Monday, September 17, 2007
Interview with Rahm Shastry, CEO of Nascentric
Austin, Texas-based Nascentric (www.nascentric.com) announced a new venture round last week with Intel Capital. To get more insight into the company, we spoke with Rahm Shastry, the firm's CEO, on the company and its latest funding.
For those who aren't familiar with NasCentric and the electronic design industry, can you describe what your products are used for?
Rahm Shastry: Integrated circuits (IC or chip) design is a very complex, laborious and expensive process. Semiconductor companies spend several to tens of millions of dollars to get a chip out to the market. This process can take anywhere from nine months to multiple years, utilizing several to hundreds of engineers, depending on the complexity of a chip. Coupled with this, the chip complexity is exploding - the # of devices packed into a chip continues to double every 18 months in line with Moore's law. Added to this is another vital dimension that companies need to be cognizant of -- competitive pressures and product obsolescence; so you have to get it right the first time as fast as possible, although the batting average is probably 2 or 3 turns. The engineering team has to ensure that the chip works correctly in terms of functionality as well as performance metrics as specified by the marketing department.
Therefore, design verification becomes extremely important in the IC design process. The faster and more thorough your verification is, the higher the probability that the chip with the right set of functionality and performance metric will get to the market on time. Here is where Nascentric's AuSIM MT and a host of other simulators come into play.
Traditionally companies have used SPICE for simulation, and have trusted it for their circuit simulation, or are using tools from EDA vendors like Cadence and Synopsys; why use Nascentric?
Rahm Shastry: Nascentric's AuSIM MT is the next generation software simulator that offers a magnitude or better faster simulation when compared to existing Fast-SPICE circuit simulators in the market -- without sacrificing accuracy. At the same time it offers capacity to simulate extremely large circuits that were previously difficult or impossible to accommodate. SPICE simulators run out of steam when the # of devices exceeds 100K. Fast-SPICE simulators in the market today can handle capacity in the range of 1M to 2M devices. AuSIM-MT has successfully handled capacity in excess of 10 Million devices.
We achieve our performance largely through patented technology invented at Nascentric. Recently, we've achieved even more speed-up through multi-threading, which is what the "MT" in AuSIM stands for. Judging from recent product introductions by Intel, AMD and Sun, the industry is aggressively moving into multi-core and multi-threaded platforms. AuSIM MT is the first commercial simulator built from the ground up to be multi-thread capable, which has helped us achieve the performance claims that we make.
How did you connect with Intel Capital, and what will you be using this round of capital for?
Rahm Shastry: Intel, being the pre-eminent semiconductor company in the world, is the largest consumer of commercial EDA tools and solutions. They are also the ones who push the process geometries where our solution can increasingly becomes an important arsenal in their design verification process. Intel also has the foresight to aggressively nurture EDA startups through its investment arm, Intel Capital. Fortunately for Nascentric, all the stars aligned to benefit us during our funding search.
Nascentric plans to use these funds towards expanding our product capabilities as well as worldwide sales and support footprint.
We see you're based in Austin, although it look like you and some of your other executives are in San Jose. How many people are in your Austin location?
Rahm Shastry: Most of our technical team is based in Austin, while business development and support is centered in San Jose. The company today has just under 20 employees.
Finally, we often hear from CEOs who tell us it's very different running a software versus hardware company--particularly in terms of the difficulty of delivering product and long cycle times in hardware. How would you compare your experience now running Nascentric, versus your prior experience at Tharas?
Rahm Shastry: Tharas had additional levels of complexity as compared to a software-only company like Nascentric. It designed a custom processor from ground up (chip design) as well as manufactured the boards and systems -- and wrapped it all up in a custom software environment. Tharas also had to constantly be vigilant about inventories, product obsolescence and component lead times. So, yes, clearly running a profitable hardware company can be quite a challenging endeavor.
Nascentric has its own set of challenges competing against entrenched large competitors. Our solution cannot be just marginally better to replace entrenched competitors; it has to be much, much better. That is where we are all focused here at Nascentric.