March 14, 2005
Interview with Vic Kulkarni CEO of Sequence Design Inc.
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Jack Horgan - Contributing Editor

by Jack Horgan - Contributing Editor
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Vic Kulkarni has worked in the semiconductor and EDA industries for over 27 years. He was appointed president and CEO of Sequence in May 2002. Prior to his appointment, he served as Chief Operating Officer for more than two years where he set the Company's vision and delivered power and signal integrity products for nanometer systems-on-chip design. Mr. Kulkarni was named "Entrepreneur of the Month" by SiliconIndia magazine in July 2003 and was featured in Reed Electronics' "50 Electronics Companies to Watch" in 2002 and 2003. Prior to joining Sequence, Mr. Kulkarni was General Manager and Vice President of Avanti's Silicon Business Unit responsible for Silicon IP and Process Modeling tools.
He joined Avanti after the acquisition of Meta-Software where he was Vice President of Worldwide Marketing. He was instrumental in taking the Meta-Software public in November 1995 with a market cap of $160M. Prior to Meta, Mr. Kulkarni held various engineering and marketing positions in VLSI and National. Currently Mr. Kulkarni is also on the Management Advisory Board of Arteris, an emerging innovative company in Paris involved in network-on-chip designs. He has an M.S. E.E. in Solid State Electronics from University of Cincinnati, Ohio and B.Tech in Electrical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay in 1974.

I see from your biography that you graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Bombay and then came to the US in 1974. At that time many students came from India to attend graduate school in science and engineering and ended up staying in America including my Ph.D. advisor. What was this experience like?

Actually it was very exciting, frankly. I was one of the students from what we called at the time the microelectronics lab. It was one of the first course works that IIT Bombay had initiated. We were about 10 students who took that plunge instead of the conventional electrical engineering and computer science. After that I got quite a bit of interest in microelectronics. The University of Cincinnati offered me a very nice scholarship in terms of their solid state electronics course, lab work and so forth. The University had a premier lab funded by NCR and NASA. I choose that school from amongst all the admissions I had received. So it was pretty exciting in terms of coming to the
New World at that time. We were all awed by some of the progress in the US on various microelectronics matters. I had $8 dollars in my pocket for sure. That was the limit that the Reserve Bank of India set for students traveling abroad. The whole Cincinnati experience was very positive for me in terms of learning solid state electronics, some of the fiber work, laser work, …. I did research in the so-called double invection devices that was funded in those days by NASA for night time vision. This was some of the fundamental research work being done in the silicon world. I created a few devices myself in the area of charge coupled devices and magnetic bubbles. Those were some
of my areas of interest.

I understand that you had some notable classmates at the University of Cincinnati.

People like Mike Fister, now the CEO of Cadence, was in the computer science department but he was in the same batch of students. Then there was Vin Dham, one of the creators of the Pentium. He was my classmate, actually he was my roommate. We have known each other for 30 years now. It was very exciting to be part of that whole revolution of the semiconductor world. Then I started my Ph.D. program but National Semiconductor came on campus and lured me with a good salary and everything else. That's how I came to the wild west.

It's now 30 years later. A lot has changed in India in the interim. Are college students in India still likely to come to the US for graduate work and if so are they likely to stay here or return to India?

Two weeks ago I went to India. I have been going there on and off for years. But in the last 3 or 4 years I have been going on a yearly basis because of our expansion there in R&D. I found that the new mood is that people have quite a few opportunities now in India, if you are an IIT graduate or any engineering graduate. There are some real opportunities in India that are as good as it was in Silicon Valley 30 years ago. I could see the same excitement when I just recently visited. When you go to Bangalore, you see buildings after buildings, beautiful setups for Intel, Infinium, Cisco; all the big guys are there. Also there are indigenous companies like Infosys, Wipro and so forth.
They are all just phenomenal. There are over 100 chip design companies in Bangalore. The excitement is almost the same as it was here in Silicon Valley so many years ago. The younger engineers are of dual minds. Some of them want to come here and work for a US company or go to Europe. A lot of people are going to Europe to work for companies like Philips, Infinium and ST. They achieve a kind of cross border expertise. However, they all understand that the customers and innovation still occur in Silicon Valley. At the same time the world does not revolve around Silicon Valley any more. You can use that to become a global engineer. You find that happening more and more. Some of
the young folks are even going to Japan. They are learning Japanese and expanding their careers in Japanese companies. The same is also happening with Korea. I found a group of Indian guys, entrepreneurial types, learning Korean to work in a company like Samsung. People are getting more of a global view these days. But people still admire the US education system, particularly post graduate and Ph.D. type.

Later you were VP of Marketing for MetaSoft when it went public. How was that experience of helping to take a company public?

It was of course in 1995. In those of days it was a remarkable feat for a company like MetaSoft. As you know Kim and Sean Haley, the founders, were at Atage for almost 17 years. When I joined the company I looked at the value and IP creation of HSPICE as well as some of the modeling work which those folks had been working hard on. I said let's go to the public market and frankly create some wealth for the employees as well as make a bigger impact in the industry in terms of the capital we would raise to invest in newer areas based on HSPICE foundation. I convinced the founders first and then got exposed to the banking world which was a very good experience which I use even as late as
last week when I was in constant conversations with bankers. In my previous job as well as this job that financial community opened up to me; the Wall Street analyst and bankers, the road shows putting all together in a succinct format and getting the filing done etc Really a very thrilling experience to go to New York, Boston, Chicago and Minneapolis, all the key finance centers. Pitching the company story to all bankers and investors, like the big fund guys: Fidelity, Janus, everybody. I used that knowledge over the years many times over, very good positive experience. We got a good market cap and then Avanti knocked on the door and the board approved the acquisition. It was very
successful I would say. Also I brought a lot of young folks into MetaSoft to learn new things in terms of product marketing and positioning and all those things.

How big a company was MetaSoft in terms of employees, customers and revenue at the time of its acquisition?

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-- Jack Horgan, Contributing Editor.


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