The impact of digital technology on the test and measurement industry
The impact of digitalization and technological innovation has spread to all industries, without exception. With the introduction of digital technology, the test and measurement industry has also undergone a significant transformation.
Experts argue that the test and measurement market will grow to $35 billion by 2025, and for a good reason. It is impossible to prove that semiconductor devices and sensors work correctly without test and measurement equipment. Therefore, digitalization and the transformation of the test and measurement industry are essential for the sector to remain at the forefront of technological progress.
Testing and measurement are essential in ensuring that the product meets the stated requirements and performs as expected. However, testing and research require advanced technology solutions. Consequently, the test and measurement sector requires innovation, including new platforms and applications, software, the Internet of Things, additive manufacturing, and more.
Digital transformation, the Internet of Things, Industry 4.0, and other megatrends are driving the production and use of electronic devices and, as a result, increasing the demand for electronic test and measurement equipment. As a result, technological innovation’s increased impact drives the need for unique software solutions for test equipment.
However, imagine that instead of thousands of programs for each new device, you can write just one program to measure several devices at once – is it possible?
Our interviewee Axel Fischer, the Co-founder of the SweepMe! startup knows firsthand the necessity and effectiveness of such a multifunctional solution for test and measurement, so he gladly shared their company’s software story with us. Let’s find out together the details of the startup launch, the background of SweepMe!, and their path to success.
“SweepMe! is a versatile tool to create test and measurement procedures by drag and drop in a short time,” says the startup’s LinkedIn profile. But we, of course, asked Axel to give us a more detailed overview of their unique solution and the startup’s activities.
“SweepMe! is a software for test and measurement solutions,” once again clarified our interviewee.
He continued and highlighted the following issue: “People buy test and measurement equipment to measure semiconductor devices, sensors, and do scientific experiments. However, if you have a lot of instruments, it can become challenging to create all-purpose software because you have to work through a user manual for every device, and even if each manufacturer provides you with the software, it only works for their instruments.”
He summarized all the above: “So, if you have more than one instrument you want to work on at the same time, you have to create your own software. However, it’s not always easy, possible, and takes time. That’s why we created SweepMe!.” Without hesitation, Axel emphasized the following: “SweepMe! organizes each instrument as a module, and you can combine these modules for your measurement, which allows you to increase the efficiency of your measurements and speed up test times.”
“SweepMe! is a software for test and measurement solutions.”
A long journey to a startup or a long road to success
“Sometimes, you need a source of inspiration to spur that lightbulb moment.”
Have you ever come up with a business idea and wondered if it could be the next great thing? All successful companies start with ideas. Therefore, we moved on to the first aspect of startup development. So, after discussing the main activity of the SweepMe! startup, we, of course, became curious to know the company’s background and how Axel and his co-founder got the idea to create such a solution. Let’s find out their story.
“It’s quite a long journey because we started software development already in university,” stated Axel. He shared with us the reason why he and his partner decided to create such a solution: “We needed a tool to make our experiments quickly, and this is how we came up with the idea to develop a versatile test and measurement tool like SweepMe!.”
We were curious how SweepMe! became not just a student project but a full-fledged startup and a sought-after product. Our interviewee stated the following: “Over the years, our software became so useful among students that people in our social circle started asking us why we don’t sell it, as it was so helpful.” Despite the above, he confessed: “However, at that time, we thought that our product was not ready for the market.”
Axel continued his story: “We decided first to improve and update our software. After all improvements, we published our project and made it available to other people.”
In the end, he shared a critical thought: “We created SweepMe! not just because we had an idea and we believed in it but also because of the feedback and demand of other people who needed a solution to combine components of the test and measurement software quickly.”
The backstory of the startup and the dialogue with Axel made us think that fast-growing technology and digital trends are not just driving progress in the test and measurement industry but are capable of leading to innovative thinking and products like SweepMe!. However, before diving into startup launch, take the time to analyze your business idea as objectively as possible and determine if your product meets the market, requirements, and demands.
“Over the years, our software became so useful among students that people in our social circle started asking us why we don’t sell it, as it was so helpful.”
How can a startup choose its niche?
A jack of all trades is usually the master of none. This well-established expression suggests that it is necessary to have more than just the desire to create a business and make it successful; it is also essential to have experience and understanding of the industry, the needs of consumers, their problems, and challenges.
Just so you know, to stay ahead of the competition, it’s vital to get your company started right, and one of the best ways to do that is to create a product and startup that serves a specific niche.
Despite the company’s background, we decided to ask Axel and his co-founder why they chose this particular niche for the SweepMe! startup?
“Many scientists and engineers face the problem with test and measurement instrumentation,” our interviewee answered without hesitation. He continued his answer and explained his statement: “Lots of people in our community enjoy automating different processes and making equipment more efficient; it’s also the joy of creating the software that allows you to run all the measurements for you and you can drink your coffee,” Axel admitted with a smile in his voice.
Our interviewee came to the main point and said: “However, not everyone wants and can spend time on automation, which is why we decided to create such software that will save time and make test and measurement simple and more accurate.”
Having considered this and Axel’s previous answers, we came to the following conclusion: Launching a startup with software (product) for a specific niche allows, in most cases, not only to successfully launch a business but generally makes it easier to enter the market and generate a base of a targeted audience of potential customers.
“Not everyone wants and can spend time on automation, which is why we decided to create such software that will save time and make test and measurement simple and more accurate.”
Is your startup ready to be self-funded?
Aspiring entrepreneurs face a tough road to achieving long-term stability. Among the most severe problems is finding money to finance a startup. If an entrepreneur cannot get loans or find investors (or prefers not to), he may self-finance his business.
We could not ignore one of the main aspects of a startup’s development – funding; therefore, let’s find out the opinion of our interviewee on this matter and, in particular, what method of financing Axel and his co-founder chose for the SweepMe! startup.
“When we launched SweepMe!, our software was already on that level that we could earn money with it,” proudly stated the Co-founder of SweepMe!. He also highlighted the following: “At the moment, we are 100% funded by ourselves. We are also thinking about incorporating a strategic investor or partner, but we can take time to find the right one.”
We could not help but ask Axel what business model they chose for their startup?
“Basically, the software is free so that everyone can download it,” stated our interviewee. He added a few details regarding the way they monetize their solution: “We, in turn, offer additional services around our software. At some point, users need more services and tools, and we can help them.” The Co-founder of SweepMe! noticed: “This particular feature is also what is great about new types of software because it can easily be extended by adding new modules.”
“When we launched SweepMe!, our software was already on that level that we could earn money with it.”
Why do customers choose SweepMe!?
After discussing the financial side of the startup development, we decided to move on to the next aspect and asked Axel to tell Orange Sputnik in more detail about SweepMe! clients.
“SweepMe! is focusing on B2B type of business,” stated our interviewee but emphasized a critical point in their startup’s approach on finding clients: “however, we are not a typical startup which has a plan to scale up within the first 2-5 years, no matter how, because we prefer to grow organically based on the people’s needs.”
After a bit of reflection, Axel decided to give us an example of several advantages of SweepMe! for customers and, in particular, why many technology-oriented companies choose their solution. He shared the following with us: “Imagine you can create your individual software by combining ready-made modules. With such a low-code approach, you don’t need to spend time developing your own software from scratch, and you can speed up the test process and launch a product on the market much faster and more efficiently. For small companies, it is much more attractive as you can also save a lot of money.”
What about customer geography? Axel gave us a comprehensive answer: “Our customers are worldwide: EU, US, and Asia. And because we knew that from the very beginning, our software is completely in English.” He also added: “If you ask, the main part of our market is the semiconductor industry and field of vacuum processing.”
To fully complete the topic of clients, we asked Axel about the story of their first client and received a very unexpected answer that emphasized the advantage of choosing a specific niche for a startup.
“All of our customers are tech and research facilities which are developing semiconductor devices, sensors, and tools,” our interviewee noted again. He continued: “So it shouldn’t be a surprise if I say that our first client was a startup that found us at some point because they needed help with testing their product.” Our interviewee added: “With each new customer, the possibilities of SweepMe! are further extended, which attracts new users and customers.”
In the end, Axel highlighted one more reason for companies to choose SweepMe!: “For many businesses and especially startup companies, it’s expensive to employ a developer who develops only test and measurement software.”
“We are not a typical startup which has a plan to scale up within the first 2-5 years, no matter how, because we prefer to grow organically based on the people’s needs.”
What is the secret to the success of a team of two?
What factors do you know that most influence the success of a startup? According to experts, product demand, funding, business model, and marketing are the main levers of business success and the startup team. Statistically, 25% of startups fail in their early years because of the team. Thus, finding the right team, notably the right co-founder, is one of the fundamental aspects of startup development.
Therefore, after discussing the company’s clients with Axel, we decided to find out about the SweepMe! team and found out something unexpected. Let’s find out firsthand.
“It’s still only the 2 of us,” said Axel, which surprised us immensely. We were curious, how is it possible that only two co-founders can cope without a team and achieve such success in a rather tricky niche? Our interviewee shared his thoughts with us. He highlighted the following: “We have known each other for many years, we are responsible for different tasks in the company and, basically, we are a great team. At some point, we realized that we could handle the business processes and, if needed, outsource some tasks until we had the first employee. My co-founder is a knowledgeable person, less optimistic but more realistic than me, which makes us a good team.”
To our question why SweeMe does not outsource parts of the software development, Axel gave a short but comprehensive answer: “We can’t outsource parts of the core development because it’s still a unique software, so you have to understand the product and the market. Still, we are ready to entrust the development of individual parts of the software like user interface and certain features to external partners in future.”
Measures of success for a niche startup
The software as a service (SaaS) market will reach $145 billion in 2022. Therefore, growth is not surprising but even more critical for SaaS companies than other businesses. Let’s find out from Axel what metrics are most significant today for SweepMe!, as for a SaaS startup with a niche product.
“Of course, turnover is an important metric, even a crucial one,” noticed our interviewee. Nevertheless, he emphasized the following essential measures of SweepMe! success: “However, like all the young companies, we look at other things. In our case, it’s the number of users and downloads. For us, these indicators are more important right now because we like to strengthen the platform character of our solution.”
In the end, he highlighted the following: “We have a niche product, and because we want to grow organically, having a large number of users is the main goal for us right now.”
“We have a niche product, and because we want to grow organically, having a large number of users is the main goal for us right now.”
Big and small goals
Having discussed the issue of metrics and indicators, we, of course, did not bypass SweepMe! plans for the future and asked Axel to share with us their current goals.
Our interviewee, in turn, highlighted a financial goal for the following year. He said next: “We are not a company with many investors. So, we need to make sure that we get enough income. Therefore, we will put more emphasis on presenting our services online.”
The right direction matters
The development of a startup is not a fairy tale but a thorny path. Therefore, at the end of the discussion of business aspects, Orange Sputnik, as always, asked our interviewee a question regarding the business challenges, and in particular, we asked Axel what, in his opinion, could be the reason for the failure of SweepMe!.
Based on Axel’s words, as for a SaaS startup, the quality and efficiency of the product are the main tasks and the main threat that can affect the success of the business.
He stated: “Basically what we care about is to create a software that can do all the things our users want to do. And, of course, we want to create software that makes all the tests and measurements simpler. So every time we update our software or add new models and features, we have to make sure that our solution goes in the right direction.”
Behind every known example of a successful business, dozens of little-known SaaS startups never took off or failed in their early stages. And no, often it is not high competition in the market that is to blame. The reasons usually lie in startups themselves. Most of them face the same challenges, but not all are prepared for them.
Impact of COVID-19 on a niche startup
After discussing with Axel the main aspects of the startup development and, in particular, SweepMe!, we could not help but ask about the situation with COVID-19 and how the pandemic affected their business and industry in general. Let’s find out what our interviewee thinks about this already, one might say, sore subject.
“What we noticed during this period is the decrease of the number of users,” Axel answered immediately. However, despite this, he honestly admitted and noted the great advantage of their niche: “Luckily, we were not that much affected because our customers are tech companies which develop and manufacture electronic tools, instruments, and parts of the devices that became even more interesting for the consumers and have got even higher demand during the pandemic.”
In the end, our interviewee noted already, let’s say, a well-established thought: “COVID-19 and the epidemic have once again confirmed and demonstrated the need for digitalization.”
As we have already understood, the test and measurement sector has been growing steadily regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic, related business environment, and economic conditions. Despite the situation, this industry will continue its expansion due to the complementary relationship with multiple market sectors and technologies.
Plan B, inspiration sources, and advice from SweepMe! Co-founder
At the end of our fascinating interview with the co-founder of the SweepMe! startup, we asked our interviewee several personal questions, and first of all, asked if he has an alternative to the startup development; in other words, does he have a plan “B”?
“I have no other alternatives,” our interviewee said with confidence in his voice. He clarified: “On one hand, I have enough competence to say that SweepMe! will succeed. On the other hand, we have the opportunity to grow with the demand of our users, which is why the risk is not as high compared to startups that reach the break-even point often only after several years.”
Such an unambiguous answer made us think about the motivation and the presence of an example of a successful entrepreneur that helps founders move forward, believe in their product, and not give up. Naturally, our next question raised this topic, and we asked Axel whether there is a person who inspires him as an entrepreneur.
“Elon Musk is definitely an inspiration,” noticed the Co-founder of SweepMe!. He explained his choice: “He also likes technology and aims to bring something not just innovative in terms of tech but in terms of better living.”
Finally, we asked Axel for some tips for young entrepreneurs. He was generous in words and shared an insightful speech with us: “Don’t be shy to present a product that is not perfect yet. When you create new technology, you have to present it to ensure it’s relevant to the market. However, be ready that there will always be someone who will give you negative feedback. Nevertheless, the world is huge, and there are so many companies and partners you do not know yet that will be happy to work with you and use your product.“