EDA has struggled to attract significant attention from potential backers (with money) for many years. I like the idea of trying to reposition companies into adjacent industries for more visbility. I still think EDA is a tough sell to the VCs.
Salut, Michel! Thanks for giving us a frank update on the present situation. I have met a couple of people from funds who invested in successful EDA startups and yet, they are now reluctant to dip their toes into the water again.
Crowdsourcing seems like a curious option, considering its recent history. Pebble, the smartwatch company, gave contributors (we can't say investors, in this case) a discounted first delivery of their product, i.e., presold products at a discount. The actual transaction was one of the first Pebble watches as a thank you gift, a la PBS and NPR fundraising - I'm not sure if those legal constraints are still in place. But what can an EDA firm offer? Maybe usage time according to the size of donation?
Another wrinkle in the Pebble story is that founder Eric Migikovsky moved his firm and initial staff (maybe a half dozen people at the time) to the US because of the crowdsourcing option. But Kickstarter has announced that it will enter Canada this summer and I have seen one IndieGoGo campaign (fundraising for Notman House, a Montreal startup incubator). I don't know about the crowdsourcing environment in Europe.
Seeking overseas investors sounds promising but it may involve an additional degree of difficulty, based on what Canadian startups (non-EDA) have experienced in attracting US funds (our scene is improving but still not at that level) although that situation has been improving. In fact, many American funds are now seeking investments outside the US and traveling - e.g., regularly visiting Canada, with the aid of a group called The C100 to events like Accelerate (-AB, -TO, -MTL, etc.) and the Montreal International Startup Festival. I have attended some of those events and my firm is, unsurprisingly, the only one in EDA. But it does help us hone our message in explaining what we do! :)
Maybe it's time for EDA to move to free-as-in-freedom software, like operating systems (GNU/Linux) and compilers (GCC), both areas which I don't think can raise VC money any more (if they ever could). With FaiF, everyone shares in the effort to develop software, with each concentrating on the parts in which they have expertise, plus a large testing and debugging community so that "all bugs are shallow".
Semiconductor companies used to do their EDA in-house. The FaiF model allows them to share the common EDA functions, with everybody contributing code and funding to the common core, while each can have in-house extensions for individual competitive advantage as long as they don't distribute it. Some may try to cheat and not contribute back to the common core, but they'll soon find out that trying to maintain their own fork gets old pretty fast.
@betajet- that's an interesting proposal. My initial response is, could such a model really work with something as enormously complex as EDA software? Secondly, with out the possibility of a big pay day, entrepreneurs would obviously be out of the game. And history has proven that the promise of a big pay day is a pretty serious motivator. What happens to EDA's "big three" under such a model? They are publicly traded companies that aren't going away anytime soon.
In my opinion, what needs to happen is that the semiconductor companies that stand to benefit most from garage innovation in EDA need to fund this activity. Intel and others do this to some extent, but it would be nice to see a concerted effort to get some seed level funding floating out there in an organized way. Perhaps an organization like the GSA or the EDA Consortium could play a central role in this. Obviously you would need people involved who understand the industry and its challenges so that they could choose their bets wisely.
@dylan - One of the differences between EDA software and open source projects where dozens to thousands can partake (Linux being most famous) is that the latter involves breadth, and little pieces can be partitioned. EDA involves depth at each step, why it goes in tandem with design methodologies. While startups are the source of innovation in EDA, each one is focussed on addressing a particular problem along the way in design. A couple of Oregon-based startups like Lighthouse (which exited in acquisition by Mentor Graphics, and the team thriving as part of the inFact product) and Fish Tail (still private) demonstrate that, as does my firm in Canada, Space Codesign (ESL hw/sw co-design, down to the chip in conjunction with other tools downstream).
I am aware that someone has been doing an open source Verilog simulator but it is hard to find any news about it without digging deep into Google or Bing.
Getting back to Michel's theme on investment, EDA probably joins other Big Science technologies like bio-pharma and medical devices in being focussed and long term projects, versus small, quick and inexpensive mobile or web apps. Even larger software enterprises can start and boot up very quickly - such as Urban Airship (Oregon, again) which started in a garage with two guys in early June, 2009 and at the end of July 2010, secured a Series A VC investment, and now part of the core of the Portland startup galaxy.