Microwave Journal
www.microwavejournal.com/articles/34507-executive-interview-keshav-amla-founder-and-ceo-of-avishtech
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Executive Interview: Keshav Amla, Founder and CEO of Avishtech

Taking a multidisciplinary approach to building a fully integrated, materials-driven EDA environment

September 1, 2020

What is the elevator pitch for Avishtech, and what is the meaning of the name?

Avishtech is a San Jose-based high technology company, founded in 2015 on the principle of using a multidisciplinary approach to build the materials-driven technologies of the future.

Avishtech’s Gauss line of simulation and design software embodies our long-standing commitment to rigorous and thorough research and development, coupled with our core goal of achieving the highest levels of performance and reliability. It is with this approach and track record that we hold to our belief that even the most elusive and challenging problems in science and engineering can be solved with enough skill, knowledge and hard work.

As far as the name, it comes from Sanskrit — rather, the first part does. “Avishkar” means “invention” in Sanskrit, and so our name is portmanteau of that and “technology,” reflecting our emphasis on innovation, rooted in the practicality of building real, functional and useful technology.

You have developed two applications, Gauss 2D and Gauss Stack. Discuss the function of each and the applications they are suited for.

Certainly. Thank you for asking.

I’ll start with Gauss 2D, our 2D field solver. With Gauss 2D, which uses high order finite-difference methods and high order integration, you can simulate virtually any PCB transmission line and predict impedance, RLGC parameters, effective dielectric properties, losses and more. You don’t need to construct these geometries, either, as is required by many competitive finite-element software tools. These predefined geometries make the process much faster and easier, all the while maintaining exceptional accuracy, since Gauss 2D does the hard work on the user’s behalf.

Moreover, Gauss 2D allows the user to perform synthesis, by flipping the problem to solve for the trace width given a target impedance, a unique technological innovation not found in competitive offerings.

Gauss Stack is our PCB stack-up design and simulation software. Not only can you use Gauss Stack to rapidly build virtually any stack-up configuration, but this stack-up also operates as the front-end input to a gauntlet of advanced simulation capabilities at your fingertips.

Gauss Stack allows you to run thermo-mechanical simulations that provide properties like moduli and thermal expansion coefficients, which give key insights into reliability, as well as the stresses on each layer of the board, all of which you can’t get from competitive offerings. In addition, Gauss Stack checks for problems like glass stop, where insufficient resin can lead to contact between copper and the glass bundles, and warns you to improve your design to avoid conductive anodic filamentation or delamination failures.

Most critically, Gauss Stack solves a major pain point for the industry by providing industry-first dimensional stability and warpage simulation. Because prior to Gauss Stack, there has not been any way to predict dimensional movement of each layer of a board; PCB manufacturers have had to rely on the very costly process of developing scout batches, which are tested for dimensional movement to provide compensation factors to allow the proper manufacture of boards that can achieve successful registration. This process results in material waste, lost time and effort and missed quick-turn opportunities, all of which can be alleviated by Gauss Stack’s cutting edge simulation capabilities.

Additionally, Gauss Stack houses full impedance simulation capability through its inbuilt Gauss 2D engine, allowing analysis and synthesis of impedance for the entire stack-up — with up to three single-ended and three differential traces per signal layer — within minutes.

With these features and more, I feel we have made software that provides immense value to the entire electronics industry, from OEMs to PCB companies. Even materials companies can benefit from our offerings.

What differentiates the suite of Gauss tools from other EDA platforms?

The short answer is that our tools provide the highest accuracy obtainable, with numerous essential outputs and properties that you can’t get anywhere else, in an exceptionally easy-to-use package.

How do users license and use your tools?

Our software is resident on our customer’s machine and is licensed as a node-locked annual subscription. Because of how efficient we have made our simulations, our software can be run on any modern laptop or desktop — though, of course, the higher end your machine, the better the software performance will be, in terms of time, but a typical simulation takes a couple seconds on a high-end machine and just a few more on a lower end machine.

How do you plan to expand your base of users? Are you developing additional members of the Gauss family?

Our strategy is mainly in terms of exposure and education. We feel very strongly that as customers become more familiar with our offerings and all of the things we do differently, our value proposition becomes immediately clear. To that end, we have been building out educational material to help people understand what we do and what that means for them. We encourage anyone who is interested to visit our website at www.avishtech.com, as we are building out valuable content.

Yes, we are very keen on expanding our simulation and design offerings. Most of this is in stealth right now, but we are looking at numerous other aspects of the industry that we strongly feel we can enhance. There are several adjacencies we are thinking of:

  • Additional design tools.
  • More multiphysics simulation.
  • Design management tools.

Basically, much of the design flow for electronics hardware is quite fragmented right now, and we’re looking to build a fully integrated environment to supplant the current frustrating process, all the way from concept and design to layout and systems-level simulation.

You say Avishtech was “founded on the principle of using a multidisciplinary approach to build the materials-driven technologies of the future.” Elaborate on your vision.

As to the materials-driven technologies part, I’ve always felt that materials innovation is one of the biggest drivers of technological progress across industries and fields. It’s a field that is also sometimes overlooked and only typically given much thought when a project stalls or stops because no material exists to enable such an application. It is in this way that materials are the backbone of virtually everything engineers seek to build.

The vision for Avishtech is to seek out inefficiencies in the industry and excise them. We look for the pain points and develop the solutions to those long-standing problems.

The reason why many of these problems often remain unsolved is because they lie at the intersection of several different fields or core disciplines and, thus, each approach has been from a somewhat myopic perspective, due to people, companies and academics largely operating in their individual silos. As such, our multidisciplinary approach, which draws from my own background, as well as those of my team, pulls from core engineering, science and applied mathematics disciplines to allow us to solve these problems that could never be solved from a traditional silo.

You started Avishtech while you were a grad student at Stanford. While start-ups coming out of Stanford are the norm, what motivated you?

From a very young age, I knew that this was my path. Since I was 6 or 7 years old, when I’m not sure I even understood much about business, my answer to what I wanted to do when I grew up was to build and run my own company. The freedom to pursue the development of products that really matter and to be able to drive those the way you know to be right is a powerful draw for someone as independent as I, so it was a path that I had more or less planned out from youth.

My journey from there, through my undergrad at Caltech and grad school at Stanford, developed in me a deeper understanding of what that future would look like. The background I obtained from my education was critical to me, not only being able to build the high-end technologies I had in mind but also the confidence in my ability to execute. Combining that with the entrepreneurial spirit that permeates the air on Stanford’s campus helped provide some additional impetus.

Discuss some of the technical and business challenges you face as a start-up.

I don’t think we’ve faced many technical challenges as a start-up, actually. Rather, we’ve used our nimbleness, agility and fastidious development process as a massive advantage, allowing us to develop breakthrough products that a larger company or even another start-up couldn’t.

It is true that, as a start-up, we have had to learn how to do everything ourselves, because you can’t just rely on third-party services or going on a hiring spree, the same way the more established companies can. But I see that as a boon unto itself. Quite simply, because of this restriction, we have built two products that not only do we know 100 percent inside-out, but are also of higher quality in terms of user experience and performance.

I’d say that getting the word out is probably the biggest challenge that a start-up like ours faces, but we’ve been very fortunate to have generated a lot of interest very quickly, because our products are serving a critical need. The industry has been eagerly awaiting software like ours that can help alleviate some of these key pain points and that’s helped us make headway.

Tell us about your background and the path that led you into mechanical engineering, materials science and, now, software.

I was always drawn to engineering, partly due to the influence of both of my parents being engineers — and my participation in technical discussions with them from an early age — and partly due to my inherent aptitude for and love of math and science. So, the dream was to go to engineering school at Caltech or Stanford and become the kind of engineer I would need to be to drive innovation the way I would hope to. After time, this dream became a plan and then reality.

Mechanical engineering touches on all other engineering disciplines and provides firm grounding in the fundamentals of engineering, math and science, as well as the ability to apply a multidisciplinary approach to finding solutions to challenging problems. This is what made the field so appealing to me. Further, specializing in materials science and engineering would dovetail with my goals to build materials-driven innovations and so, in my undergrad, I earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Caltech and continued on to graduate school, where I obtained my masters in materials science and engineering from Stanford.

Throughout my academic career, I developed strong programming and software-related skills and, critically, extensive expertise in computation and numerical methods. When it came time to decide on what Avishtech should develop for its first set of products, the choice to develop simulation and design software became clear: it presented as not only a key opportunity wherein I have core expertise but also as the best way to make a pronounced impact on the industry, fully in line with the materials-driven innovation principle upon which I founded Avishtech.

You probably don't have any free time. But if you did, what would you enjoy doing outside of Avishtech?

Avishtech does occupy almost all of my time, but I do still believe it important to make time for the things I enjoy. I play the guitar and some other instruments, and I sing, so my primary outlet is music. I always make sure to carve out some time each week to write and record some original songs.