IP vendors sign up for referral programme

A group of semiconductor intellectual property (IP) vendors have clubbed together in a sales network that they hope will bring them into contact with more customers.

IPextreme has been joined by Cast, NXP Semiconductors, Sidense and Tempio in a programme called Constellations having agreed to forward customers’ details to each other if they do not supply IP cores needed for a chip-design project.

“We came up with this concept of bringing together some of the smaller companies to increase their global footprint,” explained Warren Savage, president of IPextreme. “All of us have our sales forces but the smaller companies don’t necessarily see each other in accounts.

“Customers aren’t exposed to the full richness of the whole IP supplier landscape. There are generally a number of IP blocks that they are looking for. This is an opportunity to serve the customer by providing more links,” Savage added.

Savage said IPextreme will handle how requests are passed on to the other members of Constellations. “We use people here to sort the information and split up the IP requests and push those out to other partners who could supply the cores,” he explained. “We have a certain set of keywords that the IP vendors provide to describe the customers requests.”

Customers have to agree to have their requests go into the Constellations system, Savage said.

Once requests are in the system, they are sent out to all the relevant members. “We’re not planning to get into a process of matching customers to suppliers,” said Savage.

Hal Barbour, president of Cast, said of the initiative: “It seemed like a novel idea. Things like Design & Reuse and ChipEstimate have proved useful to us. This looked attractive and in no way competitive to those.”

Johan van Ginderdeuren, responsible for licensing CoreFlux products at NXP, said: “I believe that networking effects of the programme offer an interesting possibility for scaling up our business.”

Xerxes Wania, president and CEO of Sidense, said: “We went from five salespeople to eight. But just three weeks ago we found out that we lost business because we didn’t know about it. No matter how many people you put on the tree there is always a larger area that you could cover with more. One of the things we have to overcome is that we have to reach them at the right time in their project cycle.

“We are competing with the bigger guys who may have six or seven hundred salespeople,” Wania added. “This puts us on a more even level with the bigger guys.”

Serge Maginot, CEO of Tiempo IC, a startup formed in the summer of 2007, said: “As the youngest company in the programme, this is a way to gain exposure to customers very quickly.”

Kees Joosse, senior director of technology licensing at NXP, said the programme could prove important for a company like his: a device manufacturer that also sells IP. “People don’t readily approach an IDM for IP even if the IDM is ready to deliver.”

Savage said the approach taken with Constellations involves less overhead than a traditional distribution model. “As a distributor, you need some level of applications exposure and sales training, and IP is very complex to sell. It is a very technical sell. Distribution just adds cost to the channel. This is much more lightweight.

“This is more of a people-to-people thing. We are connecting the sales forces that are talking to customers.”

Savage claimed other companies are likely to join the programme soon. “There are a number of companies who couldn’t get their contracts in place before the launch date. I think we will organically grow and spread.”

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