SANTA CLARA, Calif.--You're an engineer, working with engineers.
You've been running your startup for 17 years. You have no venture
investment. its all self-funded. You're doing well.
Is it time to call it day, sell your company and move on?
Alan Rogers and Mahesh Tirupattur at Analog Bits have thought about
it. A lot.
"We've had solicitations from companies we have not considered
worthy," said Rogers, the company's president and CTO. "We've
recently had [offers] from customers ...we do consider worthy. But our
inclination is to remain independent to serve our customer base."
"Sure we'd like the money, but we're engineers. We're doing it to do
good in the world, to make stuff we like making," Rogers said.
Tirupattur, executive vice president for business development,
added: "If there had been a venture capitalist in the company, we would
have been sold two years ago, but we love it."
Analog Bits' situation illustrates the nature of the startup arc. We live in a world in which VCs gaze
on semiconductor startups as neighbors might view plague victims. This
has prompted more engineers to self- and privately-fund interesting
ideas and to build them with extreme efficiency.
But how long do you grow that privately funded startup?
For many of you, the answer can be "forever." You build a business,
it's profitable, small, you're in control of your destiny, and you have no visions of
grandeur. You get to do engineering and run a company.
For others who want to grow a business, moving from startup to
mid-sized to big company is another matter; the challenges
inherent in that evolution are one of the reasons the Harvard Business
Review is so popular.
Analog Bits, self-described as the "ARM of the SERDES market," is a
small but successful IP company with annual revenues in excess of $10 million. Getting from there to $50 million is,
Rogers said, "not hard. That's execution."
"Beyond $50 million it will be hard in our space because it is not a
big market," he said.
He and Tirupattur estimate the total market is a little north
of $100 million, including commodity IP. At the moment, they have
an unspecified but "large percentage of it." The company's current focus is on Serdes and PLL IP. The company recently taped
out mixed-signal technology on TSMC's 20-nm HKMG