Archive for October, 2008

Who’s Right, Gary or Seth?

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Last Friday, I took the 45 minute drive from Torrance to Montrose to have coffee with Gary, a successful entrepreneur who is one of the founders of a fledgling IP company. I was introduced to Gary by a friend at Synopsys who suggested that I meet him because he’s had great success and has a lot of insight into how to run a successful business.

Gary brought along his partner, Art, and we had a very good conversation, almost an hour and a half. We discussed what I was working on, what his company was working on, and my revolutionary ideas about the EDA industry. Gary has a lot of experience and he provided some insights I had not heard before:

  • How can EDA companies provide flexible pricing to smaller customers and not to their biggest customers?
  • Software-as-a-Service works for cookie cutter processes like sales and HR and expense reports but not for customized processes like EDA tool flows

And he enforced some feedback that I had heard before:

  • Why would a large EDA company want to cannibalize their long-term license sales with short-term licenses?
  • It’s been tried before and failed.
  • The guys with power have no reason to change the status quo.  They are holding 4 aces.

In short, my discussion with Gary amounted to this … your idea has tremendous value to the end user, the designer, the customer, the small startup or design services company … but the big boys, who have all the power, have no incentive to play ball, and every incentive to leave everything as it is. Gary never came out and said this verbatim, but the message was clear … “you don’t stand a chance!”

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As I drove back from my meeting with Gary, a little discouraged, yet grateful for the honest feedback, I turned on the audiobook version of Seth Godin’s new book Tribes : We Need You To Lead Us, which I wrote about in my last post. Somewhere around downtown LA, near Chinatown, I heard the following:

“All you need to know is 2 things.

  • The first thing you need to know is that individuals have far more power than ever before in history. One person can change an industry. One person can declare war. One person can reinvent science or politics or technology.
  • The second thing you need to know is that the only thing holding you back from becoming the kind of person who changes things is this: lack of faith. Faith that you can do it. Faith that it’s worth doing. Faith that failure won’t destroy you.

… More and more people, good people, people on a mission, with ideas that matter, are stepping forward and making a difference … An individual, or a small group, has the power to turn an existing system on its head. Now, most of the time, we call heretics, leaders. The heretics are winning. You can, no, you must, join them.”

In short, Seth Godin’s book “Tribes” amounted to this … the technology that is available today via the internet (blogs, podcasts, social networks, etc, etc, etc)  provides the leverage to enable one person to initiate and lead a movement that can change the world. All that is necessary is to conquer the fear, to selflessly lead a tribe of people where they already want to go, to enable them to work together to achieve the goal. The message was clear … “you can do it!”

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So, who’s right, Gary or Seth? This will sound like a cop out, but they are both right.

Gary is right about all the challenges that exist to keep a change from happening.  In EDA, as in many industries, the status quo has tremendous inertia. Those who benefit from the status quo are usually those who have the most tangible power. And they will use that power to maintain the status quo. For all the reasons that Gary gave me.

And Seth is right, that despite all the reasons that change is hard to initiate, change can be ignited from a single spark. And long established industry giants can fall.

Look at the music industry, where the accessibility of music production and distribution capabilities has made the record companies increasingly irrelevant. Independent artists can self-produce and self-distribute their work, without have to sell their futures to the record companies.

It will be the same in the EDA industry. Independent EDA tool developers will be able to self-produce and self-distribute their work, without having to look to an acquisition by one of the “big 3”. I’d like to lead this movement, but I need to be honest … I’m a little scared.

  • Scared for my reputation as a reasonable level headed person.
  • Scared for my relationships with people in the EDA industry who stand to lose out from this change.
  • Scared that I’ll waste several years chasing something that is never going to happen.

I’d like to know that I am not alone. That others will offer their support, their time, their effort, to make this happen. That we can build a Tribe that can change the industry.

If you agree with me … if you feel the same as I do … then let me know. Encourage me so I can encourage you.

And we’ll change the world. (Well, at least the EDA industry).

 harry the ASIC guy