March 14, 2005
Interview with Vic Kulkarni CEO of Sequence Design Inc.
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What is the planned use of the money?
gate and then final sign off.
At some point the investors will want return on their investments. The two options are acquisition and going public. What are the gating items before this can happen?
The key thing I and the whole company are focused on is the fundamentals, the operating model. If we create a strong operating model of top line growth and profitability, almost everything becomes easy in life as a CEO. Concentrate on creating a solid franchise with this low power solution with key customers, key technology and show the bottom line results. Then acquisitions offers of or by us might occur. We could acquire smaller companies to become a bigger solution to go public meeting whatever the public market's metric would be at that
time. It would be a tactical decision. The key strategy right now is to win the market leadership in these areas.
Your company was formed by the merger of two companies and later by acquisitions. What challenges did you face in bringing these separate organizations together with different cultures?
The first lesson I learned and observed over the years was the classic strategy of what STmicro did when they merged Thompson and STS. They mixed and matched management layers so that they were not silos. For examples, I put some of the Sente key managers over Frequency engineers and vice versa in certain product lines. That way they do not feel isolated. There are some tactical things one has to do to make sure that they are blended as opposed to becoming silos.
Simple things like I even banned the use of coffee mugs that say Frequency or T-shirts that said Sente. We created Sequence branding within the company. This is basic management culture which I believed in over the years,
which I learned from other people and which I shared with all the folks. One has to do this constantly, every quarter in terms of new employees what is called Sequence culture which is essentially just the basic management principals which people can follow and not create Sente or Frequency culture or Sapphire which is the third company that we acquired. That takes time. It took me about a year and half to get the whole thing done. Because the real problem is that in spite of all this effort you always have so called so called Silicon Valley versus Boston culture. In terms of work habits, work ethics, to how people go about doing their job and so on. That took some time to plan,
about a year and a half. And then of course the products have to blend on the coding side.
Where were Frequency and Sente located at the time of the merger?
Frequency was here in Santa Clara and Sente was in Boston at a place called Acton.
You might notice from my accent that I spent a little time in Boston.
We are now in Westford by the way. We moved eight or none months ago.
Would you speak to the challenges of time (3 hour time difference) and geography separation? You can not simply walk down the hall to talk with another team member or drive across town for a face to face meeting. What do you have to do to deal with issue of time and space?
There are a couple of elements to that question in my mind now that we have India and the UK in the mix. You can imagine four different time zones and then Japan in the evening for sales and applications. Philosophical what we have done is not to have Silicon Valley as the center of the Universe for our organizational structure. As a case in point our chief technology officer Jerry Frenkil is in fact in Westford. He was one of the founders of Sente and he is the technology driver for the whole company. When you create a so-called world headquarters, people have bad dreams of bureaucracy, a central point of decision making and so on. Philosophically we have smashed that. In our India
center the head of R&D is driving some of the RTL power from his side as opposed to being on the low end of the food chain. Nowadays anything to do with RTL power goes to India as part of the origin of ideas. On the tactical side, we hold morning meetings three days of the week and we use all kinds of communication techniques. We use Instant Messaging, we have WebEx type meetings, we have project team meetings which are held at reasonable hours across multiple time zones. Sometimes people on the west coast wake up early morning to accommodate the East coast or India, sometimes the reverse. It depends on convenience. They alternate so that the burden doesn't fall on one group.
I wanted to create an internal website for all Sequence confidential work. All documents are saved on that website. Even when I am traveling I have access. The philosophy which I have put in place is that if tomorrow I am in Munich tomorrow, then Munich is the headquarters. Headquarters is wherever the CEO is. Not a physical location. I can access all my files on the internal web, maybe Board files, confidential HR files, product presentations, or whatever the case may be. Different levels of people have different access and security levels to access relevant files. So people don't keep things on their desktops. The common product presentation can be reviewed by any salesperson 24
hours a day in one location. That is where you will find the latest information from product release to presentations. All that helps in terms of removing communication barriers. Also what we do tactically is we force people to travel a little bit, once a quarter. For example this week we have people from Boston in Santa Clara and the next week the person from UK is coming over to have a product team meeting. We use white boarding quite a bit even on the net so that two people can see the same screen as so on. Every Tuesday morning we use conference calling feature for people traveling on the road. They can log in what we call War Room meeting where sales, field applications, R&D
and product marketing leaders tune in 30 minutes each for each product line, customer issues, fixing bugs, the hot issues of the day etc.
What about your own travel schedule with a company and customers spread around the world?
My travel and work schedule is pretty heavy I would say. Of course that's just my own nature. I consider it my time when I come home. After diner with the family I start talking to or logging on with Japan. Japan and Korea are important markets for us. So I save from 9 to 11 PM or midnight for them. In the morning I typically start around 6:30 with East coast and Europe either with emails or voice communications. It's pretty long hours.
What about you travel? How often?
Once a quarter however I alternate destinations. For example this quarter I was in India and now I am going to Europe. In April I will travel to Japan, Korea and Taiwan. So I alternate Europe and the Far East. Now I am putting India in the mix more and more. My managers and R&D guys also travel once a quarter. They travel more on the R&D side. Sometimes they are called into key customers. We have twenty or so top customers with whom we have R&D teams engaged. We have 120 customers in total.
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-- Jack Horgan, EDACafe.com Contributing Editor.
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