3-Years of Hardware, Hacking and Running Out of Money

A couple weeks ago Upverter turned 3 years old. In startup years I think that means we’re 21 now. So, I’m going to write the rest of this with a beer…


Phew, what a year!

Back in August 2012 Upverter was just Steve, Mike, Alex, Francesca, Carmen and me. We ran low on money in the winter of 2012 and slimmed down to just Steve, Mike and me to keep the lights on. But by August we were starting to staff back up and by October we would hire Ryan and then stay at 7 people for almost the rest of the year.


Hack

In August 2012 the big focus was on getting Upverter v1.0 out the door. We had launched our alpha in September 2011, and then spent the next year polishing, grinding, and hacking away at something actually useful. We had built component management, layout, manufacturing, import, export and simulation, and we were in the final throes of connecting the dots together before launching it publicly. I can remember being super-duper heads down on development, doing our first hackathon to get a bit of user feedback, and scrambling to “launch” before American Thanksgiving.


Launch

In November 2012 we were finally ready to go. And all fully exhausted and crazy burnt out we pulled the trigger on V1.0. The response was slow for the first few days, but it built into a very solid press-launch, and more importantly some very real reactivation and acquisition of our users. By the end of the year we had broken 10K users, up from approximately zero actives in October.


Sell

In December and January we went on a very aggressive sales push to try and figure out how to sell what we had built. We got decently good at converting free users into awesome accounts, but it was far from efficient, and we were still sucking at enterprise conversions. At the same time we were getting a ton of inbound to raise a bit more money, and even offers to sell the company. Needless to say we were a bit distracted by all of this, but by February we had gotten our heads straight, scrapped our previous thoughts on sales, turned down the acquisition offers, and set out to raise our seed round. We had also gotten a ton of good focus on what v2.0 of Upverter needed to look like, (huge focus on data and interoperability) and the engineering team was hard at work bringing it to life.


Grim

Maybe a bit ironically after all the energy and excitement around Upverter in January and February, March was a pretty scary month for us. The fundraise was going slow, we weren’t getting any better at sales, and at the end of the month we ran out of money. There were a couple gut checks, and we mumbled a bit about making the wrong choices in February. But in the end we made a call to keep going, threw a couple hail marys, and found enough money for April. We continued slogging through April and May, threw a few more hail marys, and through sheer force of will, a ton of trust from our employees, and the generosity of our friends and families, we pulled through.


Better

In late May we closed our seed round (to be announced soon!) from an amazing list of VCs and Angel investors. We got a brand new lease on life. And by June we were back at full speed, still launching a major feature a week, pushing the metrics up, and closing more sales than ever before.


Grow

It’s now August 2013, and we have 6 new employees, a couple of very exciting enterprise trials, and a very clear vision of what the next 6 months is going to look like.


Next

Today, Upverter is the best way to do multiplayer engineering. We host the world’s most sophisticated in-browser CAD tool, the world’s largest open-source electrical parts library, the largest collection of engineering designs on the internet, and we are one of very, very few ways for engineers to work together.

Tomorrow, Upverter will be where engineering happens. We are trying to grow the library and the repository orders of magnitude over the next couple months. We are building converters for every CAD and EDA file format we know of. But we are also growing the community. We want Upverter to be a place you can go to interact with your engineering peers, a place to learn from them, and a place to share with them. We are continuing to improve our tools – they are our special sauce and they make the rest of it possible – but expect to see much more glue over the next little bit: just because you use a legacy tool, doesn’t mean you don’t need collaboration too.


Onwards

Thanks for being part of this. Thanks for rooting us on. Thanks for using Upverter. And thanks for being an engineer – the world needs you more than they know.

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