Wanted - Entrepreneurs in a large semiconductor company

Author: Dinesh Ramanathan
Executive Vice President, Data Communications Division, Cypress Semiconductor
All large semiconductor companies look for entrepreneurs within their workforce and try to create an environment to nurture entrepreneurial behavior. However, they often do not clearly articulate where and how the entrepreneurial spirit is needed within the organization. In my opinion, product marketing is where entrepreneurial skills are most needed and should be nurtured. Product marketing is where interaction with customers takes place to decide on the next-generation products and their features. Entrepreneurship in product marketing involves a deep understanding of the system that the product fits in to, the value proposition that the product provides for that system, and the longevity of that value proposition to the customer.

Business planning at cypress

At Cypress Semiconductor Corp. every product launch is accompanied by a business plan. This plan outlines the system level application of the product (which includes silicon, software, and reference and demo board). The business plan goes into the details of how the product will be manufactured and its cost, including a cost analysis of major features and its competitiveness in the market. It is the responsibility of the product marketing group to understand the competitive environment when the product is expected to be released. We avoid the ‘kitchen-sink product’, which includes all the features of all the competitive parts available in the industry at the time of the launch of the business plan. We typically question the value proposition of the product in the system and expect product marketing to know the die cost of every feature and the expected price that customers are willing to pay for those features. This approach keeps product marketing honest (unnecessary with entrepreneurs, but necessary within large semiconductor companies). I’ll come back to the role of product marketing after an overview of the business plan which drives every new product launch at Cypress.

The business plan includes the product’s die size estimate, yield, wafer costs, assembly and test costs, and timelines for its delivery for different purposes, besides engineering samples, pre-production samples, production and full production. This represents an alignment between groups responsible for marketing, manufacturing, test, assembly, and design within the company. Further, it captures the product’s strategic position within the long-term roadmap and the portfolio of the product line. There are several metrics to gauge the relative merits of each product within the portfolio and the long term roadmap of the product line.

The business plan also captures the revenues that the product line management is committing to deliver to the corporation for a particular product. This represents an alignment between the product line and sales force. It makes sure that the product definition has been vetted with customers and that customer demand exists for the features of the products.

With all this information captured in the business plan, the product marketing management can now assess a return on investment on this particular product and the return on investment on the family of products to which this product belongs. Both metrics are important, as they illustrate the value of platform architectures from which derivative products can be created with quick time-to-market requirements. Each area of this business plan has the need for entrepreneurs – people that can move quickly, are focused on a goal and are willing to do everything to achieve that goal within the timeline necessary to create a successful product for customers. Product marketing, however, is responsible for creating and driving platform architectures, and therefore being a product marketing entrepreneur (delivering to short term within the realm of long term plans) is especially critical for the success of semiconductor companies.

The detailed business plans at Cypress also include several key metrics that are essential for the management to make a launch decision on a product. It includes all the assumptions about the market, competition, and macro-economic landscape that affect and or govern the overall business. Once a product is launched, people committed to the product are deployed to create everything outlined in the business plan. The business plan is a living document and is constantly updated to reflect the current status of the design, marketing, customer engagements, and revenue outlook. It lives until the end of the life of the product.

Entrepreneurs in product marketing

Product definition is a critical function of product marketing. It entails not only a clear understanding of the systems that the product will go into, but also a clear understanding of how this product can be created and how it fits into the existing product portfolio and strategic roadmap. For a particular product line, products are either completely new or derivatives. If they are completely new, a lot more product marketing work needs to be done to ensure business success. A new platform, from which multiple products can be derived, needs to be created for the product which entails a longer term view for the product line. In addition, the value proposition of every feature added to the product has to be identified and quantified so that the right trade-off can be made between the cost of the product, the time to get the product to market, and the features that are critical for the customer’s success (the features that the customer is willing to pay for). This trade-off is where most large companies make mistakes to end up with a ‘kitchen sink’ product or one that does not meet customer requirements.

The decision on what product to build needs entrepreneurs who are willing to trade-off value added features with time-to-market and convince the customer that the product has the right set of features for the customer’s system level application. The product will live or die by these trade-off decisions, and these decisions set the stage for the product portfolio as well. For example, in the West Bridge business unit in Cypress’ Data Communication division, we had to decide whether we wanted to include an MLC (Multi-Level Cell) NAND interface in the first product called Antioch from this business. Every customer we talked to wanted an MLC NAND interface, and wanted the product in six months. We, however, had time only to include an SLC (Single-Level Cell) NAND interface (MLC NAND requires ECC (Error Correction Coding) protection which requires more work to design and verify). As a result, we included only the SLC NAND interface, got the product into customer designs and created the next product, Astoria, which has the MLC NAND interface. Customer needs for MLC NAND had been delayed a couple of quarters and we were able to meet their requirements with the Astoria product. The West Bridge team treated the first product as a platform on which it built both Antioch and Astoria. The platform enabled us to design derivatives in a time-efficient manner and service our customer needs along various metrics like power, die size, scalability of design in both dimensions, increased scalability (ability to add more features quickly), and decreased scalability (to de-feature products for the right price point) to provide products that allow us to maintain the pricing floor for the product line.

Successful businesses within Cypress have always been driven by the entrepreneurial spirit the ability to make trade-off decisions about products and take them to the market in a timely manner to service a specific customer requirement. Although large companies demand a certain amount of discipline and rigor, these qualities are actually beneficial to all enterprises and the experience gained working in this environment is invaluable to all marketers. The entrepreneurial spirit does not need the umbrella of a startup, it can be found in large semiconductor companies that create the environment for the spirit to flourish

The author is Executive Vice President, Data Communications Division, Cypress Semiconductor

Previous  article
Next article
Write your comment now

Email    Password: 
Don't have SiliconIndia account? Sign up    Forgot your password? Reset
Reader's comments(3)
1: From: Mrs. Mary David

This mail may be a surprise to you because you did not give me the permission to do so and neither do you know me but before I tell you about myself I want you to please forgive me for sending this mail without your permission. I am writing this letter in confidence believing that if it is the will of God for you to help me and my family, God almighty will bless and reward you abundantly. I need an honest and trust worthy person like you to entrust this huge transfer project unto.

My name is Mrs. Mary David, The Branch Manager of a Financial Institution. I am a Ghanaian married with 3 kids. I am writing to solicit your assistance in the transfer of US$7,500,000.00 Dollars. This fund is the excess of what my branch in which I am the manager made as profit last year (i.e. 2010 financial year). I have already submitted an annual report for that year to my head office in Accra-Ghana as I have watched with keen interest as they will never know of this excess. I have since, placed this amount of US$7,500,000.00 Dollars on an Escrow Coded account without a beneficiary (Anonymous) to avoid trace.

As an officer of the bank, I cannot be directly connected to this money thus I am impelled to request for your assistance to receive this money into your bank account on my behalf. I agree that 40% of this money will be for you as a foreign partner, in respect to the provision of a foreign account, and 60% would be for me. I do need to stress that there are practically no risk involved in this. It's going to be a bank-to-bank transfer. All I need from you is to stand as the original depositor of this fund so that the fund can be transferred to your account.

If you accept this offer, I will appreciate your timely response to me. This is why and only reason why I contacted you, I am willing to go into partnership investment with you owing to your wealth of experience, So please if you are interested to assist on this venture kindly contact me back for a brief discussion on how to proceed.

All correspondence must be via my private E-mail ( for obvious security reasons.

Best regards,
Mrs. Mary David.
Posted by: mary lovely david - Monday 26th, September 2011
2: Dinesh,
Your sharing of Cypress product launch is indeed a very good example of an 'entrepreneur'. However, i have one question. Is this product marketing executive also responsible for delivering the results as per the plan? Or does the job entails making a plan and taking it upto a threshold level?
Posted by: Sanjiv Bhamre - Friday 20th, May 2011
My Name is Tata I was impressed when i saw your profile at and will like you to email me back to my inbox so that i can send you my picture for you to know who i am.i belive we can establishe a long lasting relation ship with you.In addition,i will like you to reply me through my private e mail box (
This is because i dont know the possibilities of
remainning in forum for a long time.
Thanks,waiting to hear from you soonest.
Posted by: tata tatababy os - Friday 30th, October 2009
More articles
by Kaushal Mehta - Founder & CEO, Motif Inc..
The retail industry is witnessing an increased migration of customers from traditional brick and mortar retail to E-commerce (online retail)...more>>
by Samir Shah - CEO, Zephyr .
You probably do because you are on the phone with them! For all of you working in some technical management capacity here in Silicon Valley,...more>>
by Raj Karamchedu - Chief Operating Officer, Legend Silicon .
These days are a mixed bag for me. Of late I have been considering "doing something bigger and better," in my life, perhaps seriously though...more>>
by Madhavi Vuppalapati - CEO of Prithvi Information Solutions .
IT Services Rise of Tier II companies The Indian IT outsourcing industry is going through very exciting phase in its business life...more>>
by Bhaskar Bakthavatsalu- Country Manager, India and SAARC of Check Point Software Technologies.
Data loss occurs every day through corporate email. In fact, given the sheer number of emails an organization sends every day, data loss inc...more>>