Back to the Future


Let’s face it! Very few people in the general populace could name any company in the EDA Industry. Fewer still know that the Big 3 in EDA today are Synopsys, Cadence and Mentor Graphics, in that order. Even when a small fraction of the population knows who some of the “design automation tool builders” are, the larger MCAD companies such as Autodesk or even Dassault Systemes are mentioned more often.

Oh sure, occasionally when people use modern cell phones, surf the Internet, or lust after the latest apps for their Apple® iPads, some stop to wonder just how these amazing electronic miracles get designed and built, but they pause only for a few seconds. Most people could not distinguish an IC from a PCB. That’s just the way it is.

Well, occasionally a Big 3 EDA Vendor reaches at least the inside pages of the daily newspaper in Silicon Valley or perhaps Portland, OR, like when Cadence made a failed “offer” to buy Mentor Graphics in 2008, or when investor Carl Icahn tried earlier this year to take over control of Mentor Graphics. But that’s unusual; EDA cognoscenti have learned to look within our own specialty EDA Industry for possibly interesting stories about the Big 3 EDA entities.

And what have we seen lately, about, say, Mentor Graphics? The oldest EDA Vendor among the Big 3, Mentor turned 30 in April 2011. Cadence is youngest at 24, and Synopsys is 25. Mentor perennially ranks third in annual revenue. So what could be worthy of a story about Mentor these days?

How about a “Back to the Future” story? Once the Market Share Leader in the Printed Circuit Board niche, Mentor let the future slip away, and now it has not only regained the lead, but also it dominates the PCB business at 50% Market Share. Now that’s an interesting story for an EDA-ophile, speaking as one to another of course. Read on!

This article was the July 25, 2011 edition of the EDA WEEKLY, entitled, “ Back to the Future.

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Also: Posted anew every four weeks, the EDA WEEKLY delivers to its readers information concerning the latest happenings in the EDA industry, covering vendors, products, finances and new developments. Frequently, feature articles on selected public or private EDA companies are presented. Brought to you by If we miss a story or subject that you feel deserves to be included, or you just want to suggest a future topic, please contact us!


For the past 15 years, this writer has had a soft spot in his heart for Mentor Graphics, probably because working there was his last long-term full-time corporate executive experience (1990-1996) before becoming a ‘lonesome consultant’ at Henke Associates. For the majority of that 6½ year MGC tenure, the writer ran the Company’s PCB Division as VP & General Manager. At that time, PCB Division headquarters were in San Jose, CA, the heart of Silicon Valley.

It was a very fulfilling assignment, as together with excellent current and newly-added people, we quadrupled our revenue within the first three years to grab the 1992 worldwide market leadership in printed circuit board (PCB) software (and did it again in 1993), all by establishing an unprecedented synergy with the independent MGC worldwide sales/support force; consolidating the previously-split Regional Sales and PCB teams from Zanker Road in San Jose into one beautiful, refurbished professional building on Ridder Park Drive; introducing some stunning new products and practices; creating hundreds of new customers; delivering outstanding profits; and forming many friendships inside and outside the Company that have endured ever since.

Fast forward to 2009

Accordingly, it was not entirely coincidental that one of the writer’s first issues posted in December 2009 on as a new contributing editor of the EDA WEEKLY, was about Mentor Graphics and its acquisition of Flomerics plc (October 2008), and the

Dr. Buergel

subsequent introduction of a new GM of the Mechanical Analysis Division (MAD) Dr. Erich Buergel in November 2009:

In addition to describing the new computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software products being offered by MAD, some interesting statistics about MGC overall were discussed when the writer and Dr. Buergel met in November 2009. For example, that in 2009 MGC had reached a 44% share of the North American PCB market, and in Europe 51%.

Dr. Buergel also stated that as of mid-2009, MGC held a 36% share of the overall worldwide PCB market. The nearest PCB competitor, he said then, was Cadence, with a 21% worldwide market share circa mid-2009. Moreover, with MAD in place, he said MGC then-owned a whopping 78% of the worldwide PCB thermal analysis sub-market, with Zuken second at 20%.

Organizationally, UK-based Erich Buergel reported then and reports today to one Henry Potts, VP & GM of the MGC Systems Design Division (SDD):

Henry Potts

Joining MGC in 1999, Mr. Potts is headquartered in Longmont, CO. As indicated in that December 2009 EDA WEEKLY article, the present MGC System Design Division is today the far larger Longmont CO-based successor of the aforementioned MGC PCB Division that was headquartered in San Jose CA in the early nineties.

Seeds Sown in 2009 for a future Market Share Article

Thus the seeds were sown in November 2009 for a future EDA WEEKLY article, to summarize the story of the PCB to SDD evolution, and to be posted once MGC achieved a 50% share of the PCB Systems market. As it turned out, that milestone took another year to be achieved, some 5 more months to be announced, and then another quarter before a spot opened in the EDA WEEKLY editorial calendar. Besides, the news about MGC was dominated by the Carl Icahn saga for the first half of 2011.

Carl Icahn

The 50% Market Share MGC News Release of April 2011

Finally, on April 11, 2011, as part of a blizzard of MGC news releases that could arguably be interpreted as aimed at blunting the campaign of Carl Icahn, we saw at last the long-awaited news release about the MGC PCB Systems’ market share:

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