The world of EDA tool development is primarily a man’s world, and a middle-aged man’s world at that. You won’t find a lot of young people in this community, not many women, and outside of marketing departments, young women are few and far between.
But SnapEDA founder Natasha Baker may mark the beginning of a new trend in EDA: young female entrepreneurs. (When was the last time we heard about an EDA startup?) As her company prepared for a major launch, Natasha took time to explain the philosophy behind SnapEDA, and how the company is helping designers and engineers manage an ever-increasing volume of CAD data.
Andy Shaughnessy: Start out by giving us a little background about SnapEDA, and some of your history in EDA.
Natasha Baker: I started working in the EDA industry in 2006 as an intern at National Instruments in their circuit design software group, and then returned in 2008 full-time. Around the same time, I was also consulting for Analog Devices. During my time with both companies, I saw the tremendous burden of design data creation that affected not only designers, but also EDA vendors and semiconductor companies, and started thinking about better ways to solve these challenges.
I thought it would be great if there was one centralized place for engineers to get all of the CAD data they needed, whether it was CAD components, schematic symbols, PCB footprints, reference designs and simulation models, and provided transparency into quality. However, I decided to wait until I had more skills and experience, so I shelved the idea.
As I continued working full-time, the library creation and data management problem kept popping up in conversations with designers. I also saw first-hand how frustrating the design process could be without readily available libraries, while creating demo boards for trade shows.
After a few years of working full-time, the need on all sides of the industry became clear so I decided to start the company. SnapEDA was launched in beta in October 2013, and raised some funding in May 2015, which is when I started working on the company full-time. Since then, our user base of thousands of registered engineers globally has grown over five-fold. Seeing the value that we’re providing to designers, semiconductor companies, or EDA companies is extremely rewarding.
Shaughnessy: What’s your company’s “sweet spot,” so to speak?
Baker: SnapEDA is focused exclusively on providing electronics design data compatible with popular EDA tools, including Cadence’s OrCAD and Allegro, Altium, Eagle, Mentor’s PADS, KiCad, and Pulsonix. Engineers use our platform to find CAD components, schematic symbols, and PCB footprints, so this is currently our focus, although we’d like to expand to simulation models and reference designs going forward.
What differentiates us most is our growing focus on automation technology to create and vet CAD files. One example of this is our recently introduced Verification Checker, which uses a series of algorithms to uncover common manufacturing issues. For example, the Checker can tell whether the centroid of a PCB footprint is at 0,0, which is crucial for pick-and-place machines, and flag when there is silkscreen overlapping copper.
From a business perspective, SnapEDA is building the most targeted user base of design engineers worldwide who are at the pivotal stage of selecting components for their designs. This is particularly interesting for semiconductor companies looking to increase design wins as the electronics industry gets more diverse.
Most of our users are at mid-sized established companies in a broad range of industries, including industrial control, medical devices and consumer electronics. There is also a growing group of smaller organizations using SnapEDA to create connected devices. For example, SnapEDA has been used within Samsung’s Think Tank (the group that produced the Galaxy Gear), as well as startups like TeaBOT, which produces a robotic tea machine.
To read this entire interview, which appeared in the November 2015 issue of The PCB Design Magazine, click here.