Vistagy: Tech company that bootstrapped success

Steven Luby: "We started by solving a difficult problem no one else had tackled."

Steven Luby: “We started by solving a difficult problem no one else had tackled.”

By Robert Israel

When I interviewed Steven Luby, CEO of Vistagy, a Waltham, Massachusetts-based software development company a couple years ago, he used the word “bootstrapping” to describe the firm’s origins and slow and steady rise to success.

“Bootstrapping” is when a business is launched without the help of outside investors. It’s a risky undertaking. Many similar technology companies rely on venture capital funding. Vistagy did not. Luby started the company with his own savings and funded the company with the growth of the software. Over the years, that investment paid off — handsomely.

Initially, Luby called the company Composite Design Technologies. He soon changed the name to Vistagy, focusing on the fast-growing information needs of design engineers. The Vistagy product assists those who require specialized data that had heretofore been difficult to capture or access, effectively expanding the capacity of a computer-aided design (CAD) system.

“We started by solving a difficult problem that no one else had tackled,” Luby told me. “We also studied the barriers in composite design that might keep engineers from using our software and then designed it to be easy to use. Finally, we focused on supporting our customers and helping them to succeed.”

The company’s first application, FiberSIM, focused on the notoriously complex specialty of composite design. Composites are strong, lightweight, corrosion-resistant materials used to make highly engineered products in the aerospace, automotive, consumer products and marine industries. FiberSIM captures highly specialized design information about these composite materials, and offers engineers simulation and automation tools.

Initially working out of a cramped office in Wellesley, Massachusetts, the company very slowly, very purposefully, took on the challenges its felt it could handle, and found solutions that worked. They researched software licensing agreements. They ordered their own equipment. They acquired one customer at a time. They “bootstrapped” their way to success.

“Our customers kept coming back and making major commitment to our software,” Luby said. “And we started to grow bigger and bigger, exceeding our expectations. We’ve had many order in the half-million to one-million dollar range.”

Vistagy grew to include hundreds of installation sites of FiberSIM, with an impressive list of clients that include Sikorsky Aircraft, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Eurocopter, General Motors, Ferrari, and Porche.

“FiberSIM is so accepted now,” Luby said, “it’s like the Microsoft Office for composite engineers.”

A large percentage of Vistagy’s customer base is located outside the United States, in the Far East and Europe. It was this growth overseas that attracted the eye of Siemens AG, in Germany. Three years ago, Vistagy was sold to Siemens for an undisclosed amount.

FiberSIM is not the only product in the company’s repertoire. Vistagy has also licensed EnCapta software, which, like FiberSIM, tackles a difficult problem and breaks barriers for its customers, but this time for a broader market.

“A lot of emphasis in software development is placed on enterprise information sharing,” Luby said. “But these solutions tend to leave out the most important contributors, namely, the engineers, who have a huge information burden to communicate. Our software connect engineers to the enterprise so they can make better decisions and share information widely and more efficiently.”

The success the company has experienced has enabled the company in 2011 to donate ten FiberSIM composites engineering software licenses to the UMass Amherst College of Engineering.

“FiberSIM is clearly the number one composites engineering software so this donation by Vistagy an industry pioneer and leader, enhances our ability to conduct cutting edge research in composites manufacturing and will provide new knowledge in the research and educational programs for our students,” said Ted Djaferis, dean of the College of Engineering. “It will also enable our faculty and students to gain a greater understanding of the design process for highly complex engineering products, such as wind turbine blades, medical devices, and aerospace parts.”

**
Robert Israel can be reached at risrael_97@yahoo.com. This report was updated from an earlier version that appeared in the Daily News Tribune.

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