The company Falquez, Pantle und Pritz GbR offers software-as-a-service for flow and noise prognoses in technical device development. With the help of the cloud-based platform NUBERISIM, complex high performance simulations can be driven and operated easily via browser. Therefore, potential sources of noise are found as early as product development and measures for noise minimization can be taken early on. In an interview, we asked Dr. Iris Pantle about the idea, the startup time, and the future prospects.
What does your company stand for?
Hair dryer, vacuum cleaner, kitchen hood: All of them are loud and we would like them to be quieter. This is precisely our goal. The noise level depends on how air circulated. Using computer simulations, we predict the noise of such devices. These simulations are elaborate, as so-called parallel high performance simulations must be carried out.
A normal PC isn’t enough for this task. It used to be necessary to buy special supercomputers (UNIX) or high-performance computer clusters (Linux), which were very expensive to purchase and operate. However, this simply isn’t worth the effort for engineering offices or small businesses working as simulation service providers or assessors, for instance for larger companies. Today, people familiar with this technique can simulate in parallel in the cloud. In addition to engineering expertise and simulation services, we offer our NUBERISIM platform to anyone who wants or needs to perform combined flow noise prognoses and doesn’t want to learn how to transfer simulation software to a cloud first or doesn’t want to purchase a supercomputer. With NUBERISIM, you can drive and operate simulations via browser, just as though the software was on your own computer. But in reality, the simulations are run in parallel on a cloud infrastructure.
Where and how did you get this brilliant idea?
There was never a flash of genius that suddenly hit us. Long before our startup, we had developed algorithms for flow simulation and propagation of sound waves as part of our research as scientists at KIT. The topic of noise and its health consequences is our long-running issue. For a long time, especially the flow noise prognosis was either highly labor-intensive or so specialized that it could only be used reliably for highly exclusive questions.
So we were certain that our development would also be interesting for industry, but we knew that the high computational costs would be obstructive to the establishment in the industrial development process. For even today, only large companies have the respective powerful parallel computing infrastructure. So we needed a bit of industry experience in order to learn to assess comparable simulation procedures in companies and develop a suitable concept. Thus, we gathered a lot of information and impressions for a while, and it was during this time that the topic of the cloud came about. This was truly electrifying! For the first time, this opened up the possibility of developing an economical concept for elaborate simulations by moving them to the cloud.
How did your founding team come together?
Two of the three of us founding members, Dr.-Ing. Balazs Pritz and I, worked together for a long time as scientists at KIT. Dipl.-Phys. Carlos Falquez worked with us as a student assistant during his studies. At the time of the startup, we already knew each other for eight to ten years. We, meaning Balazs and I, were convinced of the potential of the idea. But we absolutely needed a competent partner who would specialize on the cloud topic. We were lucky that Carlos was interested in our project and we asked him whether he could imagine participating. Since it was clear that we would need some more time for development, we looked for financing and then we applied for the EXIST Business Start-up Grant and received it.
What would you say are the benefits of being your own boss?
For me personally, being able to design something myself is already a form of freedom. Of course there are also restrictions, bureaucracy, and formalities that arise in the course of beginning a startup. But the joy of designing your own product is surely high up on the list of advantages. Entrepreneurs, as we see ourselves, also live with their product – that is, enthusiasm and idealism shouldn’t be underestimated in our work. It is also fantastic to be able to create perspectives ranging to secure jobs in a demanding, interesting, and exciting context.
What do you think are the properties that one should have to be a successful entrepreneur?
Primarily, I consider curiosity, enthusiasm, and honestly also idealism, to be very important. Endurance is also necessary in the beginning – and we are still at the beginning. Without idealism and enthusiasm, it is very difficult. Sometimes, inner alarm bells and a healthy mistrust are useful. At least when there is a danger that you might let yourself be talked into something due to inexperience…
What would you term as the hurdles on the way to a successful business? Where did you get support?
The biggest challenge for us was to find the beginning. Since we all have a technical or scientific background and initially didn’t have any useful economic know-how, we first had to ask ourselves: “How does this actually work? How do you startup?” The more answers we received, the more confusing it got in the beginning. But there are supporters! That is the good news.
The bad news is: There are very many of them, i.e., you have to filter and be somewhat lucky to meet people whose advice truly helps in the concrete situation. Indeed we were lucky. And thus we were, for example, selected for the EXIST Business Start-up Grant with the help of the KIT. Another helpful element was that I had just stumbled upon the possibility of studying entrepreneurship at the Cooperative State University in Karlsruhe. Thus, when we explicitly needed it, we already knew how to write a business plan
How did you deal with the large workloads during start-up?
Now, I personally had previously worked as a freelancer. That means that I had phases where time was truly a scarce good, but there were also phases that I could keep empty. I still try to continue this. And it’s not so much the effort, but more the fact that many things are new and you want them to be more thought through and that an opinion needs to be formed to create a basis for making a decision. So you pant for time. In these times, it really pays off to found as a team. In a team that works together trustingly, a majority decision is not enough. Ways and variants are also discussed. I value this highly.
Do you have any advice for other young entrepreneurs?
After all that has been written so far, my first tip is definitely to startup as a team! A group spurs more. However, the team shouldn’t be too large. In order to prevent future animosities, I would also participate in a team coaching (with some assistance). For the team should learn to assess itself and the thoughts of each individual member. This strengthens the team and teaches you about the pain thresholds of each member. But be careful: In some circumstances, this kind of coaching can be dangerous, i.e., disillusioning.
Finally, I recommend making a contract, even if it wouldn’t be necessary (as in our case as a GbR – company constituted under civil law). I explicitly don’t recommend a standard contract, but rather taking such a contract as a template and then letting each team member tinker around with it. If you then discuss this contract with a moderator or even better with a lawyer of joint trust (yes, this costs money, but it is worth it), then this intensifies the team coaching experience. Endurance and enthusiasm of the startup team is the linchpin of the entire startup project.