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!”

_______________

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

Tribes, Slides, and Vibes

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Since Cadence decided to disappoint us by canceling their earnings announcement and conference call at the last minute, it gives me a chance to share some other cool stuff going on.

Seth Godin released his new book Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us.  If you are a Seth Godin fan, then you’ll need to get this book.  If you don’t know who he is, then you need to get this book too. Trust me.  You can order it on Amazon, or download it on iTunes or get it for Free at Audible.com.

Thanks to Garr Reynolds at Presentation Zen for pointing out a great Slideshare presentation on the credit crisis.

Last, on the topic of Software-as-a-Service for EDA, I wanted to point out a new demo on PDTi’s SpectaReg product. The demo is a little stiff, especially the pre-written copy. I’d rather hear the developer and a user speak honestly and passionately about why this is a cool product. But the fact that Jeremy Ralph is offering this product as SaaS makes him a kindred spirit, so I’ll cut him some slack. Good vibes!

That’s all for now.

harry the ASIC guy

24 - Season 6.5 - 3:00 AM to 4:00 AM

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

“My name is Mike Fister and today is the longest day of my life.”

The following DID NOT take place between 3:00 AM and 4:00 AM in the office of Cadence CEO Michael Fister. Mike has called his executive staff together for an emergency meeting. In the room are Kevin Bushby,  Jim Miller, Bill Porter and R.L. McKeithen. Mike has not slept for over 24 hours.  He’s clearly agitated, pacing back and forth, eyes darting side to side.

Mike: [Pointing to an article about 3 execs fired at Logic Vision to save cost] Did you see this? Can you believe it?

[Kevin grabs the article, glances at it, laughs, and then passes it to the others]

Kevin: Those fools! How could they not see this coming?

Bill: At least they’ll get a hefty severance package.

Jim: They’ll probably make more money now than before.

[They all laugh, except for Mike, who keeps pacing.]

R.L.: Why are we here Mike? Did you have us come in just to show us this article?

[Mike stops to gather his thoughts]

Mike: They were right!

Jim: Who was?

Mike: The board. They were right to fire those guys.  They made too much money and they didn’t do Jack. They should have fired them a long time ago.

Bill: Hey, they may have made a few mistakes, but who hasn’t?  The board is just making these guys the scapegoats for the poor execution of the rest of the company. It’s just like football … the players screw up so they fire the coach. Kinda like Al Davis firing …

Mike: You guys don’t get it, do you?

R.L. : Mike, if you’ve got something to say, then say it. I’ve got a 6:30 tee time so let’s get this moving. [Laughs]

[R.L. realizes that was not the best thing to say]

R.L: I’m sorry Mike.  What’s this all about?

Mike: It’s over.

[Long pause]

Mike: Do you guys have any idea how much money we make altogether?

[They look around but no answer]

Mike: I added it up. $26,835,304 !!! It makes me sick.

[The others looked at eachother once more, now getting concerned about Mike’s state of mind and what he might do]

Kevin: Mike. Calm down. You’re going to wrinkle your pajamas.

Mike: Do you know how many people’s jobs we could have saved? Over 100!!! Each of them with families.

R. L. : Careful Mike. Someone might think you’re a democrat. [Laughs … then catches himself again]

Mike: This watch.  [Taking off his watch] This watch could have paid for us to fix all those System Verilog bugs in our simulator. [He places the watch carefully on his desk] And my car. [Going over to and looking out the window] My car could have paid for one more SourceLink support engineer. [He takes the keys out and places them next to the watch and then walks back over to the window].

Jim: Mike …

[Mike stares out the window for what seems like an eternity, then takes a deep breath and faces the rest]

Mike: They only made one mistake.  [Silence] They fired those guys instead of having them resign. [Looking at  Jim] You were right Jim, they’ll probably make more now than they did before.

[Mike walks over to the printer to grab a sheet of paper that he had printed out earlier.  He stares at it for about 10 seconds, then looks at the group].

Mike:  Who’s with me on this?

[They look at each other, then, one at a time, they stand up and put their hands together].

R.L. : We’re with you Mike.

Mike: [A tear in his eye] I’ll miss you guys. [He turns and picks up the phone].

Mike Fister and his executive staff resigned that morning.

                        

OK…so I made this up.  This meeting never happened … as far as I know.

It’s a shame though … cuz the part about their salaries paying for 100 jobs is true. Maybe some Cadence employees will get to keep their jobs because of these resignations. Probably not … but maybe.

harry the ASIC guy

ABC - Always Be Closing

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

It was another beautiful Southern California morning.

I stay a little longer on Fridays after dropping Nate and Kiara at Elementary School.  Fridays are assembly day and I like to listen in to hear what is going on and to briefly recapture my childhood, when things were a little simpler and purer than they are today.

Each assembly starts with the Pledge of Allegiance and Miss Miller singing God Bless America, followed by announcements and sometimes awards.

Room 22 - “Most Enthusiastic Reader”

Room 17 - “Best Helper”

This Friday was a little different.  After Miss Miller finished, the Principal told us that we would be hearing from Mrs. Hazard who was the head of fund raising for the Parents Teachers Association (PTA).

“Good morning everybody”.

“Good morning Mrs. Hazard”.

“What a beautiful morning. And you are all so well behaved. Today, I’d like to talk to you about our fund raising drive that you all have been helping with.”

The fundraising drive to which Mrs. Hazard was referring was already the 3rd fundraising event of the year and we were only in September. If you live in California and have kids then you probably can put fundraising on your resume. To be in a school or join any organization with your kids is almost a guarantee that you’ll need to hit up your family, friends, and neighbors to buy chocolate, wrapping paper, books, candy, etc.

Don’t get me wrong. I realize that our taxes don’t cover the cost of the 49th best school system in the country. And the PTAs are trying to help by raising funds. But I just don’t feel comfortable leaving boxes of chocolate with little signs in the printer room at work. Or guilting my in-laws into buying something new every other week.  I feel awkward when a “friend of the family” invites us over for dinner and we find ourselves at a multi-level marketing recruitment event for ionized water. (This actually happened to us). And I’d feel like one of those MLM people if I were to hit up my friends and family every other week for a new donation. As a result, Joyce and I usually end up buying something ourselves. And that is that.

“How many of you have already sold something?”, Mrs. Hazard asked.

About half the hands went up. I looked over at Kiara as she slumped noticeably and put her head down in shame.

“Very good. Now how many of you have sold 10 or more items”.

About 20 or so hands stayed up.

“Excellent.  Please come up after assembly and I will enter your name into a special drawing”.

Kiara slumped a little more.

“I’ll be back here on Tuesday and any one who has sold 10 or more items will also be entered in the drawing. Now, remember, we have only 1 more week left. So go out there and SELL, SELL, SELL!!”

I was about to bust an artery.  Was I listening to someone in the PTA or Alec Baldwin in Glengary Glenross?

I had half a mind to confront Mrs. Hazard on the spot, but making a scene in front of the kids and the moms did not seem like a good idea. Plus, I probably had to think this through.  Maybe I was over-reacting.  After all, life is about selling yourself, so Kiara might as well start as soon as possible. After all, no sense coddling a 2nd grader, right???

Later that day I asked Kiara about what had occurred and how she felt.

“I’m going to get in trouble”, she said.

“Why?”

“Because I didn’t sell anything”.

She was almost in tears.

Am I wrong and am I making too much out of this?  Should I just encourage and help my daughter to sell some wrapping paper to the neighbors.

Or did Mrs. Hazard step over the line?

What do you think?

harry the ASIC giy