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Concurrent EDA: Helping Chip Designers Get to Market Quicker

Processor chips are the heart of nearly every electronic device, from iPods to cell phones to medical imaging devices, and they have been doubling in capacity every two years. With such a huge demand and shrinking development cycle, design teams are under increasing pressure to get the most out of the chips they create today so they are not “old technology” by the time they hit the market.

Concurrent EDA

Concurrent EDA has written software that enables computer chip designers to explore multiple designs and technologies at the same time, while dramatically cutting the overall design cycle time.

That’s where Concurrent EDA comes in. “We’ve developed software tools to help engineers design and produce chips more quickly,” says Dr. Ray Hoare, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh-based company.

Born out of the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) after more than two years in the lab, Concurrent EDA has created software that facilitates design throughout the entire development process. Other electronic design automation tools are “point solutions,” solving only a particular part of the design process. Concurrent EDA’s technology enables designers to explore multiple designs and technologies, while dramatically cutting the design cycle time.

Reducing Design Time

Today’s electronic devices have only one or two major chips on their board, so all the complexity must be built into the chip itself. That’s a highly complex undertaking involving thousands of possibilities and equations-not to mention opportunities for mistakes and lost time. In addition, the market starts more than 80,000 new designs each year-a figure that is growing by 30 percent annually, according to Hoare.

“Our objective is to reduce the chip design time from more than four months to just four weeks,” Hoare says. “It doesn’t take a financial wizard to see the importance of cutting development time by 75 percent.”

The technology was born while Hoare was an assistant professor at the Pitt, where he specialized in accelerating software applications using high-performance electronics. Hoare’s work was funded by the Technology Collaborative and guided by the pressing needs of industry. Collaborating with his colleague, professor Alex Jones, they automated the process of software acceleration using hardware chips. Seeing the commercial potential of this technology, Hoare licensed the technology from Pitt and spun out Concurrent EDA. At this time last year, Hoare left the university to put his full attention toward the company. He expects product in the market by 2008.

Providing a Solid Start

Concurrent EDA has been approved for a $300,000 BFTP investment. While due diligence is ongoing, the company is working closely with a BFTP Executive in Residence to strengthen its business plan, product development and fundraising strategy.

“BFTP has been instrumental in facilitating the business side of the equation for us,” Hoare says. “They are helping us translate geek speak into business speak. This is difficult, because I’ve worked long and hard to become a geek-but I realize I need to be a businessman, too.”

Hoare says BFTP has been key in helping him get ready for investors, come up with a cogent business plan and build out the team for commercial success-critical elements to moving the technology from the lab to the marketplace.

Moving from Lab to Market

Hoare says the most challenging aspect of moving the technology from the lab to the marketplace is making it usable-and that means developing a top-notch graphical user interface.

“Clearly, there is a pain point, so we know the technology is necessary,” he says. “But the user experience is critical. We are selling a productivity tool, so if it’s not easy to use, any gained productivity is lost.”

In addition to perfecting the tools with input from industry partners, Concurrent EDA recently participated in the second annual Pittsburgh Angel Venture Fair in March. The event is the brainchild of BFTP and is an opportunity for CEOs of promising early-stage companies to pitch their business plans to dozens of local angel investors who are interested in high-quality deals.

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This article was featured in
Keynotes April, 2007
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