(from a hotel room in Silicon Valley: May 4th 2014)
The Early Years of 2000
In the early 2000’s I was still working for the US Multinational, but moved fully to product engineering for a couple of years and then to Worldwide Manufacturing. The great thing about that job was the travel and the colleagues one would meet during one’s travels. One was Jerome Auza, resident database expert in our largest test house, which was in the Philippines. He started working closely with me.
Setting up MFG Vision
I was stunned back in late 2004 when I was informed by my boss that Jerome would not be working with me in a few months time. That’s the nature of working for a big company, or working for anyone else really: strategies can change overnight impacting you directly. I was in the middle of a plan for a new worldwide system with Jerome and others, Jerome being the database lead. So this was really a shock to me. A couple of months later we resigned from the company, not so much in protest, but because we saw an opportunity in the wider industry. Our dream now was on a grander scale and there was no letting up: we were in a different business from the multinational: they were designing and manufacturing chips and we had in our sights going back to the drawing board and designing and delivering the best semiconductor yield analysis system for the wider industry.
The Early Years
Three of us left the company, including Prem Gurbani, a software expert. Prem was relatively new to the semiconductor industry and was very good at programming especially at the interface and had a very good knowledge of programming practices. Jerome wrote most of the “backend” software which is the software which processes the data and inserts the data into the database. I being the experienced test and product engineering guy, designed the tools whose end customers were test and product engineers. Our backgrounds in test really helped test the software fairly thoroughly too. (In fact when you have customers who are test engineers, they are also a great help to test the tools!)
We were lean, hungry and a formidable team. It would be expensive to start this up but I and my wife decided to fund it with a little help from Enterprise Ireland, the Irish government agency. Frankly, this semiconductor industry moves so fast that we never spent much time waiting for grants. We just got on with it and preferred to get our funding from customers than waiting for bureaucrats who didn’t understand what we were doing to approve grants. We acquired early customers like STATS ChipPAC and Infineon.
Two Breakthroughs and We Weather the Credit Crunch
Cirrus Logic and Vitesse Semiconductor became customers in the run up to the credit crunch. Prem Gurbani left the company in early 2009. A few months later Diodes, a fast growing multinational company based in Plano, Texas, became a customer and we strengthened our team of talented software developers in Asia. So we managed to weather the credit crunch with Diodes and a couple of other customers coming on board. All the time our technology was improving. With the new team of developers we didn’t let up with the vision I had of the best and fastest thin client system available. We added more developers and more customers, including in aerospace in 2011 and 2012. The FloorVision platform was great but we were building more and more tools on a platform which needed something fresh. We also became profitable as an enterprise in 2011, which is a great achievement for any technology company, self-funded (as we were) or not.
In 2012, we started designing yieldHUB. This was now “private cloud” which is essentially the new name for “thin client”. yieldHUB was to learn from FloorVision: a better UI, faster analysis, flexible reporting, simple alerting and a Knowledge Management System integrated. This new platform has attracted many new customers including Intel. It combines the best of FloorVision with modern collaboration and social collaboration features for modern and geographically dispersed Product and Test Engineering teams. It’s evolving just like FloorVision did: there are Automotive, Hi Rel, IDM and Fabless flavours to this platform, in line with our customer base. These teams don’t want to have to download data before doing analysis, and want to be alerted automatically when issues happen, even on the other side of the world.
We now have added on-the-ground support in test houses in Asia and have hired semiconductor industry experts (Kevin Robinson and Shyam Mattay). Every one of our recent hires interestingly are either former customers coming to us because they believed in our product or people who worked with customers and knew how helpful MFG Vision technology was. Also we have a network of sales agents in different countries now, all semiconductor professionals.
Looking Back and Looking Forward
Just looking back at the road from a US Multinational to where we are now, the yieldHUB platform I believe would not have been developed there, a great company though it is. The best feedback, not just from one company as it would have been, but from dozens of US, Israeli, UK, Taiwanese and Irish companies, is distilled and incorporated into yieldHUB. We are never standing still, as the demands from customers and prospects who are under serious pressure from their customers means that we have to both innovate and deliver on plan into the future to provide long lasting value to each customer.
MFG Vision Ltd