have analyzed in some detail, we found at least 50 that posted on average once every two weeks between March and May of this year, and of those 27 who posted once a week on average, and of those about a dozen who posted at least twice a week on average. The final counts may perhaps double in each category. There are about a half dozen “press release aggregation blogs” that merely re-post EDA press releases as blog post, I didn’t include those in my frequency statistics.

Ed: How do we quantify the bloggers’ audience and influence?

Sean: That’s a hard question to answer, the size of audience and influence of each blogger. Most have traffic levels that are in the noise level for tools/websites designed to track mainstream consumer websites.

Ed: Exactly! Example, I was shocked when you said some bloggers got only three comments a month. I simply did not believe you! Until I looked myself. So, any blogger who got three comments a month…Would I be able to sell as an influential opinion maker to client? It’s tough enough to sell the bloggers conceptually right now.

Sean: One calculation that would be useful for your clients would be the posting frequency and amount of original material. Quality of writing is certainly important, as well as expertise. Another model you see in other industries that I don’t yet see in EDA are “link logs” where someone takes the time to find relevant material on other blogs or cites and point it out. Instapundit is certainly one popular example, where probably 75-90% of his content are links and quotes from other blogs but from a very large spectrum of blogs.

Ed: Well, re: frequency, I do see these folks as more or less 1) weekly or more (Bartleson, Goering, McLellan); twice monthly (a lot of them); monthly (Aycinena and several others) and some who haven’t blogged since January.

Sean: But without a “publishing schedule” it’s still useful to assign a frequency.

Ed: I agree re: frequency…but how do we determine eyeballs that see their blogs? I was just saying that that is how I categorize seriousness of blogging intent, since I don’t see statistics on eyeballs. Bartleson is obviously serious. The twice per month folks are also as are the once monthly folks. After that, it gets tough to justify spending client cycles on cultivating them. Having said that, I think its important, maybe imperative that we do so.

Sean: This is a good question. I think it’s complex but doable. The complexity comes from a calculation of incentives. Bloggers don’t have a “news hole” to file in the way that print publication does. Also, I think in the same way that an EDA firm uses application engineers (or technical marketing folks) to support and interact with customers it may make sense to encourage many of them to also start blogging to interact with other “independent” bloggers. That seems to be what Cadence and Mentor have done in the last six months or so, there are dozens of new bloggers at each of those firms posting in their public forums. I also wouldn’t underestimate the impact of open forums like the Verification Guild, where a number of serious technical issues get raised and addressed.

Ed: What’s your take on EDA and IP vendors’ acceptance of bloggers? I think vendors are starting to take note, but there’s still a need to justify the cultivation.

Sean: What’s to justify? Or what’s the alternative?

Ed: I have to justify the influence of each blogger to the client. A blogger with three comments in a month wouldn’t fly because the client would say, not worth my time. Shortsighted? yes. Even the good editors or reporters at second or third tier publications…we tell clients, “ya never know when he or she ends up at Business Week.” Witness Sarah Lacy.

Sean: I think some bloggers with few monthly comments may become more popular…those who have a very serious approach. Comments are not always a proxy for influence. But I do think we will see certain bloggers essentially initiate ad hoc forums with their posts. One of the things that have been holding that back I think has been that the high traffic blogs associated with publications, or what I am assuming are high traffic blogs, have poor comment entry and management systems. McClellan is posting several times a week–I counted more than 60 posts in March, April, and May which works out to daily if you let him take Saturdays and Sundays off–and he normally gets a few comments on many of his entries. But the comment system EDN has is wretched and not designed to encourage participation but to filter spam out. If they would supply his readers with the right infrastructure I think there would be a much larger community there already.

Ed: I know that. But my problem is how to prove that.

Sean: Fair enough. I think it may be something that’s hard to get good numbers on. One of the reasons that you have been able to get good numbers that were independently verified for the publications was that it was at the root of their business model: they used those same numbers to sell advertising. I don’t think we will see that model work except for a handful of bloggers.

Ed: So how do the bloggers get a higher profile among the corporate executives, the ones who authorize marketing cultivation efforts?

Sean: Presence on industry forums and portals such as DAC’s. I can’t figure out how DAC picked the bloggers they highlight on their home page. I think the publications still have huge traffic compared to independent bloggers.

Ed: So how do we get numbers, any numbers? Karen Bartleson’s possibly got the highest number of eyeballs based on her topic and longevity, don’t you think?

Sean: I don’t know what Karen Bartleson’s numbers are. My sense is that Paul McClellan, at least on the “business of EDA” side, may be getting a lot of interest just because he is posting frequently. But when I asked him at the EDP workshop in April in Monterey, he said that EDN doesn’t share any statistics with him. That would be an interesting session, comparing google analytics results.

Ed: So somehow, we need numbers of some sort to figure out influence, and then to justify blogger coverage, right?

Sean: It’s closer to columnist coverage than journalist coverage. I think it’s more important to assess the particular “micro-audience” that a blogger delivers. It could be that group or multi-author blogs will emerge for EDA in the same that they have in other industries. A brand gets established that’s larger than the individual author, in the same way that it matters more that an article appears in EDN than who in particular authors it.

Ed: Agree, more like columnists than reporters. Clients are just now acknowledging that they need to pay attention to bloggers. But they have no problem pitching to a Ron Wilson or a Richard Goering (in his reporter days). Funny thing…the output is often the same. In truth, isn’t the act of blogging just another distribution mechanism? Reporters and editors, analysts and researchers all “blog” now.

Sean: I do think there might be ways to make for more “blogger friendly” interviews/engagements. Maybe it’s somewhat intimidating to vendors because bloggers are part of the unknown right now. However, at some level it’s useful just to point to the independent opinion/evaluation that these blogger bring to the table.

Ed: Still, there’s some legitimacy to figuring out the dynamics of the old-line journalists and the, for lack of a better term, the new line bloggers. It’s like the VHF TV channels..they’ve lost huge numbers. They’re still bigger but the UHF channels have just eaten away at those numbers by the sheer number of new channels out there.

Sean: VHF vs. UHF is a very good analogy.

Ed: So in a way, we have more new choices on UHF but we still watch VHF channels.


  • Ed and I plan to continue this dialog after DAC and include some assessments of what we saw and what we think learned.
  • It was energizing to compose a blog as a conversation and I am interested in doing this with other folks, please let me know if you would like to take part in a conversational blog post.
  • After we did this I ran across the “Absolute Power” blog that Cary Chin and Darin Hauer also write as a conversation.
  • Richard Fernandez wrote in “Left Brain, Right Brain
    “The major drivers of the democratization of the Internet have not been content providing sites like the Huffington Post, nor extensions of traditional PR activities like “accrediting” bloggers, but architecture; architecture which enables content provision. In this year of the Iranian demonstrations the Nobel Peace prize should be awarded to Twitter, Facebook and Blogger. Time magazine should consider them candidates for the Virtual Men of the Year, and put Time Magazine itself on its obituary pages.”
  • In a July 10 post entitled “Blogging” Paul McLellan wrote:
    “The biggest frustration with blogging like this is that I don’t get much feedback. All sorts of people tell me that they read EDA Graffiti when they meet me. Very few people think to email me or to leave a comment on the blog. Reed has the policy of not letting page-view data outside of the company, and since I’m not an employee I don’t get to see (maybe it’s the same for the internal people outside management, I don’t know). So I don’t know how many people read EDA Graffiti, and I don’t know what type of people read EDA Graffiti. I don’t know which entries get read the most and which get nearly ignored.”

Update July 22: There have been several blog posts about the changing media landscape.

  • Paul McClellan’s July 22 “Who are the EDA Press”  reinforces the value of press/journalists as a sense making mechanism (e.g. what’s really happening, what are the trends and the deeper significance of an event) for an industry in addition to helping its members maintain a shared situational awareness (i.e. “what’s new”)
    • “I’ve been approached by several PR agencies and marketing folk about product announcements, interviews and so on. Individual product announcements are not interesting to me, and I’m assuming you readers wouldn’t want to wade through them all anyway. There are other places for that. But product announcements in aggregate are interesting: What are the new trends? Which new areas are hot? Which new startups are interesting in those areas? What hard problems are getting cracked?
    • “Remember Bill Joy’s law: no matter where you are, the smartest people are somewhere else. You just don’t know what is going to turn out to be important, so you need to look at it all. But it is increasingly difficult to immerse yourself in the stream of raw information that might allow you to spot something. In it’s heyday, when both Richard Goering and Mike Santarini and more were there, not much happened in EDA that you’d miss if you read EEtimes each week. Now, not so much. That’s one reason that, for the time being, I think DAC remains strong. It’s the only place for that kind of serendipity.”
  • Paul’s post also pointed to a September 2007 article by Peggy Aycinena “The Future of EDA Media
  • John Blyler put out two back to back posts

I think Clay Shirky’s July 13 “It’s not An Upgrade It’s an Upheaval”  offers a useful context. He opens with

“The hard truth about the future of journalism is that nobody knows for sure what will happen; the current system is so brittle, and the alternatives are so speculative, that there’s no hope for a simple and orderly transition from State A to State B. Chaos is our lot; the best we can do is identify the various forces at work shaping various possible futures.”

The reason why I am engaged by this topic is that I believe that the fundamental challenge is an entrepreneurial one: we need new business models to support our shared awareness and sense making at both an industry and societal level. I think until you frame the problem in that context, a nostalgic discussion of what’s been lost is really just reminiscing. Shirky’s conclusions are equally pointed:

“Journalism is not a profession — no degree or certification is required to practice it, and training often comes after hiring — and it is increasingly being transformed into an activity, open to all, sometimes done well, sometimes badly, but at a volume that simply cannot be supported by a small group of full-time workers. The journalistic models that will excel in the next few years will rely on new forms of creation, some of which will be done by professionals, some by amateurs, some by crowds, and some by machines.

This will not replace the older forms journalism, but then nothing else will either; both preservation and simple replacement are off the table. The change we’re living through isn’t an upgrade, it’s a upheaval, and it will be decades before anyone can really sort out the value of what’s been lost versus what’s been gained. In the meantime, the changes in self-assembling publics and new models of subsidy will drive journalistic experimentation in ways that surprise us all.”

EDA Bloggers 2009

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

This is an update of my May 28, 2008 post “Bloggers Covering Design Automation” which I have subsequently updated in place approximately every two weeks for the last 13 months. The list was originally about 60 and has grown since then. At the time I started tracking blogs, neither Cadence nor Mentor had started their blogging communities. On July 22, 2008 I added the Cadence blogging community to the list and blogged about “What Happens When 70 EDA Blogs Become 500 in 2011.“There have been enough posts by individual bloggers in these community that it makes sense to break them out.

If you are an EDA blogger there is also an edabloggers Yahoo Group you can sign up for if you want to be notified of events and other developments, it’s been used in the last year to arrange the Bloggers’ BoF at ICCAD. There are a number of activities at DAC for bloggers, many are related to the Synopsys Conversation Central.

Some notes on how this list is organized:

  • An alphabetical list was somewhat useful at 60, it’s not very useful now and will be useless at 500, which is where I think we will be in another two years. I am open to suggestions and offers to collaborate.
  • For bloggers using their name (e.g. members of Cadence Blogging Community) I alphabetize by last name (which is at variance with their practice of alphabetizing by first name but generally accepted almost everywhere else). I have also gone back and alphabetized blogs that are a person’s name by last name as well to be consistent
  • For blogs beginning with “The” I sort by next word
  • I will update this entry in place at leas through the end of the year
  • I will leave a blog on the list for up to a year after the last post if there is good content in the archives.

I have not included about half a dozen blogs are are simply press release aggregators. Five companies have blogging communities now: Cadence, Mathworks, Mentor, Synopsys, and Verilab. I have identified bloggers who are a member of each.

  1. David Abercrombie (Mentor Community Blogger)
  2. Absolute Power (Synopsys Blogging Community)
  3. Achilles Test
  4. Adventures in ASIC Digital Design
  5. All About EDA
  6. Tom Anderson (Cadence Community Blogger)
  7. Amdahl’s Law
  8. Anablog
  9. Analog Insights (Synopsys Blogging Community)
  10. Analog Rails News
  11. Jason Andrews (Cadence Community Blogger)
  12. ASIC Digital Arithmetic
  13. ASIC-System On Chip (SoC)-VLSI Design
  14. Ran Avinun (Cadence Community Blogger)
  15. Nigel Bleasdale (Cadence Community Blogger)
  16. Thomas Bollaert (Mentor Community Blogger)
  17. Robin Bornoff (Mentor Community Blogger)
  18. Dave Brady (Mentor Community Blogger)
  19. Matthew Bromley (Cadence Community Blogger)
  20. Steven Brown (Cadence Community Blogger)
  21. Bugs Are Easy
  22. Kiran Bulusu’s Blog
  23. CAD and VLSI
  24. Steven Carlson (Cadence Community Blogger)
  25. Michael Carrell (Cadence Community Blogger)
  26. Manoj Chacko (Cadence Community Blogger)
  27. Kenneth Chang (Cadence Community Blogger)
  28. Chip101
  29. Chips and BS
  30. Chipworks Blog
  31. Karen Chow (Mentor Community Blogger)
  32. Nora Chu (Cadence Community Blogger)
  33. Christopher Clee (Cadence Community Blogger)
  34. Coaching Excellence in IC Design Teams
  35. Cool Verification (Verilab Community Blog)
  36. Kelly Cordell-Morris (Mentor Community Blogger)
  37. Thomas Costas (Cadence Community Blogger)
  38. Oliver Coudert’s Blog
  39. CriticalBlue’s Common Thread
  40. CynCity (Forte Design)
  41. DAC Fan Club
  42. Abhishek Datta (Cadence Community Blogger)
  43. Joe Davis (Mentor Community Blogger)
  44. Amit Dua (Cadence Community Blogger)
  45. Denali Memory Report
  46. Denali News
  47. Rahul Deokar (Cadence Community Blogger)
  48. David Desharnais (Cadence Community Blogger)
  49. Device Native
  50. DFT Digest
  51. Digital Electronics Blog
  52. Digital IC Design
  53. Dominion of Design
  54. Doug’s MATLAB Video Tutorials (Mathworks Community Blogger)
  55. DVClub Verification Blog
  56. Robert Dwyer (Cadence Community Blogger)
  57. EDA Blog
  58. EDA Confidential 2.0
  59. EDA DesignLine
  60. EDA Geek
  61. EDA Graffiti (see also Green Folder)
  62. EDA Tools on Fedora
  63. EDA Thoughts
  64. EDA Weekly
  65. Ed Sperling
  66. Electronic System Virtualization
  67. Eric Bogatin
  68. Jack Erickson (Cadence Community Blogger)
  69. ESL Edge
  70. The Eyes Have It (Synopsys Blogging Community)
  71. Fahrvergnügen (Synopsys Blogging Community)
  72. Simon Favre (Mentor Community Blogger)
  73. Keith Felton (Cadence Community Blogger)
  74. John Ferguson (Mentor Community Blogger)
  75. Five Computers (Verilab Community Blog)
  76. FPGA and DSP from Scratch
  77. FPGA and Structured ASIC Journal
  78. FPGA Blog
  79. FPGA Central
  80. FPGA Gurus
  81. FPGA Simulation
  82. FPGA World (in particular forums)
  83. George Frazier (Cadence Community Blogger)
  84. Jeffrey Flieder (Cadence Community Blogger)
  85. Future of Design (Synopsys Blogging Community)
  86. Gabe on EDA
  87. Dan Gardner (Mentor Community Blogger)
  88. Gary Smith EDA
  89. Ed Goldman (Mentor Community Blogger)
  90. Brad Griffin (Cadence Community Blogger)
  91. Gerald “Jerry” Grzenia Cadence Community Blogger)
  92. Hany El Hak (Cadence Community Blogger)
  93. Diego Hammerschlag (Cadence Community Blogger)
  94. Neil Hand (Cadence Community Blogger)
  95. Harnessing the Electron
  96. harry… the ASIC guy
  97. Bob Hilker (Cadence Community Blogger)
  98. Matthew Hogan (Mentor Community Blogger)
  99. Happy Holden (Mentor Community Blogger)
  100. Chi-Ping Hsu (Cadence Community Blogger)
  101. Joseph Hupcey III (Cadence Community Blogger)
  102. Industry Insights (Richard Goering / Cadence Community Blogger)
  103. IC Design and Verification Journal
  104. IDesignSpec
  105. Inside Protocol Verification
  106. IntelligentDV
  107. John Isaac (Mentor Community Blogger)
  108. Hiroshi Ishikawa (Cadence Community Blogger)
  109. Michael Jacobs (Cadence Community Blogger)
  110. Samir Jafferali (Cadence Community Blogger)
  111. JB’s Circuit
  112. John’s Semi-Blog
  113. Paul Johnston (Mentor Community Blogger)
  114. JTAG
  115. Sutirtha Kabir (Cadence Community Blogger)
  116. Michael Kelly (Cadence Community Blogger)
  117. Ken and Mike on the MATLAB Desktop (Mathworks Community Blogger)
  118. Neyaz Khan (Cadence Community Blogger)
  119. Koby’s Kaos
  120. Trisha Kristof (Cadence Community Blogger)
  121. Don Kurelich (Mentor Community Blogger)
  122. Leibson’s Law
  123. Bambuda Leung (Cadence Community Blogger)
  124. Steven Lewis (Cadence Community Blogger)
  125. Listening Post (Synopsys Blogging Community)
  126. Loren on the Art of MATLAB (Mathworks Community Blogger)
  127. Wilbur Luo (Cadence Community Blogger)
  128. Magic Blue Smoke (Synopsys Blogging Community)
  129. Edward Malloy (Cadence Community Blogger)
  130. Mannerisms
  131. Boris Marovic (Mentor Community Blogger)
  132. Jim Martens (Mentor Community Blogger)
  133. Peter McCrorie (Cadence Community Blogger)
  134. John McGeHee’s Blog
  135. Michael McNamara (Cadence Community Blogger)
  136. Soheil Modirzadeh (Cadence Community Blogger)
  137. Thomas Moore (Cadence Community Blogger)
  138. Nadav’s Tech Adventures (see also C-to-Verilog )
  139. Arvind Narayanan (Mentor Community Blogger)
  140. Daniel Nenni’s Blog
  141. David Neilson (Cadence Community Blogger)
  142. NextGenLog
  143. Ninja ASIC Verification
  144. Numetrics Insights
  145. Oasys Blog
  146. Oh, One More Thing (Verilab Community Blog)
  147. On Cores
  148. On Verification: a Software to Silicon Verification Blog (Synopsys Blogging Community)
  149. Open Electrons
  150. Richard Owen (Cadence Community Blogger)
  151. Pallab’s Place
  152. John Parry (Mentor Community Blogger)
  153. Will Partain Work Blog (Verilab Community Blog)
  154. Bassilios Petrakis (Cadence Community Blogger)
  155. Charles Pfeil (Mentor Community Blogger)
  156. Brad Pierce’s Blog (EDA Category)
  157. John Pierce (Cadence Community Blogger)
  158. PLD DesignLine
  159. Practical Chip design
  160. Pradeep Chakraborty’s Blog
  161. Power to the Masses
  162. Matthew Rardon (Cadence Community Blogger)
  163. Reconfigurable Computing
  164. Reconfigurable, Reconshmigurable (see also Impulse Accelerated Technology)
  165. RocketBlog
  166. John “Mickey” Rodriguez (Cadence Community Blogger)
  167. Sharon Rosenberg (Cadence Community Blogger)
  168. Susan Runowicz-Smith (Cadence Community Blogger)
  169. The Sandbox
  170. Michael Sanie
  171. Sanjay Srivastava’s Conversation on Innovation
  172. Robin Sarma (Cadence Community Blogger)
  173. Nazita Saye (Mentor Community Blogger)
  174. Scalable Atomicity
  175. SCDSource
  176. Screaming Circuits
  177. Seth on Simulink (Mathworks Community Blogger)
  178. Arthur Schaldenbrand (Cadence Community Blogger)
  179. Hemant Shah (Cadence Community Blogger)
  180. Adam Sherer (Cadence Community Blogger)
  181. Shrinking Violence
  182. Sigasi’s Blog
  183. Signal Integrity Tips
  184. SKMurphy
  185. The Solar Cell Corner (Synopsys Blogging Community)
  186. Sonics Blog
  187. Specman Verification
  188. Deana Spencer (Cadence Community Blogger)
  189. Sramana Mitra on Strategy
  190. Standards Game (Synopsys Blogging Community)
  191. State of EDA
  192. State of the Media
  193. Michael Stellfox (Cadence Community Blogger)
  194. Steve on Image Processing (Mathworks Community Blogger)
  195. Kari Summers (Cadence Community Blogger)
  196. Esteban Svoboda (Cadence Community Blogger)
  197. System Verification Blog
  198. Taken for Granted
  199. Wei Tan (Cadence Community Blogger)
  200. The Tao of ASICs
  201. Techdoer Times
  202. Team ESL (Cadence Community Blog)
  203. Team FED (Cadence Community Blog)
  204. Team genIES (Cadence Community Blog)
  205. Team Specman (Cadence Community Blog)
  206. Tensilica News
  208. Helene Thibieroz (Cadence Community Blogger)
  209. Think Verification
  210. Craig Thompson (Cadence Community Blogger)
  211. Thursday’s Child
  212. To USB or Not to USB (Synopsys Blogging Community)
  213. Tommy’s Veriblog (Verilab Community Blogger)
  214. Travelling on the Silicon Road
  215. Trusster
  216. Turning Into Jim
  217. Verification Blog
  218. Verification Guild
  219. Verification is No Simulation
  220. Verification Martial Arts (Synopsys Blogging Community)
  221. Verification Vertigo
  222. Verilab Blog
  223. View From the Top (Synopsys Blogging Community)
  224. VC Corner
  225. VLSI Home Page
  226. Colin Walls (Mentor Community Blogger)
  227. Jason Ware (Cadence Community Blogger)
  228. What’s PR Got To Do With It?
  229. Stacy Whiteman (Cadence Community Blogger)
  230. Alan Whittaker (Cadence Community Blogger)
  231. David Wiens (Mentor Community Blogger)
  232. John Wilkosz (Cadence Community Blogger)
  233. Tawna Wilsey (Cadence Community Blogger)
  234. John Wilson (Mentor Community Blogger)
  235. The Wiretap
  236. Wizards of Electromagnetism
  237. The World is Analog
  238. The Xuropean

If I have overlooked your blog or an EDA related blog that you like, please let me know. I can appreciate that this format is no longer particularly useful (not that it was really useful for only 60 blogs). I am working on some other ways to organize this information but I am also open to suggestions and offers of collaboration.

Opportunities for Serious Conversation at DAC 2009

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

One of the great opportunities that a conference affords is face to face conversation among knowledgeable people. It’s not that technologies for conversation and collaboration at a distance are not effective, but they are more effective if they build on face to face conversations. Conferences allow for both serendipity and structure in serious conversations. At this year’s Design Automation Conference I hope to take part in both.

Here are some of the more structured conversations I am helping to facilitate (drawing on my Irish ancestors’ ability to construct a dry stone fence out of irregular rocks they removed from the soil to be able to farm it).

The Conversation Central effort is the brainchild of Karen Bartleson (see her post on “…goodies at DAC” for more detail). Here is what I proposed to her for my three sessions:

“Global Teams and Multi-Firm Collaboration: Assessing the impact of new business models, new communication and computing paradigms on design and design automation.”

Intended audience: engineering managers and executives, system architects, design methodologists, design automation professionals, and other interested parties. Goal is to discuss changes that have already occurred and assess current trends.

I hope we explore real time information sharing of design status and configuration, shared configuration management, and what this means for business models and design methodology. One of the more interesting developments that’s not really fully appreciated are the real time multi-user PCB design environments that allow many engineers around the world to collaborate on the same design: it’s multi-processing/multi-threading of engineering activity as much as database updates and algorithms. Similar developments are taking place in simulation, verification, FPGA design, library development and verification, etc…

If you are interested in taking part please contact me, I am looking for folks willing to share stories of real practices and real issues. The format is a “kitchen table” discussion that I will facilitate to make sure that everyone has a chance to participate. I plan to blog about the sessions but any attendees are welcome to blog as well. I am still finalizing the details but it looks like we will have some interesting stories from:

  • ClioSoft and the practical use of revision control in multi-site designs.
  • Magma: a view from the top on running a multi-site business supporting global design teams.
  • A Synopsys Lynx user on what flow management has done for multi-site collaboration

The Birds of a Feather session should also prove quite interesting. Here is the description I submitted as a part of the application:

Many design teams use project health as a way to manage trade-offs between development time, cost, and quality. Traditional methods like measure test coverage or measuring design stability are falling short because of fundamental changes that are occurring in electronic design. This session will discuss some of the top trends in design and the impact they have on tracking project health. It will include lightning talks by practitioners and a roundtable discussion by all attendees.

We will have 4-6 “Lightning Talks” that are three slides / three minutes that talk about real issues in managing the total health of a design project. Again still finalizing the details but so far it looks like we will hear from

  • Runtime Design on using information from flow management to assess project health
  • Achilles Test on using information from log files and other data sources to develop a holistic view of project health
  • Mentor Xtreme user on what it means when teams are editing around the clock and you can login anytime to see where the PCB project stands.

Please note that all of these sessions are evolving and while the focus will not change, there may be new or different issues presented at each.

These sessions are open to anyone with a DAC badge. Entrance to Synopsys Conversation Central will be through a separate entrance from their primary booth entrance and will be on a a first come first serve basis. The capacity of the room is ten. The Birds of a Feather room can hold several dozen but please let me know if you plan to attend, or would like to give a lightning talk. We had a great Birds of a Feather on blogging at ICCAD and another one last DAC and I believe that this session highlight another set of emerging issues in an informative way.

Craig Shirley on “Negotiating with Key Accounts” Tue-Jun-16 in Sunnyvale

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

steaming hot coffee and serious conversationCraig Shirley, VP of Sales at Apache Design Solutions has attended a couple of Bootstrapper Breakfasts™ in 2009 and always gives very practical advice on sales and negotiation issues. No surprise, he has more than two decades of experience in sales and sales management and has negotiated more than 100 deals with key accounts. He is joining Tuesday June 16 in for the Sunnyvale breakfast to talk about his experiences, some lessons learned, and an answer any questions on deal and negotiation situations attendees may be contemplating or in the midst of.

I sat down with him earlier this week and got a preview of coming attractions. He advises startup teams that preparation is essential and the negotiation with a key account begins with the very first meeting. Craig will outline an approach to negotiating with major accounts that focuses on maximizing both revenue and profit over the lifetime of the relationship, something that bootstrappers need to manage very carefully. His focus will be less on tactics and more on how to differentiate your product on features other than price.

He believes that a startup should strive for two goals in negotiations with early customers:

  1. Maximize near term Average Selling Price / Unit Price
  2. Maximize long-term Annual Contract Value

Craig outlined three key requirements for success:

  • You have to target mission critical problems that the prospect is facing, preferably on more than one mission critical project or initiative.
  • You need to be clear on what aspects of you product provide them with compelling value, value that they are not able to gain from alternatives/competitors (don’t forget that the status quo can frequently be a competitor in its own right).
  • You need to align your engagement and sales efforts with the customer’s buying process, typically by identifying a compelling event or upcoming unavoidable deadline (e.g. taxes are due, industry transition, new project starting).

We have two seats left for our Bootstrapper Breakfast™ 7:30 at Coco’s in Sunnyvale on Tuesday: please register if you plan to attend.

We are running five breakfasts a month now, if this Tuesday isn’t convenient or gets full, consider another:

Update July 2: Craig’s slides are available here
Account Plan Overview

Slide is copyright Craig Shirley 2009

  • ASP = Average Selling Price
  • ACV = Annual Contract Value

We’ve Been Recognized by EE Times as a Trusted Sources Blog

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

We have been invited to join the “EE Times Trusted Sources” list of blogs. At the discretion of EE Times editors a blog post may be selected from one recently published and a capsule summary placed in their “Trusted Sources” area. EET has characterized the section as follows.

This section features posts from around the Web by authors with passion, integrity, authority, and community support in our industry. Our Trusted Sources are not only prominent industry bloggers specifically identified by EE Times — but also influencers who have earned the trust of our community. With Trusted Sources our goal is to provide the platform to activate and engage in dialogue, and nurture conversations for all participants–beyond just our own voices

A link to the full blog post will be appended. They have selected the recent “Interview With John Sanguinetti” post for our first appearance there.

Trusted Sources Blog logo from EET

If following the link from EE Times is what has brought you here please take a look at other interviews with entrepreneurs in our Founder Story posts.

Interview with John Sanguinetti

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in EDA, Founder Story, skmurphy

Co-founder and chief technical officer of Forte Design Systems, John Sanguinetti talks about his experience of turning an idea into a business. He was the principal architect of VCS, the Verilog Compiled Simulator, and was a major contributor to the Verilog’s resurgence in the design community. He has 15 publications and one patent. He also developed the Verilog Online Training course. He holds a PhD in computer and communication sciences from the University of Michigan, 1977.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about your background?

I worked for several computer manufacturers: DEC, Amdahl, ELXSI, Ardent, NeXT, doing first performance analysis and later design verification. My PhD was in Computer Science (operating system design methodology), not Electrical Engineering. In 1991, I left NeXT and started Chronologic Simulation, the company that made VCS. VCS was the product of several technologies: language compiling, logic simulation, design verification, and performance analysis. We sold Chronologic to Viewlogic in 1994.

Q: What insights did you take away from the sale of Chronologic to Viewlogic?

  • Take your time. We got rushed into doing the deal and didn’t take enough time to get to know the acquiring company.
  • When a smaller company is acquired by a larger one, expect that the smaller company will lose its identity and disappear. If that’s not what you want, don’t do the deal.
  • Corporate culture matters, and it starts at the top.

Q: As a result of the sale you were subject to a non-compete in EDA until 1998. In California non-competes are enforceable when they involve the sale of a business, on the theory that the seller is reducing the goodwill associated with the company being sold. What advice would you have for entrepreneurs contemplating the sale of their company to a larger firm?

A non-compete agreement is perfectly justifiable, but it should not be too long. Mine was four years, and that was about twice as long as it should have been. It should really be up to the acquiring company to make you want to stay, rather than having a legal agreement forcing you to stay, or at least not compete. I was never going to make a product to compete with VCS –– I loved it. However, I would have liked to do other things in EDA after leaving Viewlogic, and I couldn’t do that for several years.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about what led you to found CynApps: what problem or situation motivated you?

Chronologic and VCS was a great learning experience. I learned that there were two big problem areas in EDA––logic verification and logic synthesis. I also knew that the change in level of abstraction from gates to RTL was a great improvement in both design efficiency and verification efficiency, and that was enabled by logic synthesis. I was familiar with behavioral modeling from my verification days, and I was familiar with different levels of abstraction in system design from my graduate school days. It was quite apparent that the industry would undergo another change in level of abstraction, and that would again depend on synthesis.

In 1998 I got together with Andy Goodrich and Randy Allen to start CynApps, the company that is now Forte Design Systems. We set out to first create a higher level design environment rich enough to be usable, and then to create a synthesis product that would produce RTL from higher level designs.

Q: Where is the firm today?

Forte Design Systems is the result of two mergers, first CynApps and DASYS, then CynApps and Chronology. The company is now 11 years old. The original vision of high-level design is unchanged. The high-level design environment morphed from C++/Cynlib to C++/SystemC, which was a change in form, but not function. The Cynthesizer, our synthesis product, has been in customers’ hands for over six years now, and there are quite a few end products –– cameras, TVs, printers, and even cars –– which have chips designed either in part or in whole with SystemC and Cynthesizer.

Q: What are some key lessons you have learned?

I have re-learned the value of focus.

When we started CynApps, we knew there was no point in making a high-level synthesis program if no one was writing high-level code to synthesize. That meant that we had to develop and promote a design environment and also develop and sell the synthesis product. This was beyond the resources of a startup. We didn’t really start making progress on the synthesis product until we switched our input from Cynlib to SystemC, and let other people promote the design environment. If I had it to do over again, I would have gone with SystemC originally and done nothing but work on the Cynthesizer.

Having too much money can be a distraction. There is a real value to being lean –– it forces you to stay focused. The single biggest mistake I made with CynApps/Forte was spending too much money before the product was ready.

Q: How have you changed since you started?

One surprising way I’ve changed is that I have become even more optimistic than I was before. You have to be optimistic to start a company, and I’ve always been a glass half-full kind of person. But I have become even more-so over the years. Chronologic was a success, and Forte is an emerging success. After 11 years, and surviving through two bubbles, I think we can say that Forte has been a success, even though our overall impact on the industry has not reached its peak yet. On a personal level, I’ve had to become much less of a technical contributor than I used to be as I’ve gotten older.

Q: What key skill or experience did you lack when you started that has caused you the most problem?

When I started Chronologic, my biggest lack was understanding the EDA industry. I did not realize the staying power Verilog had as a design language, and this caused me to underestimate the importance of Chronologic and VCS. We could have stayed independent a lot longer, and I would have grown a lot more. When I started CynApps, I had never raised money and run a venture-backed company before. I made several mistakes as a result, trying to do too much, too soon, which cost a lot of money.

Q: What were some things that were “too much, too soon”?

I hired marketing and sales people before we had a product that was generally useful. This was when we were trying to sell the Cynlib/C++ design environment, before the Cynthesizer was finished. They were frustrated, the customers we did have were confused, and we drained our cash. We should have stayed in product development until the synthesizer was ready, let other people promote the C++ design environment, and developed sales resources organically.

Q: How do you tell when a product is ready? Where is money well spent before a product is ready?

I am not sure there is a general answer to when you know the product is ready. At Chronologic, we knew it was ready when it ran a particularly large model from Sun. At Forte, we knew Cynthesizer was ready only after it had actually been used to produce working silicon. While you are in product development, money should only be spent on engineering and market development. Market development basically means go talk to customers, tell them what you are doing, let them tell you if they like it, and repeat. It doesn’t take a lot of resources to do that, but it is very important.

Q: What are the two or three things that you have been able to accomplish that you take the most pride in or satisfaction from?

The success of VCS in the market is by far my most satisfying accomplishment. In a few years, I hope that Cynthesizer will rate up there in the same category. There is nothing like knowing that engineers have used your product to make the products that define our age. There is still something magical about your laptop computer, your camera, your iPhone, and your satellite HDTV and DVR. Knowing that your work made those things possible is really gratifying. When I bought a camera at Fry’s for my daughter, I could tell her that a chip inside was made using Cynthesizer. She didn’t much care, she just thought the face recognition feature was neat, but for me, it was a real kick. I think everyone in the EDA industry feels that way to some degree.

Q: What has been the biggest surprise? What was one key assumption you made, perhaps even unconsciously, that has caused the most grief?

The most surprising thing I learned was how hard a problem high-level synthesis is. There are many more degrees of freedom in synthesis than there are in simulation. If I had known that it would take eight years to get a mature product on the market, I doubt that I would have embarked on the project (and I doubt that I could have raised money to do it).

Q: What development, event, or new understanding since you started has had the most impact on your original plan? How has your plan changed in response?

Surprisingly, Forte’s business plan has changed very little since the founding of CynApps (except the time frame). The only real change we made was in going from Cynlib to SystemC. While we felt that Cynlib was more elegant than SystemC, the value of a standard is undeniable. We should have tried to influence SystemC from within sooner than we did. Andy Goodrich, who was the original author of Cynlib, is now the principal developer of SystemC.

Q: As we start to wrap up I wanted to ask you a personal question if I may. You are a cancer survivor. How has that changed your outlook on life?

Being diagnosed with cancer is a life changing experience for everyone who goes through it. You pretty quickly end up asking yourself what you are doing with your life, and if that is what you really want to be doing. I came to the conclusion that I was doing what I want to be doing –– I like EDA, I like small companies, I like our technology, and I like the people I work with. The only real change I made was to slow down a little and take more time off, but it has been a quantitative change, not a qualitative one.

Q: Any final remarks or suggestions for entrepreneurs?

It’s easy to give advice to first-time entrepreneurs. Lots of people will do it. Some of it is even useful. In a technical field like EDA, understanding the problem, and understanding the technology are prerequisites.

This industry is all about credibility. When you speak, you have to know what you are talking about. To be successful, you have to have credibility, and for that, you have to be a techie at heart. With credibility comes vision. If you know what you know, and understand what you are trying to do and why, then you can successfully resist the forces that will inevitably try to change your course.

Don’t believe the conventional wisdom that your startup needs a “seasoned business professional” to step in and run the company at some point. This is part of the VC formula, and it seldom works in EDA. The guy with the vision, and the credibility, is the guy for the job, and that is you. All the other stuff can be learned on the job.

For more information on John Sanguinetti

Update June 2: Welcome EE Times Readers. This post was selected as our first EETimes “Trusted Sources” Blog post. If you found this interview useful, we have other interviews with entrepreneurs in our Founder Story posts.

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