John Sanguinetti on an EDA Startup’s First Product

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

John Sanguinetti was the founder and CEO of Chronologic Simulation, a startup that developed a compiled code approach to Verilog simulation. I am working on an interview with John and came across a very interesting position statement he gave as a part of a panel at DAC 98 called “The EDA Startup Experience: The First Product.

The key ingredient to launching a successful EDA startup is customers.

Having a particular type of customer in mind, and a particular customer if possible, and knowing what their needs are is the key. In my case the original customer prototype was myself, since I had been a design verification engineer and used Verilog for regression testing. Very early on, we identified a particular customer, Sun, to be our target customer. We figured that if we made Sun happy, we would make other people happy, too. This turned out to be true.

We also identified the problem we were solving–simulation speed. We focused almost entirely on that, from company slogan (The Fast Verilog Company), to advertising, to customer benchmarks. The acceptance criterion for our product in competitive benchmarks was always “how much faster is it than the competition.” This focus was used internally in making design decisions as it was externally in  positioning the company and product against competition.

If there is anything that can be generalized from Chronologic’s experience it is the value of a single focus on a real customer problem.

Why Conferences Persist: DAC Will Be Here in 2020

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in EDA, skmurphy

Daniel Nenni has a thought provoking first post on his new blog “The Mathematics of EDA.” He suggests that many EDA markets segments are “winner take all” in the manner of a poker pot, and that DAC is in need of reform to continue to be a good deal for larger EDA companies.  He offers two proposals: ban large booths and segregate the show floor by market segments. The first could be achieved unilaterally by the vendors themselves;  the second is worth more consideration but it may be hard to discern, much less agree on, the emerging segments.

Fundamentally a trade show is a stag hunt (see “cultivating a community” for more on this paradigm)  It’s an effort by a collection of firms to create a larger shared opportunity that even when divided yields them a larger benefit than if they prospected separately. Any one hunter or set of hunters can defect from the larger hunt and either hunt on their own or form a smaller hunting party, but if they would have been better off with a smaller share of a larger pie, at some point they will return (for example, a slimmed down Cadence is re-committing to DAC).

I think it’s important to remember that EDA suppliers normally have little market power: the top 25 or so  customers are larger than any of the EDA firms, and once you leave the top 10 EDA firms the bottom 97% are smaller than probably 90% of the buyers (by total spend not firm count). There are many multi-billion dollar semiconductor and system houses (there many multi-billion dollar divisions: e.g. does TI Europe always follow TI US?) and at the moment Synopsys is the only true one billion dollar EDA firm (Mentor and Cadence can be included if we allow for rounding up).

Unlike a poker pot, few EDA markets are winner take all. At a minimum it’s at least high-low game with two winners and there is typically room for at least one if not two other players. There are some exceptions (e.g. license management) but because the customers want to differentiate they are normally willing to support two or four vendors in a segment.

Trade shows are a fantastic deal for startups.
You can put your entire team in a booth (in shifts if it’s a multi-day show) and talk to many real prospects for as long as they will listen. This does not mean I believe that DAC is by any means perfect the way that it is (e.g. see “Seven Tips for Encouraging Bloggers to Write About A Conference“), just that trade shows are inherently valuable for startups, and startups will be a part of Design Automation until they repeal Moore’s Law.

Dan talks about events like SNUG, CDN Live, and Music competing against DAC, it’s true to some extent but these shows are limited in what they can ultimately accomplish. They are great events for customers and they allow larger vendors to have real user groups with real dialog. But they don’t allow the major firms to engage non-customers, either in existing or new segments. And while customer intimacy enables evolutionary innovation, non-customers are where important changes and disruptive innovation often start.

It’s also important in the leading edge of Design Automation for early customers to meet the vendor team and form a direct impression of their credibility and trustworthiness. One of the largest risks a firm faces in working with a startup is how the startup will perform when things go wrong. Nothing new ever works. In fact, because major EDA customers are often seeking maximum differentiation from each other, they want to engage before the tools are fully baked so that they can start down the learning curve and be prepared to take full advantage when they do work.

This is not an excuse for poor quality tools, but a property of emerging technologies and early markets. Smart customers double buffer: they run two or three toolsets or versions in parallel to shield themselves from both shortfalls in capability in mature tools and anticipated errors in new tools. This is actually an argument for more complex shared configuration management (with automated rollback embedded in the delivery/upgrade process) of tool versions, libraries, and IP blocks between various parties in the capability delivery chain than it is for SaaS. Because major EDA customers are seeking differentiation, they want their own custom flow from unique configurations of off the shelf software.

Net net, even if the top six EDA firms pull out, DAC will continue: there will still be 300 smaller firms with an amazing collection of new tools left. That’s a big enough draw to attract decision makers from many if not most of the major and mid-tier customers. 300 or so startups and small firms each paying 5-10K for a booth generates enough money to fund a decent show–50 firms paying 5K would–and certainly an innovative one.

And EDA customers will continue to require innovative tools that allow them to differentiate from their competitors. Few customers will bet all future designs on one company–even if it’s Synopsys–and even if one firm does, it’s competitors lose nothing by at least evaluating, if not spending enough to keep one or two competitors alive in each segment.

EDA Roundup: 100+ EDA Blogs, Jim Hogan, Wally Rhines

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in EDA, skmurphy

100+ EDA Blogs: I have updated the “Bloggers Covering Design Automation” list so that it now has over 100 listed. I think remain on track for 500 blogs by 2011 as I had predicted in “What Happens when 70 EDA Blogs Become 500 in 2011.” It’s clear that this will create a number of opportunities for new aggregation sites.

Jim Hogan is interviewed in “Follow The Money (And Lose The ‘E’ In EDA.” it’s  a recap of his guest post “Jim Hogan on IP” in EDA Graffiti. It’s eight minutes and worth a listen. Two key points:

  • Private company consolidations because you have alignment on values and valuations have collapsed in a recession so no argument on price.
  • Possible federation of IP companies around a common channel.

One key point he made in the blog post was “In my opinion, there is a substantial untapped System-Level IP opportunities in block level interconnect and memory control–the architecture through which IP is integrated and IP interoperation is achieved.” Hogan also had a long interview in December with Peggy Aycinena as “The Audacity of Design” that’s worth reading.

Wally Rhines had a great keynote at DesignCon 2009 “Common Wisdom Versus Reality in the Electronics Industry” with a couple of key points:

  • 1990’s growth rates in teens, average for last ten years about 5%.
  • Top three vendors maintain 70-75% market share for least 30 years.
  • VC’s continue to invest $200-300 million, this may have changed in 2008/9
  • About 50 new EDA startups created every year
  • “Recessions are the time that the greatest innovations occur because they have to occur.”
  • EDA revenue has “consistently been 2% of IC revenue for the last two decades.”

Other coverage

I am still looking for a copy of the slides.

EDAC CEO Forecast for 2009

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

I attended the EDAC 2009 CEO forecast tonight and what follows are some quick impressions.

Rick Carlson's picture from Verific website I got there just as the event started and the Lincoln High School String Quartet was playing one of the Brandenburg concertos, and playing it very well. Room J at the San Jose convention center has an 18′  high ceiling which gave the music an ethereal quality. I ran into Rick Carlson, who was one of the founders of EDAC–Dave Millman being his partner in crime, you would think you could learn that from the EDAC website–and someone I have done a lot of business with when I was on the “buy side” at various semiconductor and systems houses. I said to Rick, “Oh no, I’ve been in a fatal car crash and you must be one of the five people I meet in EDA Heaven.” It had been too long since I had seen him last and I always appreciate his informed perspective on the industry.

Update March 3: Slides, audio, and video are available at

Yatin Trivedi on the Value of Coopetition

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in EDA, Rules of Thumb, skmurphy

Yatin Trivedi has been in EDA for more than 25 years, he is currently the senior director for strategic industry alliances at Magma Design Automation Inc. What follows is a long excerpt from an opinion piece he wrote for today’s EET on Cadence decision to shrink the size of the Connections Program (bold added). It’s one of the clearest statements of the value of partner programs that I have read.

The motivation for a partnership program in any company is to better serve the customers beyond one’s ability. Although true in every industry, let’s stick to EDA vendors and chip designers to understand this better. Chip designers need design implementation, verification and analysis tools; they need various IP cores, standard cell and I/O libraries, memory compilers; they also need design services, foundry services and many more “back-end” functions to manage the production side of their hard work.

There is no single supplier to chip designers who meets all the requirements. Even when the best design implementation tools come from one vendor, verification tools are provided by another vendor and IP is delivered by multiple other vendors. Every design team has a “hodgepodge” of tools, IP and other environment helpers to make the whole flow tick. When something goes wrong, two or more vendors must work together to help the design team. Hence, the need for interoperability, reference flows, cooperation and partnership program.

For large vendors, such a program is also an excellent way of influencing smaller vendors. If one tool is feeding data into another tool, one can use a proprietary or a standard format for data exchange; or, one can use an API for tighter integration. It is much better to grow the ecosystem so the entire user base grows with it. For most us, that means working with open standards and actively promoting interoperability rather than pushing proprietary formats. We compete on superior algorithms, tool implementation, ease-of-use, and customer support; not by closing doors on others and protecting our turf through proprietary barriers.

Coopetition,” far beyond healthy competition, grows the entire industry and creates win-win-win for partners and mutual customers. It requires a mindset and a long-term management commitment. Short-term views and protective behaviors are doomed to fail. We don’t have to go far to see how leaders in similar industries are behaving; TSMC announced its OIP program with a sound win-win-win proposition earlier this year. This is what differentiates winners from losers.

Some background links:

  • Deepchip Nov-20-2008 “Can You Smell the Mendacity?
    Three days before the renewal date, Cadence evicted 48 EDA companies from their “Connections” program.
  • EET Nov-24-2008 Cadence Boots Dozens of Firms from Partnership Program
    Beleaguered EDA vendor Cadence Design Systems has removed a number of companies from membership in its Connections program, a collaborative effort the company maintains to support third-party software suppliers that offer complementary tools
  • EET Nov-25 2008 “Cadence Exec Downplays Connections Controversy
    In an interview with EE Times, Pankaj Mayor, group director of business enablement at Cadence, said membership in the Connections program is fluid and that the list of member companies changes constantly. On a continual basis, companies drop off as they are acquired, decide the program no longer has value to them, or are denied membership extension when it is determined continuing partnership does not benefit Cadence, Mayor said.

I think Pankaj Mayor slipped on the last quote and told the truth instead of saying “does not benefit Cadence’s customers” but now and then a little honesty never hurts. You also have to be worried when your company is described as “beleaguered” in an EET article.

Net Net for EDA startups: unless you have several customers in common who are willing to sponsor you for the program I wouldn’t waste any time applying to Connections.  Cadence will listen to its customers and that’s the only thing that will get you into or keep you in a program like this one. None of the major players (e.g. Cadence, Mentor, Synopsys) are interested in helping your firm get established in the marketplace or seeing you prosper. They are not necessarily against you but they are not for you. If you can get a few customers who want your solution to work better with an incumbent, and are willing to go to bat for you then rely on them to get you into the program.

As of this evening a check of the Cadence Connections website reveals the following 100 companies in the program: Actel Corporation, ADIVA Corporation, Advantest Corporation, Aldec, Inc., Altos Design Automation, American Computer Aided Engineering (ACAE), ANSYS Inc., Applied Simulation Technology, Arithmatica, Inc., Artwork Conversion Software, Asset Intertech, Atrenta Inc., Azuro, Inc., Berkeley Design Automation, Inc., Bluespec, Inc., Cadalist-Enterprises,LLC, CAE Consulting, Calypto Design Systems, Inc, Carbon Design Systems, Certess, Inc., CFD Research Corporation, ChipVision Design Systems AG, ClioSoft Inc., Concept Engineering GmbH, CopperCAD Design Inc., Coupling Wave Solutions S.A. (CWS), Coventor, Inc., CST GmbH, DAFCA, Inc., Dassault Systemes Enovia Corp., Design Advance Systems, Inc., DFM, EDXACT SA, Elgris Technologies, Inc., Engineering DataXpress, Fenix Design Automation, GateRocket, Inc., Genesys Testware, Inc., Gradient Design Automation Inc, Helic S.A., Hummingbird Ltd, IC Manage, Inc., In2Fab Technology Limited, Integrand Software, Inc., Intellitech Corp., Interra Systems, Inc., Knowlent Corporation, Library Technologies, Librato, Inc., LogicVision Inc., Lorentz Solution, Inc., Lynguent, Inc., MethodICs LLC, Micrologic, Inc., MODECH Inc., Modelithics, Inc., Nangate A/S, Nano Integrated Solutions, Inc., National Instruments, OEA International, Omnify Software, Orora Design Technologies, Inc., PDF Solutions Inc., Perception Software, Perfectus Technology Inc., Phoenix Design Systems, Physware, Inc., Pinebush Technologies, Inc./S3, Productivity Engineering GmbH, Prolific, Inc., PTC, Pulsic Limited, PwrLite, Inc., Sagantec, Inc., Sequence Design, Inc., Shocking Technologies, Signal Integrity Software, Inc., Silicon Frontline Technology, Inc., Silvaco International, SKILLCAD, Inc., SoftMEMS, Sonnet Software, Inc., SpringSoft, Inc., Stratosphere Solutions, Inc., STX Cadware, Synopsys, Syntest Technologies, Inc., Taray, Inc, Test Insight Ltd, Test Systems Strategies, Inc., The MathWorks, Inc., TOOL Corporation, TransEDA Systems Ltd, Transitive Corporation, Valor Computerized Systems, Inc., Veritools, Inc., YDC Corporation, Z Circuit Automation, Zeland Software, Inc., and Zocalo Tech, Inc.

Update Dec 10: it appears that Intellitech and Tool Corporation are both still in business but have been dropped from the Cadence website in the last two weeks.

Disruptive Tools Can Stall At Group Boundaries

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Demos, EDA, Rules of Thumb, skmurphy

Interesting web site demo at by the folks at Altium. Unlike any PCB demo I have ever seen and an interesting use of self-deprecating humor to talk about the challenges of linking FPGA, Board, and Mechanical design. Two time coded remarks

  • at 2:25 “We did what any traditional EDA company would do, we denied and avoided the problem.”
  • at 2:50 “After offering the same thing as everyone else for a while, we decided to grow some bollocks and actually solve this properly.”
  • Followed by a sequence of 3D views of PCB design–not the traditional a birds eye view–that allow you to more easily judge height interaction issues.

Altium is an Australian company–you may know them as Protel–that does about US$50M in revenue. I caught this link on the Mentor communities site in the comments by “pcb_man” on a post by John Isaac “Collaboration Across the Product Development Process.”

Based on a number of efforts to foster collaboration between Mechanical and PCB design teams in the past, I suspect that there will be significant cultural issues to be worked out to enable real time MCAD/ECAD integration and it’s attendant quality and time to market benefits. Loosely coupled toolsets in both domains allow groups to work more autonomously, even if the schedule impact is negative. Anytime you see a new tool that can redraw decision making and political boundaries, the barriers to adoption have more to do with changes in perceived level of control than shortcomings in the actual solution.

I have developed a rule of thumb for introducing new systems: the difficulty is proportional to the cube of the number of “silos” or distinct team/administrative boundaries you had to cross to get to an initially viable solution. For example

  • 0 boundaries crossed: only adjust the workflow within a singe team or work group, leaving external inputs and outputs unchanged (except that you hope they have fewer errors or lower latency or can handle more complexity).
  • 1 boundary:  both sides have to want to change or one group has to be convinced to either supply a new input or accept a different output. This gets attempted unilaterally a lot in the form of
    • “if you will only give us this new input our jobs will be easier” If the two groups don’t share a common reward structure there is always a sense of “What’s in it for me?”
    • “You have to use our new form/system to make requests” You mean I can’t pick up the phone or send e-mail? Let’s see what kinds of crises get manufactured.
    • “We can no longer give you this data or output, our new system doesn’t support it” Well then you may be spending a lot of time doing manual work-arounds until you get that fixed.
  • 2 boundaries: 23 = 8 times harder. There are several different ways that three groups can merge together. If you can turn this into two pairwise transactions it’s much easier. Only possible if all three unhappy and willing to change.
  • 3 boundaries: 33 = 27 times harder. I have only seen four groups come together in response to things like a corporate commitment to pass an ISO 9000 audit or satisfy SOX. Even then it’s much easier to focus on pairwise changes  in the context of an overall plan for evolution.

Plan For Customer Reference as Much as Payment

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Consulting Business, EDA, skmurphy

JL Gray left a short but thought provoking comment on yesterday’s post  about customer reference, “Negotiate the Level of Reference in Parallel with Price and Others Terms and Conditions.”

Asking for references is something I’ve never felt especially comfortable with (gasp – what if they say no!) but can be crucial in getting your foot in the door with a new client. You’ve done a good job categorizing the types of references and describing how one might go about including the possibility of a reference in an initial contract. It seems like most of the above would work for product companies, but would be more difficult for service companies. Any thoughts on that?
Thanks Sean, JL

I wouldn’t start by asking for a reference, I would ask for feedback on the quality of your services and the business results that you enabled. If it’s positive you then have the basis for asking for a reference. If it’s negative then you have a chance to remedy and ask after they are satisfied.

We do most of our work with early stage software firms. They often have to wrap their technology in a thick protective blanket of services to protect their customers from jagged cuts by the rough edges of tomorrow. So to their early customers a young software firm can look as much like a consulting company as a technology company.

One of the key concerns that early customers have about a new company’s offering is not whether it works–they know “nothing new ever works” from Secrets of Consulting

The first line of defense is accepting that the new system willfail, possibly in several ways. When I find myself thinking, “I must have this change because I can’tafford failures,” then I’m in big trouble. If I can’t afford some failures, a new system won’t help. And neither will an old one.

Nothing new ever works, but there’s always hope that this time will be different.

What’s harder for them to assess is the level of commitment to persevere through the normal challenges of new technology introduction so that they don’t get a dent in their career. One of the ways that they make that assessment is your past performance and the best way to substantiate that is through customer references and testimonials.

I think that the suggestions I made yesterday would be appropriate for consulting to a large firm or a public firm. It’s very reasonable to address up front how you can talk about the engagement and ask them up front for an honest quote, endorsement, testimonial, or joint technical paper as an outcome. Certainly asking for a LinkedIn endorsement after a long engagement is very reasonable.

One other thing to consider is to have another member of your firm do a periodic ‘quality check’ on how the engagement is progressing, certainly at key milestones or deliverables. One reason to use someone else is that sometimes a customer may be more candid with a third party than they will with you directly (it’s also more credible when another member of your firm has a discussion about what is going well and less well as it implies a corporate commitment to customer satisfaction even if there are aspect of your performance that they are not happy with).

We will also do these “customer view” exercises when we are helping a new client build or verify a positioning. We not only interview customers but as many “near misses” or prospects that proceeded some way forward in the sales process and then dropped out as we can. We have uncovered examples of “reference customers” who were unhappy (and shouldn’t have been used as a reference until their issues had been addressed) as well as novel uses for a product, different perspectives on how to talk about a product and what the true benefits were.

I wrote about some aspects of this about a year ago in “Best Feedback From Early Customers is a Story” and built on Peter Cohan‘s formulation of four categories of customer success story (with the applicability to consulting engagements in parentheses).

  • Vision: what were their reasons when they gave you the purchase order (or statement of work).
  • Initial Implementation (perhaps first or second milestone in a consulting engagement) what are the initial benefits and problems they observed.
  • Consumed: what actually got used (what is the impact of your work on the overall project as it progresses)
  • Evolved: how did they ultimately use the solution (when they look back in a final project after action or they start the planning or kickoff  for the next project, how do they plan to use your services).

When you consider the introduction of a new methodology or a new project that is early in your support of a new technology, the reference that a customer can give you is often what will tip the balance for future work: both with that same customer and with other prospects with similar challenges.

An internal project plan that addresses not only how to manage the delivery of quality consulting services but their substantiation by your customer is therefore an important component of your long term business success.

The current economic downturn will only exacerbate technology firms’ risk aversion. This will increase the need for  references to complement your credentials and technical competence as demonstrated by technical papers and professional presentations.

EDA Bloggers’ BoF at ICCAD 2008 Wed-Nov-12 4-6pm in Fir Room

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

As I mentioned last month, there is an EDA Bloggers Birds of a Feather at the 2008 ICCAD Conference.

It will be this Wednesday November 12, 4-6pm in the Fir Ballroom. It’s listed in the ICCAD program as an additional meeting: EDA Bloggers’ Birds-of-a-Feather

If you are interested in learning more about blogging or how it’s affecting the evolution of the EDA industry, please attend and lend your ears and your perspective. There will be plenty of time for a serious conversation with a number of bloggers from different points on the EDA compass–users, vendors, journalists, consultants…

Please contact me if you are interested in attending and want to put some questions or topics on the list for the open discussion forum.


  1. Promote blogging in EDA / ASIC Design Industry
  2. Allow bloggers to meet and get to know one another in a community of practice setting.
  3. Educate interested parties, readers and others interested in blogging.


  1. Opening remarks Juan-Antonio Carballo (our sponsor for the event at ICCAD)
  2. One Minute intro by each attendee: Name, Company/Affiliation, Blog; Can Suggest Issues or Discussion Topics.
  3. Three minute Lightning Talks
  4. Open Discussion

Confirmed presenters (in alphabetical order by last name)

Cost: Free (since this a related event at ICCAD , it will not require ICCAD registration to attend).

There is a mailing list for EDA bloggers at It’s is a very low traffic (1-2 messages a month) moderated E-mail distribution list for announcements and other notices of general interest to EDA Blogging community. It’s intended to help coordinate Birds of a Feather and other events for bloggers at EDA related conferences and other venues.

Most folks are choosing to talk about different aspects of what they have learned from blogging. This is a good cross section of folks and their talks should jumpstart a variety of interesting discussions in the two hours that we have.
Related links on this blog

Other Blog coverage:

EDA Business Climate: A Retrospective

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in EDA, skmurphy

“The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.”
Winston Churchill

I think we are in the midst of a significant change in the structure of the EDA industry. I think we are going to see a change in the industry that will be as significant as the shifts from turnkey systems or engineering workstation centric solutions. First I would look back over some markers from the last seven years to provide a context for an assessment of the EDA business climate and prospects for the future.

Non-Customers Are Where Important Changes Often Start

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

There is a risk of complacency for start-ups (and even larger firms) who have achieved a level of security in their first niche. Markets change, consumer needs change, and you need to continue to explore opportunities to sell your offering to new customers–non-customers–even though it’s a much harder sales process than a renewal, upgrade, or follow on sale to an existing customer. Peter Drucker warns about this in an interview in February 2002 issue of Information Outlook (hat tip to Pauline Harris “Peter Drucker’s at it Again!“)

Companies may know a good deal about their customers. They know nothing, as a rule, about their non-customers — the people who should be our customers but buy from someone else. Why do they do that? And yet it is the non-customer where important changes always start first.

It’s consistent with a 1994 article he wrote for Harvard Business Review entitled “The Theory of the Business.” He offers department stores as a cautionary example of a set of firms who had high customer satisfaction but didn’t realize that they were losing share. There were not talking to any non-customers, assuming that they weren’t customers because they couldn’t afford to be when in fact tastes were changing.

I was reminded of the value of talking to non-customers by a September 16 blog post by Brian Bailey entitled “Bye Bye Cadence.” Recent events may have rendered the title unintentionally ironic but the article relates a conversation Brian had with some Cadence employees after he gave a talk at CDNLive! (the exclamation point is part of the name).

Afterwards I was talking with a group of Cadence employees. They said that the total cost to put on such a show was significantly less than what they usually had spent on DAC. In addition they did not have to constantly look over their shoulders to see if someone was listening in to their conversations and the quality of the people who attended was so much higher than the leads they got from DAC. One person asked if they thought Cadence would ever go back to DAC. The consensus answer was – I don’t see why we would ever want to return to DAC.

I left a comment on September 25 (I only mention this to be clear that I am not “piling on” after the recent executive exodus at Cadence) that I wanted to end here with as well.

There is always strong value in a user group and communicating privately with your current customers. Not enough EDA vendors do enough to actually have a conversation with their customers. Full points for Cadence in doing so at CDNLive!

A trade show like DAC allows you to interact with prospects–potential new customers. It’s also a bigger draw than a single vendor (or even single vendor ecosystem) show. To the extent that Cadence wants to launch new products that carry them beyond their current customers they will need to do more than CDNLive! style events.

Clearly Cadence is already shrinking on a revenue basis, I would suspect that avoiding trade shows and other forums that would allow them to interact with non-customers will only allow them to continue to shrink more cost effectively.

Update June 15: What a difference a few months make. Thanks to a comment by Grant Martin on Daniel Payne‘s recent blog post “DAC Transitions Over Time” I learned that Cadence has converted 2009 CDNLive into a series of webinars and is back at DAC with a much bigger footprint than 2008. In fact they are vectoring their customers to DAC for face to face meetings. See

CDNLive! conferences give Cadence technology users around the world an opportunity to exchange ideas with their peers as well as with Cadence technologists. However, the current global financial environment is impacting everyone in the electronics industry, including many of our customers. Fewer resources are available to dedicate to critical projects. And travel budgets are limited.

To better accommodate our customers, who have expressed concerns over their ability to travel and take time away from their desks, we have decided to host this year’s CDNLive! Silicon Valley event as a series of webinars. These webinars will be an excellent opportunity for users to share their work and present their papers to an even larger audience—and a wider range of their peers—than what was anticipated at the face-to-face conference.

Our presence at DAC in San Francisco in July will provide an opportunity to meet face-to-face with customers. And this year’s CDNLive! events in Japan, Taiwan, Israel, and India will proceed as planned. We feel the decision to deliver this year’s CDNLive! Silicon Valley as a series of webinars is the right way to help our customers achieve productivity, predictability, and reliability.

Further details on the Webinar Series schedule will be posted as available.

EDA Bloggers’ BoF at ICCAD 2008

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

Ed Lee and I have been pulling together another EDA Bloggers’ Birds of a Feather, this one at the 2008 ICCAD Conference. It will be on Wednesday November 12, 4-6pm in the Fir Ballroom. It’s listed in the ICCAD program as an additional meeting: EDA Bloggers’ Birds-of-a-Feather sponsored by IEEE CEDA and organized by Juan-Antonio Carballo of the IBM Venture Capital Group in San Mateo, CA.


  1. Promote blogging in EDA / ASIC Design Industry
  2. Allow bloggers to meet and get to know one another in a community of practice setting.
  3. Educate interested parties, readers and others interested in blogging.


  1. Opening remarks Juan-Antonio Carballo (our sponsor for the event at ICCAD)
  2. One Minute intro by each attendee: Name, Company/Affiliation, Blog; Can Suggest Issues or Discussion Topics.
  3. Three minute Lightning Talks (targeting 8-12 depending upon who volunteers)
  4. Open Discussion

If you are interested in giving a Lightning Talk (3 slides in 3 minutes) please contact me.

Possible Topics for Lightning Talks (many of these came from prep for DAC BoF)

  • Why I started a blog…and what I’ve learned since I started.
  • Blogging on topics that are not covered enough (e.g. DFT)
  • Online magazines, vendor communities, “DeepChip”, and blogs: what each is good for.
  • Blogging Standards Efforts
  • Tips for blogging Conferences
  • Good Topics that I really want to write about, but am afraid to.
  • How to build and track audience.
  • Pros and cons of comments.
  • Team blogging. (multiple authors contributing to one blog)
  • Micro-blogging: Twitter, Tumblr and others
  • Lessons Learned from Blogging
  • For readers: how to find and follow blogs.

Confirmed presenters (in alphabetical order by last name, this list will be updated as speakers are added)

You are also welcome to attend without giving a lightning talk, this will be an related event at ICCAD but will not require ICCAD registration to attend. I think we can support about eight to twelve lightning talks and still have time both for attendees to introduce themselves and plenty of discussion.

There is a mailing list for EDA bloggers at It’s is a very low traffic (1-2 messages a month) moderated E-mail distribution list for announcements and other notices of general interest to EDA Blogging community. It’s intended to help coordinate Birds of a Feather and other events for bloggers at EDA related conferences and other venues.

Please contact me if you are interested in attending and/or giving a talk. If you want to use slides (max 3) I will need them by November 5 (a week in advance) so that we can stage them on one computer for easy changes between speakers.

Related links on this blog

Other Blog coverage:

Update Wed-Oct-14: John Blyler has been added as a speaker, addressing “Blogging, a Publisher’s Dilemma” which will be a lightning talk on Staffer vs Guest bloggers, group bloggers to cover functional topics, ROI schemes, community building.

Update Wed-Oct-27: Rick Munden has been added as a speaker.

Opportunities for EDA Startups in Cadence’s Acquisition of Mentor

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in EDA, skmurphy

I researched an opinion piece for SCDSource about three weeks ago that is up on the site today at “How Cadence’s Mentor buy would impact EDA startups.” I start from the following premise:

I believe that the merger will be consummated, but that Cadence will not remain as one of the top three players in the industry within two to four years. I have three reasons:

  1. EDA is an R&D intensive business and it will be hard to retain talent in a hostile takeover. Moreover, there is considerable overlap in a number of product areas, which means that many Cadence employees will also be concerned for their continued employment, injecting uncertainty and slowing work on both sides of the merged company.
  2. Cadence is taking on significant debt and will have to focus on near term revenue at a time when design methodologies, development practices, and computing paradigms are all undergoing significant shifts. Their ability to nurture the new products they will need in two to four years will be limited.
  3. New customers are coming into the market as electronic systems incorporate more software at all levels of integration. Cadence’s ability to market and sell beyond the hardware engineering groups, and to invest ahead of revenue from relevant software teams, will be limited.

By coincidence today was the Cadence Q2 earnings call, available at (and transcript here: for the next week and then on the Cadence site. They have revised revenue downward for the year from $1.5 Billion to $1.12 Billion, with minimal profitability. One thing I had overlooked in the earlier analysis was that they have spent about $500 million buying back their own stock from the middle of last year through March of this year: stock that is worth perhaps 35-50% less now, and money that might have been used to offset the $1.1 Billion in borrowing they need to consummate the merger with Mentor.

As of today’s call they were still full speed ahead on merger plans, as of July 11 they have acquired  4.7 million share of Mentor (about 4.3% of the outstanding shares). With that possibility still very real, I want to highlight two key strategies that I also covered in the article:

  • Think longer term. Because Cadence/Mentor will be focused even more ruthlessly on near term revenue, now is the time to focus on long term opportunities and relationships.
  • Focus on revenue opportunities where turmoil at Cadence/Mentor will cloud the future of many products, and slow if not inhibit a competitive response until they determine who is in charge. You will more likely be able to snatch emerging technology areas where revenue opportunities are smaller from a Cadence/Mentor perspective but still very attractive for a startup.

Postscript Aug 1: Seeking Alpha has the Cadence quarterly earnings calls transcripts available for Q4/2005 onward here:

What Happens When 70 EDA Blogs Become 500 in 2011

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

I just added Cadence to the list of companies with blogs on my May 28 post “Bloggers Covering Design Automation.” I didn’t see any announcement but they appear to have re-designed their website in the last three or four weeks and now highlight a community of bloggers on their home page.

My simple projection is that within three years every EDA company, large or small, will have at least one blog, and EDA consulting firms of all sizes will add a blog to their website. So that says we are on track to grow from 70 to over 500. I base this in part on the speed on adoption of the web by EDA firms and what’s already happened for web startups and many other emerging technology spaces: entrepreneurs consider a blog a core component of their corporate identity.

Making sense of 500 feeds will be no easier than surfing across 500 television channels to find something new and worth reading. I mentioned David Lin’s experimental Netvibes page in my “Primer on Blogs for EDA Start-Ups” and it certainly represents a good start. But I think an opportunity exists for community lens approach similar to what Hacker News provides web entrepreneurs (which is different in some important but subtle ways from digg and reddit that allow it to avoid the death of the lowest common denominator topics migrating to the home page). Other models are certainly viable as well, based on forums, wikis, and new forms both emerging and yet to be invented.

Paul Saffo’s 1994 Wired article “It’s the Context Stupid” (also available on  makes the point that the value is as much in providing context as the raw content.

“It’s the content, stupid.” This catchy apothegm [is] now the mantra of an infant new media industry. […] As compelling as this phrase may be, it is also dead wrong. It is not content but context that will matter most a decade or so from now. The scarce resource will not be stuff, but point of view.
The future belongs to neither the conduit or content players, but those who control the filtering, searching, and sense-making tools we will rely on to navigate through the expanses of cyberspace.

One example of a hybrid model of journalism is what John Byler is doing at Chip Design magazine in adding 8 blogs to complement his print publication. I was particularly impressed by a recent post by Grant Martin on “Leibson’s Law in Action? Cadence returns to ESL with new synthesis tool” because he did something that is natural for a blogger and highly unusual for an article in an on-line paper or magazine: he links to whoever has the best information on the topic, even it’s a competitor to Chip Design. It’s not only a very useful summary that places several recent ESL announcements in context, but Martin links to the source material on-line, regardless of where it came from: EE Times, SCDSource, EDN, and Chip Design Mag. And he has comments from a number of key players ESL.
I was talking to a well respected EDA PR professional recently who was waiting for the EDA blogging ecosystem to sort itself out and pick a dozen “A” blogs so that it would resemble the good old days of print (and EDA PR could “return to normal”). I said I didn’t think that would happen because blogging uses links for context in a way that print didn’t (and can’t). On any given topic there may only be a dozen well respected bloggers, but there would be a lot of topics with different sets for each. It’s different when you have knowledgeable practitioners writing directly on the web.

I believe Grant Martin’s post is a harbinger for a very different kind of “sense-making mechanism” than both traditional EDA print journalism and the press release aggregation model that’s practiced on a number of websites.  Not necessarily better (or worse) but different.

We have time to get ready, and since we are all steering we may end up somewhere else. But I think 500 blogs (plus or minus 250) is likely by 2011 because it they don’t depend upon a business model transition: blogs are like weeds, they don’t require cultivation to thrive. I think they create a substrate that complements and potentially displaces the press release with the RSS/Atom feed as the quantum unit of information distribution for (social) media.

A Primer on Blogs for EDA Start-ups

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Blogging, EDA, Rules of Thumb, skmurphy

After I offered “7 Tips for Encouraging Bloggers to Write About a Conference,” Gabe Moretti, the editor of the DACeZine,  asked me to contribute an article on blogging (I guess that could have been my eighth tip). It appeared in the June 26 DACeZine. What follows is a version of the article appropriate for a blog post: same content, more links. I think these tips are actually useful for any software start-up.

History & Definitions

Blogs are a “new” social software technology that have been in use for more than a decade. The name “weblog” was coined by Jorn Barger in 1997 and shortened to “blog” in 1999 by Peter Merholz. Both describe a website with one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Permalink: each page or article has a permanent URL called a permalink that allows other sites to reference it uniquely for the life of the website. This inhibits link rot and allows useful references and backlinks to accumulate over time.
  • Reverse Chronology: there is normally an index that presents the articles in reverse chronological order (newest first) which answers the question “What’s New?”
  • Comments: each article has a footer that allows readers to add comments. Registration can be required to inhibit spam, but in effect, each article can have a forum thread associated with it.
  • Trackbacks: notifications to other blogs (and content management systems that accept them) that they have been referenced in a published article. These trackbacks may be appended as comments after the referenced article on the remote site to let readers know who else is referring to it.
  • Categories: may be defined in an ad hoc way for a site and appended as tags (metadata) for each article. Sometimes, these tags may be shared between blogs to facilitate easy reference about common events or issues.
  • Syndication Feeds: typically based on one or more versions of RSS and Atom, allow readers to aggregate content from many blogs. They are essentially a machine readable format of “What’s New” that tracks and displays a summary or the full text of the last few articles published.
  • BlogRoll: a list of other blogs that are suggested reading by the blog author(s).

There are many blogging systems and not all of them support all of these features. Not every blog has all of these features enabled, but a minimum feature set would normally include permalinks, a reverse chronological index, and syndication feeds.

EDA Blogs
There are more than 70 blogs relevant to Electronic Design Automation, and the first “EDA Bloggers Birds of a Feather” meeting was held at this year’s DAC. As a part of the preparation for that event, I developed a list of “Bloggers Covering Electronic Design Automation” that David Lin of Denali published on Netvibes.

Starting the Conversation
Tim O’Reilly has observed that a blog acts as a dial tone for a website: it signals a commitment for interaction and participation on the part of the authors. Current blogging activity substantiates that a start-up is open for business. This can be an issue when the website has not been updated for six months!

EDA software and consulting services both require an ongoing relationship for a customer to get full value out of the initial decision to engage. This means that a purchase decision, especially for start-ups, can look a lot like a hiring decision. By exposing your thinking and demonstrating your expertise on your blog, you allow your prospects to get to know you better even before they write that first email or pick up the phone. Whether they see you listed at a tradeshow, see an article you’ve written, or hear about you from a colleague, they will almost always check your website before contacting you. If you let them get to know you and proactively answer their likely questions, you allow them to make more productive use of their time and make your first conversation that much more useful for both of you.

Key Benefits From a Blog

  • Using permalinks for your content means that the highly linked articles accumulate a higher preference in search engines (e.g. Google) which means you are more likely to be found, especially if you are blogging about something of interest to your prospects.
  • Using feeds means that new articles will get into the search engine caches, where they can be found by prospects; in a matter of hours rather than waiting for an indexing spider to visit your site every two or three weeks.
  • A blog allows you to respond frequently and in real time to events, issues, and new information that are relevant to your prospects and your business. News releases still have a role but are better reserved for key communications.
  • A blog also replaces the “What’s New” page for your website with a much more powerful structure that’s better connected with other websites.

Tips for Better Blogging

  1. Plan ahead. Map out a calendar of subjects to cover one or two a week for the next month or two; this will help you focus on these topics in other media and help you avoid writer’s block.
  2. Offer Perspective. Don’t just rehash other articles, blog posts, and news stories. Add your own insights and expertise—and keep the content clear, focused and professional.
  3. Report. Tie your subject matter to topical events such as talks, conferences, seminars, or trade shows you’ve attended, adding your own insights from those events.
  4. Focus for effect. Pick a set of topics that are relevant to your business and your (prospective) customers. (For non-business-related topics, create a second personal blog.)
  5. Do it often. Shorter, more frequent posts are best (around 200 to 400 words and at least once a week). Try making just three points per issue relevant to your intended audience.
  6. Choose clear titles. Keep titles short and use words that are familiar and relevant to your readers.
  7. Cite references. Include links for your citations to increase your credibility and make your blog more useful, reliable and better integrated into the blogosphere.
  8. Write with Integrity. Disclose all relevant information about your financial interests in the topic and only write what you know to be true.

Seven Tips for Encouraging Bloggers to Write About A Conference

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

Since I am at DAC this week I will use the DAC website as a representative example.

  1. Add a blog that allows (moderated) comments and (moderated) trackbacks.
    DAC: Not yet.
  2. Give every session and every event a permalink.
    DAC: This is actually true for the last seven and a half conferences (back to 37th post conference site). The URLs are a little funky but here is a pointer to session 1 of the 39th DAC
  3. Give every session and every event trackbacks so that you can see who has blogged about them.
    DAC: Not Yet
  4. Add RSS/Atom feeds for both events and announcements.
    DAC: Not Yet
  5. Link every presenter’s name to their home page (blog, personal site, IEEE personal page, or other they supply) so that it’s easy to learn more about them. Add a link to their affiliated organization (college, university, firm, government entity, non-profit). I actually did this for the 1995 HDLCon (admittedly a smaller show than DAC) and it added a lot to your ability to do some quick background research.
    DAC: Not Yet
  6. Realize that you are writing a website first, with content that may re-purposed into e-mail newsletters and print. This means using hyperlinks to provide pointers to relevant information.
    DAC: Not yet; while the DACeZine is a great addition it’s an on-line magazine that obeys all of the strictures of print.
  7. Make Wifi available ubiquitously at the conference.
    DAC: Yes! (at least for the 45th at Anaheim Convention Center)

My One Sentence Summary of DAC

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

The emotional ambience at DAC (the Design Automation Conference) is what you get when you pour the excitement of a high school science fair, the sense of the recurring wheel of life from the movie Groundhog Day, and the auld lang syne of a high school re-union, and hit frappe.

Some related quotes–at least I believe them to be:

A glimpse is not a vision. But to a man on a mountain road by night, a glimpse of the next three feet of road may matter more than a vision of the horizon.
C. S. Lewis

Knowing is not understanding. There is a great difference between knowing and understanding: you can know a lot about something and not really understand it.
Charles Kettering

Knowledge comes by taking things apart: analysis. But wisdom comes by putting things together.
John A. Morrison

The first point of wisdom is to discern that which is false; the second is to know that which is true.

Maturity means reacquiring the seriousness one had as a child at play
Friedrich Nietzsche

Update July 14: I have joined  “DAC Fan Club” and reposted this there.

Bloggers Covering Electronic Design Automation

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

Note: this list updated to more than 200 at “EDA Bloggers 2009

Ever since EE Times laid off Richard Goering (and seemed like it was no longer committed to covering EDA) I have been meaning to map the EDA Blogosphere. When JL Gray suggested a Blogging Birds of a Feather at DAC (scheduled for Wednesday June 11 6pm in Room 201B in the Anaheim Convention Center) I volunteered to help him and Harry Gries organize it, along with David Lin and John Ford. Final details are being worked out but it looks like Steve Leibson, Grant Martin, and George Harper will also be giving 3 minute lightning talks on different aspects of blogging.

There is also an edabloggers Yahoo Group you can sign up for if you want to be notified of updates, if this one goes well we may facilitate others at appropriate EDA-related conferences.

So this event was the spur I needed to uncover about sixty bloggers covering some aspect of electronic design automation:

  1. Achilles Test
  2. Adventures in ASIC Digital Design
  3. All About EDA
  4. Amdahl’s Law
  5. Anablog
  6. Analog Insights
  7. ASIC Digital Arithmetic
  8. ASIC-System On Chip (SoC)-VLSI Design
  9. Brad Pierce’s Blog (EDA Category)
  10. Bugs Are Easy
  11. CAD and VLSI
  12. Cadence Blogging Community (many bloggers)
  13. Chips and BS
  14. Coaching Excellence in IC Design Teams
  15. Cool Verification
  16. CriticalBlue’s Common Thread
  17. Daniel Nenni’s Blog
  18. Darkling Wood
  19. Denali Memory Report
  20. Denali News
  21. Device Native
  22. DFT Digest
  23. Digital Electronics Blog
  24. Digital IC Design
  25. EDA Blog
  26. EDA Confidential 2.0
  27. EDA DesignLine
  28. EDA Geek
  29. EDA Graffiti (see also Green Folder)
  30. EDA Tools on Fedora
  31. EDA Thoughts
  32. EDA Weekly
  33. Ed Sperling
  34. Eric Bogatin
  35. ESL Chat
  36. ESL Edge
  37. The Eyes Have It
  38. Five Computers
  39. FPGA and DSP from Scratch
  40. FPGA and Structured ASIC Journal
  41. FPGA Blog
  42. FPGA Central
  43. FPGA Simulation
  44. FPGA World (in particular forums)
  45. Gabe on EDA
  46. Gary Smith EDA
  47. harry… the ASIC guy
  48. Industry Insights (Richard Goering)
  49. IC Design and Verification Journal
  50. Inside Protocol Verification
  51. IntelligentDV
  52. JB’s Circuit
  53. John’s Semi-Blog
  54. JTAG
  55. Kiran Bulusu’s Blog
  56. Koby’s Kaos
  57. Leibson’s Law
  58. Magic Blue Smoke
  59. Mannerisms
  60. Michael Sanie
  61. Multicore Programming Blog
  62. Nadav’s Tech Adventures (see also C-to-Verilog )
  63. NextGenLog
  64. Ninja ASIC Verification
  65. Oh, One More Thing
  66. On Cores
  67. On Verification: a Software to Silicon Verification Blog
  68. Pallab’s Place
  69. PLD DesignLine
  70. Practical Chip design
  71. Pradeep Chakraborty’s Blog
  72. Reconfigurable Computing
  73. Reconfigurable, Reconshmigurable (see also Impulse Accelerated Technology)
  74. The Sandbox
  75. Scalable Atomicity
  76. SCDSource
  77. Screaming Circuits
  78. Shrinking Violence
  79. Signal Integrity Tips
  80. SKMurphy
  81. Specman Verification
  82. Sramana Mitra on Strategy
  83. Standards Game
  84. State of the Media
  85. System Verification Blog
  86. Taken for Granted
  87. The Tao of ASICs
  88. Techdoer Times
  89. Tensilica News
  91. Think Verification
  92. To USB or Not to USB
  93. Travelling on the Silicon Road
  94. Trusster
  95. Turning Into Jim
  96. Verification Blog
  97. Verification Guild
  98. Verification Martial Arts
  99. Verification Vertigo
  100. Verilab Blog
  101. View From the Top
  102. VLSI Home Page
  103. The Wiretap
  104. Wizards of Microwave
  105. The World is Analog
  106. The Xuropean

What was surprising to me was how few companies had blogs, but I suspect that will change in EDA as it already has for Software as a Service and Internet/Web companies. If your blog is not on this list (or it’s on the list and you would like it taken off) please contact me. Bloggers and those interested in learning more about blogging are welcome at the DAC Blogging Birds of a Feather Wed June 11 6pm in Room 201B. Other posts about the event:

Update June 16: I continue to add to the list almost daily as overlooked bloggers E-mail me or leave comments. My plan is to keep this list updated here for at least another two or three months.

Update July 22: I added the Cadence blogging community to the list and blogged about “What Happens When 70 EDA Blogs Become 500 in 2011.

Update Oct 13: We are planning another EDA Bloggers Birds of a Feather at ICCAD see “EDA Bloggers’ BoF at ICCAD 2008

Updated Feb-15-2009: changed to a numbered list, re-organized all of the “The …” blogs so that they were indexed by second word in title. Removed Metric Driven Verification since Blogger reports “Blog not found.” There are now more than 100 EDA related blogs.

NuSym De-Cloaks 5

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in EDA, skmurphy

It’s been 18 months since I last wrote about NuSym, a hardy perennial in EDA that’s a testament to the unique value of venture funding in building an EDA company (Athena Design is another). Perhaps only a venture backed EDA startup can launch without a product or a customer (note to bootstrappers: please don’t try this at home). Some excerpts from today’s press release “Nusym Debuts with Focus on Intelligent Verification” follow:

LOS GATOS, Calif., May 14, 2008 — Nusym Technology, Inc. formally introduced itself today as a verification solutions provider targeting one of the most critical problems in electronic design: developing confidence in the design in a fraction of the time and resources of current methods. Nusym is focused on an “Intelligent Verification” approach that leverages design insight to automatically drive rapid verification closure.

No discussion of the most significant breakthrough in verification in the last decade (although the careers page still promises “the most exciting EDA opportunity in a decade”).

The company has raised $8 million of capital to date. Nusym’s investment funding comes from premiere firms such as Woodside Funds, Draper Richards, L.P., as well as prominent EDA veterans, including Lucio Lanza and John Sanguinetti.

That’s up from $6 million when Richard Goering interviewed Venk Shukla, Nusym’s CEO, in December 2006 on his pre-SCDSource EET blog.

Nusym’s technology is currently being evaluated on a number of leading edge designs at its semiconductor partners. Nusym will announce its flagship product at a later date.

Why did they launch? Can you have a launch if you can’t give your product a name–although DeNibulator has a nice ring to it–and can’t get a customer to stand up?

“We find Nusym to have a very promising verification technology. It can run on very large design blocks and target hard to hit coverage points”, said Dan Smith, Director of CAD for NVIDIA.

I had thought they were aiming for chip level verification. The phrase “very promising” doesn’t give much indication of when NVIDIA might become a customer. One the other hand it reads like something an engineering director would say, a lot of startups are tempted to stuff their positioning (“rapid verification closure” in the case of NuSym) into a customer’s mouth.
Net net, they’ve raised another $2M and are going to DAC, but it’s looking less and less like there is a pony in there.

Details as they reveal the translucent, like the excited ragged breath of school children clustered at the window for the first snow of winter exposes the hand prints left on the glass from the start of school.

Postscript July 30: Why the Athena Design link no longer works. In an article in today’s EE Times Athena Design Systems: websites down, numbers disconnected by Peter Clarke notes

EDA company Athena Design Systems Inc. (Santa Clara, Calif.), appears to have shut up shop.

Two websites used by the company, and , are now “under construction.” Telephone numbers are “disconnected or no longer in service.”

Athena was founded in 2003 by IC extraction expert Dimitris Fotakis. The company announced it had raised $4 million in venture capital funding in January 2007, bringing the total to $8.2 million. That round added PhillipsCapital and NTT Finance Corporation, to the company’s initial investors, who included Woodside Fund, Asset Management Company, and Draper Richards. The money was earmarked for the worldwide rollout of Athena’s first products.

Athena was included in the EE Times Silicon 60 version 6.1 list of companies to watch but dropped off version 7.0 of the list, published in February 2008.

Founder’s Story: Rick Munden of FMF & Epiphyte

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

I first met Rick Munden more than a decade ago when we were both managers attending an Electronic Design Process workshop. I ran into him last December at an SDForum Emerging Technologies SIG meeting and we renewed our acquaintance. I invited him to our Bootstrapper’s Breakfast since he was mulling his new company Epiphyte. This interview grew out of several conversations that we’ve had in the last year. They have been condensed, spell checked, and hyperlinked for your reading pleasure.

Q: You’ve been entrepreneurial since high school. Could you talk about your first company?

My first legal business was a newsstand in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood in 1965 when I was 15. I started it with a friend, Bob Katzman. It was a third kid’s idea but he was not inclined to follow through on it.

I sold my half of the business to Bob after about 16 months (and I was old enough to get a technical job). He grew the newsstand into a chain of bookstores over the following 20 years. Bob has written books about the newsstand and Chicago in that era and blogs at Different Slants.

Q: What were some of the key things you’ve learned from that?

The two things I took away from the experience were a respect for my customers–they are the most important part of any business– and the realization that retailing is not intellectually stimulating for me.

Q: You’ve also been involved in semiconductors, system design, and CAD/CAE for a number of years. What were some of the more interesting problems you had to solve?

I managed design engineering environments from 1987 till 2006, first at TRW in Redondo Beach, CA, then at Acuson/Siemens Ultrasound in Mountain View. During that time, although I had to support everything from chips to systems, including mechanical and software. I was personally more focused on board and system level design and verification.

I found the heart of any CAE system to be the libraries. In a company designing anything but the simplest boards, the libraries must be architected and optimized for efficient data transfer across a variety of tools, often from different vendors. The libraries I designed contained schematic symbols, PCB footprints, electrical information, purchasing information, signal integrity models, functional simulation models, timing information, and traceability information.

Q: What tools or methodologies did you develop that you still use?

The most important thing developed was the simulation modeling methodology. Fortunately, I had some very smart people working with me and we were able to come up with a modeling practice that has needed only a couple of tweaks over the past 12 years. We came up with a coding style based on VHDL/VITAL that allowed us to model a wide range of digital components that we could find no other way to accurately model. VHDL/VITAL was not the first thing we tried but, looking back, I think it was a fortuitous choice.

Q: You also started the Free Model Foundry, can you talk about what led you to do that?

When I was a manager at TRW, one of the engineering problems we had was how to simulate a board in order to reduce or eliminate the number of prototype board spins. Board spins were expensive and consumed way too much schedule. The biggest obstacle to simulation was the lack of models of the parts we wanted to use.

This was in the early ’90s so every tool vendor had their own proprietary simulator and models created for one would not work on any other. I had been writing models for several years but every time we switched EDA vendors I had to start over again.

Then VHDL came out. At first there were compatibility problems and none of the big companies could make simulators that implemented the full language. Eventually, a number of startups succeeded and were soon bought by the major players. In response, Cadence opened up Verilog.

Cadence had Verilog-XL and another product called Veritime that was a static timing verifier that read Verilog models. We thought “wouldn’t it be great if we could write one model that could be used for both dynamic simulation and static timing verification?”

We tried writing some models of small ECL parts in Verilog but could not model all the functionality. We hired some professionals to do the job but they also failed. Then we tried to netlist one of our Cadence schematics to Verilog and found out how difficult that was. We managed to get one design through the process but it was a very bad experience.

About that time, the VHDL/VITAL standard was being tested. One of my colleagues, Russ Vreeland, investigated and suggested we try it. The results were great. We could model our ECL parts easily and Cadence’s VHDL netlister was much better than their Verilog netlister. The next step was to populate our library.

There are a lot of digital parts in the world and people keep designing new ones. TRW did not want to be in the modeling business and at that time, neither did the IC companies. We thought if we documented a successful modeling strategy and published the models we created for our own use, other engineers would join in. Sharing models would be much more efficient than everyone re-writing the same ones. I have been a long time fan of the Free Software Foundation so I suggested we do something along those same lines for simulation models.

In 1995 two other TRW engineers and I incorporated the Free Model Foundation. Because we were trying to solve a problem rather than create a business, we incorporated as a not-for-profit. It took a couple of years to get our tax status set by the IRS and the State of California. In the process, our name was changed to Free Model Foundry.

For a couple of years, we wrote models at TRW and published them. But rather than the ground swell of models we expected to receive from other engineers, we started getting calls from IC companies asking if they could outsource their modeling to us.

It took a while to find the best resources for contract modeling but eventually we did and now model outsourcing has become FMF’s business.

Q: What have you learned about outsourcing? Any guidelines for what kinds of project should be outsourced and what shouldn’t?

I have seen many outsourcing projects go well and a few turn into complete disasters. Differences have been in project scope and the definition of the project deliverables. In general, small, well defined projects are more likely to be successfully outsourced than large poorly defined ones. Communications also plays a roll. The bigger the project, the more important good communications become and the more often it must take place.

I recommend a book titled “Global Software Development” by Dale Walter Karolak and published by the IEEE Computer Society. It covers all the basics in 158 pages.

Q: You are involved in some EDA Open Source efforts. Can you talk about any that you find exciting?

Other than FMF, my involvement with other Open Source EDA efforts is limited to cheerleader and occasionally facilitator. I host a monthly dinner which is attended by people interested in OSEDA.

Q: How would you compare the impact of Open Source vs. Outsourcing on Electronic Design and EDA?

EDA users are a small community. This makes open source less viable for EDA tools than in other areas such operating systems. There are only a few large open source EDA projects going on. I think all of them consist of a single person doing more than 90% of the work and a number of less committed people giving feedback. Smaller projects, such as a Verilog mode for Emacs, work fine.

Projects that are easily outsourced are often also viable as open source projects if they benefit a large enough community. The two examples that come to mind are FMF and OpenCores. These are organized quite differently but they have similar benefits to the engineering community.

Q: For your latest company, Epiphyte, can you talk a little bit about your plans for 2008?

The new company is Epiphyte LLC. It is a platform for exploring various business opportunities. The expectation is that we will try many different things and fail (cheaply) at most of them. The stated purpose of Epiphyte LLC. is for the “rapid exploitation of emerging opportunities”. This roughly translates to “we don’t know what we’re going to do but, we have a lot of ideas”. Among the more likely opportunities are:

  1. Provide IT support for startups, small businesses and non-profits. We serve organizations that require less than one FTE.
  2. Provide outsourcing project management for small HW/SW projects. We advise clients on the suitability of the project, help finalize the specifications, find and contract with the performing engineers or organization, manage the communications between the customer and the performer. The trick is to know what can and cannot be successfully outsourced, how to specify the work, and manage the customer expectation. Of course, it also helps to know competent organizations that can do the work.
  3. Provide contractor management services to companies that desire to keep existing contractors beyond the one year limit HR departments set.

Q: Epiphyte is also supporting “Venture Coding.” What is this and why you are offering it?

We have created a new process to assist start up companies in getting off of the ground that we call “Venture Coding.” Early start up companies often face the dual problems of limited starting funds and the limited engagement (and interest) of short term developers. Venture Coding was conceived to solve both of these problems.

In exchange for equity in a start up, Epiphyte will provide software development resources. This allows a company to preserve precious starting capital and to ensure the continued availability of developer commitment to the success of the start up.s

FSA Panel on Fostering, Funding and Focusing on the Future of Innovation

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

I attended today’s Fabless Semiconductor Association Distinguished Speaker Series Luncheon Panel on “Fostering, Funding and Focusing on the Future of Innovation.” It was time well spent. It was moderated by Brian Fuller, the former Editor-in-Chief of EE Times, and now a VP with Blanc & Otus.

Brian opened with an analogy between the US railroad industry before and after the first transcontinental connection was completed in 1869. Considered the greatest US technological feat of the 19th century, the railroads’ focus shifted from engineering to operations and marketing. It was a panel with deep experience in the industry.

The economics of a new (fabless) semiconductor startup (note that integrated semiconductor fabrication operations are the province of a few major players, these days fabs are funded by governments) requires tens of millions of dollars of risk capital to reach a break-even operation level. A mask set alone may set you back between two and three million dollars. New ventures are the province of serious folks with deep experience, as Chris Rust remarked of other VC firms that had shifted new investment focus away from semiconductors “the tourists have gone home.” It’s a very different proposition from starting a software company, although EDA is more challenging than Web 2.0.

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