December 22, 2009
Virage Logic – On the Move!
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Russ Henke - Contributing Editor

by Russ Henke - Contributing Editor
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After devoting the first two issues of EDA Weekly under this writer’s byline to “The Role of Business Planning” in high tech on November 9, 2009, and to the “MAD Progress” at the Mentor Graphics Mechanical Analysis Division (MAD) on December 7, 2009, it seemed only natural for the next article that we’d tackle something completely different in the world of EDA.

Accordingly, on November 8, 2009 an appointment with Virage Logic Corporation of Fremont CA was set up for early December 2009 . For this meeting, I “traveled” on a cold but spectacular sunny morning from Albany CA to Virage Logic’s corporate HQ at 47100 Bayside Parkway, Fremont, CA 94538 :

Despite the increased density of high tech buildings in the Fremont area, the Virage Logic HQ building was a snap to find, since it is just around the corner from the then-HQ of Gould Electronics Imaging & Graphics, where I was President & General Manager from August 1984 to October 1986.

During the December 2009 session at Virage Logic, I met as planned with Dr. Alex Shubat (president & CEO, member Board of Directors) and Ms. Sabina Burns (VP Corporate Marketing).

Background on Dr. Alex Shubat:

Before delving into the details of the position of Virage Logic in today’s panorama of semiconductor IP vendors, we started the December 2009 get-together by discussing Dr. Shubat’s background.

Alex Shubat was born in 1961 and reared in Latvia , in the city of Riga. His father was a butcher and his mother an accountant. Accountancy was also the field pursued by Alex’s sister.

During Alex’s childhood, the entire family moved to Israel and lived there for three years. By the time the family immigrated to Toronto, Canada, Alex was ready to consider college. With his keen technical bent and budding interest in electrical devices, combined with a strong secondary education, Alex chose to study electrical engineering at the local University of Toronto. His family now lived in downtown Toronto, so Alex could commute to classes from home, thereby saving on the expense that living on campus would imply:

Following through diligently on this opportunity, Alex earned both a B.S. and an M.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Toronto in 1983 and 1985, respectively.

California or Bust:

Having heard about the intense level of entrepreneurial activity and excitement in California’s Silicon Valley during his last several years at university, Alex booked a post-graduate trip out here on his own in 1985 for a “look see”. He was soon smitten and quickly leveraged his freshly-minted MSEE into an ASIC design position at Waferscale Integration.


Assigned to ASIC design at Waferscale, Alex focused on the technology for four years, and then he began to get group technical management assignments which gradually increased in responsibility. While he maintained his technical edge, he found that he was also becoming keenly interested in people and project management.

It was at Waferscale where Alex became friends with fellow employee Adam Kablanian, a close friendship that the two maintained even after Kablanian left Waferscale to join LSI Logic in the early 90’s.

Meanwhile, Alex met his future wife Irina here in the SF Bay Area in 1988, whom he married in 1989.  

While at Waferscale, Alex pursued and eventually achieved a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Santa Clara University in 1995.

Virage Logic is Born:

Alex Shubat and Adam Kablanian continued to meet after each of their day jobs was done, and inevitably the two became caught up in Northern California’s entrepreneurial spirit and rich venture capital sources. Alex and Adam’s joint and separate experiences in the esoteric world of computer logic and chip design also helped the pair identify critical unmet industry process & design needs -- needs they believed they could uniquely fulfill “if only they had their own company.” So halfway through the 90’s, the two men decided they’d leave their steady jobs, form a fresh company on paper, and spend up to a year if needed seeking venture or angel funding for their “newco”, which they christened “Virage Logic” [1].

Alas, the then-extant local VC community was just becoming totally enamored with e-commerce and “dot-com” start-ups. The few VC’s that expressed any interest in the fledgling Virage Logic at all, demanded up to 90% of the post-money equity for the first meager round. Undaunted, Alex and Adam temporarily suspended their quest for VC funds and set about bootstrapping Virage Logic the old-fashioned way – from one chip design contract to the next chip design contract -- slowly adding new people, building over three long years a reputation for both performance and highly differentiated technology.

Alex and Adam’s eventual goal was to establish their novel company as the technology and market leader in providing advanced embedded memory intellectual property (IP) for the design of complex chips. They kept the dream alive via income from contract to contract, by obtaining funds from company employees, and eventually by a $3.5 million round of private financing in 1998 (of which Tower Semiconductor (TSEM) was a part).

By late 1998, Virage Logic was becoming fairly-well-known as an embedded memory core company that specialized in providing ultra-low-power, high-density and high-performance memory compilers for system-on-chip (SoC) designs, and developing & marketing memory cores for system IC designers. The company provided semiconductor suppliers and electronics systems companies with a range of memory types and configurations, tools to create memory cores, and related design services.

Finally, in 1999, Alex and Adam presented the now far stronger Virage Logic business plan to one Michael J. Stark, a co-founder of Crosslink Capital in the SF Bay Area. Michael Stark had led more than 20 venture capital investments in multiple industry sectors after joining Crosslink Capital in 1992. Before that, Michael was at Intel and then joined Robertson Stephens in 1983 where he served as Director of Research and equity analyst covering the semiconductor and software industries. At Robertson Stephens, Michael led investments in nine private companies, including Cirrus Logic, Cypress Semiconductor, Xilinx and Vitesse Semiconductor. In 1989, he was named director of research for Robertson Stephens and, in this role, established the investment direction for some 16 senior institutional analysts.

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-- Russ Henke, Contributing Editor.


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