The demise of a company like GateRocket (www.gaterocket.com), who ceased operations last month, is painful for the industry on several fronts. The company addressed the area of FPGA verification and debug, where the FPGA was the final target for the product.
Firstly this says that they did not have enough paying customers, and this in turn means that FPGA developers must still be muddling through. While some presumably used simulation, it would be to slow for the largest of FPGAs, and others must have been happy enough with just putting it on the FPGA and seeing if it works. The FPGA vendors offered a small amount of debug help for free, but nothing compared to the capabilities that GateRocket provided.
The second reason why I say it is such a shame is because GateRocket was an innovator and was recognized for it. The company was found in 2004 and the first product released in 2007. They won several awards during their brief existence, including EDN and Electronics Design Magazine top product awards, DesignCon DesignVision award and other nominations.
It seems to me that they had a product that was useful and very different from the other products on the market – and yet they didn’t survive and none of the major EDA companies appears interested in acquiring their assets (so far). They had a partnership with Mentor that not only integrated their product with Mentor’s Precision Synthesis, but in addition they partnered on rad-tolerant design, triple modular redundancy and safety critical standards such as DO-254.
So was it a problem with a lack of VC interest? Not the case either with Jim Hogan sitting on their advisory board. He had this to say “Gate Rocket’s approach to FPGA design is positioned exactly where the market is going in terms of complexity and performance needs of the fast-moving FPGA market. GateRocket is an ideal company for me to be involved with because they have a game-changing technology to serve a large and growing market.”
They received $3M in venture money in September 2008 from Mid Atlantic Ventures, Massachusetts Technology Development Corp and Long River Ventures, and Angels, including Boynton and Maine Angels, had already kicked in $1.5M. Another $2M was raised in December 2009, so that means they must have been burning through money fairly quickly.
How about market reach, a problem for many startups. No troubles there either with some experienced sales people in their team and only this year they signed distributors for Japan, India and China. With each press release, they noted strong demand for their products.
Perhaps the product wasn’t really that innovative? Well, it was innovative enough to earn three patents, and I don’t know how many others they had in the pipeline.
They were at DAC this year. Right before the conference Dave Orecchio, the CEO and president of the company said “The interest level in innovative approaches such as our Device Native method is at an all-time high.” At DAC they were showing the latest version of their SoftPatch feature that enabled designers to patch their FPGA hardware without requiring the long and tedious recompilation cycle. They did this by patching in a simulation for the changed portions, so that confidence tests could be run on the changes and then once enough confidence was obtained, running the full recompilation overnight.
So what went wrong? I don’t really know but I did an extensive search on the Internet and I couldn’t find a single mention of an actual customer – not one. Now I know that many companies don’t like having their name used, but not even an implied customer, not a mention of how their product was being used by a customer. That to me is not good news anyway you look at it. Sorry to see them go.
Brian Bailey (www.brianbailey.us) – Keeping you covered
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