SiFive - October 25, 2016

Don’t Fall for an Old-Fashioned Tech Con Job

Having worked in the semiconductor industry for over 12 years, I've learned one universal truth: IP companies can be notoriously difficult to work with. Unless you are one of the larger chipmakers, you'll likely find that IP firms simply won't make time for your design.

Recently, a prospective customer came to SiFive after having a less than positive experience with one of the larger IP firms, let's call them HARM to preserve their identity (and save me from getting into trouble). This customer works at a startup bringing the Internet of Things to life and had first applied to participate in HARM's quick start design program, billed as a way to get "fast and easy access" to its IP. From what he told us, the process was anything but.

First, he registered to apply to the quick start program, and received in return an email requesting answers to no fewer than 13 questions that, quite frankly, were more bureaucratic than useful in determining what specific IP program might be most suitable for his design.

  • How did you hear about HARM Quick Start? Why does this matter -- I'm inquiring and you're holding up a potential deal.
  • What is your business model? How this is relevant to the engineering team inquiring about semiconductor IP escapes me.
  • Please provide in detail information related to your company's core business activities, market segments and products. This company is still in stealth mode and not disclosing any of this info.
  • And so on … it wouldn't have been surprising for them to have asked for the company's most recent tax returns.

Wanting access, our prospect answered the questions, hit "Send" and waited to hear back. And waited. And waited. Three full weeks went by before he heard back: "Thank you for your reply, but unfortunately after reviewing your application, we cannot grant Quick Start access to you." Unsatisfying to say the very least and the experience felt like one big tech con.

This is just the latest example of why SiFive believes so passionately that alternatives really matter when it comes to access to custom silicon. Some of today's most innovative companies do not have the resources, time and, quite frankly, the funds to play by these old fashioned rules. That doesn't mean they don't deserve to have a chip perfectly suited to their device. Check out what we’ve developed for the growing RISC-V free and open ISA. We promise we won’t ask a bunch of pesky questions!