Since the 2008 global economic collapse, San Jose-based Synapse Design has doubled its revenue every 18 months as it designs and engineers high-end chips and systems for Fortune 500 companies.
The company was started in 2003 as Synapse Design Automation by Satish Bagalkotkar, now president and CEO, and Devesh Guatam, the chief operating officer. They oversaw the company's growth to include 700 engineers in China, India, California, Colorado and Boston -- while shortening its name to Synapse Design. The company now hires an average of one engineer every day.
While many Silicon Valley companies responded to the economic collapse by cutting staff and projects and moving operations overseas, Bagalkotkar and Gautam say they focused on expanding to quickly design and deliver "next-generation flagship product lines."
Bagalkotkar sat down recently with this newspaper in his corporate offices on Almaden Boulevard in downtown San Jose to talk about how his company grew. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: How was Synapse Design able to thrive while other Silicon Valley companies were cutting costs and shifting their engineering operations overseas?
A: We have no competition because I go after a different clientele. Most of our companies are at the $5 billion to $10 billion revenue level. Our first big client -- in 2004 -- was ATI, which made graphics processors and was later acquired by AMD. Everybody was moving their engineering operations to low-cost zones like India and China and firing people in the valley and going away. It backfired.
One of our Tier 1 Silicon Valley customers did a return-on-investment analysis of its vendors and we had a 98 percent success rate while a lot of other vendors were only at 70 percent. If you're a $10 billion company and your products are failing 30 percent of the time or are over cost 30 percent of the time, that's a lot. The people who got burned came back and that's the clients we serve.
Q: You were trained as an engineer but now serve as a CEO and sometime salesman. What prepared you for that transition?
A: I'm a people person. I like to listen and quickly simplify the problem. You tell me 20 things and in my mind I'm trying to understand the core problem. My dad, Laxmanrao Bagalkotkar, was the deputy chief of police in Bombay and he was constantly solving problems. He believed in not stressing and would say, "Don't put anything in your mouth you cannot swallow. Keep life simple." That's what we do here. We take a big problem, make it a small problem, then act on it.
Q: What's the next big thing?
A: Why am I carrying around a five-pound bag that includes my iPhone 5, the latest iPad, an Apple (AAPL) laptop and a Microsoft laptop? Everything I need is on the cloud -- my emails, my kid's pictures. We have GPS location and finger touch and Retina technology that recognizes who I am. So, wherever I go, the data comes to me but the data I need changes with the time of the day. When I go out to dinner, I still need my data but I cannot carry a laptop. But why am I carrying anything?
Q: Do you envision seeing screens everywhere you go so you can access your data?
A: Why can't a conference room table be used as a TV screen? Why can't I get all of my data in my car? My concept is a device-less society. I'm not qualified to say what those devices will exactly look like but we are working on a few ideas. The technology is there but only a few companies in the world can pull it off. I just know that I don't want to have to carry a five-pound bag anymore.
Contact Dan Nakaso at 408-271-3648. Follow him at Twitter.com/dannakaso.
Current job: President and CEO of Synapse Design
Previous jobs: Microprocessor developer for HAL computers before moving to Silicon Access Networks as a senior director of engineering
Education: Bachelor's degree in engineering, electronics and telecommunication from the University of Pune in India; master's in electrical engineering from the University of Louisville
Family: Married to Dr. Aparna Bagalkotkar, a pathologist; 3-year-old daughter, Isha
Residence: San Jose
FIVE THINGS ABOUT SATISH BAGALKOTKAR
1. Collects high-end cars and just purchased a Ferrari Italia 458 that "hugs the road."
2. Has a full outdoor kitchen and bar to host backyard barbecues that often feature lamb, along with specialty drinks such as lemon drops and mojitos.
3. Was a founding member of the Scotch Tasting Committee that hosted weekly parties after work for nine years. Bagalkotkar kept the score cards and notes he made from each weekly tasting session and prefers the "intense, smokey flavor" from 16-year-old, single malt Lagavulin.
4. Likes to meet customers outside the office for a glass of wine so "I can spend quality time with them and understand the problems they're having and then go back to them with a solution."
5. Bagalkotkar's wife came up with the name "Synapse" for his company.