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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 »

2014 WAS A STRONG YEAR, EDA CONTINUES STRONG…MENTOR’S WALLY RHINES PART 2, THE MYTHS, THE LEGEND, THE HISTORY…

 
January 27th, 2015 by Mark Gilbert

2014 was an exceptionally busy year, and it seems 2015 is offering more of the same-and off to a great start.  EDA is robust and contrary to the negative prognosticators, we are still around and doing quite well.  Hiring is strong but as difficult as ever, as companies are increasingly picky, and it is harder and harder to get good people to leave, even for seemingly much greener pastures.  The numbers are out from EDAC and to no one’s surprise, EDA did amazingly well, AGAIN.

Now, on to the myths, the legend: I want to continue discussing my down-to-earth interview with Mentor’s CEO and dare I say, the most recognizable name and face in EDA, Wally Rhines.  It seems abundantly clear that the mentality of the boss (he would hate that characterization), permeates this company at almost every level.  In my 18 years in EDA I have seen many a start-up come and go, each having a flavor distinct to that company.  For Mentor the flavor does not vary, nor does the culture. Wally classifies Mentor as a bunch of startups under one roof, and from what I have learned through the years by talking to so many of my Mentor friends, that is seemingly a decent characterization.  He feels that way because they allow a lot of independence, sometimes even forcing competing products to develop in two different divisions. As he tells me, this practice can sometimes cause the developing product to be inconsistent in look and feel—but that’s OK, because in the end, the product is measured by its success and not necessarily the look and feel.  Sometimes, selling into a Synopsys flow is more important than selling into a Mentor flow for a particular product.  The viability of the tool is the metric by how it is ultimately judged and, I would add, probably the bottom line even more so.

When you ponder this idea, you realize that this is an interesting position to take, especially when you are one of the TOP 3 clawing for every dollar. However, reality is paramount and clearly different flows become the standard that most tools ultimately flow in to, and smart companies take full advantage of that, even if it means supporting their competition.  Nevertheless, I had to ask Wally if this practice wasn’t a little difficult because ultimately you are supporting your competition. Wally did not balk: he said that for him, it was very natural because he grew up in that environment when he worked at Texas Instruments.  The first P&L Wally ran was a 16 million dollar a year business, (not too shabby for wayyyyy back then).  Soon he was running a hundred million dollar business, with his own wafer fab, his own assembly site, designers, marketing–basically everything but the sales force. Certainly that experience was in great part what gave him the confidence to start Mentor and to make it the success it is today.

As we continued to talk, we went back to my earlier discussion on startups, and discussed all the logos that have disappeared through the years.  I told Wally that my next column is going to be titled “How Long Till A One Aisle DAC?  (http://www10.edacafe.com/blogs/edacareers/2014/06/16/my-post-dac-report-how-long-before-a-one-aisle-dac)

He flinched quizzically for a second, and I went on to explain that if the acquisitions continue at the pace they have been, including four (at the time of the interview) in the past several weeks, a one aisle future DAC  consisting of the Big 3 is quite plausible metaphorically.  (Actually it would be three aisles, one aisle for each).   Reality is,  startups have flows that must work within the framework of the Big Boys, so it simply makes sense for them to have an exit strategy that includes one of them. And they offer the best bang for their acquisition buck, which raised my next question.  I questioned whether the necessity of working with “one of you guys” wasn’t a deterrent, and not very enticing or motivating towards cultivating new startups, which as we all know have been the core and the growth of this industry?

Wally didn’t directly answer the question, but he went on to defend the Big 3 by raising an interesting fact; he said that the combined market share of the Big 3 has been 75%, plus or minus 5%, for 20 years. He noted that this has both positive and negative implications and asked me rhetorically, why hasn’t it become more than 80%? He pointed out that surely there was enough money to buy up all the smaller companies. His answer to his question was that new ones keep forming because new markets keep popping up and new directions become important. His prediction was that this kind of trend will continue and that the semi-conductor industry is not growing fast enough to make EDA exciting by itself and that EDA has a lot of technology that can be applied to a lot of other things that are growing and that can grow our total market. I argued that while theoretically this might be true, in reality few new companies are forming these days–certainly far fewer than in the last decade.  I offered that certainly our maturity can be blamed for part of that, but that much of the reason is because it is near impossible to compete with the Goliath’s unless it is unbelievably revolutionary.  Defending Mentor, Wally said that for the last 15 years, Mentor’s revenue has grown at about the same rate as the semi-conductor industry overall. In fact, he said, Mentor has been almost exactly 2% of semiconductor revenue for the EDA industry, and yet the automotive industry is going through the same stage of automation that semiconductors were in the 1970s.

Wally began to reflect back to the days when he started in semiconductors (chiefs always like to reflect on their rough and humble beginnings), when nothing was automated, (he also walked three miles uphill to school without shoes, and I know went to this school called the “old school”), when you could edit a layout on a computer screen but that was about it, and when physical verification was done by hanging a Calcomp plot on the wall with everybody looking for violations. It was only when the designs began to get so complex that all of a sudden somebody wrote a computer program to do physical verification. The same thing is happening in automotive design, aerospace design and so on; the tools–the manual tools–are breaking, and as they break people adopt automation.

Certainly none of us would have ever dreamed we would see the depths of automation we have today, which takes me to my next discussion. I said to Wally, let’s get crazy for a second (which probably means something way different for me than it does for him) and he flashed me that patented Wally smile and told me to go for it.  So I did…

I started with Bill Gates (and not the famous EDA tool, BUILD GATES) and reminded him that it wasn’t that long ago, like 1973-74 or so, that Bill Gates envisioned a computer on every desktop. Relatively speaking that was yesterday, some 40 years ago, and that vision certainly came to pass. Now, automotive seems to be one of the next frontiers for EDA, and there is a “computer” if you will in almost every vehicle.  I had been listening to a very interesting DAC panel on automotive automation, which of course Mentor had a portfolio in before any of the others, and now I thought this was the perfect opportunity to talk about where all this technology could lead us and the implications–maybe even dire implications–that could be awaiting us in just a few short years. The science fiction implications.

This seems like a great tease to end the second part of my Wally interview. I hope the previous serves as the catalyst to bring you back, as it gets much more interesting from here, and the conversation much more (shall we say) off-the-cuff and thought-provoking. I didn’t want to give you too much at once and bore you, so see you back here soon and in the meantime please share this with your friends.

May I remind you, if you are considering a career change, call me.  I will be glad to coach you through the process and help you to make sure you’re making the best decision for your career and for the right reasons.  DVCON is up soon and I will talk about that next column. For now let me make sure my White trademarked Jacket is ready for the show.

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2 Responses to “2014 WAS A STRONG YEAR, EDA CONTINUES STRONG…MENTOR’S WALLY RHINES PART 2, THE MYTHS, THE LEGEND, THE HISTORY…”

  1. Bruce Swanson says:

    Mark,
    I enjoyed reading about your discussion with Wally. One clarification is that he joined Mentor in 1993 and is not a company founder. Mentor was founded in 1981 by Tom Bruggere, Gerry Langeler, and Dave Moffenbeier.

    • Mark Gilbert Mark Gilbert says:

      I stand corrected and made a wrongful assumption. Wally, while certainly an integral part of Mentor for many years is not the FOUNDER. He joined Mentor in 1993 and Mentor was founded in 1981 by Tom Bruggere, Gerry Langeler, and Dave Moffenbeier.

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