Today we’re announcing the general availability of JITX and that we raised a $12M Series A round, led by Sequoia Capital, with participation from Y Combinator, Funders Club and Liquid 2.
JITX lets electrical engineers write code to design circuit boards.
Circuit boards are in every piece of electronics you have ever owned from your smartphone to your car, and are designed today by the determined efforts of expert electrical engineers. Unfortunately, the deck is increasingly stacked against these engineers. The component shortage is causing engineers to redesign products to accommodate available parts. Adding to the complexities, systems are getting harder to design, and experts are retiring and not being replaced.
When engineers face this many challenges, more products will fail, companies will die, and less research will be done. Companies will generate more e-waste because their engineers are dealing with these challenges instead of optimizing designs for size and power. This also leads to more boards using older generations of familiar but less-efficient components. Some observant readers might notice this is already happening.
Hardware engineers need a credible way out of the trap they find themselves in. JITX helps by letting them write code that automates their engineering process. To get ahead they can’t just do one design after another -- they need reusable code that designs hardware for them. To illustrate this point: a software engineer can upload code to GitHub and thousands of people can reuse that code in their own projects. Using a traditional hardware design flow, each one of those thousands of engineers would have to re-design and re-analyze the same circuit to make sure the design will behave correctly in their product. JITX brings the productivity of software to hardware.
JITX works by turning code into circuit board designs. Users write code in a programming language we made for electrical engineers. Users compile their code in JITX which uses some AI methods to design the hardware. By writing code, our customers capture their skilled engineering knowledge in an easy and reusable format. Design steps that used to be done manually get replaced by scripts that do that design automatically. They can code up guard rails that let more junior engineers create designs without making avoidable mistakes.
The engineers we talk to want automation that increases quality and lets them go faster. Everyone knows that they could be designing better, but today they find their days occupied by busywork that could have been avoided if they had the right tools to lean on. For example, one of our customers wrote about how they used JITX to reduce the risk of hardware development.
As Geocene showed, the error-prone rote aspect of work should be done away with so engineers can be freed up to be creative and spend more time optimizing at the bench. Imagine a world where more products dreamed up by hardware engineers could actually come to fruition.
We started JITX by dogfooding our tools. We took on circuit board design work from real customers and used JITX to create custom hardware for them. We did projects like building hardware for this OpenAI experiment:
In this phase, we would design a system, do a post-mortem, then re-design and re-implement the JITX language and compiler to do better next time. That laborious iteration cycle was necessary because at the end of the day, the tools have to produce 100% correct hardware designs. After four major iterations, JITX made our small team of electrical engineers wildly productive.
For our small team, the tool provided us with advantages similar to those enjoyed by teams at much larger companies. Instead of relying on the component engineering department, JITX automated modeling new parts and choosing optimal components. Instead of roping in senior engineers to catch errors in a design review, JITX automated detailed design checks, and we developed coding patterns that prevented errors by construction.
At the same time we were working with enterprise design teams like Northrop Grumman. It turns out that they also needed JITX to address some specific problems. Like everyone else, their biggest challenge is finding and retaining skilled engineers. There just aren’t enough experts to go around, and even entry level positions are getting harder to fill (turns out new EE graduates are more interested in AI than drafting circuit boards). So they use JITX as a way to make their existing experts more productive. They find a lot of value out of checking designs automatically -- a manual derating analysis on a complex FPGA board can take months but JITX automates the whole procedure. They are also excited about using code as a more efficient way to coordinate across different teams in the organization.
At the end of our iteration process we were quickly designing boards that were at the limit of what traditional factories could build (our thanks to Gerry Partida for an 8/4 stacked microvia with sub 70um trace and space!). For example we built this silicon validation board that included 2500 pins in a complex 300um grid.
We decided it was time to productize. We wound down our services business and subsequently raised a Series A to build the team that would create a product-ready version of JITX. Sequoia shared our vision and made that easy for us -- pre-empting the round so we didn’t have to waste time raising money.
Building our team took some time. The problems we work on are interesting but algorithmically hard, so everyone has to be very good. On top of that, we’re solving interdisciplinary challenges - addressing hardware engineering issues with programming language techniques. That sets the bar for communication high, and we particularly looked for abilities to learn, and teach others. Finally, the problems we work on are hard enough, so we have a no-jerks policy. We’ve found the best way to keep morale up in the face of hard problems is to trust and be inspired by the people around you. The team we are building is amazing! Seriously, go check them out.
We needed to transition JITX from an internal tool to something ready for demanding (and skeptical) hardware engineers. The most important things were to have JITX work along-side their existing CAD tool and activate new users quickly.
We shifted from a primarily command line driven tool to a productivity-focused UI that helps users ramp up quickly.
We started a database of components to automate bill of materials optimization, and design checking.
And we built a tight integration with KiCAD and Altium so users can use JITX on existing projects without losing velocity:
Today we are launching the general availability of JITX for professional engineers. You can sign up to get started with the product here. And if you are as excited about JITX as we are and interested in joining our team, you can check out our open roles here.