September 28, 2009
It’s the Customers...
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While at DAC I had an opportunity to interview Kathryn Kranen, President and CEO of Jasper Design Automation. She has over 20 years experience in EDA as an executive at several companies. During the interview she argued strongly that existing and prospective EDA customers were most interested in the experiences of others with specific products rather than the usual press announcements of new products.
Unfortunately, many end user firms have a practice or policy against giving product testimonials. Perhaps, they want to keep the knowledge of a superior product to themselves as a competitive advantage. Perhaps, they fear someone who does not have a successful experience with the product they have endorsed will take some legal action. I have considerable respect for members of the legal profession but corporate attorneys can be overly conservative and protective. If you have an attorney draft an agreement for your prospective customers or for prospective partners that gives you protection and advantage in all contingencies, only an idiot would sign it and who wants idiots for
customers and partners.
It could be an issue of fairness. Most EDA customers have competing products from multiple vendors spread across multiple groups, departments, divisions and geographies. Left to their own devices some individuals or groups would be more inclined to give testimonials while others would be more resistant regardless of the relative merits of the situation. This could be a cultural thing. I worked for a Japanese company that was the leading Mechanical CAD vendor at the time with an installed base of tens of thousands of seats. The best they could get out of their large user community in Japan were statements like “Yes, I am using the product and I look forward to the next release.” I remember working for a company and could not get the head of our US user group to say anything on the public record. He said he would like to but that it was against his company’s policy. I found a long article in German in a well respected CAD/CAM magazine with an employee of the same company going on and on extolling the features and benefits of one of our competitors. I personally translated the article into English and gave our user a copy. I asked “Now can I get a testimonial, a success story like this one from you?” He consulted his bosses and they said maybe it is different in Germany or maybe it is not different but two wrongs
don’t make a right. By having a corporate policy against vendor testimonials, a firm ensures that all vendors are treated the same. It is straightforward and simple to implement. This also eliminates the hassle of dealing with vendors complaining about what they perceive as unfair treatment.
From a vendor’s perspective the best end user success story would be where a prospect was stymied, stuck on a critical problem (could not close timing, low yield) and the vendor rode in on his white horse with his wonder product and saved the day. This would be great publicity for the vendor but not so much for the “saved” design team. There might be some reluctance to see this “intervention” in print.
While having a list of or quotes from satisfied customers may help a prospect gain confidence in a particular vendor’s product, having a detailed understanding of the existing customers’ experiences with that product would be more informative and valuable. This would require putting the prospect and the current users in contact, not just writing up a customer success story. While this does happen, one can understand why management might consider this a distraction or helping the enemy. And, of course, it is unlikely that a vendor would put a prospect in contact with an unsatisfied customer.
There is also a blog "Of Investors, bloggers and customers" on our EDACafe website by Jacques Benkoski on this subject.
Would you give us a brief biography?
I am an electrical engineer from Texas A&M. Back in the early 80s I was a chip designer. Signed with Rockwell International right away. Did some of their first ASICs. I moved into EDA with Daisy Systems. Stayed in the industry with Daisy until the late eighties and then did three successful startups. Quickturn Systems, I was probably the mother of emulation success in that I started as a sales person and found the vein of microprocessor emulation. I did the big deal with Intel that funded the company. Then in the next year we did $100 million in processor business and away they went. I grew up with that company to be VP of Sales, public company. Then I was recruited out to go to Verisity as President and CEO of the US subsidiary of the Israeli parent company. That was test bench automation, another big verification milestone in the industry. There were around six people. Took it to cash flow positive and left three years later. After my first child, we brought in Moshi Gabrielov. I stayed for another year and then left. They went public the next year. So that was my blissful retirement stage for a few years. Then I was lured back to the industry to what is now Jasper (it started out as a different name) where I have been for six and a half years. Jasper is in the formal property verification domain. Since 2003 I have been leading the ship. Now
we are cash flow positive and have a fantastic customer lineup. We just announced our second major product which is in the RTL design and evolution space, not just the flagship property verification which is our bread and butter and revenue generator. Aside from that I have a husband, Kevin Kranen, and two kids; Karl and Kayla ages 11 and 8. I am Vice Chairperson of EDAC and other professional things. So happy, happy.
I closed a round of funding in November 2008, which is really our cash buffer. Brought in a new lead investor with ZenShin Capital who focuses on companies with a very strong market presence and growth opportunity in Japan. We do. All of my investors re-invested in the company. We now have topped it off with a little over $30 million. We do not think we need any more. So Jasper is a well capitalized company.
What is the annual revenue?
We do not discuss our revenue numbers. You can probably reverse engineer some of this since we are cash positive. We have development sites in Brazil, Gothenberg Sweden and here in the US at Mountain View. The field is all over; Israel, Germany and Japan.
We are hiring. We have actually hired quite a few, mostly on the application engineering side. A very selective occasional R&D engineer but mostly in the channel because the revenue is built directly on the AE resources in the channel and manifests itself in the revenue stream. We figured out a couple of years ago that the best business model on here is how to enable this kind of new and bolder adoption of formal property verification was to go find applications that customers have pain points across the SoC development cycle and instead of saying here is our formal property verification tool where we give you the manuals, training and one scripted flow, we say “If you could wave a magic wand and fix any problem in your design and verification phases, what would that be.” Things came out of the woodwork at us. It is so easy to use the power and flexibility of properties and craft a solution to just about any problem. At last count there were 70 known unique problems that we have solved. There are 8 major areas (if I can remember them all):architectural validation, RTL exploration, early design pre-verification, classic protocol checking, critical block functionality, verifying critical properties like data integrity or cache coherence testing and then SoC integration. There are many, many subapplications of things that you can automate
using JasperGold, our formal property verification product. So, you simply eliminate labor. It is low hanging fruit. It is easy, easy trivial from a technology point of view but since our product was already out there at these customer sites, we said “ Lets round it out and find all the ways to deliver more value and utilize more licenses. ” Last but not least debug. Did I miss any?
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-- Jack Horgan, EDACafe.com Contributing Editor.
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