Mobiveil: Riding the Rapidly Emerging Silicon IP Wave

Date:   Tuesday , March 04, 2014

What is the perception of a typical two-year old technology startup? A small office where management team is busy framing strategies and working on refining business plans while the engineers are busy developing the initial prototypes. While this is the case with many startups, with Mobiveil, the story is different. The two-year old startup has established itself as one of the preeminent players in the Semiconductor Intellectual Property (SIP) industry by delivering key semiconductor IP components for the data center and wireless infrastructure market. The company has assembled a team of 100 plus employees and has been awarded the best startup in the VLSI/Embedded area. The company established a worldwide sales network that has licensed SIP to brand name customers in the U.S., China, Korea, Taiwan and Europe. Unlike many other companies where the India center is an afterthought, Mobiveil, started its India Development Center (IDC) at the same time it established its head office in Milpitas, California. Kudos goes to the founding team of Ravi Thummarukudy, Gopa Periyadan, Amit Saxena and Srinivasan Durai.

The success factor behind Mobiveil is the founding executives and the core engineering teams who have worked together for the last decade. The team understands a constantly evolving market, customers, competitors and partners. According to CEO Ravi Thummarukudy, the team\'s strength lies in complementary skills and capabilities and a common vision and culture forged over ten years of working together at their previous startup, GDA Technologies, Inc., (GDA). While Thummarukudy brings over twenty five years of experience in semiconductor IP and electronic design automation, Gopa Periyadan supplies business development skills honed managing large sales operations. Technologist Amit Saxena\'s contribution is over ten years developing semiconductor IP that has seen successful production in millions of devices. Managing Director of India operations, Srinivasan Durai brings the engineering leadership and India\'s talented technology workforce to the company. The team has worked cohesively through the up markets of 1998-2000, 2005-2007 and the down markets of 2001-2003 and 2008-2009. This solid foundation brings unique strength to Mobiveil.

Before the venture came into being, the founders identified several large companies providing electronic design services, and determined that none of them were providing both new technology and products in the semiconductor IP space. The founders saw an unfilled market need and in 2012, made the bold move to form the new entity, Mobiveil. This new venture would concentrate on developing new technologies for licensing and provide engineering services for high-growth applications in datacenter, storage, communications and consumer markets. Besides licensing, technology developed for these vertical applications, the company also provided value added services: hardware design, embedded software development, SOC verification and validation, hardware. In a short span of two years, Mobiveil has an impressive list of high profile customers including Samsung, LSI Logic, CSR, IXIA, Sanmina, Silicon Motion, Altera, and Marvel Semiconductor among others.

Today, Mobiveil is one of the pioneers in developing semiconductor IP technology and licensing it to customers worldwide. The company\'s designs are deployed in millions of silicon chips throughout the communications, consumer and wireless infrastructure products worldwide. \"Semiconductor and hardware design is our background and is part of our being,\" declares Thummarukudy. \"The experience that we hold and the network of partners and customers that we have created globally over the years has helped us zero-in on starting another company in the semiconductor space after GDA\". Thummarukudy foresees a huge opportunity in this space in the coming years as almost all products are getting embedded with complex semiconductor designs; communication, automotive, toys or gaming. The fast emerging Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to accelerate this trend even faster. This presents a major requirement for fast-paced electronic product development. To exploit a rapidly developing market opportunity when their internal engineering teams are fully engaged, large semiconductor companies are engaging partners with broad IP Portfolio and specialized design experience to fill this vacuum. \"over time, the many small Silicon Valley semiconductor companies were either acquired by giants or closed down due to financial crises. Today, the cost of establishing a new semiconductor startup is so high that even large venture capital firms are not willing to fund such companies. The void created by the shortage of VC funded semiconductor companies is filled by semiconductor IP companies today, and has been a blessing for us,\" explains Thummarukudy.

Working for small semiconductor companies always posed financial risk for their suppliers. \"We never knew if we would have a repeat business and always had to worry about collecting payments,\" states Thummarukudy. \"However, the market has matured with larger & more stable companies in operation at the moment. With these big players, we feel safer. We don\'t have to worry about their longevity or repeat business, as they are stable entities and renowned names in the industry. What we provide them is amongst the best available technologies in the market,\" adds Thummarukudy.

Investing in Innovation

While the team has been together working on innovative new designs, the technology landscape is changing rapidly. Mobiveil understands the need to stay nimble and invest in technologies for tomorrow. One such investment opportunity is in evolving Flash Memory storage. A number of technical and business trends are converging to create a booming market for Solid State Drives (SSDs), with gigabytes of flash memory capacity along with the related control electronics packaged in the form factor of a 1.8\"-, 2.5\"- or 3.5\" storage device. The first market is the emergence of Tablets and pervasiveness of Smartphones both of which use Flash as their main storage. The resulting demand has created innovation in manufacturing and packaging of Flash and is driving declining storage cost and increasing the R&D investments to improve flash subsystem performance. The second trend is the continuing growth of \"Big Data\"; data analytics and the resulting need for faster transaction processing on the ever expanding and proliferating server/storage data center farms. SSDs are being rapidly deployed to increase transactions per second at a fraction of the cost otherwise required to achieve the same result. Lower power consumption in SSD drives is another important factor that works as a tail wind push to this growth trajectory.

Trendfocus\' finding of 50 percent growth from first quarter 2013 to first quarter 2014 is typical of what most researchers are predicting for this technology. As expected the greatest unit shipment volume is for clients: Notebooks, Netbooks, and Tablets. But, it\'s in the enterprise where the bigger evolution is occurring: \"The enterprise SSD market is gaining more traction in data centers and Cloud storage, as the dollar per GB ($/GB) metric decreases to levels low enough to drive an inflection in demand. Seizing this opportunity, Mobiveil quickly developed intellectual property and a reference design for the latest standard in Flash storage-NVM Express\" in collaboration with a major supporter of the standard. Mobiveil\'s competitive advantage comes from not only providing the building block IP but the whole platform that enables licensees to develop a complete product in the shortest amount of time. Our vision is how quickly can we accelerate the customer\'s product development and how much more can we provide them so that they can get to the market quickly,\" states Thummarukudy. He believes that in the next three years this technology will drive Mobiveil to the next level of success.

Mobility is another important new trend and this presents opportunities in multiple fronts. WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication) is a technology where Mobiveil has developed expertise. This technology enable browser-to-browser applications for voice calling, video chat, and P2P file sharing without plugins. For instance, WebRTC makes it easy for developers to manage, blend, and use multiple multimedia channels, including microphone audio, camera video, screen grabs from your app or media player, and others. Mobiveil has developed expertise implementing these new technologies in Android and Tizen platforms.

Competing Globally in Technology

Success of startups like Mobiveil is a great example of how successful entrepreneurs\' can tap in to the talent pool available in India to develop leading edge technologies and compete globally. Mobiveil\'s competitors are large EDA companies including Synopsys and Cadence both billion plus dollar entities. Mobiveil is able to successfully compete against these large companies by being nimble and aggressively pushing the technology envelopes while providing high quality products and offering the best in class customer support and services.

Mobiveil\'s strength lies in its expertise developing standards based highly configurable, high performance and power efficient re-usable designs. For example, Mobiveil team has a long affiliation with the Rapid IO Trade Association (RTA) where it is a contributing member. \"When the latest specification was defined by the association, Mobiveil was selected to develop the golden models for the latest standards. These are the models by which all designs implementing then will be verified. Mobiveil\'s insight in to this technology has allowed it to attract the many of the wireless base station OEMs as customers. Defining new hardware platforms (COTS) for vertical markets is another way to help accelerate product designs. Licensing the Mobiveil IP or COTS will cut six to twelve months from customer\'s product development schedule,\" declares Thummarukudy.

New approach to India Development Center

Though Mobiveil is a two-year old startup serving major corporations in the industry, the challenge is to serve the customers with these leading edge technologies at the most competitive cost point. This is made possible by having the India Development Centers (IDCs) located in Chennai and Bangalore. All the technologies licensed globally to customers are primarily implemented in these IDCs, while architecting the technology and the road map are driven from the Silicon Valley. This is how India becomes an essential element in the success of the company.

\"When I look back 15 years, I see India struggling with little semiconductor exposure and expertise. Fast forward to today; India has become the innovation center for many of the major multinational corporations for both semiconductor and electronic design. Major R&D and technology development work is being done in India. Over the years, India has matured as a market and emerged as one of the best talent pools in the world with a breath of design and implementation and experience,\" claims Thummarukudy.

With these highly motivated and technology savvy engineers, dedicated integration support, flexible business models, strong industry presence through strategic alliances and key partnerships, Mobiveil solutions have added tremendous value to the customers in executing their marketing and engineering goals within budget and on time.

The fast growing markets in China, Taiwan and Korea are creating new demand for semiconductor IP and design services for companies such as Mobiveil. The close proximity from India to these Asian countries with better time zone coverage is an added benefit of having an IDC. The IDC enables Mobiveil to serve customers in the U.S., China, Korea, Europe and India 24x7. To the envy of many engineers working for multinational companies, the engineers at Mobiveil dwell deeply in to the latest interconnect technologies and have started taking leadership roles in defining the next generation specifications.

Thummarukudy understands the dynamics of the Indian semiconductor industry very well and is quite disappointed that there are no major homegrown semiconductor players even though the country is the reservoir of semiconductor design skill and also a big potential market for semiconductor products. Currently the large Indian market is served by foreign companies. \"We are now providing technologies to these major international corporations however, we look forward to being a part of the success stories of home grown Indian companies in the future,\" adds Thummarukudy.

Typically in India, the sooner a person starts excelling in his work, he or she has to move on from the technical role and become a project leader or manager. \"This prevents many good engineers from becoming expert in their chosen field as he or she is not able to devote their time to enhance their technical skills but rather has to focus on sharpening and building their team\'s excellence. In the process we lose the best engineering talent that we could have nurtured to become the \'Industry\'s Best\'\", explains Thummarukudy.

Here again, Mobiveil is busy setting a different example. The company encourages a two-track system. Engineers either grow expertise in the field they are working in and after a certain period, they take on the role of an architect who specializes in a product; or as they become managers who build team and strive to increase the capability and productivity of the team. They believe that no talent should be lost in the process and encourage both tracks of growth in a professional\'s life.

A smart mind needs a competitive and creative work place. Flexibility and challenging tasks are the power boosters for the employees. Mobiveil management believes this change will happen by empowering the employees at every level. Thus management encourages an informal, open and supportive work culture, and decision-making. The team is buoyant to learn new things with the flexibility and freedom to execute. Once they are empowered with such responsibilities, they work harder and enable Mobiveil to effectively manage its team remotely.