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Lucio Lanza, managing director of Lanza techVentures LLC, has been selected by the EDA Consortium (EDAC) and the IEEE Council on EDA (CEDA) to receive the EDA industry’s highest honor – the 2014 Phil Kaufman award. According to the award announcement, Lanza is being honored for “providing innovative EDA and IP companies with exceptional vision, mentoring, and financial support.”
In this interview, Lanza discusses his 30+ year history with EDA, his involvement with venture capital, the availability of funding for startups, how startups can succeed, and exciting new technology areas that lie beyond EDA. Lanza will receive the Kaufman award at the ICCAD conference Tuesday, Nov. 4, in San Jose, California.
Q: Lucio, what was your reaction to winning the Kaufman award?
A: Surprise. Gratitude. It got me to remembering things I hadn’t thought about for a while. For example, I worked very closely with Phil Kaufman at Intel for quite some time.
Q: You’ve been in EDA for a long time – I remember interviewing you around 1985. How did you get into EDA and what were you doing before that?
A: In 1968 I started working at Olivetti. In the late 1970s Olivetti started working very closely with semiconductor companies in Silicon Valley, including AMD, Fairchild, and Intel. From 1975 to 1977 I was paid by Olivetti, but I was working mainly at Intel. Then I officially joined Intel. I was in charge of the microprocessor architecture team. Kaufman was general manager of the Intel microprocessor operation, and he was the best strategist I ever met.
At the time, we used design systems from Applicon for the 80186 and Calma for the 80286. We started using tools for simulation. But as engineers, we realized there was a lack of real tools that could make something meaningful. We called this CAE, or computer-aided engineering. CAD was considered to be boring and we wanted to do the interesting stuff.
Some of the people who were doing [CAE] at Intel ended up leaving and starting Daisy Systems. Aryeh Finegold was the founder of Daisy, and he used to work for me at Intel. So when he started Daisy, I was very happy. He asked me to join and I agreed in 1983.
Q: What was your job at Daisy?
A: That’s an interesting one. When I joined, Aryeh took me aside and noted that most of the people then at Daisy had already been working together for a year and a half. So I came in as a customer marketing engineer, which meant that I organized visits for customers. Three months later I was vice president of marketing.
Q: And when did you move into venture capital?
A: In 1986 I started my own company, EDA Systems, which was sold to Digital Equipment in about three years. I decided to do some consulting, so I talked to [Cadence CEO] Joe Costello. He said, let’s target a couple of customers you can help me with. I think this was about September of 1989. I also started working at U.S. Venture Partners. I was going to make up my mind by the end of that year about what I wanted to do.
Well, I did not make up my mind until 1995, and I ended up working two jobs for six years. I was senior VP of merger and acquisition strategy at Cadence, and I was a partner at U.S. Venture Partners. One day I woke up and decided, at my age, that two jobs was one too many. I decided to move full time to U.S. Venture Partners.
Q: You were a technologist. What attracted you to venture capital?
A: It’s a natural evolution. Once you start working for companies that are venture financed, what you see is a different way of impacting the world. It lets you see the most advanced technologies, and that’s what I like. The challenge and the opportunity of seeing things before others excites me.
Q: What EDA or IP companies did you work with at U.S. Ventures?
A: The most interesting one was Artisan Components [acquired by ARM in 2004]. We invested in Artisan in 1994. We changed the name from VLSI Libraries because if it’s libraries you can only sell licenses, but if it’s IP you can charge royalties. Others included PDF Solutions [still independent, Lanza is on the board]; CADMOS [sold to Cadence in 2001]; Epic Design [sold to Synopsys in 1997]; Forte Design [sold to Cadence in 2014]; and Think3 [mechanical CAD, Costello was CEO].
It wasn’t just EDA. One that I’m proud of is our investment in Intrinsa, a software verification company. One thing I realized is that there was no real testing for software at all. Intrinsa could test software using the same methodology as static timing and IC verification. We sold to Microsoft in 1999.
Q: In 2001 you left U.S. Venture Partners and set up your own company, Lanza techVentures. Why did you go out on your own?
A: I like to do early stage investments when there are just two, three, or four people, and you can take your time and build companies for less than $10 million. That’s the kind of thing that gets me excited and involved. If you get involved with me, the good news is I stay involved. The bad news is that I stay involved.
Q: Are you focused on EDA at Lanza techVentures?
A: Many investments that I’m proud of were not with EDA companies. The area that excites me the most right now is what I would call the future of the pharmaceutical industry. The computer era is coming now and it will help people make decisions in unbelievable ways. I’m invested in Numerate, which does data-driven drug discovery in the cloud. They use between 100,000 and 1 million computers. It’s a machine learning system.
I have tried many companies in areas that traditional EDA is not serving. Very few tools allow full verification. Few tools allow you to see who the real consumer of power is in a system. No tools allow you to fully optimize a cache. These things all fall into what I call no man’s land, between the top of the chip and the silicon, and the application software and the OS.
One interesting area I’m looking at is the Internet of Things. This will force the whole analog world to change. The analog design community needs different tools and a different way of doing design.
Q: It seems like there haven’t been many EDA startups in recent years. Do you think this is true, and if so, what’s holding things back?
A: There are plenty of startups. The problem is that we’re using the wrong term for EDA. EDA should be defined as a set of tools, methodologies, and software and hardware processes that allow the design of systems. IP is one of the biggest things that is bringing down the cost of design. IP is EDA, and IP is exactly the way EDA has been growing.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who is starting a high-technology company?
A: The fundamental element is to be sure you are part of something that is naturally growing fast. If there is positive feedback, that’s where you want to be. Don’t just go for quick money. I can demonstrate that the best way to get quick money with the highest probability of success is Las Vegas. Besides being extremely smart and extremely creative, you have to be extremely intellectually honest. If things are not like you hoped for, don’t lie to yourself, don’t lie to investors.
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