Luc Burgun: More than the EDA360 Idol
February 20th, 2012 by Lauro Rizzatti - General Manager, EVE-USA
Many readers of this Blog will know Luc Burgun as the 2010 EDA360 Idol winner who performed the specially tuned version of the Rolling Stones classic “Satisfaction,” charming attendees at that final Denali Party.
Luc is so much more than a good musician. For starters, he is CEO of EVE, a role he’s held since founding the company in 2000, unusual for the EDA industry. He and I sat over cups of espresso one overcast afternoon in San Francisco to catch up on his life. One of the first things we remarked on was how few technical founders of EDA startups remain in that position after the first few years.
But first, let’s talk about his background. Luc was born in Brest in Brittany, France, in the Year of the Dragon. After a short pause of refection, he notes that the Dragon years, which reappear every 12 years in the Chinese calendar, have played a central role in his life, something he expects will continue.
We move on to his family and early life. Luc is the youngest child of five, three boys and two girls, and the only one to pursue a career in technology. An interest in math came early, then computer science at the university. As he got more curious about how a computer works, he began studying hardware and electronics, then software. Soon after, he was specializing in EDA. The first simulator he wrote was an instruction set simulator (ISS) running on an X86 with the old CPM operating system. That was in 1985. From there, he was exploring synthesis, layout, timing analysis and formal verification. He even designed his own CMOS cells and eventually earned a Ph.D. in logic synthesis. You could say that in a stroke of prescience, Luc studied the entire spectrum of the EDA tools that would eventually become mainstream.
He began teaching computer science and digital design at engineering schools and universities in Paris and did so from 1989-1994. A student of his went to work at Meta Systems Systems, a French startup located on the outskirts of Paris developing a hardware emulation system based on custom chips, a unique approach in the early 1980s. They met for coffee one day and this student raved about Meta as an exciting and great company. Luc was curious and, not long after, was hired as an engineer. Soon after, he was managing the front-end tools group.
While Meta Systems was not well known in the U.S., it was a good success in Europe. By the time it was acquired by Mentor Graphics in 1996, yearly revenue was already in the range of a few million dollars.
It was at around that time when Luc and I first met. From the start, I was struck by his friendly and open nature. Always wearing a welcoming smile, he was outgoing and willing to help at all times.
After running engineering at Mentor for four years, he and three other engineers set off to form EVE in 2000, the Year of the Dragon. Twelve years later, all of the team is still intact. Ludovic Larzul serves as vice president of engineering and is now based in the U.S. office in San Jose. Stephan Guerineau is a principal software engineer at EVE in France. David Reynier has become a senior application engineer at EVE KK in Japan.
Luc’s face crinkles into a wide, knowing grin when we talk about lessons learned over 12 years. I’m not a founder, having joined EVE in early 2002, but I was behind the scenes helping from the start and remember some early struggles raising money. Once we did convince investors, we raised in three rounds of financing a total of 14 million euros. At the current exchange rate, that’s about $18 million. Our last round was in 2006, in an eternity ago. We’ve been self-sustained since, thanks to our escalating year-over-year sales.
Another challenge was getting the sales channel working smoothly, something almost every EDA company executive can relate to. Today, the sales team is talented, motivated and is seemingly everywhere. Luc travels about one week a month meeting with customers at various locations around the world, all carefully arranged by sales.
And, while Ludo runs engineering, Luc has never lost his engineering roots and is an active participant in product planning and development. We recently figured out that EVE has invested an average of about 500-man years in R&D over the course of our history. In Silicon Valley, that equates to approximately $90 million. It is substantially lower in France, one advantage to keeping the majority of our R&D team there. Another advantage –– more perk than advantage, to be sure –– is the opportunity to travel to Paris, the most beautiful city in the world.
It is a lot of fun and rewarding to watch the company grow, Luc says. It can also be stressful, but Luc’s found a few stress-busting ways to unwind that I’ll get to later.
Luc and his wife Pascale, who works in Finance and Administration at EVE, have two children, Alexander, 16, a budding history buff, and Floriane, 13, fast becoming a computer programming genius. Pascale also received a Ph.D. in logic synthesis and holds a degree in accounting as well. Luc thinks Floriane may join her parents in pursuing an engineering degree.
They live in the idyllic town of Sucy-en-Brie, on a knoll not far from Paris and on its East side. Brie, one of the most popular cheeses that some gourmands consider the world’s best, is named after this famous town. On clear days and nights, they can see the Eiffel Tower in the distance. Down a sloping hill below their home rests a vineyard, whose wines are not really the best, admits Luc.
An enthusiastic participant in a wine club of about 30 expert members, he prides himself in tasting wines and thoroughly enjoys collecting bottles. The Burgun home boasts a wine cellar that currently stores a few thousand bottles. While Luc collects U.S. wines on his periodic trips to California, he’s partial to the Red Bordeaux from France.
Just as interesting is the basement band room. Each Sunday afternoon, Luc on bass, Pascale on guitar and J.P. Colrat, another member of the EVE team and a uniquely talented percussionist, rock out to a range of music. They especially like the Pixies and the Police, so their songs are often on the playlist.
As for other stress-busting activities, Luc’s a competitive sportsman who ran track and field competitions for 20 years, and also spent 10 years coaching athletes on how to become competitive. While those days of running are long gone, he regularly bikes, goes hiking and swimming. In fact, 40-mile bike rides on weekends are not uncommon. He also plays on the EVE soccer team in France, the European equivalent of U.S. football, along with 10 or 12 others from EVE.
As we get ready to head back to San Jose for a dinner meeting with a customer, we talk about 2012, a year we think will be another good one for EVE. After all, Luc says, lots of designs need emulation. We share a knowing smile as we walk to the car. And, 2012 is the Year of the Dragon.