You have to hand it to the people on the executive management team at Altium -- just when you think you have a handle on what's happening… they take you completely by surprise. Altium is, of course, a supplier of EDA tools focused on PCB and FPGA designs. More recently, the folks at Altium have branched out in a big way into tools for the Internet of Things (IoT).
One thing that really sets the folks at Altium apart -- in addition to the quality of their tools -- is the fact that they do tend to keep moving around. They started off in Tasmania under the name of Protel and soon migrated their headquarters to Sydney.
In 1990 they took everyone by surprise by moving their executive management team and core development team to San Jose, California. Some years later, just after everyone had gotten used to this new state of play, they moved the executive management team and core development team back to Sydney. It was around this time that they changed the company name to Altium. (This was because the Protel name was associated only with PCB tools, and the company was branching out into the FPGA design world.)
There are two things to note here. First, Altium tends to leave a small group of developers holding the fort when the management team ups sticks and moves on. Second, Altium has grown to be a global entity, with sales and marketing organizations around the world in North America, Europe, China, and so forth.
In 2011, Altium took everyone by surprise once more by relocating the executive management team and core R&D team from Sydney to Shanghai, China. One of the reasons the company's people gave for this move was the fact that China was becoming strategically more important. As I said in this column:
China is emerging as a major player in the electronics market, it has the local technical resources required to support the core engineering team, and the folks at Altium feel that it is important for them to have a real presence in China and to become truly part of the Chinese electronics design community.
I also heard through the grapevine that there was another -- possibly less significant -- issue in that, although Altium had a great team of developers in Sydney, it was finding it difficult to find more programmers who were familiar with electronics design. I think the company had hoped that the move to Shanghai would also help in this regard.
Well, the hot-off-the-press news is that the guys and gals at Altium are on the move again. They have just announced that they are going to relocate the executive management team, including the CEO, the CFO, and the core R&D team from Shanghai, China, to San Diego. In fact, I hear that this move will commence as soon as July, and will be completed by the end of the third quarter.
As an aside, when I say "hot-off-the-press news," this is so hot that it even appears to have taken a lot of folks at Altium by surprise. My understanding is that the corporate administration team at Altium posted something about this on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) website. This release was picked up by one of Altium's users and posted in Altium's forums. Now we are riding the crest of a breaking wave of news.
So, what's prompted this latest migration? Well, on the one hand Altium has built up two very significant teams in China -- a content team and an IoT team. The content team is charged with keeping the huge library known as the Altium Vault stocked with schematic symbols, 2D layout footprints, and 3D mechanical models for hundreds of thousands of components. Meanwhile, the IoT team is charged with developing IoT applications and providing IoT development services to other companies.
However, although Altium managed to attract a lot of really skilled hardware designers in China, I believe its people have run into problems finding software developers with the requisite skills. Also, there's another aspect to this that I don’t expect to hear Altium talking about. The thing is that, irrespective of China's future potential, Altium's largest existing market continues to be North America.
Furthermore, a large number of these North American customers are in the military and defense arenas. With all of the current security and cyberwar scares going on, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that these customers have misgivings about having their extremely secret and sophisticated designs created using tools whose core R&D team is based in China. (I'm just sayin'.)
My understanding is that the content and IoT teams will remain in China, along with the large local sales and marketing organization. It's only the executive management team and the core R&D team that will be migrating to San Diego, USA.
We shouldn’t forget that Altium still has a bunch of smaller development teams scattered around the globe, including a few guys and gals in Sydney, along with a team in Ukraine. Also, I bet the members of the small team Altium left in California when it last departed these shores are very excited by these developments and are looking forward to rejoining the mother ship organization.
In conclusion, all I can say is watch this space for future developments. In the meantime, what's your take on all of this? Do you agree with my suppositions, or do you think there's something more to this latest trek around the globe?
— Max Maxfield, Editor of All Things Fun & Interesting