Overall Icera's sale to Nvidia is good news for semiconductor startups, particularly in the U.K., argues Rick Clucas.
Congratulations Stan [Boland, CEO of Icera], you did it again! With the news of Icera being acquired, we are sure to be hearing the biggest sigh of relief for a long time from the European venture capital industry.
If you spoke to a VC executive in the last six years, they were either invested in Icera or glad they weren't. As has been widely reported, so much money had already been put in that none of the investors could afford to let it die. The fact that it has had an all-cash exit providing some return must be a huge relief for everyone concerned.
But perhaps the biggest sense of relief can be found at all the semiconductor startups and potential start-ups that for so long have been living in the shadow of the Icera money-pit. All the VCs who were into Icera were rightly keeping funds to maintain their position at the next round. All those who were not were very concerned about the huge amounts of money that was required just to keep one semiconductor company alive – no wonder they did not want to invest in semiconductors.
Unfortunately for many the Icera news has happened too late and they have already died – in some cases the IP may have been bought by someone else and in other cases not. Let’s hope the market will now free up and that it will have learnt some lessons.
The biggest lesson surely must be that to be a semiconductor vendor is very expensive and getting more and more expensive, and as Nvidia has demonstrated, in order to compete you need to offer more and more of a complete system. However being an IP company is a lot less expensive and something at which the U.K. has been very successful.
In the U.K. we still have two very successful profitable publicly listed semiconductor IP companies: ARM and the often forgotten Imagination Technologies. ARC, the company that I founded, is now part of Synopsys along with other IP from a company I was CEO of called Ignios, which suffered from the Icera affect. It seems that large IP companies must now offer a whole platform portfolio, and this is where startups come in, and why it is so important that investment funds flow in to them.
Even the likes of Synopsys, ARM and Imagination are buying companies to expand their portfolios and to get new innovation. Large companies require a structure to run them, structure stifles innovation but is great for iteration. If we kill the startups, then the innovation dies and the larger IP companies can't grow and without IP the large semiconductor companies can't bring out new products either.