Thoughts from the Executive Office

CALL IT WHAT YOU WILL – SOCIAL NETWORKING IS HERE TO STAY

Today’s email blast about the MEMS Executive Conference (www.memscongress.com) next November has the classic look of Web 2.0+ internet flyers:  color shots of the hotel venue looking like an idyllic luxury destination with impeccable landscaping under Photoshop-blue skies; head shots of speakers; and inviting promises about the things you’ll learn.  There’s even the routine, but mandatory, list of sponsors. 

 

What makes this email different from the dozens I receive each year is the listing of social networking sites.  If you want to ‘stay connected’ and up to date on the latest information about the MEMS Executive Conference, you are told to go to LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook.  This isn’t just a new twist; it’s  revolutionary.   Information exchange has become instantaneous and social at the same time.  It’s about being friends – or, at least, friendly – with the people we will meet as part of doing business together.

 

Social networking sites have blasted through the concept of being a simple marketing category.  They are destinations, communication vehicles, and information virtual malls all rolled into one.   Consumers can travel via the keyboard on their iPhone, Blackberry, laptop, or even desktop PC and shop sites for jobs, companionship, long-lost relatives, old friends and business colleagues.  They can  get real-time news from the streets of Tehran, or share random thoughts about anything with anyone in the world looking for quick, easy conversation.

 

Some pundits may see social networking sites as a fleeting fad that will go away.   I disagree.  Like the first airplane, automobile and computer, networking sites may seem to be a fad, and they may even be replaced by new sites, but they are here to stay for one simple reason:  Consumers have transformed them from social platforms to communication vehicles. 

 

What does this mean for business?  For events like the MEMS conference, it means engaging attendees and creating a conversation that allows people to get to know each other and the agenda well ahead of the event.  Imagine attending an event where you already feel comfortable and familiar before stepping into the hotel lobby.

Back at the office, social networking/communication malls will change the way we work.  The concept of engaging customers in conversations is not just mandatory, it’s a daily routine.    The conversation is not just about products and the sale, it’s about anything that connects the two of you. 

 

The conversation medium is now a series of tweets or Facebook dialog, or being part of an ever-expanding network of colleagues.   Newsletters, brochures, flyers, and even news releases will have their place, but the real conversation about a topic will happen via the social networking site.  And, most of all, the sales process is no longer under the ownership of your sales force.  It’snow owned by everyone in a company who has a reason to speak with a customer – either directly or via a random connection via LinkedIn,  Facebook, or Twitter. 

 

Regardless of where you sit in your company – in an office, in a lab,  or next to the manufacturing floor --  you can reach out to your customers and colleagues, the industry and the world.   And someone, somewhere will be waiting for you.

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These are personal views of Barbara Kalkis, Maestro Marketing & PR (sm).

 

Branding Gets Its Day and the Myth of Engineer-to-Engineer Sales

Dylan McGrath, journalist for Tech Insights (you also know it as an EETimes derivative) posted a commentary earlier this week about branding.  (See http://www.pldesignline.com/216300299;jsessionid=ZLAKUECNJZPP2QSNDLPCKH0CJUNN2JVN?printableArticle=true).

 

Dylan’s viewpoint references a panel that industry-influential Wally Rhines, chairman & CEO, of Mentor Graphics, moderated at the Semico Summit (www.semico.com) earlier this month.

 

The commentary is worth reading because it addresses the thorny topic of how semiconductor companies and their collective industry perceive themselves, the way they sell and, ultimately, how they are going to survive in an internet world where fame is not counted in Andy Warhol’s 15-minutes-of-fame but rather 3-second clicks or 2-second slides (for those of you with Apple iPhones).

 

As Dylan noted in his article, the executives on the panel were neutral to cool about the importance of branding.  Instead, they took refuge in the idea that semiconductor sales are an engineer-to-engineer sell.  This was rather interesting, since all the companies represented on the panel have active ongoing marketing & PR programs.  News releases, industry contest submissions, webinars/webcasts, trade shows and conferences, company-sponsored events and, yes, even – yikes – advertising play a role in the marketing activities of these companies.  Why? Because branding is not just a tie-breaker when engineers are choosing the devices they will bet their company’s future on.

 

Next, about this engineer-to-engineer sales concept.  Huh?  Major purchases are not the purview of just engineers.  Purchasing. finance, marketing, and other departments have a hand in choosing suppliers.  The sale begins with an engineer and his role is critical throughout the process, but the final decision is made by many people – including executives who earned engineering degrees but haven’t done any real engineering work for years.

 

Branding is essential because engineers do not buy on specs alone. No engineering-run company wants to risk the future of its product on an unknown company.  They buy based on a checklist of items, including the supplier company’s personality and culture. And that’s where brand changes the game.  As soon as you begin talking about a company’s reputation, people who work there, their customer base, what others have said about it – you are talking about your view of the company’s brand.

 

Furthermore, in this slack economy where the running advice is to tighten your supplier base, you want known companies on your “A List”.  If you’re a small company, a good brand name gets you on the list.

 

Here’s the bottom line:  Branding is what separates you from your competitors, helps you to own your market segment, keeps you on a prime-supplier list, and ensures that when your sales force knocks on a door prospective customers open it.

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 The above are personal views of Barbara Kalkis, Maestro Marketing & PR (sm).   

Maestro PR Blog: “Picture This.” Visions Need Words.

Every March Semico Research (www.semico.com) lures executives from some of the most influential semiconductor companies to speak at its annual 2-day Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona.  The speakers represent top-tier companies, as well as those that break the traditional business mold, buck a trend or demonstrate the potential to leapfrog into the ranks of the movers and shakers of the chip industry.

 

After attending almost all of the Summits, these are the attributes I find in the visionary speakers.

 

1)      They project genuine enthusiasm for their company and their industry.

2)      They see the big picture with its social realities, consumer trends, economic forces, competitive landscape, global challenges, and technology’s role in the current environment, regardless of what that is.

3)      They accept reality and base their strategy on it – not what they wish reality to be.

4)      They communicate a high-level strategy that goes beyond their current product line or roadmap – one which can be adapted by the careful listener.

5)      They have a compelling story to tell, and they tell it in a compelling way.

6)      They talk from the heart and maintain eye contact with the audience - not their slides.

  

CEO to CEO Chat – a tough audience on both sides of the podium.

 

The speakers, who represent every sector of the semiconductor industry, use this event to share their views about the business environment, real and potential market opportunities, and how their company is navigating the treacherous competitive terrain.

 

The Semico Summit audience is a tough one to please.  Executives on both sides of the podium are sizing up competitors, looking for sales and searching for potential alliances.  So every speaker is subject to the harshest scrutiny an event can offer – and the most potential.

 

What emerges from this event is the knowledge that no amount of speaker preparation, gilded phrasing, or pretty slides can disguise the heart of the speaker and his or her company.  The CEO’s personality shines through the smoothest wording. And along with his personality, the values, culture, professionalism, strategy and sheer smarts of the company the speaker represents.

 

This year five speakers stood out among a field of talented executives.  In each case, the speaker rose above the level of skilled presenter to take a position in that special circle of speakers called “visionary”.  Here are my picks for that honor:

  

Hector Ruiz, PhD, Chairman of the Board, Global Foundries (http://www.globalfoundries.com/)

Dr. Ruiz presented the conference keynote speech, beginning with an apology that he did not have slides and was not an accomplished speaker.  He then proceeded to mesmerize the audience.  His speech ranged from personal experience and lessons learned, to philosophy, to business advice, to his view of the future and his current project.  His speech provided nuggets of wisdom that became the reference point of many other presentations.  Here are some of them:

 

To succeed, you must anticipate what will happen.  Then have the courage to take actions.  Follow that action through to completion.

 

The outcome of this recession will be that consumers will be more aware of value.  Hector called this ‘the flight to value’.

 

Read to learn.  He recommended the book, The Black Swan, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Take a look at Taleb’s site to determine why (http://www.google.com/search?source=ig&hl=en&rlz=1G1GGLQ_ENUS274&q=nassim+nicholas+taleb&aq=0&oq=nassim+nich)

 

Following that thread, Dr. Ruiz encouraged the audience to be “empirical fanatics” and not to trust overwhelming masses of data, but to examine the outliers and find potential trends in them.

 

Finally, Dr. Ruiz warned the audience to know who the true owners of the company are; who’s invested in your company, who’s shorting the stock, and who’s voting shares. 

  

Daniel Mahoney, President & CEO, Renesas Technology America. (http://america.renesas.com/)

 

Many CEOs claim that their people are their most important attribute, but the point lacks punch given the frequency of lay-offs, cutbacks and hiring freezes in our industry.  Yet, when Mr. Mahoney made this claim in his talk and in the panel on success factors, it sounded sincere – perhaps because he runs a Japanese company.

 

Mr. Mahoney’s identified three trends shaping our industry:

1)      More people are using machines.

2)      More people are dependent on machines.

3)      People are more ‘green’ in how they view resources like energy and by valuing  conservation.

 

His thesis is that technology has the capability to address events that cause conflicts and confrontation and provide a solution.

 

For Renesas, Mr. Mahoney has four goals. Products must be green, intuitive, and secure.

 Moshe Gavrielov, President & CEO, Xilinx.  (http://www.xilinx.com/) 

A skillful speaker who is at once entertaining, humorous, and smart – and also somewhat pessimistic about companies under $500 million.

 Mr. Gavrielov’s thesis was based on a quote attributed to Charles Darwin, but according to Wikipedia probably really said by Clarence Darrow.  In any case, it’s a quote worth repeating:  It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but rather the one most adaptable to change.”  The italics are mine, because Mr. Gavrielov homed in on the concept of adaptability as paramount in surviving downtimes like today. Some nuggets from his talk: We are in a “capital drought”.The gorwth of a middle class – defined as people with money to spend – are driving consumer demand. Market drivers:-          fickle, fragmented markets-          consumer-driven change-          hyper-connectivity Systems companies will need to do more with less, reduce risk, focus on their core competencies, and “differentiate or die”. The answer to this conundrum?  Mr. Gavrielov calls for “low-risk innovation”.    Peter Gammel, PhD., CTO and VP, Engineering, SiGe (http://www.sige.com/)  Most engineers love bits and bytes and facts and figures and data – lots of data!  Peter drew a verbal picture of the current landscape for multimedia, connectivity, social networking and then placed the technology within it for all to understand.  He outlined the rise of low-cost wireless networks and declared that affordable multimedia and social networking are the new lifestyle.  Along with that, search engines are driving the need for higher-speed broadband pipes. He also emphasized that connectivity must be  consolidated so that we carry one device, not 3 or 4.   Turning to business models, Peter holds that RF is an ‘integrated device manufacturing (IDM) world.”  The low volumes for RF devices just doesn’t work for dedicated foundires that seek high-volume runners.  Walden (Wally) Rhines, PhD., Chairman & CEO, Mentor Graphics (www.mentor.com) See my next blog about Wally.  -ends- These are the personal views of Barbara Kalkis, Maestro Marketing & PR (sm)

Formulas and Advice: Thoughts from the Semico Summit 2009

The annual Semico Summit (www.semico.com) is one of those you-heard-it-here-first events.  And, this year,  there was a lot to hear if you were listening carefully.

 

The Summit’s goal is not to draw hoards of attendees, but rather a tight group of executives who can test-drive their ideas on the toughest audience around:  their peers.  The combination of a small number of participants,  a serenely beautiful desert venue, and the casual atmosphere created by the hosts all make the Summit a place to relax, talk and really think about business without distraction.

 

This March, following one of the toughest years in the semiconductor industry – with the possibility of being embroiled in yet another one -- Semico asked executives to talk about a “formula for success”.   The speakers more than met the challenge.

 

Jim Feldhan, president & CEO of Semico, opened the session by pointing out some good news:  Since portable electronics are “on-the-go purchases”, consumers can buy these items spontaneously with ready cash or credit cards. That makes low-ticket electronics a potential growth market.  Any bright spot is welcome these days. But that point merely served to underscore the thesis of comments that followed; ie, that portability, mobility, anywhere-anytime communication is the future.

 

 

The Formula for Success – and Some Advice Along the Way

 

Interesting commentary, but I was more interested in learning what executives prescribed to concoct the elusive formula for success. The trick to the formula, of course, is knowing how to mix components and implement them. 

 

These are some ingredients and advice that caught my attention because they were running threads throughout the event:

  

Jim Feldhan, president & CEO, Semico Research.

Defensive spending on infrastructure is necessary to pull out of the current economic slump.

 

Larry Sumney, SRC Corporation: 

Look to universities to assist with R&D programs.

Collaboration fuels economics.  Companies need collaboration in pre-competitive areas to spur innovation.

 

Hossein Yassaie, Ph.D, CEO, Imagaination Technologies:

Be market focused, but not customer driven so you don’t go down the wrong path.

 

Christine King, President & SMSC: 

Despite a down economy, no one is giving up their handhelds.

 

Tim Volt, Director, Intel:  

Collaboration is key, but manage your supply chain to ensure continuity. 

Pick partners carefully and keep the supply chain lean. “Complexity is the enemy.” You can’t collaborate with everyone.

Agility counts. Agility. Agility. Agility.

 

Moshe Gavrielov, President & CEO, Xillinx:

You must adapt quickly: be agile.  Face reality quickly and move to a new low capital/cost model.

Partner and innovate new business models.

Plan and invest prudently for the upturn.

 

Measuring Success

 

Wally Rhines, president & CEO of Mentor Graphics, hosted the informative last session of the event.   He asked panelists how to measure success.  Of course, financials are the bottom line to any corporate measurement, but here are some qualitative yardsticks:

 

1)      Your company’s technical relevance to problems.

2)      Your company’s growth within your market space.

3)      Agility.

4)      An ‘obsession for yield”.

5)      Consistent performance and rapid response to change.  (ie, the agility factor)

6)      Evolve in tune with the market.

  

Power. Agility. Power. Agility. Did I mention power?

 

Repeatedly, agility was mentioned or referenced as a key ingredient to success.  And achieving or delivering low power is a mandatory attribute to any product as part of the formula for technology success.

 

Some final thoughts from speakers:

1)      Innovate.

2)      Collaborate.

3)      Meet a need.

4)      Be green.

5)      Be fiscally responsible.

6)      Manage risk.

7)      Advance technology.

8)      Shorten time to revenue.

 

Remember:

1)      Technology’s potential has not been fully reached – not by a long shot.

2)      The semiconductor industry still fuels new markets.

3)      Kids are kings and queens.  They are tech-savvy consumers and their demand for electronic novelties will only continue to grow.

 

So, there it is – a formula for success. Good luck to the magicians who can mix the right brew.

 

-ends-

 The above comments are personal views of Barbara Kalkis, Maestro Marketing & PR.   

The Tech Market’s Down; Tech’s Mood is Up.

The SPIE Photonics West conference and exhibition (www.spie.org) closed today, making the event a bright memory on many levels.  Attendees jammed sessions and the exhibit halls – even when the ice cream carts and coffee urns were out of sight. 

 

Approximately 1100 exhibitors crammed the San Jose Convention Center.  Flags, banners and signs hanging from the ceiling signaled company exhibits and pavilions  from the likes of Canada, France, Germany, and Scotland, as well as the state of Arizona.  Vivid oranges, blues, and splashes of the rainbow, along with lights (of course), exhibits and noise announced that light-driven technology business is ready for implementation and growth.  It was not what I anticipated, especially, after reading the December 17 news release issued by Laser Focus World Magazine.  That announcement estimated that the 2008 market would turn in $7.1 billion in sales – only 3.7% growth over 2007.  Not a bad performance, given the 2nd half financial drain, but the release called for a downturn of 11% over 2009. (http://www.marketplaceseminar.com/etc/medialib/lfw/documents.Par.80476.File.dat/LMP09%20PressRelease_081217.pdf)  With that forecast fresh in my mind, I thought the show would be a shadow of the 2008 event. 

  Why the Upbeat Mood?

Talking to people at the show, some similar themes emerged. Many folks commented that photonics/light sources represent a technology that can lead the United States – and other countries – out of the economic slump we’re in.  Everyone I met raved about this industry sector as a technology for the future – and that it was a technology ready for implementation now.  With that kind of belief and enthusiasm, almost anything is possible.

 

Many people also commented that President Obama’s support of science and technology will lead to policies that will put more focus on the light industry.  That means national attention on technology and the companies making those technologies work for in the marketplace, along with the jobs that need to be created to put products in the hands of customers.

  Real-Time Embedded Conference (RTECC) 

Leaving SPIE, I took a ride to Santa Clara to walk the RTECC floor. This small one-day event focuses on doing business today.   It’s a purely marketing event with exhibitors housed in small exhibits – some only 5 feet wide – but no matter – but all ready to strike a deal.  About 54 companies clustered in the hall – a good size for a narrow market segment.  Completely different from SPIE in nature, topic, content, and personality – the event nevertheless showed that companies are determined to do business as usual – so far.  No one can predict the future, but SPIE Photonics and RTECC showed that many companies are prepared to be ready for the upturn in any form it takes.  That’s the sure sign of a winner.

  

Trends

One of the most interesting trends that I saw on the show floor was the move toward smaller exhibits.  I think this is a good idea. The purpose of a show booth is to keep your company name in the limelight, to focus on what’s new or important, and to host a space where your marketing and sales teams can network.  The big-box look of older shows appears to be going by the wayside, and I think that’s a good sign for the times. 

 

Companies are also using pull-up, stand-alone banners that can be used inside a booth and then placed as a signpost inside the company lobby. This is smart re-use of signage and keeps the company brand in the spotlight even after the show is over.

 

A company’s differentiation and brand are based on its messages. Many exhibitors made excellent use of their booth backdrop to spotlight their value to the marketplace.  Not by putting every data point on the booth ‘skin’, but by condensing the message down to a few words that attendees could grasp in the three seconds they gave to each exhibit.   

 

It’s wonderful to think that a company website and search engine will lead customers to your door.  But, I think the real market winners will be those companies that understand there is no replacement like the face-to-face interaction that shows deliver.

 These are the personal opinions of Barbara Kalkis, Maestro Marketing & PR (sm)

 -ends-

Show Time – Silicon Valley Style

The economic slump has put high-tech in the doldrums once again, allowing the global industry to maintain its roller-coaster financial performance.  It seem that some economic indicator hits the industry every few years, slowing sales and giving everyone time to throw out the old strategic plan and develop a new one. 

 

Conferences, trade shows and industry events are not immune to the ups and downs of economics, but they are the one marketing opportunity that anyone can benefit from, regardless of whether the market is in a boom or bomb.

 

Event Benefits

 

In slow times, conferences and shows are an excellent way to learn about new technologies and key players within a market sector.  The speakers are typically people at the top of their game, well known for their knowledge of the industry and the technologies that drive it. 

 

Walking the show floor is another element of education.  You can learn who the players are, how they promote and differentiate their company, and what their products actually do.  Exhibits are not just about the big companies either.  Smaller companies at the fringes of the exhibit space offer some innovative solutions.  The downside is that they don’t promote themselves very well, so looking beyond the surface is mandatory if you walk these peripheral aisles.

 

Conference sessions are a key element of a successful event.  Naysayers complain that presenters are too focused on selling their company and products, but even in the most marketing-oriented presentations, you can still learn a lot about what the company sees as its primary selling points. This is a great way to understand the competition and out-sell them.

 

Most conferences demand that only one foil be company-centric. There are violations to the rule, but many companies do try to follow the guidelines, giving attendees an excellent fast-track education on technology challenges and possible solutions.

 

Networking Opportunities

 

Shows are a great place to network and become part of the inner circle of the business.  It’s amazing, however, to see the number of people who shake hands, exchange personal info and then announce they do not have business cards with them.  That’s an “F” in marketing 101, by the way.  Your business card is the cheapest form of PR that you can do.

 

Upcoming Events

 

Here are some important upcoming events focusing on new technologies:

 

SPIE Photonics (www.spie.org). Takes place January 24 - 29. Everything you want to know about light sources, technologies, and trends.

ISSCC (www.isscc.org). Feb 8 – 12, San Francisco.   This conference looks at the most advanced solid state circuits and systems-on-chip.  Excellent venue for future trends in semiconductors.

 

SPIE Advanced Lithography (www.spie.org). February 22 – 27.  Another technology event, this one looks at litho, metrology, process technology, and manufacturing topics.  I’ve found that this conference also sets the tone for the industry’s overall business health.  If the technologists are happy, then everyone should be happy.

 

In March, executives will head to Scottsdale for the Semico Summit (www.semico.com) March 8 – 10.   This is one of the last remaining industry (versus association-sponsored) conferences that focuses on business trends across the semiconductor industry. Clearly a networking event, the goal in attending here is to meet your peers and competitors and understand how they are positioning their companies. 

 

There are many more worthwhile events happening every week around the world.   It’s worth a jolt to your career to get out of the office and learn what’s happening in your current or future career.

 

Go. See. Do. Be.

 

-ends-

 

Barbara Kalkis, Maestro Marketing & PR (sm)

     

Trippin’ Down the Carcinoma Trail

A year ago, my husband and I sat in the doctor’s office awaiting blood test results.  He’d had a nagging cough, but his lung x-rays were clear.  He looked like the picture of health.   Only four months earlier, he had backpacked the 60-miles between Mammoth Mountain in the Eastern Sierra and Yosemite Valley. The trek took him and his friend up to 11,600’ before starting down the canyon to Curry Village. On the way, he scaled Half Dome for the 8th time.  Everyone told him he looked great and he kept remarking that he never felt better. The only problem was the cough that wouldn’t go away.

 

Following two rounds of blood tests, we sat in the office waiting for the doctor to give us results.  I expected comments on high cholesterol, but was not prepared for the diagnosis.

 

The cough was a symptom of prostate cancer. 

 

In one instant, our lives changed.

 

As we discovered, it is impossible to talk to anyone who has not been touched by cancer within the family or circle of friends, so there’s no need for me to recount the emotional and physical trauma of our experience. 

 

What I’d like to convey are four myths about prostate cancer that everyone should understand:

 

1)      Prostate cancer (PC)  is slow growing.

This is only true for men over 75 years old. Even men over 70 may find this true.  Like all cancers, it depends on the stage of cancer when detected.  Singer/songwriter Dan Fogelberg died three years after being diagnosed with the disease. He was only 56 years old. 

 

2)      PC is easily treatable.

Yes, if your PSA is in a 1 to 4 range,  and/or you’re at stage one of the disease. If the cancer is on the wall of the prostate, the cancer has advanced, putting a man into a new treatment ballgame.

 

3)      Tests often show false positives.

Once, yes. Twice, maybe.  Three times, no.  If your tests repeatedly show high PSA count and you think you’re fine, have someone pinch you.  You’re dreaming.

 

4)      You can follow a  “watchful waiting” regimen, instead of having treatment.

This is a recommendation for older men.  And even then, it depends on the stage of the cancer.

 

Annual blood tests with PSA counts are mandatory.  Prostate cancer is not avoidable, but it can be detected at an early or earlier stage if one is tested annually.

 

-ends-

 

Barbara Kalkis, Maestro Marketing & PR (sm)

Dancing the Semiconductor Slide: The Semiconductor Slump of 2009

October 2009 will mark the 80th anniversary of the start of the Great Depression.  By next October, however, we will be one year into what looks like that grim era.  Those of us in the semiconductor industry should be used to it.  We’ve seen the semiconductor industry slide many times over the past 30 years.  We could shrug off this latest downturn by quoting Yogi Berra’s great line, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”  But that quote really doesn’t capture the spirit of this scenario.  I think a better commentary on these times can be taken from George Santayana’s work, Reason in Common Sense:  “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

 

Remember the 4th-quarter slide of 1984?  The US semiconductor industry accused Japanese memory makers of dumping memories into the market at rock-bottom prices that were eroding US manufacturers.  The Semiconductor Industry Association (www.sia-online.org) companies banded together and pounded on Washington DC’s ‘door’ and demanded trade agreements that ensured a level playing field for sales. 

 

Prior to 1990, it was clear that dedicated foundries were going to change microchip manufacturing.  Young fabless companies banded together to form the Fabless Semiconductor Association -- now the Global Semiconductor Alliance (www.gsaglobal.org).  They didn’t march to Washington. They marched to Wall Street instead and demanded -- and got – recognition.  Thanks to their efforts, fabless companies and dedicated foundries became recognized industry sectors. In my view, the success of their efforts caught the traditional semiconductor industry veterans completely off-guard.  In the end, the GSA has created an organization that dwarfs the SIA in terms of membership and influence. Although if it doesn’t learn some lessons about the importance of organizational cooperation, it may have lose its relevance.

 

The Fab Owners Association (www.waferfabs.org) organized in part to bring the benefits of economies of scale to chipmakers that own their own fabs.  And, in my view, got out-maneuvered on Wall Street and in perception by the fabless companies.  In my view, this FOA model  focuses on the advantages of collaboration at a functional, tactical level.

 

These organizations and the global Semiconductor Equipment & Materials International organization, or SEMI (www.semi.org) have helped the industry weather downturns. They’ve also been central to the industry’s best advances.   I believe they helped our industry set some of the highest standards for quality, yield, and reliability of any industry.  They have investigated their own practices to improve environmental, health and safety issues.  They’ve been a watchdog for technology and proponent of education and corporate citizenship.

 

Membership in these organizations is even more critical in the current environment.

 

I’d like to propose a three-part initiative called A.I. M.:

 

1)      ADVOCACY.   In down markets, the worst action is to go it alone.  Our collective and individual strength is through the organizations that speak for all of us. If an organization dies, there is no advocacy for the industry.

 

Just as companies must maintain membership, organizations must do more to build advocacy for the industry, for technology prowess, for education or new engineers, scientists, researchers, and teachers. 

 

Our industry organizations must start educating government and the community about the importance of technology and how it affects everyone’s quality of life. Our organizations sometimes spend too much time talking to themselves.

 

2)      INNOVATION.  Companies must continue to develop new technologies.   Consortia and R&D institutes, such as IMEC (www.imec.be), Fraunhofer Institute (www.fraunhofer.de), Semiconductor Research Corporation (www.src.org), or even the new College of Nanoscale Science & Engineering (www.cnse.albany.edu) are central to exploring the next breakthroughs.   Collaborative R&D is reduces the cost, risk, resources and time needed to translate innovation into shippable products. What’s not to like here?

 

Innovation also means looking to utilize current technologies in new ways. Solar energy is a trendy topic today.  But I think sensors, Laser, and LEDs have the brightest future in the breakthrough arena.  MEMS?  Potentially –yes.

 

3)      MARKETING.   Okay, so I’m a marketer.  Even if I wasn’t, this would still have to top the list.   Companies claim they know who their customers are.  Do you know what your customers want?

 

After the 2001 dot-com “bomb”, I saw many companies stop advertising and marketing.  When business sparked in 2004, many companies were completely unprepared and lost their lead positions or disappeared.  We are lucky to have a dedicated industry press. Start working with them to develop new ways to maintain your relationships and build new ones you may not know or think about.

 

Beyond marketing a product, customers want the big picture. Successful companies speak at seven levels:  their product; their company’s ability to support the product; the technology enabling the product; the business climate for the product; the industry’s work in the product sector (this speaks to infrastructure support); the customer’s need for the product; and the vision for the product in terms of how it improves lifestyle.

 

Marketing must also be done at the industry organization level. It is great to host conferences, trade shows, working groups, and issue a news release now and then, but those efforts are not resonating with the general public.  Collectively, we must market the advantages of technology to people who rely on it without thinking about it. And to those who can improve the lives of others by utilizing it. 

 

We’ve seen the steel industry leave this country. The automotive industry is ready to step out the country’s door.  We need to decide what kind of history we want the next generation to remember for the semiconductor industry.  Let’s not re-live history.  Let’s write a new one.

 

These are personal views of Barbara Kalkis, Maestro Marketing & PR (sm)

   

 

  

Maestro PR Blog – Gift Yourself – Go See “The Nutcracker” this Weekend

I watched a Nintendo Wii ® commercial the other night.  The theme of their holiday pitch is that you can exercise, do yoga, dance, play air guitar, whatever,  in the privacy of your own home. One shot showed a parent fondly looking on as the child exercised. Is this really entertainment?

 

Sure, technology allows us to exercise and play when we can’t get out. But is this really what you would call “family fun”?  It strikes me as another good tool that may build more barriers between family members and encourage solitary entertainment.

 

Digital gadgets allow us to download music and listen to it while we walk, skate, run, ride, drive and move.  The Nintendo Wii ® and other gadgets are great, but for family fun, great entertainment, this is the best time of year to explore the thrill of live theatre.  

 

With live theatre, you are part of the visual feast of color, light, action, music, drama, and complete audience environment.  Remember seeing “Jaws” in the theatre?  Every time the music strummed, you knew the shark was going to chomp another victim.  Everyone in the theatre felt the predator’s presence and reacted together. That group reaction added to the experience.  Live theatre evokes the same reaction, but in a greater sense because you are face to face with the actors, dancers and musicians.  There’s an electricity that has nothing to do with electrical outlets that fills an auditorium -- and your mind.

 

With holidays dotting these December days, live theatre is a refreshing break from the pace of our virtual days filled with emails, phone calls and long-distance, arms-length communication.

 My recommendation is for Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker”.  It’s  playing across the USA, the UK, Russia and other countries celebrating this magical season.  Even if you’ve seen it before, see it again. Take your kids. They will love it. They will be inspired by the true talent they see. Sacramento Ballet’s Take on The Nutcracker.  Last weekend, my family attended the Sacramento Ballet’s (http://www.sacballet.org/index.php/season/236/) version ofTchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker”.  Unlike the suave, regal dancers of the San Francisco Ballet (www.sfballet.org/) and the growing sophistication of the San Jose Ballet (www.BalletSanJose.org), the Sacramento Ballet troupe is a frankly energetic, enthusiastic troupe of young dancers whose passion for dancing sparkles through every pirouette and pas jete.  This troupe focuses on the joy of “The Nutcracker” versus the drama of it.  Accompanied by the Sacramento Philharmonic, the allegro pace of the music, story and dancing make the evening fly by too quickly.  Sacramento Ballet executive director Ron Cunningham captures the vivacity of his troupe in the story and dance, and mirrors it in his portrayal of Councilor Drosselmeyer.  In most versions of “The Nutcracker”, the character of the mysterious magician Drosselmeyer can take a dark, almost sinister turn.  Instead, Cunningham plays the character as a kindly godfather with a sense of magic and humor.  A good choice for family audiences -- after all, it is Christmas time.  Do we really need more drama?  Like other productions, Cunningham uses local children  - nearly 500 of them -- in his ballet performances.   What better way to teach and inspire children to cherish the arts?  For a price, you can buy one industry dinner ticket and enjoy yourself. For the same amount of money, you can treat a family of four to any of the scores of productions in the Bay Area, Sacramento, or in your part of the country.  At  www.tickets.com, you’ll find productions around the world.  :Live theatre is a moment you can share, enjoy, discuss, and remember.  Isn’t that what this season of giving is all about? 

Go. Enjoy. See. Be. 

 

This blog is the personal view of its author, Barbara Kalkis, Maestro Marketing & Public Relations (sm).

“Collaborate & Compete” Needs to be High-Tech’s R&D Mantra

I read a variety of magazines to gain a broad perspective on the news. These include the print and online publications of US and international publications  that I consider staples of the semiconductor industry:  The mail carrier, Steve, grumbles as he hauls up boxes loaded with magazines following one of my trips, but I am an information junkie. 

 

One of my favorite reads is Popular Science, also known after its email address as PopSci  (www.popsci.com).  While the semiconductor industry focuses on the micro- and nano-electronics aspects of technology, PopSci takes a futuristic view to show how those same technologies will find their way into our homes, cars, healthcare and pockets.  Some of the ideas are far-fetched and would cause a design engineer to gag over his cold sandwich as he pores over a schematic.  Some ideas even cause me to laugh and I’m not a techie by any stretch.  I attribute the outrageous “Dick Tracy” kind of ideas to the wild creativity of humankind and celebrate it.  However, most articles explain the actual implementation of technology in the exact ways that engineers hope for.  This is what makes the magazine a must-read.

 

When you read about your company’s technology in PopSci, you know it has arrived in the consciousness of the mainstream consumer.

  

Laggard R&D Funding Hits Mainstream Consciousness

 

The November issue held a surprise.  Tucked in between the articles on a blue LED mouse that can operate off any surface, a combination car-helicopter and infrared photography, is a succinct one-page overview of the status of R&D in the USA  (“Research Development”, Popular Science, November 2008, page 80).  This single page vividly illustrates the dangerous slide that the United States has fallen into because of diminishing investment in R&D.  When that story reaches PopSci, you can bet it has become a cause for concern among mainstream Americans.   The charts are mandatory reading for those of us in the technology business. PopSci deserves strong credit for bringing the data to the mainstream reader. 

 

This one-page report shows --  among other things -- that:  

1)      The USA is 8th in the world in R&D spending

2)      R&D spending in the US has remained flat over the past 50 years

3)      In 1997, the USA exported $32 Billion more in technology products, but suffered an imbalance of $52 Billion by the end of 2007.

  

Financing Our Future

 

How are we expected to finance our future and our country’s future with this lazy approach to R&D and the importance of science and technological innovation?  Isn’t  it really up to high-tech companies working through their industry organizations to drive the conversation toward action?  The first question requires discussion among diverse groups.  The answer to the second question should be a straightforward “yes”.

 

These are tough times, and talking about money for any worthy purpose is equally tough. But while we all look out for ourselves, we also need to look out for our companies, our industry and our country’s well-being. They are all connected. 

  

Collaborate and Compete

  

Other companies and countries are busily working on nurturing high-technology prowess and innovation.  One example is a news release I issued today on behalf of my client, IMEC (www.imec.be).  Many of you know IMEC as one of the world’s leading independing R&D centers based in Belgium.  While their flagship R&D began in semiconductor process technologies, they’ve long since branched out into a myriad of applications far afield from wafer manufacturing.

 

Today’s news release announced what IMEC calls a ‘comprehensive joint research contract” with Panasonic (NYSE: PC, and www.panasonic.net).  The two companies will collaboratively research semiconductor processes, networks, wireless, and biomedical technologies.

 

Following the announcement, a journalist asked me about the future of R&D.  With 30 years of semiconductor industry experience behind me, here’s my opinion. It has

nothing to do with clients, but more about the future of our industry and America.

 

R&D has been a critical competitive factor in the semiconductor industry for years.  Just consider government contract work with  DARPA and NASA. But I believe the best recent example is the successful collaboration between foundries and fabless semiconductor companies.  This alliance of two 1980s-era new business models nurtured growth of both business models and cleverly displaced the semiconductor device-maker model as the darling of Wall Street.  

 

Various consortia have varying degrees of success in the collaboration model. However, I do not believe that it is the fault of consortia that some fail to live up to their potential.   It is difficult to live the value of cooperation versus talking about it.

 

Collaborative research & development allows companies to investigate technologies that are out of reach financially or even logically when going it alone in these tough economic times.  A great idea may be lurking in the lab, but companies funding their own research need to shut the door on creativity outside their strategic plan.  And so good ideas wither away. 

 

Collaboration reduces the cost of research by pooling monies.  Joint research brings together fresh minds, ideas, talents and perspectives not available within a single company. 

 

Risk vs. Reward

 

Risks are shared and the consequences diminished.  If an idea works in the lab but has no “feet” for the long run to market, it’s not the end of the world for participants.  And when ideas work, companies can get to market faster through collaboration. 

 

Collaboration is not the elimination of competition; it is the foundation for it.

 

Take a look at the PopSci article and see the downward trend that we are on.  Perhaps you can make the trek to your retirement safely.  But you may not if we do not invest in the part of the future that we all share.

 

These are personal views of Barbara Kalkis, Maestro PR.