Turnover among the heads at the major suppliers of electronics design-related software is rare indeed. Since 2010, the top spot of a leading PCB software company has changed hands only once.
The dean of PCB EDA, Makoto Kaneko, founded Zuken in 1976. Wally Rhines has run Mentor Graphics since 1993. His counterpart at Cadence, Lip Bu Tan, has been in place since 2009.
Altium has had three chiefs in its existence, the most recent being Aram Mirkazemi, who was installed in 2014. But for a shareholder revolt in 2012, however, Nick Martin, who founded the company in 1985, might still be in charge.
That’s why it’s was so unusual this week when, on the same day this week, Ansys and NI each named the successors to their respective thrones.
Ansys appointed Dr. Ajei S. Gopal CEO-in-waiting, succeeding longtime head Jim Cashman. Gopal’s been a familiar face around the company, however, having joined its board in 2011.
Cashman joined Ansys as president in 1999, and was named CEO a year later. On his watch, Ansys’s revenues have grown from $50 million to almost $1 billion.
In NI’s case, it’s in some ways an even bigger transition. As a researcher at the University of Texas, James Truchard cofounded National Instruments in his garage in 1976. Come Jan 1., when Alex Davern takes the reins, it will be as chief executive and president of a $1.2 billion firm employing more than 2,000 workers worldwide. If Davern has an advantage, he’s held a variety of positions in finance at NI dating to 1997, and he’s been Cashman’s right-hand as COO and CFO since 2010.
What’s clear is that the software industry, while dependent on innovation, also prides itself on stability. Since the market is characterized by a relatively small number of major players, the ability to maintain relationships with key customers may have something to do with that. That the leadership at most of the aforementioned companies has been relatively controversy-free doesn’t hurt, either.
From the looks of it, the heir apparents promise more of the same. Given the respective performance of the CEOs they are following, that’s not a bad thing.