CDNLive 2014: Delicious Sensory Overload
March 12th, 2014 by Peggy Aycinena
In the spirit of full disclosure, Cadence paid for lunch yesterday for the Press Corps attending CDNLive 2014. We had a scrumptious gourmet meal at Tosca in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency before returning to the Santa Clara Convention Center next door to have an hour-long “one-on-one” with Cadence CEO Lip-Bu Tan. In truth, it was actually an hour-long “twenty-on-one” with CEO Tan, because all of the usual suspects EDA Press Corps was in the room throwing softball lobbing questions at Tan.
Over the course of the hour, we learned that CEO Tan has a host of different investment partners – sorry, didn’t write down the names – involved in his various VC-funded ventures that span everything from GoPro [the trendy wearable camera enterprise out of Half Moon Bay] to a fabless startup that he said can tape-out a design at 16 nanometers for a scant $15 million, rather than the usual $150 million being lamented today in the global press. [In fact, Tan mentioned so many ventures he's involved with, it begs the question: How does he have time to run Cadence?]
We learned that CEO Tan is very excited about all of the technologies involved in the semiconductor design/supply chain, that he believes it’s a great time to be a player in the industry, and that Cadence is innovating rapidly on multiple fronts simultaneously. And if/whenever Tan senses that they’re slowing down in any particular area, he pushes Cadence Engineering to move forward even faster.
We also learned that Tan thinks there are extraordinary things happening in China, in Japan, in Korea, in India, in Israel – all places where innovation is running rampant. And he knows these things are happening, because he seems to be on a first-name basis with the leadership of every important semiconductor customer in the world. In fact, his narrative implied that Cadence’s product offerings are currently enjoying huge opportunities to have their tires kicked by potential customers specifically because Tan is close friends with high-level folks in those organizations who can, in turn, mandate that their teams buy test out Cadence’s latest and greatest.
By the way, one of the really important things CEO Tan hopes his customers will work on straightaway is battery life for mobile devices. He offered to commiserate with others in the room suffering from the same dilemma he has to endure: His cell phone won’t last more than a day between chargings, so he has to carry three phones to meet all of his communication needs. A lot of folks in the room nodded in agreement. He also said his wearable device/health monitor suffers from battery life shortfalls as well. Fix that, please, he asked of his customers.
Now lest you think it was all work and no play yesterday between 2 pm and 3pm at CDNLive, there were two moments of great hilarity during the hour.
One came when a hapless journalist at the back of the room was called on by the Cadence PR host sitting next to Tan at the front of the room. The poor journalist was reminded by said host that he had a question to ask. Unfortunately, we all knew his question had been planted, because the host said as much when inquiring from her entourage at the back of the room at the top of the hour why said journalist had yet to materialize prior to CEO Tan’s arrival in the room. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a situation where we all knew a question had been planted in a journalist’s brain. But then, there’s a first time for everything.
The other great moment of hilarity yesterday afternoon, I take credit for. Given the endless softball questions being lobbed at the CEO, I thought it was time to make sure I never got invited back [why should Cooley have all the fun]. So I raised my hand, was called on, and asked Tan [courteously] if he was aware of a long-standing criticism of Cadence – that the company’s system-level design tool strategy has for years been way behind offerings from Synopsys and Mentor Graphics.
I noted that Tan’s keynote at DVCon last week and CDNLive yesterday morning both included the same slide bragging on Cadence’s recent purchase of Forte as a critical cornerstone of their system-level strategy. But if that was the case, I asked, how did Tan account for the fact that at least one journalist there in our “twenty-on-one” meeting had written several weeks ago that the Forte sale to Cadence had, in truth, been a “Fire Sale”.
To his credit, Lip-Bu Tan looked me square in the face and answered:
A) The criticism is unwarranted. Cadence has had a long-standing system-level design tool strategy. It is different from offerings of Synopsys and (ahem) the “automobile” strategy of Mentor, but Cadence has been involved in system-level design, most clearly evidenced by their role as an IP provider;
B) Tan has been watching Forte for 11 years and respects their team and technology, but Cadence is not using the Forte acquisition as a launch pad for their system-level strategy (see A);
C) Looking directly at John Cooley – who had waved his arms excitedly in the air moments earlier to claim full credit for being the journalist who’d labeled the Forte event as a “Fire Sale” – Tan said firmly, “The purchase of Forte was not a fire sale.”
Tan then turned back to me and asked if he had answered my question. I may not have liked his answers, but I had to acknowledge he had responded in full.
Following that, Cooley tried to get CEO Tan to diss Synopsys’ Virtuoso initiative, but the CEO firmly refused to go there. He emphasized repeatedly, that he respects and admires “Aart, Chi-Foon, and Wally” and that was the end of that line of questioning. Period.
Finally, the Cadence PR machine closed out the hour by making sure the Press Corps was privy to the human side of CEO Tan. It would appear his wife does not make the tech-product purchasing decisions at home as much as do the two boys. Tan said that his two CMU-educated engineer sons are smart and savvy, and had advised him early on to invest in both Netflix and Tesla. Tan humbly acknowledged that he had, unfortunately, ignored those two pieces of advice and hence had lost out on the opportunity to win big in both movies and EVs.
Nonetheless, given the host of other investments he had mentioned during the hour, nobody in the Press Corps seemed overly concerned that CEO Tan will be running short of cash anytime soon. Nor Cadence for that matter.
The fun of situational irony notwithstanding, we do need to ask ourselves sometimes why it’s so important to foster a cult of personality around CEOs. Particularly in EDA. After all, it’s just code and some algorithms. They’re just selling lines of code and some algorithms. Are they good, is the code fairly bug free, and does it work? Those really should be the only issues on the table.
Tags: Aart de Geus, Cadence, CDNLive 2014, Chi-Foon Chan, DVCon, Forte, GoPro, John Cooley, Lip-bu Tan, Mentor Graphics, Netflix, Synopsys, System-level design, Tesla, Wally Rhines