October 16, 2006
Chipidea - Analog and Mixed-Signal IP
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Today we have sigma-delta ADCs available at TSMC and UMC at 180 nm and 130 nm. We have under development the instantiation for 90 nm and 65 nm. Very mature IP ready to be instantiated at any technology from 130 nm to 65 nm.
What is the target date for availability at 90 nm and 65 nm?
Typically the development, the porting time, is below 3 months. Within that timeframe we can have the IP ready on any technology. Of course, it must then be fabricated and characterized to prove it is good operation.
If someone wants a particular product at 90 nm, when would it be delivered?
The process normally involves a complete solutions engagement. It is very rare that a customer requests a single sigma-delta modulator. We normally provide a complete solution tailored to our customers applications. Normally there is a need for a programmable identification, some analog filtering, and offset calibration. Digital functions and filters are normally included in the analog front end. We provide a complete solution.
So customers do not simply pick IP out of a catalog?
On our website you can see plenty of analog front ends. Many of them include sigma-delta modulators inside. The key advantage of the IP we are providing and announcing is that it is not just another sigma-delta modulator. It is highly programmable. It supports multimode operation. That is very important today where you already hear of companies coming to market with multimode baseband processors, for example support in GSM, wideband CDMA and mobile TV. This IP fits very well to those applications. It can be embedded on the same die. With a single IP that can cover all the modes of operation.
How does Chipidea sell its IP?
We have a lot of word of mouth, a lot of customers referring us to others. We have of course our website. We also have a lot of inquiries from Design and Reuse web portal. Chipidea has a lot of visibility there. We receive many requests from that site.
The majority of sales of Chipidea are direct. It is one engineer referring another engineer. They contact Chipidea through a variety of means and then Chipidea engages with the customers directly.
Are the sales people employees or distributors?
They are normally employees of Chipidea. This would be the majority of the time.
In September Chipidea hired Didier Lacrois as Senior Vice-President of Worldwide Sales and Marketing to be based in Los Gatos, CA. he was the CEO of Discera Inc and also was vice-president and general manager of MEMSCAP's wireless business unit. Lacroix also has held senior management positions at Synopsys.
We are expanding ourselves.
What was the goal of bringing him on board?
He just started a couple of months ago. His main goal in terms of what he will add to the company is that there is a large need to continue to develop partnerships throughout the industry. Chipidea has very well established and strong relationships with the foundries. We would expect that the new VP of Marketing would assist with relationships not only with the foundries but outside of that. He is helping with a lot of initiatives. To see some results we have to give him some time. That will definitely be part of his role along with driving a lot of the marketing functions for Chipidea.
What does Chipidea deliver to the customer? The company website mentions integration kits?
We deliver design kits which include GDS II, the core, all the view necessary for its integration, documentation and technical information.
If a prospect is interested in some of your IP, how do you persuade that prospect that your IP will meet his requirement?
This is why we have such a small sales force. We engage engineer to engineer. Once we have a prospect or customer with an inquiry, we very quickly put them with our engineering team to work on a solution. We understand their requirements. We can drive the solution.
What is the arrangement with the customer: development fees, licensing fees, royalties,..?
It is an IP business model. It is licensing and royalties. We do not offer design services. We understand the need and provide the complete solution on our IP.
You don't do design services, which means precisely what?
We do not do design for hire.
So you customize the IP that your already have to satisfy a customer's requirements and deliver it as an integration kit.
That is one way of saying it. We find the best fit to existing IP and then migrate it. Normally, it is to a different process node or from one foundry to another or sometimes tune it to a new application.
How do you determine the price of your IP?
Laugh. I would not know how to answer that. It is a negotiation. The most standard blocks have established prices on the market. Chipidea is not the only provider.
Who do you see as Chipidea's main competition?
In truth there is no real competition and there are many competitors. There is no company like Chipidea with broad IP portfolio capable of providing complete solutions. But we have many competitors in specific application areas. In data converters we have competitors; in power management we have competitors. But if a customer is looking for a one-stop-shop where he can get all of his IP from one single vendor, there is not much other than Chipidea. If you consider internal engineering team within large IDMs, we could characterize them as competition. The internal team at Philips would be competitors if we tried to sell to Philips.
How do you convince these large IDMs that it is smarter to use Chipidea IP rather than use their internal resources?
Good question! We have had a lot of success. Most of our major customers are IDMs. We need to show the highest possible quality and best service. We need to show that they can get better service from Chipidea than if they use their own resources. Also these large customers sometime have different groups that do not cooperate well with each other. They have their own problems. Sometimes it is easier to come to a company like Chipidea to get their problem solved.
How do you protect your IP? Licensing agreements, encryption, ?
Our design kits do not contain the schematics. So there is already some protection. Our agreements state very clearly the ownership of the IP is Chipidea. The customers have the commercial right to exploit the IP but they can not resell it. They use the GDS to produce the chips but they can not resell the IP.
Could the customer modify your IP?
With most agreements they can not.
It is well known that IP protection is weak in certain geographies. Is this a challenge for Chipidea?
We have different models. In Asia especially in China we have a process that is supported by the foundries. This process is to merge at the foundry which means that the customer only sees an abstract. The GDS goes directly to the foundry. The foundry merges the GDS with our customer's chip. This process works very well.
What is Chipidea's revenue by geography?
One third North America which is mainly the US, one third Europe and the other third Asia.
The website breaks down product by IP portfolio, ASIC, turnkey solutions and ASSP solutions. How does the revenue breakdown among these categories?
I have been working only in IP. The ASSP is only a starting activity. We do not have product in the market yet in this area. In terms of business turnkey solutions is much lower than IP.
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-- Jack Horgan, EDACafe.com Contributing Editor.
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