Our second guest blog comes from Chi-Ping Hsu, who is senior VP of R&D for the implementation group at Cadence. Chi-Ping echoes Joy’s law that it is the people that are important and that innovation may be found anywhere, not least in large companies who have deeper resources to back up large-scale ideas.
Innovation: it’s a personal thing
It’s always with some humor when I hear the claim that innovation comes only from startups. Most of these “startups” with many years of trials of ideas are not startups anymore. As a rule of thumb, after four years, the company is no longer a startup - it is a small company whose idea did not yet get off the ground the way they had planned. With fewer resources than larger companies, these small companies can easily disappear into an uncertain global economy or vanish in their own business bumps.
I have worked in all types of companies – true startups, small companies and large companies. The truth is that innovation comes from people, and it really does not matter if those people are working in a new startup, an older small company, or a large established company. It comes from people with vision. However, the vision is merely the starting point. It takes people with a true passion and drive for that vision to make it materialize.
Innovation also cannot occur in a vacuum. It is a synthesis of accumulated experience, refined into an overall stratagem and approach. Again, this synthesis comes from people and is not a property of an organizational scale.
Small companies must focus their limited resources on a problem of limited scope in order to get to market within the timeframe of their cash burn constraints and the patience limits of their investors. The “point” solutions that result from startup/small company efforts are possible because of the relatively minimal investment required (just a few good people, armed with machines and some office space). So, a small amount of capital can launch the hopes and dreams of many, and the hundreds of small companies in the EDA space are a perfect testament to that truth. However, only a very small percentage of these companies reach any measure of success. I have been lucky to have been through the process with a number of these successes, such as Quickturn, Avanti, and Get2Chip.
In my experience inside large organizations, it is still the passion of drive of the individual that sparks and brings to life innovation. Because of the larger resource pool, big companies can contemplate multiple “point” ideas, along with large scale ideas that far transcend the value of any point ideas that small companies must practically stick with to survive. Calibre comes to mind as a point innovation given birth by a large organization.
In my own more recent experience, the Power Forward Initiative is an example of a large scale innovation, spanning thirteen product technologies at Cadence, but then also reaching into the broader ecosystem of foundries, IP companies, service organizations, and the chip design community at large. Virtuoso is another example of a broad scale solution innovation that was born from passion within a large organization. That is an area where we are seeing “re-innovation,” and it is really exciting to see.
The bottom line on innovation is that it is the people. Large company or small company, innovators with management skill and market vision can make breakthroughs animate. It’s the people. It’s a personal thing!