Gabe Moretti has a piece in EDAcafe about Oasys. So get an EDAcoffee and go and read it.
It must have been a long time brewing (it’s coffee all the way today) since it starts off with encountering Joe Costello and Nanette Collins at DAC (remember that back when San Francisco wasn’t cold and wet). But I think his key quote is that he considers that Oasys is “one of the dwindling number of EDA startups that can be successful.” Coming from Gabe, who is not noted for being over-optimistic that is high praise indeed.
Gabe also makes the point about how the founders of Oasys had to leave Cadence in order to develop RealTime Designer, rather than being allowed to do it within Cadence. To be fair, Cadence has tried to incubate products internally with more of a startup culture. The Catena router was developed in a skunk works in Los Gatos; the C-to-Silicon was another attempt to get a startup mentality into an internal group. But there is a more fundamental problem: for any given product, one that is not incremental off the existing technology but one that is disruptive, there may be half-a-dozen groups that might be the one to develop breakthrough technology and produce the market leading technology. If one group is internal that is still only a 1 in 6 chance that the internal one will be the winner, and a 5 in 6 chance that an acquisition is a more likely method to get the best technology. Another issue is how to compensate employees in an equivalent manner. If Oasys is wildly successful then the founders will make a lot of money. If they had stayed at Cadence and managed to develop the same successful product then not so much. So why would they stay?
Anyway, they left. Gabe wonders why they did it given that EDA is a market in either secular decline or anemic growth depending on your point of view. But nobody is predicting explosive growth for EDA as a whole. But synthesis is a $350M market and a startup doesn’t need to win much of that to be a large startup. In addition, Oasys is biting off a big enough piece of the pie that the interfaces are simple and customers who adopt it will not spend multiples of what they gave Oasys in developing a method to integrate it clumsily into their flows.
Gabe worries about what will happen when Oasys outgrows its market and has built a solid differentiated business. My answer would be that I can’t think of a nicer problem to have but that it is hard to plan for when you don’t know how the EDA landscape will look in a few years. My own belief is that if Oasys is successful at building a large fast-growing business and are several years ahead of the traditional EDA company’s synthesis products then one of the big guys will acquire them, whether that is what they plan or not. Every company is for sale every day, it’s just a matter of price.
Gabe doesn’t like the name Chip Synthesis since the chip is the final product, not what comes out of synthesis. He thinks “Design Synthesis” would be better. But I think that sounds rather too like the name of a synthesis product from a well-known EDA company with a purple logo. But then I don’t like the RealTime in the product name since it sounds too like something in the RTOS embedded space. Oh well, people are never happy with product names.
So, today’s trivia question: what was the name of Berkeley’s first logic optimization tool? Espresso. I told you it was coffee all the way.