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Lucio and the Kaufman Award

Lucio and the Kaufman Award
by Paul McLellan on 11-06-2014 at 4:30 pm

 Tuesday was the Kaufman award dinner. This year it was awarded to Lucio Lanza. Last week I wrote about how Lucio ended up in EDA, although that was not where he finished up. He is currently a venture capitalist running Lanza Technology Ventures, one of the few VCs to make any investments in the EDA/IP/semiconductor space. Also, unlike most Kaufman award honorees, he actually worked with Phil Kaufman earlier in his career.

See How Lucio Got Into EDA

Lucio has invested in many EDA and IP companies, served on their boards and mentored their CEOs. Two that were especially significant were Artisan Systems and ARM. Mark Templeton, the founding CEO of Artisan, and Simon Segars, the current CEO of ARM presented the award. Or as they were introduced, they provided “the entertainment.” Since it was election night they pretended to have a debate format. “How’s that independence thing going?” Simon asked. In case you don’t know, Simon is English (me too!) although he lives mostly in the US since he has kids in high school (actually I think he lives mostly on British Airways). Artisan was eventually acquired by ARM and Lucio was on the board for a time (although Simon was not CEO in that era).

Mark started by giving a little bit of the history I covered in my earlier post about Lucio starting in Milan, going to Olivetti, coming to the US to work for Intel and then leaving to Daisy. He then ended up in the somewhat strange position of working for Cadence as a consultant in the Joe Costello years and also working at US Venture Partners (USVP). At Cadence they made many acquisitions and he also started an IP business (which for some reason never survived his departure). Eventually the conflict of interest between making acquisitions and making investments in companies to be acquired became too much and so he left Cadence to be full-time at USVP. And then he left USVP to found his own venture capital company, Lanzo Technology Ventures. It is a one-man show run out of a little office on University Avenue in Palo Alto. I doesn’t appear to even have a website since everyone already knows Lucio.

Simon talked about many of the companies Lucio had been involved with. There were too many to fit on one slide and many of the CEOs of those companies were there at the dinner. One I talked to during the networking session before the dinner was Dave Stewart of CriticalBlue, which has had Lucio on its board since the beginning. Somehow I know him through the Edinburgh connection where they are based.

Mark talked about Lucio showing up at Artisan’s door with a whole lot of pizza. At the time he was not even an investor. He gave Mark some advice. “Double your prices.” Mark did and…nothing happened except they made more money. “I’ll tell you what is going to happen,” Lucio said. “In 15 years or so the IP market will be bigger than EDA.” In 14 years the lines crossed.

 Mark and Simon presented the award to Lucio to a standing ovation and then it was Lucio’s turn to talk. He gave more color on the early years of his career before he switched to the challenges facing the fabless ecosystem. He pointed out that SoCs are not systems-on-chip, they are hardware on chip since the EDA industry has ducked the challenge of the software component and that has to change or the cost of design will become prohibitive. Indeed, the aforementioned CriticalBlue, started as an EDA company, has completely refocused their technology on optimizing embedded software.

In the future, Lucio said, “chips” (or whatever technology turns out to be the future) will have hundreds, then thousands then hundreds of thousands of processors. This is what I call “core’s law” since it is exponential but not really obvious yet since we are on the flat part of the curve still. But just like in the 1970s you could predict chips with tens of thousands of transistors even though there were just 128 or something at the time, you can run the numbers out a decade. Who is going to make designing such a system feasible and cost-effective? Lucio finished by throwing this down as a gauntlet for the whole industry for the future, a challenge and an opportunity. And when companies come along that solve a piece of the puzzle, guess who will turn out to be an advisor, investor, board member. Lucio.

More articles by Paul McLellan…

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