UW Start-Up Nimbic Accelerates Design Solutions for Microelectronics Companies

UW electrical engineering professor Vikram Jandhyala launched the start-up company Nimbic (formerly Physware) in 2006 to help customers in the microelectronics industry solve design problems for microprocessors, FPGAs, memory, wireless RF systems, analog systems, and high-speed serial and parallel channels. The company’s patented physics-aware technology enables efficient chip-package-system co-design and robustness, and efficiency at every step of the design cycle while significantly reducing time to market.

PhysWaveDemoToday, Nimbic is a successful venture-backed, privately held company poised for further global growth. The company has attracted a top business and technology leadership team, and in March 2011 raised $6.9 million in funding, adding to the $2.5 million raised in 2008. The company counts among its customers top semiconductor companies around the world, including Texas Instruments, Toshiba, Panasonic, Tabula, and Vitesse.

“With a growing list of top semiconductor customers, Nimbic is at an exciting time with a new high-profile CEO (former Synopsys CTO Dr. Raul Camposano), a recently closed round of funding, and a focus on a dual strategy of close engagement with top semiconductor companies and a scalable cloud-based model for the long and growing tail of the electronic design automation space,” said Jandhyala.

Nimbic is leveraging the trend towards pervasive parallel computing, in particular multi-core CPUs and Cloud Computing. It will use the power of its parallel algorithms to make a stake as the world’s first EDA provider based on cloud-computing, a potentially paradigm-shifting move on both business and technical fronts.

The Formation of a Semiconductor Software Company
Nimbic TeamNimbic traces its beginnings to the early work of Professor Jandhyala and students at his Applied Computational Engineering (ACE) Lab in UWEE. Jandhyala’s team developed algorithms and software that can predict the electrical and electromagnetic behavior of complex electronics systems with unprecedented speed, scale, and accuracy—the foundation for Nimbic. This work, conducted from 2001 to 2006, received funding from DARPA, NSF, NASA, and industry collaborations, and led to many publications and recognition through research awards.

In 2006, Jandhyala was introduced to the UW Center for Commercialization (C4C), and in particular, technology managers Fred Holt and Patrick Shelby. C4C provided resources at every step in creating Nimbic—from protecting the research team’s algorithms through patents and copyrighting, to funding through a CGF grant and RRF, to helping secure start-up funding from Madrona Venture Group and Washington Research Foundation Capital.

“This was and continues to be a great partnership and shows how the commercialization process can work really well with great teamwork. Vikram is a lot of fun to work with and I think we at C4C added a lot of value throughout the entire commercialization process,” said C4C’s Shelby.

A Repeatable Model for Future UW Start-ups
Jandhyala took a two-year leave from the UW faculty starting in June 2006 to serve as the company’s CTO and then CEO. Initial successes with high-profile customers enabled the start-up to attract senior business and technical leaders from the electronic design community. Jandhyala recently returned to the UW but continues to serve Nimbic as chief technologist and chairman of the board.

“C4C was instrumental in helping me and my students take a complex array of ACE Lab innovations and build these into the foundation for a successful venture-funded start-up,” Jandhyala said. “Our software helps electronics companies design products cheaply and get them to market quickly.”

Jandhyala adds, “I am also excited that my involvement in every stage of the technology and company development generated knowledge beneficial to other UWEE faculty and students. I believe I have a repeatable model that can help others build deep computational IP into high-tech software companies. In my own lab, we are enhancing scalable algorithms to focus on important problems in cloud computing, large-scale internet computation, and social network applications that could lead to future licensable IP and start-ups.”