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Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena is a freelance journalist and Editor of EDA Confidential at She can be reached at peggy at aycinena dot com.

SNUG: Lunch with a proper stranger

March 28th, 2013 by Peggy Aycinena

The best part of attending a conference like SNUG is plunging into a room of hundreds of anonymous lunch munchers and striking up a conversation with a stranger. Over the course of the meal, you’ll learn a little bit about somebody’s career, their expertise, and their concerns.

This week’s networking lunch at the Santa Clara Convention Center was no different. I had a chance to converse for 30 minutes with a lunch companion at a table full of strangers. By the end of the meal, I had heard first-hand about a really big problem for small IP vendors attempting to succeed in the current market – they can’t. According to my lunch companion, it’s nigh-on impossible to compete against ARM.

This guy works for a small company. He says they’ve got a great product, but they can’t get the tool vendors, the manufacturing guys, or the customers to listen to them. ARM’s got the corner on the conversation, the manufacturers – and he named them all – either cleave to ARM, or in other areas of IP, either always use their own or sometimes use IP from the major EDA vendors who also sell IP.

Needless to say, it wasn’t a happy conversation. This guy told me he has years of experience, his small company makes great IP, and yet there’s no way they’re going to succeed or even be able to stay in business much longer.

The only good news out of the chance encounter with this guy is that Synopsys was paying for lunch. In conjunction, of course, with numerous other companies who were sponsoring all or parts of SNUG. Ironically, those sponsors included among others, ARM, GlobalFoundries, TSMC, UMC, and SMIC.

Which begs the question: Can have your free lunch and complain about it too?


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3 Responses to “SNUG: Lunch with a proper stranger”

  1. Tom Anderson says:

    One possible way for small IP companies to compete is to offer consulting/customization services along with their IP. Big EDA companies have big IP portfolios but find it hard to maintain applications or consulting expertise across the many protocols. A small company focused on just a few protocols can build that expertise and offer much more help in terms of IP customization, verification of the custom features, integration services, and verification that the IP works in the full-chip context. I would love to hear from some IP vendors whether or not this approach works.

  2. Paul Lindemann says:

    My view is biased by a long relationship with client CAST, Inc. (full disclosure!) but it is indeed possible for a small 3rd-party IP provider to survive, even in today’s consolidating market. The key is to do a better job solving a specific customer’s problem, usually with a better product for their particular application, better reusability packaging, better licensing terms, and a better partner-like relationship. This, of course, is easier said than done.

    Tom, I’ve seen application area expertise play a major role in sales, but more in helping a design team select the right IP in the first place (and thus improving their chances for project success). IP customization is also in demand–and many IP sales require a bit of this–but there’s a difference in business models between selling off-the-shelf reusable cores and providing contract design services.

  3. Warren Savage says:

    I can fully appreciate the stranger’s frustration, and to a large extent it is a fact of life. There are seemingly a lot of unfair things in a market such as SIP that are simply associated with the overall trend in semiconductor that is driving consolidation in the market. Our chip customers (i.e. semiconductor companies) are facing the same problem. The only prescription that I can recommend is to take advantage of the one key advantage that their bigger competitors can’t easily follow– be fast, agile, and adaptable, but most of all, become acutely good listeners to what customers are telling you of their needs.

    Meanwhile, the other thing that I highly recommend, and our Constellations initiative is a step in this direction, is to team up with other like-minded, compatible companies and form partnerships and alliances that not only strengthen your offerings, but also increases the awareness in the market of your offering.

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