Demand Grows for Lighter, Cheaper Products
Lighter, faster, cheaper always seems to be the goal, especially in the transportation or aerospace industries. But to perform reliably and safely, products require strength and stability. Computer simulations have advanced the creation of quality products, but the process can often be disjointed and costly as SciArt Software CTO, Praveen Yadav, discovered.
Praveen previously worked as a suspension designer predicting how products would eventually perform in the real world, but the computer simulation process was inefficient. Praveen and his graduate advisor, Prof. Krishnan Suresh launched a technology developed in his graduate research lab at the UW-Madison to meet this demand and SciArt Software now offers a revolutionary software that empowers engineers to create lighter, stronger designs.
Bumps in the Road
Krishnan Suresh and Praveen began by marketing the technology. “We thought this would take 6 months to commercialize. Through initial sales, we learned that the product needed to be changed to fit into our customer’s workflow,” said Praveen. “We initially applied for federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding (for R&D), but we didn’t win that first award. With the help of CTC, we took our reviewer feedback and successfully won a $223,007 award from the National Science Foundation (NSF).”
The Power of Team
Winning the NSF award made SciArt Software eligible for a Wisconsin State SBIR Advance Match award to evolve their business model. The SBIR Advance program provides resources to Wisconsin businesses with the goal of commercializing technology and creating jobs and economic impact.
While SciArt Software had customers, they didn’t have scale needed to make a viable business. “We could sell one or two software licenses, but we were still having difficulty scaling up the project. We knew we weren’t sales professionals and needed support to turn this around,” Praveen acknowledged.
But it took two attempts at SBIR Advance and the addition of an experienced entrepreneur to the team before SciArt Software was awarded match funding. Karen Caswelch brought to the team business acumen and valuable knowledge of how to integrate technology into workflow. As Karen said, “It is fun to bring seemingly impossible technology to the real world.”
Turning the Corner
Karen held a true commitment to driving the business forward using a lean startup methodology and interaction with potential customers in a manner not focused on sales. Together, Praveen and Karen developed a non-threatening language to talk with and learn from people who might benefit from the technology. One secret to the company’s success is that they listened; they respected the market and learned what people wanted to buy. Karen stated, “We wanted to create technology that would solve problems for people.” Hear more about Karen’s customer discovery here.
With the SciArt Software technology, design engineers can now do more product analysis right at a desktop. They can more easily predict how a product will interact in the real world to meet market demand for lighter, cheaper products with true structural integrity. Helping spur these kinds of innovations was enough to recently land SciArt $530,000 in seed funding from the Idea Fund of La Crosse.
Looking to the Future
The company is now focusing on submitting a quality NSF Phase II SBIR proposal and continuing to hire new staff to help move the success of the technology forward. Karen and Praveen both beam with excitement at the idea. Praveen stated, “The challenges of entrepreneurship are the reward. The steep learning curve and the chance to solve a real problem are really exciting.” Praveen talks more about his entrepreneurial journey and discovering resources to assist his commercialization efforts here.
Learn more about how you can win up to $100K in match funds and learn how to discover exactly what your customer needs. Read more about SBIR Advance.