Ponte Solutions - Design for Yield (DFY)
Does Ponte have any patents on their technology?
We are working on patents. We have submitted some.
Is this product for general usage or are there some applications that would benefit most?
We haven't found that yet. At this point we are being approached by companies in different industries with different applications. It doesn't appear that there is any particular niche. There is certainly no limit to applying this product to different kinds of applications. The question I think you are asking is “Are there certain applications crying out more than others?” I haven't seen a pattern yet.
Does the need for and the value of your product increase as one goes from 130 nm to 90 nm to 65 nm?
Absolutely! I've heard that going to 90 nm yields are really going down. I've heard estimates at 65 nm getting single digit yields. There's a lot of room to improve there. The design rules really exploded The foundries don't really have a great grip on following those rules because it has been hard and fast rules like keeping your metal this far apart that have become traditional rules. If there's a second structure that is in the vicinity of the metal, use a different rule. It's becoming too much to manage for the people who have to actually implement those rules.
Prospects recognize the problem and see the value in what you offer. How do you convince them that you can deliver?
The first thing you need is vision match. The operative question is “If you yield could improve by a small amount, would that be a good thing?” The calculation goes” How big is my wafer? How many dies? What's my current yield? What does that translate into in terms of cost savings by running less wafers or perhaps it is from the standpoint of now I get more good dies through the fab early on, actual have product on the shelf. Right now as an example I think Microsoft wishes that they could have made more Xbox but the yields have been pretty dismal is my understanding. The benefits could be spoken of in a number of different ways. I mentioned before if you have this conversation everybody is in favor of having a higher yield or lower cost die. When you talk to people about ESL I think the reaction is some people say “That's exactly where we want to be.” Other people say “That's kind of interesting but why would I use that or that's a little too domain specific. We are a little different. It doesn't apply.”
In reality anybody who is making a chip whether they are a chip company, a foundry, an IP company have an interest in making the yields as bets as they can be.
How do you convince prospect (reference, benchmarks, ..)?
All of our customers are running benchmarks, seeing what the differences are in comparison. In test cases it's apparent to them. I will give you an example. Improving yield is not a new thing. There has always been a first spin of silicon. Now let's do a second spin maybe change this functionality and by the way clean up a few things to make the yield higher. One company we are engaged with had spent six months doing a diagnosis on why a chip was yielding so poorly. We engaged them and ran their design through our system. We presented back to them out observations and recommendations that we came with by running our tool. They looked at what we had done and said “You did that in six weeks! We took six months to come up with the same set of things.” They were quote unquote sold at that instant that this was a tool that could provide real value in their process.
At the beginning we are going to be proving to people on a benchmark level. They are going to have to see it to believe it. It's the traditional software process. As you announce success stories and reference accounts other companies will say “If they are doing it, we want to do it also.”
It can be difficult to get reference accounts.
You are absolutely right. Some people don't want to and some people do. Fortunately there are enough who do. I don't see it as an issue. If you visit enough websites in particular EDA companies you will see that there are lots of people willing to be references.
What is your biggest challenge over the next 12 months?
For a small company to is usually bandwidth; getting the bandwidth so that you can engage with people efficiently. That's probably the biggest challenge.
Do you have enough sales people on board to meet that challenge?
I think we are where we need to be right now. We see some growth coming our way as products and references are announced. We've got plans to staff up. As a venture backed software company, it is always a difficult to ensure that you are using the cash in the most effective manner. You use that to bring in more revenue and help provide more investment in the product and in the sales channel. I think we are now exactly where we want to be. As the product gets announced and gets deployed we should be able to staff up. I don't see that as any kind of a barrier but rather a natural progression.
Alex Alexanian who founded Mosaic Systems, is the President and CEO of Ponte Solutions. How is he to work for?
We are all engineers by background. We communicate very well, high bandwidth which is great. He is a great guy, very knowledgeable about the engineering side. On a personal level he is open to learning about building a business rapidly. He is a decisive kind of guy, so a good leader. The whole Armenian connection is unique with us. There is a lot of talent in Armenia. There are probably only a handful of people here in Silicon Valley who could have taped that. It's fortunate that he had that ability to go do that.
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