“Hardware Startups Don’t Adopt Simulation Technology Early Enough”, Says Altair’s SVP Of Global Sales

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Ubaldo Rodriguez, Altair’s Senior Vice President of Global Sales, has been helping startups succeed for 15 years. We spoke to him about what makes or breaks hardware startups.

Ubaldo Rodriguez, Altair’s Senior Vice President of Global Sales

Ubaldo Rodriguez, Altair’s Senior Vice President of Global Sales

Ubaldo, you have been helping and supporting startups for 15 years now. What are your biggest learning points in working with them?

I have come to understand that the ability to simulate very complex physical phenomena in a multi-physics environment, helps very small hardware companies compete with the largest companies in the world, such as Bosch, Mercedes or BMW. Simulation technology is an equalizer.

On your LinkedIn profile, you list “identifying talented individuals, seeing their potential and helping them achieve it” as your superpower. What are the factors that contribute to a founder or a startup being successful?

First of all, fanaticism. And that means that they have a very specific goal and they are not being reasonable in the achievement of this goal. This is a quality you want to look for in a founder because starting a new company and trying to compete with more established companies isn’t reasonable in itself. It is much easier to just join a large company.

Second, the belief in their mission is crucial. If you have a mission and you believe in it, you can get others to believe in it too. That’s probably the number one trait of a founder. Another factor is how successful is the founder in raising money? It’s one thing to get your team to believe in your mission but it’s also important to convince investors. In order to scale up a company quickly, particularly in the hardware space, it takes a substantial amount of investment.

Which challenges do early-stage startups in the hardware space face?

What I see is that founders often come from universities or don’t have a lot of experience at commercial companies. This can be an advantage because they are not encumbered by preconceived notions but also a disadvantage because they might not be aware of the latest techniques of how to develop products – and simulation is certainly part of that. One of the missed opportunities is that hardware startups don’t adopt simulation technology early enough in their evolution as companies. Instead, they start by building physical prototypes and investing in testing equipment before they introduce simulation software which means that they go through a much more costly and lengthy process in developing their product or technology.

Altair launched its Global Startup Program in July 2018, offering access to simulation software as well as consulting services. What’s Altair’s motivation behind supporting young companies?

The Altair Startup Program is a long-term effort in which we are committed to working with startups for a multi-year period of time, helping them get to the stage where they can stand on their own. We do this across a wide variety of industries – from drone aircraft and bicycles to electric vehicle and medical device companies.

From a strategic standpoint, we wish to align ourselves with companies that we believe will be the next industry leaders. By joining forces early on in the evolution of an early-stage company, we help them to become successful. Altair builds loyal customers and a supportive eco-system by supporting these early-stage companies. Additional benefits include seeing emerging technologies before they become standards helps inform our own product development process.

From my personal experience, you also get the satisfaction of helping young entrepreneurs become successful. Building deep lasting partnerships has been very valuable and it brings us tremendous joy and satisfaction to have a part in the success of early-stage companies.

What do these partnerships look like?

What we consider a partnership is not only giving access to our software at a discounted rate – that’s easy to do. More importantly, we provide active support. For example, we have a staffing organization that is able to find and bring the type of engineers to early-stage companies that will help them to be successful. We also provide consulting services as part of our program. This means that startups get access to our experts who share insights into how they can better develop their product. This tailored feedback is really unique in the engineering space.

What can simulation technology do for early-stage companies? Where does the value lie?

Let’s think of Tesla, for example. Tesla started out with a small team who used the most modern techniques to design and develop technology and were able to come up with products that were considered the best in the world. And the same happened with SpaceX. Previously, only nation-states could send satellites or rockets into space. Today, this kind of disruption is happening in field after field after field.

The value of simulation technology is that it allows small teams to compete with companies that are hundreds of times larger. It’s about avoiding costly mistakes and not having to build a physical prototype. The physics are in the simulation software – you know exactly how a product is going to behave – not just today but in 20, 30, 40 years because how a product ages is just a function of physics. This would have never been the case 10 years ago and affects various industries such as aerospace, automotive, energy and so on.

To put that into perspective, we work with a robotics company in Colorado, USA, which builds an exoskeleton to lift very heavy boxes or loads. Through our simulation software, we were able to help them shorten the amount of time from product to market. In numbers, this means that they were able to save $2,5 million in time to market & prototyping costs. Simulation helps lower the barrier of new technologies or companies getting started and being able to compete.

Let’s talk a bit about Altair’s software portfolio: What are the most popular software solutions that Altair offers?

In the past year, we’ve worked with around 100 companies – from this experience, I would say there are software solutions that are very popular:

  • Altair Feko, a software for simulating antennas which are found in almost every new product as the vast majority of them are connected to the Internet
  • Altair OptiStruct helps to optimize the design of products
  • Altair Computational Fluid Dynamics software, a suite of technologies for the replacement of wind tunnel testing, the design of Wind turbines, external aerodynamics

Finally, what is your personal key to success?

Focus. As a leader, my role is to recruit, hire, train, and develop talent. If I have the right team the likelihood success increases dramatically. I am continuously looking for talented driven individuals that exhibit “Grit”. In this context, Grit is defined as “passion and perseverance for a long-term objective”.

Next, I pick three initiatives. I look for the root causes of potential success. As a sales leader, I am judged on my ability to hit sales targets. In sales, you must pick the correct activities to measure. You will get more of whatever activities you choose to measure. It’s frequently the case that sales leaders pick the wrong activities to measure. For instance, spending all your time on the forecast of sales. But measuring the forecast does not make the forecast increase. The next thing that gets measured is “Pipeline”. The pipeline is a measure of opportunities you are currently working. So the question is what makes pipeline go up? And that is what you must first discover and then measure.

To sign up for Altair’s Startup Program go to altair.com/startup.

 

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