It’s official: Tier Logic will cease to be in business on Friday July 16, 2010. The company has been trying to close its second round of funding, but it became clear last week that no short-term funding from a new VC would come, despite some due diligence by two lead investors. Since Tier Logic’s existing investor decided to not pursue on its own, it had no choice but to close the doors.

Tier Logic had a unique value proposition: you could turn its FPGA into an ASIC in a predictable time and cost. It had a working silicon and a proven production tool, and achieved to do so with spending only $20M.

It is a pity to see that a company with such a good technology and such an attracting business proposition must shut down because of lack of interest from VCs. You have to wonder which strings you have to pull in the investment community to get the attention you deserve.

Although Tier Logic will likely attempt to sell its technology to a Xilinx or an Altera, it is also quite likely that whoever the buyer is will simply buy Tier Logic’s patents to bury them. Too bad.

After Abound Logic‘s shut down 6 weeks ago, another startup showing how hard it is to be successful in FPGA.

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8 Comments on RIP Tier Logic

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by EDA News: RIP Tier Logic by @ocoudert #FPGA #EDA […]

  2. kretch says:

    I’m biased, since I work for one of the large FPGA companies

    I wonder if the value proposition was so unique, and if it had customers lined up willing to pay, why the need for VC money? And why wouldn’t any VC recognize the value?

    Isn’t it possible (and a simpler explanation) that there was little value in the technology over established solutions?

    Just wondering.


  3. That’s a fair argument. However it looks like Tier Logic did have the technology to transition its FPGA to an ASIC while preserving the timing, all in about 4 weeks and for $50k only. I call this a quite attractive value proposition. Altera tried to provide a similar feature a while back with HardCopy, but it really never fully delivered on it.

    I think VCs are reluctant to go with semiconductor startups right now. Semis are expensive (even though Tier Logic ran on only $20M capital), and VCs would prefer the quick and fat buck with some social network or mobile apps startup. The exception to that pattern is Tabula, which is rumored to be closing a $60+M round after having burnt $106M. Go figure.

  4. kretch says:

    Altera still does good business with HardCopy, so apparently it has some traction…

    Yes, now is a tough time to be asking for VC money for Semis. Hard to get internet-level multipliers, I guess.


  5. UnknownFPGA says:

    Why not Cadence buy them ? They dont have a foot in FPGA world and this can be a stepping stone.

  6. FPGA is not part of Cadence’s core business, unless they would like to have their own hardware for an emulation solution. But they already have one (Palladium), and Tier Logic’s value was more about FPGA to ASIC migration than fast emulation.

  7. The shrinking ASIC design starts puts a real crimp in any VC support of plays like an FPGA->ASIC path. It costs over $100M (3+ rounds) to do any general purpose “system” chip (HW+SW+Apps+Marketing) and takes a good 5++ years to get any traction, let alone return…so as an investor, with no clear IPO path or $1B buy-out (10x of the $100M investment) on the horizon, that model is broken.

    Hopefully, new models will arise!

  8. Patrick Groeneveld says:

    I agree: its a pity that TierLogic failed. JUst a few weeks ago Peter Suaris (TierLogic cofounder) gave a good invited talks at SLIP on their technology. It was technically credible, and quite innovative, precisely the thing that startups should do. The main idea was to build the FPGA configuration logic in TFT technology on top of the chip. This seriously reduces the size of the switches. It also made for a cheap migration path to semi-custom. The one drawback the technology had was long configuration times, since the TFT transistors are much worse. Overall, though, this might have worked.

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