The Age of Enlightenment
I really love this industry. Maybe I'm smoking EDA drugs or something, but this industry is the source of my happiness.
First things second
I'd be happy if you would run through your bio for me:
Vic Kulkarni - Well, this is my 29th year in the semiconductor and EDA industries together. I did my bachelors in technology at IIT in Bombay in 1974, and finished my masters in sold-state electronics at the University of Cincinnati in 1976.
Did you think you would stay on and work in the U.S. at that time?
Vic Kulkarni - Yes, I always intended to stay. Solid-state electronics was fascinating, and it was [in those years] that the semiconductor industry was just starting. National Semiconductor had on-site campus recruiting in 1976 at the University of Cincinnati. They talked me out of continuing on for my Ph.D., and brought me here to the Valley instead. I never looked back.
I started as a design and production engineer, and quickly was on the fast track at National in terms of the senior engineering and management tracks. I got very involved at National in their biggest project to date at that time - a chip computer. We got the Motorola processor, and worked on an 8-bit A to D converter - all aspects of manufacturing and yield improvement. The company generated $125 million work of revenue on that one product. I was lucky to part of that.
How long were you at National?
Vic Kulkarni - After 6 years, I went to Fairchild to head up their CMOS gate-array program as director of engineering. At that time, gate arrays were brand new. For instance, LSI Logic and VLSI were bipolar country only. Because CMOS was relatively new, they hired me because of my background and we created 6-micron gate arrays, 6-micron channel length devices. I built up that product division for Schlumberger, who had bought the division from National, and took it from $0 to $65 million. It took about 5 and a half years. Then the division was bought back by National. [The experience] gave me my start with the start-up spirit, where I learned all of the tricks [involved in that environment].
At that time, the company found they needed tools for developing gate-array designs. My boss at the time convinced me to take on the product marketing. That's how I got exposed to the concepts of product marketing and customer product definition. It was a very enjoyable experience.
So when did you leave National?
Vic Kulkarni - I did product marketing for them for almost 10 years. Then, I decided to join VLSI Technology and learned a great deal there from Doug Fairbairn. It was there I learned about the concepts of customer support, and management delivering on its promise to the customers. Those are ideas that I have always cherished.
What role did you play at VLSI?
Vic Kulkarni - Under Doug Fairbairn, I was vice president of product marketing at VLSI. It was a $150 million unit under the ASIC group at VLSI. We did quite a bit of work with Philips and Hitachi, who were our main technology partners. Although we were a relatively small ASIC and cell-based design house, we were the lynchpins for these two giants who created ASIC and gate-array standard cells. It was there that we launched the 2-micron gate array - we were the first to do it.
Doug was quite a visionary. He used [layout] technology from Caltech when productivity was becoming very important in design. VLSI was actually one of the first synthesis companies - even before Synopsys has received its funding - although we didn't call it a synthesizer at the time. We called it a state-machine compiler. All that came from Doug Fairbairn and others working at the genius engineer level. They were all very knowledgeable engineering folks who were really breaking new ground in the technology. I was exposed to all of that, which increased my enthusiasm even further. When I left VLSI, I joined Crosscheck.
So, although you had been in start-up like divisions in larger companies, this was your first start-up?
Vic Kulkarni - Yes, I really wanted to experience a start-up for 2 or 3 years. Crosscheck put me in charge of all worldwide marketing for their embedded test circuitry.
Were you in competition with LogicVision?
Vic Kulkarni - Logic Vision was fairly new. We had some innovative test structures that allowed 100-percent visibility into the circuit. It was a great experience for me learning about large licensing agreement, and technology-transfer agreements. Sony, Toshiba, LSI Logic were all our customers - I spent 5 and a half years there, and promoted quite a bit of that technology at ITC and other conferences.
Vic Kulkarni - Then I joined MetasSoftware. I was there for one and a half years. We took MetaSoftware public and achieved a $165 million valuation. Then we were purchased by Avanti for $182 million. I was at Avanti for 4 years [following the acquisition]. It was an extremely good exposure for me to the financial world, and the world of operations.
At Avanti, I learned about the mergers and acquisitions side of the business. I was vice president of product marketing, and completed two acquisitions - Compass, purchased from VLSI, and TMA. That really showed me the details of a well-oiled machine in terms of operations. I became general manager of the worldwide unit with about 150 people working under me.
In December 1999, I came to this place, which after the quick acquisitions of Npower and Sente, became Sequence. It's clear, I have never been bored ever over the course of my career!
Editor's Note: Thanks to Vic Kulkarni for his time, and to Jim Lochmiller for setting up this interview.