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I covered Anirudh's CadenceLIVE keynote in my post Anirudh's Keynote: A New Product...and an Acquisition. The acquisition mentioned was InspectAR. I contacted Mihir Shah, the CEO, to find out more. The first surprise is that the company is based in Newfoundland, Canada. Like India, it is one of the places in the world with a timezone that is not on the hour: it is another half-an-hour ahead of Eastern time.
The view from the office is beautiful, looking straight out onto the sea. The weather was beautiful that day too, which isn't always the case for Canada — especially in its eastern provinces.
The founders of inspectAR came out of Memorial University of Newfoundland, which is in St Johns (the capital). They are all CS and EE grads, and started working on inspectAR as a senior capstone project. They graduated in 2018, rented a house in a suburb, and all lived and worked there in a hacker-house environment where they built the prototype. Then they started to look for funding.Mihir wasn't involved at this point. His family business, started by his father, is making contract electronics. They have factories all over the US. They had just acquired a company in LA and Mihir's father sent him down there to experience a business turnaround and help build up its business. So he moved to LA. He went to a trade show in San Diego, but there weren't really any customers there. He ended up killing time talking to a young graduate. The graduate told Mihir about a cool idea his friends were working on, using augmented reality with electronics. They had been invited to the West Coast to interview with Y-combinator, so it was a great opportunity.The founders included Nick Warren, who had been an intern at Apple for about a year, Matt Noseworthy, who had worked at Wind River (Intel), and Liam Cadigan and Darryl Day, who were interns at Elon Musk's Neuralink. The three of them passed on lucrative tech jobs to come back to Newfoundland and try building this startup. They were all 22-23.
When the Newfoundland team was down in the Bay Area interviewing for YC, Mihir invited them to meet his Dad and see what PCB manufacturing and the general ecosystem is really like. There was the possibility of an investment, but also they could just work together and be a leading customer. That night there was a Diwali party (the Indian festival of lights) and the team came back to Mihir's family home. They shook hands on the promise of a deal, and started down the path of investment. They didn't have a real working product yet. Mihir came on as CEO to help build up the business and ensure maximum shareholder and investor value was delivered as quickly as possible — either through building a large, profitable business, or getting a strategic exit in less than two years. Cadence acquired them one year later, in August 2020.The inspectAR team is now nine people, including some interns. They did a lot of innovative social media marketing, but didn’t spend much capital or energy on a traditional sales process. People just found the website and loved it. They have 4,000 users already, many at big companies "you'd have heard of".Since the acquisition was done during lockdown, Mihir said that he's still not met anyone on the Cadence team face-to-face. It was a "Zoom deal".
Here, Mihar gives a demo of the InspectAR product on a complex PCB with a large FPGA (five minutes):
Here's a five-minute CBC (Canadian Public Broadcasting) News item on InspectAR from a couple of months ago:
There are more videos on the InspectAR YouTube channel.