I talked this morning with fellow Brit David Halliday. More importantly, he is CEO of Silvaco, which he thinks must be the biggest private EDA company in the world. He didn’t reveal their revenue numbers but they have around 250-300 people and are profitable so you can make your own estimate.
David became CEO when Ivan Pesic, the founder, died of cancer last year. David comes from a professional software management background so is more disciplined about software development. Ivan built up a great support model that is very customer-focused which is being retained.
The company has a very broad product line. Roughly half is TCAD, where they are the top player, and half is “regular” EDA. Ivan liked to have a lot of projects and although Silvaco is big and so has a measure of scale, it is not the size of a Cadence. David wants to focus on the things that Silvaco is especially good at, and de-emphasize areas that are unlikely to become leadership positions. By de-emphasize David does not mean dropping the products: they will continue to support customers but just not target them for future investment.
In particular, they plan to de-emphasize digital CMOS, keeping what they have but not broadening the portfolio. For example, there were plans, now on-hold, to internally develop synthesis but that doesn’t make sense to David (nor to me, for that matter).
On the other hand, they will invest more in analog/mixed-signal and RF, building strong partnerships with the good foundries that also focus on this area such as Tower/Jazz and GF Singapore. Meanwhile for mainline SoC foundry they have SmartSpice which is in the process of being certified at TSMC 16nm.
Silvaco is the top player in TCAD with many solutions for novel areas such as power devices including SiC and GaN, TFT including amorphous and oxide based, solar cells including silicon nanowire, CMOS image sensors. They are also working on nanometer scale FinFET including 14nm with Sematech.
David feels that at the bleeding edge process nodes the fact that they can tie some of their TCAD technology into their EDA technology gives them an edge that nobody else has. As geometry sizes get smaller this only becomes more and more of an advantage. One area of special focus is MEMS which historically has not done much simulation.
David feels this is a 2+ year transition. Focus on what Silvaco is good at and move into adjacent areas. 4 special focus areas right now are:
- Clever (physics based parasitic extractor)
- Layout/schematic environment moved onto OpenAccess
Financially the company is in great shape. It has no debt. It has no investors. It is profitable. So they feel that they are the independent company, able to simply do what is best for customers.
Oh, and they plan to raise their profile. David says it is incredibly disconcerting that Silvaco has virtually zero marketing presence, and very few people realize how big Silvaco is. Partially because half their business is in TCAD which is a bit off-the-grid for people in EDA but also because David’s predecessor Ivan didn’t really believe in doing any sort of marketing.