How To Address The Top 5 Silicon Startup Challenges

The ability to experiment and access to technical support help overcome early challenges.


From our 30 years of experience, Arm understands that designing silicon can be complex and expensive. Against the backdrop of global supply chain issues and wider economic challenges, today’s climate can be challenging for the tech industry, particularly those creating the next wave of silicon products.

Startups are looking for every opportunity to maximize their success with their first tape out, and the entrepreneurial drive and innovation of early-stage startups has never been greater. Through Arm’s Flexible Access for Startups program, we are seeing innovative products and technology solutions being built by silicon startups firsthand. If we are to usher in a new era of computing innovation, then those involved in the tech industry need to do all they can to help early-stage silicon startups succeed.

Here are five ways:

1. Helping to control cashflow. Money, or the necessity to stretch funding as much as possible, is a common challenge faced by every early-stage silicon startup. Not only do startups have to keep themselves financially afloat, but they need to give investors confidence that their money is being managed effectively. For silicon startups, the foundational IP technology that they use to create their products can represent a significant cost. Providing free access under ‘design first, pay later’ models, such as Arm Flexible Access for Startups, provides a lifeline, enabling founders to reach silicon proof at a lower cost.

2. Using trusted technology. On top of having free access to IP, making sure this technology is trusted and proven plays a significant role in reducing risks for startups when they are creating silicon. Mistakes that require a re-spin and new tape out can make or break a company, especially for early-stage startups, so ensuring that any designs are as close to right first time is vital. The safest bet for startups will be using extensively verified IP that can be integrated easily, with a software ecosystem developed by a vast range of technology companies and suppliers.

This is a point echoed by Hailo, an Israeli-based startup that has gone from strength-to-strength since joining Arm Flexible Access. Its co-founder and chief technologist Avi Baum says: “Our technology needs to work first time and the technology contributed by the ecosystem has to be just as trustworthy.”

3. Support at every stage. Often delays in the startup prototype development process are due to technical challenges. An inability to address such challenges quickly and efficiently affects the timeliness of tapeouts and the ability of startups to start generating income. For early-stage silicon startups, having access to expert technical support, on-demand training and a broad ecosystem could be critical to the development of their products. Startups may also find it useful to tap into the resources of a design house or design services company who can offer technical advice all the way through to a full turnkey solution.

Manu Nair, Founder and CEO of Synthara AG, notes how quick and responsive technical feedback from Arm benefited the development of its prototype: “The clear and actionable support enabled us to close our design quickly and efficiently.”

4. Experimenting with ease. When developing silicon prototypes, early-stage startups have to be flexible in their designs to see what works and what doesn’t, while also responding to the demands of early customers and investors. Customer requirements can change, therefore, having the ability to experiment and pivot their design as much as they need before production is vital. Tools like Arm IP Explorer can help startups explore and simulate different options to find the optimal solution for a given workload. Early-stage startups will be looking to access the broadest range of foundational IP, including processors, graphics processors, image signal processors, debug and trace, and full reference systems, to accelerate time-to-market.

5. Moving quickly. Time costs money. If startups are unable to move quickly during the product development phase, then this will lead to a longer time-to-market and a loss of income, or even the risk of running out of funds entirely. Moving quickly is vital to startups who cannot afford any delays. All of the challenges listed above impact the ability for startups to move fast, so being able to address them at the beginning of the prototype development process or in a timely manner throughout is vital.

Getting an initial cash boost with new startup contest. Arm is committed to giving the silicon startup community the tools and support to create the very best silicon products as efficiently and effectively as possible. Part of this commitment is a new “Silicon Startups Contest” from Silicon Catalyst, the world’s only startup incubator focused exclusively on accelerating semiconductor solutions. In partnership with Arm, the contest will reward the most innovative Arm-based system-on-chip (SoC) design with $150,000 of Arm Technology credit, which can cover the IP cost of a complete embedded system. This could give a vital cash injection to any silicon design.

Minimize cost, maximize success. The beginning of the silicon journey is a daunting place for many early-stage startups, but the challenges are not insurmountable. Exploring IP technology that is extensively verified, proven, and then backed up by a wide ecosystem, broad developer base and extensive technical support will go a long way to addressing the initial challenges when developing silicon prototypes. Today’s early-stage silicon startups could well be designing the next big ‘lifechanging’ product that transforms people’s lives. Therefore, it’s in the industry’s best interests to empower the global silicon startup community to move fast, experiment with ease and design with confidence.

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