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CEO Talk: Randy Caplan from Silicon Creations

November 10, 2018, anysilicon

This interview was held with Randy Caplan, CEO at Silicon Creations.

randy Caplan

Tell me a bit about your background?

 

[randy] I’ve actually spent my whole career in integrated circuit design.  I started right at the peak of the dot-com era, and followed the advice of the “experts” at the time to focus on high-speed data interfaces, as the worlds need for bandwidth was growing exponentially.

 

Although the dot-com predictions didn’t quite match expectations, the worlds need for bandwidth did, and I’ve been focusing on enabling that ever since.

 

How did you first get started with your company?

 

[randy] Before Silicon Creations, I was working with the High-Speed Networking Group at Agilent Technologies (along with Silicon Creations CTO & Co-Founder, Jeff Galloway).  We were developing what were (at the time) some of the fastest data interfaces (“SerDes”) and highest performance clocks (“PLLs”) in the world.

 

Around the same time, the market for semiconductor IP was beginning to emerge and show promise, as the cost and complexity of chip development was increasing.  Jeff and I realized that instead of working on one chip at a time, we could design IP for key components that could be used on a large number of chips, by companies all over the world.

 

 

Tell me about Silicon Creations ?

 

[randy] Silicon Creations is a mix of a family company with the scale and efficiency of a global corporation.   With over 200 customers in 20 countries, and more than 500 chips in production using our SerDes and PLL designs, we’ve grown to be one of the most well-known and far-reaching semiconductor IP companies in the world.

 

At the same time, we’ve had nearly 100% employee retention over the past 12 years.  We are regularly told by our customers they continue to choose us not just for the performance of the circuits, but for the quality of the support and experience working with our engineers.

 

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

 

[randy] On the surface, semiconductor IP companies sell circuit designs, and compete on performance specifications.  However, in fact what’s often most important is the risk reduction we provide to our customers.

 

With the cost of a chip mask set well above $5M in advanced process nodes, shrinking market windows, and an increasing number of mission-critical applications (e.g. autonomous driving), there are no second chances.

 

Our customers need confidence our designs will work reliably in high volume production, the first time.  Of course, the performance specifications of our designs are very competitive, but our innovations in quality control, circuit verification, and design integration support have clearly differentiated us as the “low-risk option”.

 

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

 

[randy] A key consideration for customers of semiconductor IP is knowing that their vendors will be around to support them when the silicon comes back.

 

In many recent cases, small IP companies have been acquired by chip makers, and re-purposed for internal development.  Since Silicon Creations is self-funded, healthy, and growing, our customers feel confident we won’t be under pressure to “exit” prematurely, and will be here for many years to support them.

 

 

Which market segment seems promising to you? And why?

 

[randy] The nice thing about SerDes and PLLs is that they’re used on almost every chip, regardless of the end application.  Therefore, our sales are a good proxy for the semiconductor market in general.

 

At the moment, we’re seeing a large number of new customers focusing on artificial intelligence (AI) as well as automotive applications.  I think this is related to the market trends in general, but also to the fact that many of these applications are mission critical, so rely on proven IP to help minimize risk.

 

What is a typical customer for Silicon Creations?

 

[randy] Anyone building a CMOS chip will likely be a customer.

 

Most of our customers are working in advanced nodes (e.g. 5nm, 7nm, 12/14/16nm, and 22/28nm), but we still see quite a few new projects starting in 40nm and above.

 

 

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?

 

[randy] The design quality and verification requirements demanded by our customers are increasing rapidly, as the cost of re-spinning a mask set increases exponentially.  Effects such as electromigration, self-heating, device aging, and mismatch, which used to be second-order effects, are now critical factors that regularly cause chip failures.

 

To support these increasing demands, Silicon Creations has taken many steps including building a large test lab, a simulation farm with more than 2000 CPUs, and licensing a wide range of state-of-the-art EDA tools.

 

Are you currently hiring? What type of jobs?

 

[randy] Yes, we are actively hiring.  Anyone with a background in analog/mixed-signal circuit design willing to relocate to either Atlanta, GA, USA, or Krakow, Poland is encouraged to contact us.

 

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

 

[randy] Work on as many chip developments as possible – especially ones that will likely go to high volume production.  Attend design reviews in your company, and learn as much as possible both about strategies for proper circuit verification, as well as previous design issues and how they can be avoided.

 

Where can one find more information?

 

[randy] www.siliconcr.com.  For potential customers, please email sales@siliconcr.com with any inquiries.  For jobs, please send your resume to hr@siliconcr.com

 

 

What is the best moment in your day?

 

[randy] It’s hard to narrow that down!  With so many exciting things going on at Silicon Creations now, it seems every day brings a new best moment.

 

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

 

[randy] I’m a technology lover and enthusiast, so staying engaged in a job that feels more like a hobby than work is never hard.  However, I do enjoy reading the LinkedIn newsfeed after lunch each day and learning about all the exciting things my colleagues in the industry are working on.

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