January 14, 2008
What if a Marketer From Outside EDA Were to Run an EDA Firm?
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Most of the press announcements that I have seen on new executive hires or executive promotions tout the long and multiple company EDA or possibly semiconductor experience of the person involved. One could make the case that the EDA industry is a highly technical niche and therefore requires executives with relevant experience. Other industries routinely hire executives from outside their arena. The computer industry has two notably examples, one good and one not so good. Apple hired John Sculley as its CEO from PepsiCo where he had successfully launched the Pepsi Challenge campaign against Coke Cola. He ran Apple for 10 years. IBM hired Lou Gerstner the CEO of RJR Nabisco, Inc. who had
an 11-year career at American Express before RJR. He made the elephant dance.
If one hired a person with a marketing background to run an EDA company, what would you expect; crisp marketing positioning, superior collaterals and so forth. When Altium, the only Australian EDA company, wanted to hire someone to run its Marketing operation there was no native EDA firm to recruit from. So they went elsewhere and hired Emma LoRusso. Altium later made her president and chief operating officer. I had an opportunity to interview her recently. From the interview and the company website you can judge how this has worked out.
Would you give us a brief biography?
I joined Altium three years ago, originally to head up marketing. Prior to that my background was basically business and marketing. I was general manager of a commercial printing company in Sydney, advertising and graphic design. I joined Altium in the marketing side and worked my way up to Chief Operating Officer. I have been in the role of President and COO for 12 months now. I have no EDA background which is hard to find in Australia. There are not many EDA companies Australia in fact none other than Altium doing anything remotely like what we do. But having worked for some technologies companies, particularly with McClaury Bank and looking at different companies that we were investing in, it was just a very compelling story to go to work for this very exciting global company. It is based in the Northern Bases which is where I live. Originally to look after their go-to-market strategy. Great technology but how do we take that market? It was a lovely mix of my skills and the organization. Then, just realizing that when you have such a compelling enterprise solution such as Altium Designer, an electronics product development solution, that one of my skills that is required there is to be able to synthesize that message and make the compelling story for engineering management organization. That’s where my background was really able to come into play. Also I partnered very well with Nick Martin, our founder and CEO. He is also the CTO (Chief Technology Officer). He focuses on the strategic direction for our technology and products. I worry about making sure that we are able to take that to market and synchronize the organization behind that. I love it. I am enjoying it immensely. I am enjoying the global scope. We have 97% of our revenue outside Australia, yet we have 98% market share in Australia. It is a very interesting scenario where the total focus is on the world and the different dynamics. Being able to see how globalization and off-shoring are impacting across the regions. It is something we are able to observe, predict and be ready for. We are seeing a lot of strength and growth in Asia Pacific markets. We are seeing that continuing. At the same time we feel our technology is one that affords companies where the product design is being crafted and where features of the product are being determined that we have a solution that makes it really easy to focus on innovations that differentiate a company and their product with respect to their competitors. A very unique product that allows the focus to be there because it removes the barriers that are there with disparate tool solutions and makes that easily supported because you have a unified system through a single data model and version control to be able to outreach
that across a global network further down the supply chain.
Altium and all other EDA firms are essentially technology companies selling to knowledgeable, technically savvy customers and prospects. This is far different from marketing household goods to consumers. I suspect that the majority of EDA marketing executives came from within the EDA community or possible the semiconductor industry. Have you found it to be an asset or a liability to have come from outside the EDA community in terms of doing the marketing for Altium.
I thin it is an asset because if it can’t be synthesized where you really focus on the benefits as opposed to the core technology feature which might be really exciting to a user that it is a good thing that is going to make their life different but you don’t know how that’s translated into time saving or cost saving or having an environment that really supports innovation and being able to tie more to the business story. I think that is where not having an EDA background provides an advantage in being able to do that, to be able to truly explore it in a way in which you think needs to be compelling to an organization for them to understand why go through the pain of retooling, why approach design in a different way. I think that has actually worked to my favor. One of the things I will not say is that you have to be a quick learner. It has not been very easy. I think it is possible if you have a strong desire to learn and a love of technology. For me one of the things I found always very compelling and I continue to do today is that I really believe in our company’s vision which is that we focus on helping people who want to create an intelligent device, get that to market quicker than anyone else. Our company is one hundred percent focused on that unlike other EDA companies who support ASIC design as their core business. They have their top 20 customers that bring 80% of their revenue and they make so much of their revenue from professional services. We are 100% focused on the electronics designers as a person or as a company who are trying to bring a product to market, trying to do something different, take advantage of a program or hardware so that they have true time to market or in market possibility of delivering new features, competitive differentiation. This is where we are focused. This is not a sub business, not part of our business. This is our sole focus, 100% commitment. All of our technology goes into the box. It is a shrink-wrap solution. People can take advantage of it the second they get it and deploy that in their organization. Companies are looking for that. We see extended design environments with our desktop NanoBoard. This is a highly reconfigurable development environment that affords again a number of advantages by allowing them to interact live with their design and be able to plug in whatever their choice of FPGA daughter board or plug-in peripheral boards. That really allows them to be able to see how their design is going to execute without having to go back to the redesign process. Our system autoconfigures around whatever set of peripherals are in these NanoBoards, making the process kind of focus on what you want your product to do. So designing in the intelligence rather than
manufacturing in your differentiation.
For me that made it easy to know where we are focused and therefore know what the benefit is of someone approaching design in a new way with an off-the-shelf solution that is made available. Our philosophy is to make sure we remove the barriers to having people get access to our product. So we have packaged it in a way to make it widely available. We put the best of our technology in the one product.
Surfing the Altium website I see some impressive graphics. Altium’s corporate brochure is as good as if not better than the major EDA firms. It would appear that you have a lot of time and effort developing these collaterals.
The thing is that all that collateral exists in a world. You can do it great or you can just do it. My view on everything that we do is that we want to do it great. The power of digital media today given that engineers see it mostly at their desk. They communicate through the web. They search. They learn. They find out what’s new. They forward links to their peers, colleagues and managers. Most media is being read, viewed and searched on a network. That is the area where we want to spend a lot of time delivering. We have invested a lot through everything from an on-line training center which is by far the most comprehensive in EDA, the demo center and now we are bring highly visual documentary style videos. When you have a look at the one that supports 3D design visualization that has just been delivered in 6.0, that was to really show what the value and what the intent was and then to actually hear that from the head of development and his team that were involved in that as well as from customers who are using it. That to me tells a much stronger story than trying to just write that down in a “what’s new” type of exercise. If you want to dig down deeper, look at the development training video. If you want to know how to do it, you might want the more technical demo. Or you might want the tutorial or the more pdf style how-to study guide. That all exists. I think that highly visual way of communicating concepts is a very powerful way. Besides what we are doing is so unique, so different and so disruptive to the current EDA world. We are creating a new product category. We are the only ones there in terms of offering. We are the only vendor with a truly unified solution. It is hardware design, programmable hardware and software design
capabilities within a single system with a single data model, version control and single project management that sits across that. It is not integrated it is unified. You make a change in your PCB or FPGA and it will automatically synchronize between those two domains.
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-- Jack Horgan, EDACafe.com Contributing Editor.
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