MathWorks is well known for their flagship products, MATLAB and Simulink, by engineers, scientists, students, and users of all backgrounds in both commercial and academic settings. Within the past decade, the world has seen new startup companies emerging at a rapid pace. A few years ago, a small team at MathWorks came together to create a program designed to specifically work with these entrepreneurs and build a supportive startup community. Today, we talk with two of the integral people in growing the startup program, David Rich and Andrew Willard, to learn more about their vision and how MathWorks is supporting new companies around the world.
Madeline: How did the idea for the startup program come about?
David: In 2012 I joined MathWorks, and we were looking at different groups that might have difficulty getting access to our tools. Startups was an obvious category of people that would like to use our tools but we weren’t doing anything to make that easier or possible. So, I thought we should do something about that.
It really is an effort to accelerate the pace of science and engineering. That’s our company mission. We figured out we weren’t selling to startups, but we believe in our tools and know they help you get more stuff done faster and better, and so if we really want to accelerate the pace of science and engineering, then all of these startups really should be using our tools.
M: Once you had the idea, how did you bring the program forward?
D: We rolled out the program in 2013 and at the time it was just two sales teams in the U.S. and our distributor in Israel. We made some sales to companies that wouldn’t have been able to purchase without the program and they started doing really interesting things with our tools. That started a path to more interest so we rolled out to more sales teams and into Europe. Around that same time, we thought we should start supporting accelerators, but we only had one person doing everything.
With the way the program was growing, it was obvious we should invest more, tell more people about the program and publish it widely. We started to add people to the team and it started a steady growth in number of startups and geographic spread. We’ve recently expanded the program into India where we see a lot of potential and are expanding our teams in Europe to support more startups.
M: Andrew, how did you come to work with the startup program?
Andrew: I joined MathWorks 15 years ago, originally in the sales organization supporting small accounts and I came to really enjoy startups. My wife worked for four startups in her career, so I understood the nature of what a startup needs and their requirement to move fast and not spend a lot of money.
About two years ago I was approached to take a look at the startup program. I became the manager of the accelerator program to start with and have since moved on to manage the startup program as well. We’ve made some iterations to make the process go smoother so we can get more startups into the program and give them even better support than we were before.
M: You’re well known in the commercial world and work with some of the largest corporations around the world, are startups also using your tools?
A: Yes, startups are actually a big and important part of our business. The MATLAB environment and Simulink platforms really are built for rapid iteration of design and concepts which is important to startups as they need to hit the ground running. We provide them with the tools necessary to go from concept to prototype to commercialization rapidly.
M: How do you support startups that are in the program?
A: We have two programs. The first is the accelerator program in which we have 260 partner programs worldwide and for startups in these programs, we give them the full portfolio of our tool chain free for one year.
Coming out of the accelerator program, or for independent startups, we have our global startup program. In this case, startups are now offered our software at 50% off our commercial pricing.
M: Beyond free or discounted software, what else do the startups have access to?
A: Startups have full access to our tech support and application engineering teams so that if they have questions or technical needs, we can help them with our tools and they can move down their development cycle faster. We also provide them training services at 50% off and they have access to our consulting teams.
We work on a lot of co-marketing opportunities with them now featured on our new LinkedIn page and startup blog. We will be writing user stories and interviews with startups and we’re now launching our new startup video series where we’ll be publicizing short videos about startups and the work they’re doing. It’s a way that they can bring attention to themselves as they look to draw the interest of customers or potentially financial backers.
M: How can a startup or accelerator get involved in the program?
A: The easiest way to find us is through our MathWorks website or LinkedIn page. From there we have more information and links that you can follow to make contact with us and apply to our program.
M: The program launched in 2013, does where you’re at today match the vision you originally had?
D: I thought it could be big, but I had no idea how big. At this point, I am both impressed by how big it is and amazed that we’re not done yet. We’re just getting going, so that is really that is cool.
M: Any final thoughts for startups reading this?
A: What we like to stress to our startups is we view startups with the same respect that we view our largest multi-million dollar organizations. We don’t limit your access to tech support, support engineers, or training. We actually make all of that available for less money. We understand that startups are time constrained and resource constrained, so we built our program to support you. Our goal is to support you in your early years and make you a customer for life.
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