The news out of Southpointe recently was amazing – and amazingly swift.
On consecutive days, Jan. 21 and 22, ANSYS Inc. announced it had reached definitive agreements to purchase a California company and a firm in the United Kingdom. Those transactions, which are expected to close during the first quarter of 2019, would enable the global giant in engineering simulation software to experience still another growth spurt.
Business analysts were impressed. So were John Lee and Shane Emswiler.
“It’s unprecedented when a company announces two acquisitions in the same week. This is a real positive for our company,” said Lee, vice president and general manager of ANSYS’s Semiconductor Business Unit.
“We’re very excited to be able to accomplish both acquisitions,” said Emswiler, vice president and general manager of Electronics, Fluids and Mechanical for the company.
ANSYS, headquartered at Southpointe, has expanded exponentially since 1970, when John Swanson founded it as Swanson Analysis Systems. The firm now has 75 offices in 40 countries and employs more than 3,000 worldwide.
(Swanson, not so incidentally, has been a major donor to the University of Pittsburgh and Washington & Jefferson College – to the point where he has had things named after him. Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering was rechristened in his honor more than a decade ago, after he donated $41.3 million to that school. W&J has Swanson Science Center.)
The ANSYS portfolio will be thicker if the deals announced two weeks ago go through. The first involves Helic, which provides software that decreases risks from electromagnetic crosstalk; the second is Granta Design, an information technology company.
Helic, based in Santa Clara, is not a big company – 50-plus employees in the U.S., Japan, Ireland and Greece. But its role will be integral to ANSYS operations. As ANSYS explained in a news release:
“Megatrends like 5G, artificial intelligence and cloud computing are driving more complex semiconductor chip designs (which) often lead to electromagnetic crosstalk, when unwanted interference caused by electric and magnetic fields of one signal interferes with another signal. Helic’s solutions help top semiconductor companies debug and analyze electromagnetic crosstalk issues … and reduce the risk of silicon failure.”
“With 5G,” he said, “you look at providers like AT&T and Verizon, which are gearing up to deploy to much faster networks. This will have profound implications on mobile applications and profoundly change autonomous driving cars. Vehicles can communicate better with other vehicles and to the cloud.
“We’re a leader in electromagnetic simulation. Helic provides us a leader in electromagnetic simulation in silicon chips, like in an iPhone.”
Lee readily admits he isn’t familiar with U.K.’s Granta Design, which provides materials information technology that helps customers manage information about engineering materials, including plastics and metals.
“The other acquisition absolutely is not in my wheelhouse,” he said, laughing, over the telephone from San Jose, Calif., where he is based.
Granta Design is Emswiler’s bailiwick. He said materials engineering has become “an increasingly important aspect of product development” at ANSYS, and its Cambridge, U.K. partner provides it.
“What we’re looking for in acquiring is, ‘Do they fit into our product strategy?’ Granta certainly does,” he said. “Then you look at whether the company is the gold standard. Are these guys market leaders? Granta meets the gold standard in materials intelligence. It fills all the boxes.
“Integrating Granta’s solutions into the ANSYS portfolio will provide a seamless user experience and enable our customers to innovate like never before.”
The U.K. firm has more than 180 employees, and its customer base includes Airbus, General Motors, Lockheed Martin, NASA and Rolls-Royce.
Lee and Emswiler are quite familiar with ANSYS’s acquisition abilities. Both were working for companies the simulation software company absorbed – Emswiler’s firm in 2008, Lee’s company in 2015.
Both likewise are familiar with the Pittsburgh region. Emswiler, who now resides in Cranberry, has lived here for about 20 years. Lee, now on the West Coast, was a Pittsburgher for nine years, first as a Carnegie Mellon University student, then as a local employee.
“I became a big Steelers fan,” Lee said, chuckling. “”Bubby Brister was the quarterback (from 1986 to 1992).”
Now he and Emswiler are calling signals for a company that continues to grow.