LONDON A discussion panel organized here by Cadence Design Systems Inc. (San Jose, Calif.) revealed some of the dynamic tension between the fabless chip startup community and their key suppliers the EDA companies and the foundries. Held immediately before an evening meeting intended to put hopeful startups in front of venture capitalists, the round-table aired a number of issues facing startups but drew few conclusions.
The panel comprised executives from Cadence, TSMC, three U.K. startups and Malcolm Penn, CEO of market analysis firm Future Horizons. The only voice not represented at the table was that of the venture capitalist.
Differences of opinion were evident on some issues but overall it was shown that early-stage investment is going into a more cooperative phase while mid- to late-stage startups are threatened by a continuing lack of exits for their investors. Companies such as Cadence and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. are becoming enablers and to a degree gate-keepers for the flow of startups out of Europe. TSMC is the world's leading foundry and has a high-profile presence in Europe.
Stephen King, CEO of transceiver IC vendor Phyworks Ltd. (Bristol, England), echoed the conventional wisdom that it is very difficult for semiconductor startups to raise money in the current economic climate because investors have just not seen any return on investment over the last decade. Jed Hurwitz, CTO of Gigle Semiconductor (Barcelona and Edinburgh), took a contrary and more optimistic position. "They will still fund the right opportunity."
Simon Atkinson, CEO of Mirics Semiconductor Ltd. (Fleet, England), took a third position stating: "That the semiconductor industry has changed is spot on. Ten years ago success in regional markets was possible. Now you have to be a global player." Atkinson also pointed out that his company, which builds receivers for free-to-air television and radio, is mainly a software company.