Faith, perseverance, and a lot of customer feedback: Reflecting on Part Analytics’ first 11 months

Part Analytics officially became a company in February of this year when we closed our seed funding round. But my co-founder, Jesil Pujara, and I both agree that the moment we felt like we had really created something was when we brought on our first paying customer.

The journey to that moment involved a lot of faith, a lot of risks, a lot of perseverance, and a LOT of customer feedback.

We started this journey back in 2017 when I was doing my MBA at the University of Chicago. We entered Chicago Booth’s Global New Venture Challenge, one of the best startup accelerator programs in the nation, and we reached the finals. Our premise, drawn from our combined decades of experience in procurement and engineering at OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers), was that procurement leaders could spend more time on supplier development and deliver significant business value instead of just focusing on cost reduction by digitizing manual, excel based spend management process.

We believed we could combine artificial intelligence and big data in an innovative way to help OEMs save huge amounts of time and money.

And 11 months after leaving the safety of our jobs and committing to this full-time, we have fully validated that premise. But we’ve also learned a ton about our customers. From the beginning, we’ve been committed to building exactly what our customers wanted, instead of rushing through the development and putting out something that doesn’t connect. So we took the risk of sharing a half-baked product with our target customers, who have given us incredibly helpful feedback and been very forgiving of a product that’s obviously still in development.

Based on customer feedback, we came to three important realizations:

  • Data is useless without insights.

Even though there are several spend management solutions on the market, most OEMs still resort to using spreadsheets to manage and analyze their direct material spend. The existing solutions are either clunky on-premise solutions that require a lot of customization and management, or cloud-based solutions that don’t cater to the needs of the people actually making the procurement decisions.

By talking to our customers, we realized that they need a solution that is cloud-based, easy to use and not just another dashboard. They need a solution that can make sense of all the data and provide prescriptive insights.

Our product should leverage data to tell a user what is happening in the supply chain and exactly what they should do about it to minimize risk and save money.

  • Users don’t want another clickfest.

Our product needs to be flexible enough to provide the 1,000-foot view of the entire supply chain for a senior manager, and then within two or three clicks, get down to actionable insights about each component for someone in procurement. We spent a lot of time streamlining that process to make sure this was a product our customers would love using, and not another clickfest.

  • With a few tweaks, we could serve an entirely different customer segment.

We originally envisioned our product serving OEMs, but during an early meeting with a customer, they suggested we show our product to the contract manufacturers that supply OEMs, because they could use it to cut their quoting process from one or two weeks down to one or two days. We went down that road and ended up on boarding our first contract manufacturer a few months later.

We are extremely proud of the progress we have made in 2019. We launched our BOM IQ module, which provides real-time insights on risks and savings opportunities in a given bill of materials. We brought on paying customers in both of our customer segments. We developed proprietary algorithms that will allow us to process more data faster and provide more actionable insights to our customers. And we set up a company, which is hard work no matter what industry you’re in. We found an office, hired a technical team, recruited a board of directors, and continued to develop our professional network in the Wisconsin startup scene.

We feel extremely good about the foundation that we’ve laid in 2019, which will allow us to accelerate development in 2020. We’ll continue executing on our product roadmap, driven by feedback from our current customers, and we’ll work to get the product in front of as many customers as possible. To that end, we’ll be hiring sales and technical team members. To fuel this growth, we’ll be raising another round of funding, which we hope to close in the second quarter.

We’re extremely thankful for the support we’ve received so far. We’re grateful to our investors for believing in us and connecting us to board members, advisors, and more investors. And we’re especially thankful for our families. Our partners both have their own careers and serve as the primary caregivers for our young children. We can’t thank them enough for standing behind us as we chase the entrepreneurial dream, because we absolutely could not have done this without them.