CEO Talk: Murilo Pilon Pessatti of Chipus Microelectronics

This interview was held with: Murilo Pilon Pessatti, CEO of Chipus Microelectronics.




Tell me a bit about your background? How did you first get started with Chipus?

I am an Electrical Engineer with a MSEE in Analog IC design. I studied in Brazil at São Paulo University (USP) and did my masters at Campinas State University (UNICAMP). Just after finishing my masters I moved to Lisbon in Europe to work for ChipIdea, in the early 2000’s when the smartphone era was just taking off. I had the pleasure to work in what we can call the first Analog IP company, where I had the chance to learn a lot and very fast about Power Management for portable devices. I came back to Brazil and after spending 2 years in a public semiconductor company decided to start Chipus.


Tell me about Chipus ?

Chipus is a mixed-signal IC design company. We have strong analog expertise, mixed up with significant know-how in digital state-of-the-art technologies. We help our customers to develop the next generation of key IoT, Industrial, Sensors, AI and RF/Optical Communication ASICs. In these almost 12 years since we started the company we had the opportunity to develop almost 400 IPs in mixed-signal areas, tapeout lots of projects, develop very interesting full turn-key ASICs and have a lot of fun working with very challenging and smart customers — something that really motivates us !


What problem did you see that needed to be fixed? What is your approach to solving that?

Chipus was born with the power-aware mindset. Since the beginning in 2009 when we started building our IP portfolio, we pushed the limits to deliver the lowest power IPs and ASICs. So definitely, when the whole IoT and AI wave hit the market, we were very well positioned to solve all the power related problems based on the IPs and experience we accumulated in the last decade. The key approach and differentiation we have is based on our solid expertise and know-how in operating transistors in weak and moderate inversion. We have both practical ( many tape-outs our team have done dealing with very low power circuits) and solid theoretical experience and background in this field (we are lucky to have a group of researchers in the university very close to us that has developed one of the most accurate charge-based physical models operating in all-region). Adding all of this on top of the portfolio of IPs we have created in the last decade put Chipus in the lead position to solve key power-related problems in IoT and AI to the edge systems and ASICs.


How was the role/offering of Chipus changed during the recent years?

We started back in early 2009 building our IP portfolio and as we start gaining credibility from the market by licensing our IPs, our customers start to ask us to help them integrate ours and 3rd Party IPs in their SoCs. We end up not only helping them but also start providing a kind of differentiated design services for customers that really need a high quality team working very close and collaboratively with their SoC architects. At the same time, we start expanding our IP offering, to the point that nowadays we also have high-speed and high-precision building block IPs. Because all these IPs and SoCs had also significant digital blocks, we also built a very experienced digital team that gained a lot of traction in the recent years providing full RTL-to-GDSII flow in state-of-the-art technologies. Last but not least, it was very natural in the last years for Chipus to extend our high quality integration IP services to a complete full ASIC offer, that we start to see a big momentum in different market segments, not only in IoT, industrial but also RF/optical communication.


Did any of the market consolidation (or acquisition) affected your business and how?

I see all of this high dynamics in the M&A semiconductor area as a big opportunity to Chipus. But the most important thing for us is to continue doing our high quality work for our customers, even when these customers are merged or acquired by other companies, most of the time we keep working with them, and sometimes our business even grows as they merge with other bigger companies. We are always searching for new challenges and to find out how we can give the best support to our customers, so that all of this market consolidation did not really affect our business and goals as a company.


Which market segment seems promising to you? And why?

I do believe that IoT, AI to the edge and optical communication are very promising market segments. It is easy to understand: more and more all these “things” are portable and more functionalities need to be done on the edge to be real time. On the other hand, all those things end up putting lots of bits on the internet, which simply cannot afford to use copper anymore. All of this with just some “pico-joules” of energy to make sure batteries last long. That is for me a big opportunity to solve key problems.


What is a typical customer for Chipus?

We have all types of customers, we never give up to offer the best quality, does not matter the size of the customer, we will be there. We have worked with some small start-ups that end up having very significant exits and become part of big companies. Sometimes we have customers that we license some IPs, sometimes we have customers that need help in a key project in which we come in and increase their capability to solve problems, and sometimes we have customers that want us to develop a full turn-key ASIC. The common point is that in almost all the cases, those customers come back and ask us again for our support. We have some long term customers for who we work constantly and for a long term period. We always see our customers and the business as a relationship and not as a transaction. We expect for a typical customer the same.


Customers are focused on time-to-market, first-time-right, price, etc. Do you see a change in customer behaviour in recent years? Where is the focus today and why?

Time-to-market, first-time-right and price are for sure a big concern from customers. Especially when we have the first interactions with the customers these requirements are more prominent. As far we start the engagement and the trust is developed, things tend to go more smoothly and the most important thing is to be lined up with the long term objectives and goals of the customers. We usually work in very close relationships with our customers long term goals.


Are you currently hiring? What type of jobs?

We are always looking for good talents, but especially at this time we are searching for analog layouters and soon we plan to open new positions for analog and RF IC designers and maybe some digital IC designers.


What is your #1 advice for people who want to work for Chipus?

Enjoy what you do.


Where can one find more information?

You can find info in our linkedin: https://br.linkedin.com/company/chipus-microelectronics


What is the best moment in your day?

Listening to the very early morning birds song while drinking the first coffee of the day.


How do you keep yourself energized and engaged during the day?

Taking a break during lunch time walking back home to have lunch with the family – the perfect refresh for the day, especially when a small nap is possible just after lunch :) – this is a perfect “battery charger”.


What is your preferred lunch discussion topic?

Next family trip.


How do you spend your time outside working hours?

Play soccer and surf with my daughter, walk in the sea shore with my wife, and meet friends for a good beer (the former not really possible to do in this pandemic scenario).

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