CxO of the Week: Venkat Mattela, Founder and CEO of Ceremorphic

By : |April 1, 2022 0

Ceremorphic was founded in April 2020 by Industry-Veteran Dr. Venkat Mattela, the Founding CEO of Redpine Signals, which sold its wireless assets to Silicon Labs, Inc. in March 2020 for $308 million. Under his leadership, the team at Redpine Signals delivered breakthrough innovations and industry-first products that led to the development of an ultra-low power wireless solution that outperformed products from industry giants in the wireless space by as much as 26 times on energy consumption.

What is your and your startup story?

I come from a small town in Telangana. I am the youngest in the family and had wonderful parents who always valued education as the most important thing in life. I owe everything to my parents.  I studied in government schools and colleges all along. I did Diploma in Electronics and Communications Engineering from Hyderabad. Those days, another way to become an engineer was to write professional exams to get an equivalent degree in engineering. I finished all required courses for an engineering degree (AMIETE) by the time I finished my Diploma in Engineering. I got an engineering degree with just 3 years of education after 10th.

Subsequently, I started my career at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research Bombay, and that is where the seed for my passion for innovation was sowed.  I returned to Hyderabad and finished my Master’s degree in computer science from JNTU Hyderabad. I worked at CMC Ltd (A government enterprise) and some private companies in Hyderabad. I got married to my wife Kalpana (who is also an engineer) in 1990 and moved to the US in 1992.

Though every aspect of my working style, values, and discipline has come from my parents, environment, and my upbringing in India, everything that I am today is because of the opportunities I had in the US  to harness all to achieve whatever I wanted in life. I lived the American dream and worked very hard. I was fortunate to work in the US with many established semiconductor companies. What I am today and how I developed into an effective engineer and a manager always came from my own self, my passion to do well and it was never someone asking me to do it.

I started Redpine Signals, a start-up focused on developing advanced wireless technologies, along with my wife in 2001. This is the company where myself and my family put in everything, and I basically considered it my second family in every aspect. I am a continuous learner.  I have done my Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and a three-year executive program at Harvard University. As part of my Ph.D., I have done research in device architectures beyond CMOS and it is significantly relevant to my current company, Ceremorphic, Inc. roadmap.

Redpine Signals was a great success for me and my family and everyone who was involved with it.  The success of Redpine Signals comes from the hard work and dedication exhibited by some very special people. It was not an easy journey. There were times when we were pushed to the corner either because we were not able to execute well or the external conditions. There is one instance that I have to describe which gives a very good idea of who I am.

The financial crisis of 2007 in the US made every company in the world reduce their workforce. This is when I followed a different strategy, against the advice of my advisors, where instead of letting people go, I reduced the salary of senior top-paid managers and assured them that they will be compensated when the market turns-around. Though people were very happy with the action at that time, some people left when they found better opportunities when the market turned around. We survived that crisis and all the employees whose salary was reduced were compensated for it.

I tell this incident because good deeds are going to pay you well and do not waste time worrying about the negative actions of others. It is super important to be positive and believe in positive outcomes. Something I draw from Redpine Signals’ experience is that everything is possible if you believe in it, set aggressive goals, and work hard towards them. Fast forward, we sold Redpine Signals assets for $308M USD  in March  2020. Today, there is nothing that I feel that I can’t accomplish, and try to instill the same confidence in my associates every day. I am fortunate to be associated with a very talented team.

I always consider that past success doesn’t guarantee the path to success in the future. Working hard, believing in people around you, and setting super aggressive goals are engraved in my working style. We have no idea where the future takes us but are 100% confident that we will make a mark in the future of supercomputing for many decades to come. We hope everything will be in our favor if we work together as a team.

What is your successful view of your company? Where do you see it in the coming years?

One of the challenges that any company needs to overcome first is to identify the right problem to solve. This is where the entrepreneur’s expertise comes into play. Some folks look at the competition and try to do similar and some variations of it.

There are companies that are successful in that way as well. However, at my company, we are set out to create a new paradigm in the industry by solving the most demanding problem in computing. We are fortunate to identify a problem that is important for the industry to solve and it requires great efforts to solve. We have zeroed in on reliable performance computing.

We have made great progress in this thread already. We will be one of the first companies in the industry to solve the reliability problem in supercomputing with unprecedented energy efficiency. It is a monumental task. We have researched for many years and are developing the product based on our differentiated technology. We are confident of producing this silicon in the most advanced silicon node from TSMC at 5nm by 2024.

What brilliant advice (professionally/personally) has motivated or changed your life?

Working super hard, believing in your own self, and aiming high is a starting point and the best advice I can offer to anyone.

How do your business partners, employees, and co-workers see you as a leader? How would you describe your leadership qualities?

I am a very passionate person and I show that at my work and in everything I do. I am a very demanding manager and people who work with me closely for some time understand where this leads to and enjoy it. I do not give any chance to misunderstand my actions, and it is the best way to develop mutual trust. I strongly believe that aggressive goal setting is critical to creating anything meaningful. I create a safe environment for people around me but expect extraordinary outcomes from everyone.

Throughout your career journey, what was the most vital risk you took? How did you succeed?

I was very naïve to keep all my earnings in my previous start-up and I always believed in positive outcomes. I never even thought once about what would happen if the company was to fail. I have to say that I was very lucky to overcome some formidable challenges and periods in the company’s life. One such thing is the financial crisis of 2007 in the US and the technology business landscape then. We landed on a fruitful partnership and good customer success which got us out of the crisis period.

Being an entrepreneur, how did the pandemic wave (s) affect your mental health? How have you dealt with it?

I used this pandemic period to recharge myself and I have drawn enough positive outcomes from this period than ever before. It was tough initial few months but the zeal to build a new company and excitement of the success of the previous company kept me busy. People have become super nice in this period, and it helped me to realize the value of life. We are stronger as a group than ever before.

Please give us a brief bird-view of your business goals? What is your next move in the digitally intelligent world?

Making high-performance computing pervasive and affordable is the bigger picture goal. It is critical to make artificial intelligence and machine learning adopted in all markets quickly.

How do you see your company in the metaverse in India?

It is a very interesting and promising technology. We need to wait and see how this technology enhances the lives of people and improves productivity.

Do you consider any negative aspects of pandemic and post-pandemic stages for your company’s services? If yes, what are they?

We are starting our in-person office working from April this year. Considering our great progress while working from home, I can only say that we will do very well when we work together as a team going forward from an office location. We are an R&D company and we do not see any challenges in accomplishing our milestones in the coming months.

Please describe the role of your business partners in the artificial intelligent ecosystem.

At this, we are focussed on creating technology and product development. Our partners will build systems based on our silicon and it is critical for scaling the business in the future.

Any recent funding.

We have secured the initial funding to the tune of $50M with our own means and the majority of it comes from us and our close associates.

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