Challenges and Rewards
Dr. Prith Banerjee said he expected difficulty in starting his own technology
company, he discovered that there are many things about the start-up that
had to be learned by the seat of his pants.
have this idea that 'if you build it, they will buy it,'" he said.
"But that's not true. You have to adapt your technology to the market."
second event of the 2003 Center for Entrepreneurial Development (CED)
speaker series, Banerjee emphasized that despite the difficulties establishing
his venture, AccelChip, Inc.,
he plans to repeat the process with at least one more company now that
he has learned the key aspects to success. AccelChip develops and markets
high-level synthesis tools to accelerate the process of chip design.
the former director of Computational Science and Engineering program at
Illinois and now at Northwestern University, said he learned many lessons
on how to start a company that cannot be taught in the classroom. Along
with having unique technology, he commented, your product must have compelling
value propositions for a specific market, and you must recruit a quality
importantly, he had to learn how not to run his business, when he eventually
had to relinquish some his control over the company in order to secure
its future. Banerjee learned that, as an engineer, he could not succeed
by hiring friends, and that he would have to hire an experienced managerial
team to attract investors.
you're a parent, and you've raised a child. After a while someone tells
you to give it up and let him raise it," Banerjee explained. "To
take it the next level, you need to know when to give up. It was not easy,
but I'm glad now. And the next time I'll start right away with experienced
also had to develop a product that customers would "care" about.
At AccelChip, he believes they have done that, entering the Digital Signal
Processing (DSP) market. DSP technology is used in everything from cellular
phones to national defense. Their technological advances produce the design
chips used in DSP in a matter of days. Previously the design took two
to three months.
having a stellar product, Banerjee faced several challenges, including
timing. He started AccelChip in 2000, around the time of the infamous
burst of the tech bubble. AccelChip was nearly victimized by the market
before it got off the ground. But Banerjee didn't compromise his dream.
he was forced to adapt parts of his vision, he refused to take AccelChip
out of Illinois, despite the recommendations of potential investors. While
he admits that raising funding and finding a quality team is tough in
Illinois, he was determined to show that it could be done.
wanted to prove that is could be done," Banerjee said, "I took
it as a personal challenge."
Banerjee said he would wait until AccelChip achieves success before starting
another entrepreneurial venture, AccelChip's partnerships with Boeing
and Lockheed-Martin, among others, signal that his next venture may not
be far off.
with all the success that Banerjee has achieved with his company, he says
the success of his product is where his satisfaction lies.
fun part is, to have created something from a research lab that becomes
a product," Banerjee said.