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Local supercomputer maker shuts down

Jeff Darcy reports that he and pretty much everyone else who worked at SiCortex in Maynard was laid off yesterday:

... Right now I’ll just say this: in many of the ways that are important to me as an engineer, SiCortex succeeded. Yeah, that's right. We set out to do something very difficult and risky - to place a bet on computing that's characterized by energy efficiency, high density, fast communication and high processor counts instead of raw single-thread performance - and we made it work. We made it work technically, and we made it work in the market. ...

The only failure that mattered was not technical, nor in any area of customer-oriented execution: it was purely a matter of finance and timing. There is every reason to believe that our next system based on our next chip was going to be awesome, pushing our flagship system well into the Top 500 even before we talk about linking them together, and development was well along. Unfortunately, such development is not cheap and that put us in a high-burn-rate phase right when the economy turned sour and capital became very scarce. That's like a "perfect storm" combination of circumstances. ...

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Comments

your rocket nonetheless crashed before attaining orbit. it's still a mission failure.

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Are you really wanting to single out the engineers for failure? Perhaps you would prefer they go to another state?

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if we engineering-types really want to put good things into the world, then we have to help make the business side succeed too, and harsh is the order of the day for a guy like me who is tired of hearing fellow techies whine that their tech didn't make it out into the world.

It's not at all enough to sit back and blame others... this elitism (don't look at me. I'm JUST A TECHIE) is exactly why the world is full of crapware and not-working-right-ware and every other kind of techno garbage that wastes people's time and sometimes puts lives or well-being at risk.

To directly answer your question: they ARE going to another state, California.

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That's a bit harsh. Engineers can be 100% successful in creating the product they were asked to create, but that sure doesn't mean success for the business. This guy is talking purely from the engineer's point of view, and he feels good about what he accomplished.

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...you obviously know nothing about startups, zbert. Yes, it's important for engineers to understand and support the business side, by which I mean marketing, sales, support, logistics, etc. However, as I already explained, this wasn't a failure anywhere within the company including the business side. It was a failure to attract investment, because the investors have their own financial crisis going on, and that's something that most engineers really aren't involved in.

It's very easy for those who have never actually entered the startup world to make up silly metaphors, but the fact is that the "gravity well" that a startup must overcome to achieve "orbit" is very deep indeed. It takes more than the average amount of ability and effort, and not a little luck, to climb out of it. Plenty of people join companies that are already in orbit - i.e. where others have already created most of the value - and then contribute nothing or even destroy value as they participate in that company's crash back down to earth. Others, it seems, call themselves entrepreneurs even though they've never actually entered the world of building and selling anything that others will pay for. Neither group is well positioned to criticize those who actually build or board the startup rocket, who clearly innovate and add value even if that's insufficient to ensure success in the worst economy anyone can remember.

Analyzing the causes of a failure is not elitist, zbert, and even if people who were already involved seem to be pointing fingers it's nowhere near as offensive as people who've never been involved in anything remotely similar pointing fingers from outside. Those who are afraid to climb themselves are often eager to "get ahead" by tearing others down, but it's a mean and petty kind of behavior that I'm sure everyone here can see through.

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That's why I love reading this blog. I have no connection to business or engineering but I can follow the argument because I read it in Dilbert.

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