Design Automation is a startup that provides ultra-fast, fully-automated
characterization technology for the creation of library views for timing,
signal integrity and power analysis and optimization. The
I recently had an opportunity to talk with Jim McCanny, CEO and co-founder.
Would you provide us with a brief biography?
I have been in EDA for my entire career. I started my professional life as an EDA developer at Texas Instruments, working in the
You said that you went over to the dark side. Which side was more interesting, more challenging, more satisfying?
They both have equal amounts of interesting stuff. Having spent so many years on the technical side, it was interesting to try something new but still be able to leverage what I had learned on the technical side. On the technical side you tend to be point focused on one customer, one user. You can add a feature or make a change that helps one user and it is satisfying that that you are having an impact. But when you go into marketing, you can make pretty broad strokes that have impact across a whole market. That was new, exciting and very fulfilling, especially at a small company like CadMOS where we had to evangelize signal integrity, which was a new issue. People would rather ignore some of these issues that are coming along. You get some resistance. Not only did we build a successful company we transformed the digital design flow. They had to have signal integrity as part of the flow. We had a lot of influence on how signal integrity was measured and how it could be dealt with in the design flow.
marketing side appeals to sort of the broad strokes. Occasionally you miss the one-on-one
connection with the end user, particularly when you get to Cadence and you know
you would be doing things on a broad scale.
But when you make contact with a customer, you never got to see them
through an entire project. At EPIC we
were working a lot with Intel and AMD, going down and spending a couple of days
a week, working onsite with these guys, seeing their issues and the progress
they were making on their big microprocessors.
That was very satisfying too. I
like both. The good thing about being in
a small startup is that you stay close to the technology without having to
spend all the evenings and hours writing code.
Once you start writing code, it sort of drags you down. You have to spend so much time thinking about
it. It can become very isolating after
some time. So I think the dark side has
its benefits in the sense that it is a little more social and you get to
interact with more people.
Large firms often acquire smaller
firms for their technology. This gives
the founders and the investors an opportunity to cash in. However, it would appear that a lot of
employees eventually drift away from the larger employers because of the
difference in environments.
Yes. I think the big companies are nice in terms of the security and the hours are a better (not a lot but a little better). There are some more benefits but everybody likes to feel useful. At times at a big company like Cadence, you may work with a customer and then the sales guy will do an all-you-can-eat deal. You have no idea whether the little piece you worked on was important or not. You can’t relate what you do to the bottom line. In small companies everybody is involved. Everyone gets to experience the highs and lows. They understand what they do really matters. Once you have had that kind of excitement, that drug, it is hard to give it up. You can wear yourself out in a startup and then go spend a few years in a big company, make some good contacts and find your feet again. Then you just feel like it is time to do something new again, to get out there. At least that was it for me. I felt that Cadence was very good to me. I had no complaints. They had great people there. There were interesting things to work on but I missed the excitement of being at a smaller company, really interacting with the customers and the developers, and working with a very focused team. The reason EDA has so many startups is not only the potential to get acquired. You can grow the company to a large size and make good money. It is very exhilarating to solve real problems for customers and work very closely with the technical team. You feel like you are changing the world a little bit.