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Mark Gilbert
Mark Gilbert
Mark has been involved in EDA recruiting for over 18 years. He is Founder and President of EDA Careers, but started his career in EDA as executive Vice President at EDA Jobs. Mark was also VP of Marketing and Business Development in the beginning of the Internet revolution and has been a … More »

Hiring Is Happening At A Record Pace…How Do You Gauge Success For A Start-Up? Thanks For The Nice Words About My Aart Interview…

September 24th, 2012 by Mark Gilbert

What a year this is shaping up to be…EDA start-ups seem to be thriving and that is indeed great news for EDA.

Before I continue, I just want to thank you for your wonderful calls and emails regarding my column about the C.O.B. (now Co-Chair) of Synopsys, Aart de Geus.  His openness and candor made it so wonderful to write about him and so many of you said you gained insight to the man behind the giant purple moniker…well so did I.

It is refreshing to see how business and hiring have improved in EDA over the last 15+ months.  Virtually all of my companies (close to 40) have (for the most part) told me that overall things are positive.  Hiring for the last 2 years has been better than it has in many a year and, while no one is ecstatic, overall most are feeling pretty darn good.  I have to chuckle because now when I am asked my most asked question… “How is the job market” (which I am asked probably 3-4 times a day), I can gladly respond “better than it has been in many years”.  Overall, the past 2 years have been strong.  2011 was an amazing year for my company EDA-Careers and 2012 has been even stronger.

I think there is a lesson that we all can take away from this…that I take away from this.  Hard work, perseverance, and dedication, even in down times, eventually pays off.  I think that is the case for the Start-Ups that are still around and it is certainly the case for my company.  I work the same in down times as in good times, nothing changes, and that is perhaps why we are getting the amount of company job reqs and candidate resumes that we have.  And that same ideology holds true for many Start-Ups and why they are up ticking as well.

When it comes to hiring, the same situation still holds true .…“It does not matter how the job market is nearly as much as it matters whether or not I have a position for someone with the particular matching expertise that I need at that time.  If I have reqs for R&D and you’re a Sales person, it makes zero difference how the market is.  If you’re an analog simulation engineer and all I have is jobs for Formal Verification, Physical Design or Layout, I will not make you very happy.  Conversely, the same holds true for the companies I represent. That is why it is crucial (if you want to be considered for the focused positions that match your background as they become available), to always have your resume in trusted hands (a strong industry recruiting expert), so when the right opportunity comes along, you get the call. So let’s all keep our fingers crossed and hope that this amazing (keep it in perspective) recovery keeps bringing with it a panacea of new jobs.

Since I only deal with Start-ups, I want to discuss at least in part how I view success when considering a Start-Up.  In my many years in EDA I have seen many Start-Ups come and go, some scored big and others struck out.  Some have hit it out of the park with an acquisition; some were acquired late in the game as a saving grace before the lights went off.  Some were simply unable to deliver on their objective or ran out of money before they could score.

So how do you gauge success in a Start-Up?  Glad you asked?  My barometers for judging are several.  First, I look to see how well they are managed and how management views the bigger picture. We all know it is impossible to see the forest for the trees but in order to make good business decisions, you need to get a birds eye view so you can see the full panoramic view. I look to see if they get the big picture or are devoured by the day-to-day activities.  So often a group of bright developers get an idea, start a company and runs with it, often not having the critical business background.  It is not uncommon for them to have their primary focus on development and not on the numerous other key components of running a small engineering business.

There are so many questions, so many other criteria that I deem imperative for success…

How are they running the company day to day…

How is their response time to critical situations (much of this I gather externally from people I placed or people that left)…

How are they monitoring burn rate, or intelligently hiring to keep pace with growth (or to facilitate growth)…

Do they run their company in a way that if no acquisition occurs, they would still thrive/survive…

These are just some of the criteria I consider when evaluating Start-Ups and every officer/manager needs to consider.  And this brings up a hiring question, one that is pondered so often…first, whether to hire or not; second, whether to hire at an expert level which of course usually costs more.  The right hires can literally change the course of the company (and can pay you back many times over) while conversely the wrong hires can be costly (in terms of time money, and productivity), leading to untold delays in achieving your desired goals.  Not hiring can be more costly than hiring and by that I mean the longer it takes to develop something customers want, the more probability someone else will beat you to the punch or your ship will sail to something newer.

Start-ups need to know their competition.  It is extremely hard to go head to head with the big boys.  Just because you are a little faster or a little better; that alone, will not compel a company to buy what you’re selling.  Add competitive pricing to the mix, especially when they get it for a VALUE (how about that word instead of free) price, and you get how difficult it can be. Companies have to be realistic about the worth and need of their product.  The #1 question should always be “is there a compelling need for what we are developing; does the tool add value for designers in time and cost, and is our product priced to sell”?

Another reason EDA startups sometimes falter is because they fail to execute on their initial or revised goals. If a company has been in business for several years and hasn’t produced a working marketable product or made significant progress in the development of said product that is usually, but certainly not always, a sign of a bigger problem. Are they going anywhere and do they have the right personnel to get them the rest of the way there is always a good question to ponder.  (By the way, that means from the CEO all the way through the team). 
It is always important to know how the company is financed.  Knowing this should give you an idea of the expectations of the investor and possible ROI should an M&A occur.  The right investors can help to make good things happen while the not as long-term investor (if you will) can deny additional funding, ending a companies dreams of glory.

Just like a good company should know whom they are hiring, a good candidate should consider many of these factors when making there choice of where they will work.  A good recruiter that knows the industry can always help to lead both parties in the right direction…I am off to get the latest new GPS so I always make sure my directions are perfect.

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