Thoughts On DAC While Watching The World Cup

Planning for a global soccer match has more in common with the Design Automation Conference than you might think.

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Are you following the World Cup? I am. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m German, so soccer (rather, Fussball) is much more up my alley than football or baseball will ever be.

When it comes to DAC planning, we are still at the fun, early stage of casting about widely for ideas and feedback. Mostly now we’re looking to prompt a bit of creative discussion, a challenge since the majority of you are probably thinking far more about soccer than semiconductors or software at the moment. As I see it it’s possible to think about all of the above, especially since there are more than a few similarities between this World Cup in Brazil and DAC. Here are four I came up with; I’d love to hear more examples from you.

  1. Both are international. Attendees, exhibitors, teams, players, presenters and the press come from all over. The 51st DAC brought 6,701 international attendees and presenters to San Francisco. As for the paper submissions, 45% came from the United States, 30% from Asia/Pacific and 20% from Europe. Our “players” may not come from as many places as those in the World Cup, but then again, we don’t only play one game. In fact, we routinely fill up five disciplinary tracks: EDA, embedded systems & software, security, automotive and designer/IP.
  2. Then there is the angst leading up to big events of such magnitude. Do you remember all the concerns about whether construction would be done in time for the new stadiums in Brazil? I’m sure it compares to the collective spike in blood pressure on the DAC executive committee when we looked at the 1,000+ empty chairs in the Gateway Ballroom just before the opening session. Or the nail biting we went through when presenters or panelists had to be replaced at the last minute. In the end both events seem to surpass expectations, despite any hiccups. Chatter is that this World Cup is among the most compelling of recent tournaments. Just like DAC was very vibrant right from the start. Those 1,000 chairs were all occupied for the opening session. Keynotes were full, most sessions were well attended and traffic on the show floor was steady. And, of course, there was lots of informal catching up and fun at DAC receptions and parties, and around San Francisco.
  3. Invariably there are surprises. At the World Cup: The early departures of Spain and England, two soccer powerhouses (and believe me, there were moments on Monday when I thought Germany would be sent packing, as well); the biting incident with Uruguay’s Saurez; and Portugal’s last-second goal against the United States. But that’s nothing compared to what we dealt with in San Francisco. In the months leading up to the show there were five major acquisitions in the industry, leading to a scramble to rework the show floor. There were last minute changes to the program guide for various reasons, including that a handful presenters didn’t make it since their visas weren’t approved on time. Worst of all, the throngs of people at the welcome reception caused us to run out of food far earlier that we’d expected. (C’mon, we all know that food is a big deal at tech conferences.)
  4. Also invariably there are standout performances. U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard’s 16 saves set a World Cup record and provided a memorable silver lining for U.S. fans in yesterday’s loss to Belgium. There’s also been the fantastic goal scoring of the Netherlands (will anyone be able to stop Arjen Robben?), the brilliant play of Messi, the coaching of Jurgen Klinsmann translating into an overachieving U.S. team, and of course Thomas Mueller’s hat-trick in Germany’s opening game against Portugal (about the only game the Germans showed a glimpse of their potential – sigh!). At DAC, we had the outstanding keynote from TSMC’s Cliff Hou and the cool SKY Talk from University of Illinois Professor Rob Rutenbar on the world’s first EDA MOOC. We really don’t have to hide when it comes to touting noteworthy talks, and we stack up fine for fun compared to Copacabana. (Rutenbar’s presentation was accompanied by fabulous food and cocktails.)

So basically, DAC stacks up nicely against the World Cup. Okay, I do admit the World Cup draws slightly better numbers. It’s always good to know there is room for improvement.

In all seriousness, it’s safe to say we’re on track in our work on DAC 52. We’ll have our second monthly planning meeting this month and already more than 140 exhibitors have pre-signed for space. So please don’t be shy and send ideas and comments while there is still lots of time to influence next year’s conference.

The call for papers will be live on the DAC site by mid-September, so it’s not too soon to think about braving our own qualifying process, as important to those of us who care about this conference as the qualifying games to get into the World Cup to Fussball fans everywhere. Go Germany! And go DAC!