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Avanti survivor Hsu's goals go beyond money

Posted: 01 Apr 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:get2chip? avanti? chi-ping hsu? synopsys inc.? quadratic engine?

There is a saying in Japan that "the nail that stands up gets pounded down." Chi-Ping Hsu, the new president of synthesis tool vendor Get2Chip, certainly knows what it is like to be that nail.

Once heir apparent at EDA's fourth largest company, Avanti Corp., Hsu was pounded by his superiors two years ago for brutally honest testimony at a hearing looking into what restitution Avanti owed Cadence Design Systems for filching some of its source code. Hsu quietly walked away from Avanti, months before its acquisition by Synopsys Inc.

Now, Hsu has taken the reins of synthesis startup Get2Chip, which he joined in 2001, and he plans to give Avanti-Synopsys a run for its money in a race Synopsys has dominated for more than 15 years.

With his background as the lead technology strategist at Avanti,--and having been credited with co-developing a key place-and-route algorithm called Proud as a graduate student at U.C. Berkeley and later at Cadence--Hsu could have seemingly picked whom he wanted to work for. But he chose a company that is challenging Synopsys in an ASIC synthesis market in which, according to Dataquest, Synopsys holds 90 percent of the market share. Hsu joined Get2Chip as executive vice president of product operations and was later named chief operating officer. In January, Get2Chip added the title of president.

Must for 90nm

Speaking of Get2Chip's RTL Compiler, Hsu said, "Anybody who is going to do SoC, 90nm technology will need our tool. Any design done over 200 million transistors, every one of them, has been using Get2Chip. We have a quadratic engine while everyone else is still using an older, incremental engine. In three to five years, I believe everyone will have to use quadratic engines to design these huge chips. We will be there for 90nm and 65nm. We will be the tool for the mainstream."

In keeping with his strengths as a strategist, Hsu is also aggressively expanding Get2Chip's product line. The company has a top-secret project in the works known internally as "Tomb Raider," which should be out in time for the Design Automation Conference this June.

To head the Tomb Raider project, Hsu recruited tool developer Y.T. Ling, Hsu's former associate at Avanti who later headed R&D on the X-Architecture at Simplex. The X-Architecture was cited as a prime reason for Cadence's acquisition of that company for $300 million in Cadence stock last April.

While Get2Chip is keeping a tight lid on Tomb Raider, many have speculated the tool may be a new timing engine or even placement system. But Hsu said Get2Chip "will continue to focus on front-end design."

Hsu said that he intends to leverage his relationships with key tool developers in the EDA industry in his plans to build Get2Chip. The company has 54 employees and has raised $18 million in venture capital. Hsu plans to turn the company toward profitability this year.

In addition to promoting Hsu to president, the company also added Sridhar Murthy as its new chief financial officer. He has managed three pre- to post-initial public offering software companies and most recently was vice president of finance and administration at Ariba Inc. Bernd Braune, who formerly held the president title, is now chairman and CEO at Get2Chip.

Hsu's elevation to president caps a remarkable turnaround in his fortunes. Two years ago, when no one wanted to be associated with Avanti, Avanti's legal counsel was trying to minimize jail sentences for executives and how much the company would have to pay Cadence after pleading no contest to charges of stealing Cadence source code. Hsu stepped up to testify for Avanti employees.

"Avanti's defense team was ecstatic that I volunteered to testify," he recalls. "No one really wanted to be around for it." But Avanti's own attorneys hadn't counted on his frankness.

He later said he thought Avanti officials owed their customers, employees and industry an apology for not only stealing the code but also lying about it for years.

Hsu said he felt that "the great people that work very, very hard at Avanti to create great products . . . needed to be represented." He also said that most of Avanti's staff was upset by plea bargain in May 2001 in which Avanti executives acknowledged stealing code from Cadence after years of insistence by chairman Gerald Hsu and other executives that the charges by Cadence and the district attorney were false. Chi-Ping Hsu and Gerald Hsu are not related.

Chi-Ping Hsu, who joined Avanti well after the code theft had taken place, helped recruit friends and key technologists from U.C. Berkeley and elsewhere to build Avanti into a physical design powerhouse. "I never would have brought my friends over to Avanti, had I known that a theft really did take place," Hsu said after testifying at the restitution hearing.

He was passed over for the president and CEO spot after Gerald Hsu stepped aside shortly after the trial. He also was not told before he left that Avanti was talking merger with Synopsys, a deal that led to Synopsys' $900 million acquisition and a golden parachute worth more than $20 million for Gerald Hsu.

"Money's nice but it certainly is not everything," said Chi-Ping Hsu, who now looks forward to building Get2Chip into yet another formidable EDA company.

- Michael Santarini

EE Times





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