When we talked, Mitra was travelling in Taiwan meeting with mobile application processor vendors.
"Our technology is very conducive to that area," she said, noting a coming generation of 64-bit ARM chips. "People don't know how to harness the bandwidth of that architecture. They lack an analysis tool." Apple "has its own internal analysis tools." NetSpeed takes "a very quantitative, math-based approach to building an SoC."
NetSpeed's costs are based on an IP model and include an up-front licensing fee plus a per-chip royalty. The licensing fees vary based on the number of IP blocks. The company supports 28nm and FinFET processes.
Established interconnect vendors such as ARM, Arteris, and Sonics deliver libraries for creating an on-chip network. Mitra said NetSpeed is unique in delivering tools to optimize the architecture and the physical design of the interconnect and the resulting chip.
"The market could use another good interconnect IP, and they seem to have identified all the right problems," said Rich Wawrzyniak, an ASIC analyst at Semico Research. However, "until designers use [NetSpeed products] in devices, it's hard to gauge where they will fit in."
Most ASIC designers still build their own on-chip networks, but they are likely to seek outside help, given the rising complexity of the technology, Wawrzyniak said.
Ganesh Ramamoorthy, a chip analyst at Gartner in Mumbai, said current on-chip network approaches focus on providing IP blocks and tools to stitch them to the main SoC. "NetSpeed takes a top-down approach," which may help it differentiate itself.
The "tool-led approach... can be very beneficial for smaller chip vendors in markets such as China, encouraging them to experiment more with functional integration for specific use cases," he said. However, NetSpeed faces "a grave risk of being misunderstood as an EDA tool vendor," and the startup must clearly market itself as an IP vendor.
Whatever the challenge, Mitra seems to be up for it. "At this point, I am not interested in being acquired. I want to build value in the company," she said. "I do not have the DNA to retire."
— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times