The Golden Lightbulb winner Ratio is rapidly growing: two new projects, new material and soon a new employee

Two new projects, new material and soon a new employee. TU/e startup Ratio, winner of The Golden Lightbulb, is rapidly growing. Owner Tim Wilschut has a doctorate and colleague Tiemen Schuijbroek graduated on techniques to make complex systems more accessible. Today they make their living out of it.

“In this region there are many companies who deal with complex systems”, says Tim Wilschut. “It’s incredibly difficult to keep the manuals about the systems up-to-date, complete and coherent.” Wilschut says that user manuals are set-up in Word documents to which new information then is being added. “Errors occur “that cost time and money.” For that problem Wilschut and Schuijbroek found a solution: “a special language to write structured system specifications. By means of algorithms the consistency is being checked automatically and visuals and interactive models from the system architecture are then being generated.” All the user manuals about the system, are formulated and designed in the same way, which gives a clear overview.  

With these techniques they have won The Golden Lightbulb, a contest for startups. “The Challenge gave us extra motivation to take a critical look at our business plan. Through the workshops in Challenge 3, we had another look at some parts of the plan,” Schuijbroek tells. At TU/e innovation Space they are working on the development of their business.

Last year, Ratio also won the TU/e Contest with this idea. “This confirmed the business potential for the idea”, Wilschut says. On 6 September 2018, Ratio was established and a month later they got their first assignment. For Rijkswaterstaat they rewrote technical requirements with their software that is used in contracts for building bridges and sluices. “These contracts are being send to contractors who are going to build the bridge or sluice.  When the contracts are formulated in a complete and clear way, the contractor knows better what is expected,” Wilschut explains. This will bring about less errors and miscommunications between different parties. The first reviews about the results were positive.

This kind of consultancy work is important to Ratio. They intentionally don’t work with investors but invest the money they earn into the business. Schuijbroek: “When you can invest money into your business yourself, you don’t have to sell so many shares to third parties.” “With consultancy assignments we aim to transfer the knowledge about the software to the client. Only when they obtain the knowledge, the technology will work,” Wilschut explains. “Developing the technology rapidly and push it to the market won’t work for us.” Building a good relationship with the client is much more important to us. “The gap between what we develop and what the client wants, needs to be kept as small as possible,” Wilschut explains. The startup built a good relationship with Rijkswaterstaat which has led to another project. "With this project we focus on system structure analysis."

Wilschut and Schuijbroek recently made a deal with VDL-ETG. “Within the high-tech domain our software is being seen as another kind of tool. VDL-ETG also wants to make complex systems within design processes more accessible. With this they want to constantly adapt the requirements." This means Ratio has to adapt the software package and its procedure. It’s important that the employees of VDL-ETG can login and easily make use of the software. “However, people do need some expertise to make use of the software, employees can’t just login and start using it.” It’s a long process to integrate the software within an organization,” Wilschut says. Schuijbroek adds: “That’s why it’s good that we run pilots and at the same time further develop the software so we come to a point where we can easily handover the software.”

To realise the growth, the men bought new laptops with the prize money of The Golden Lightbulb. “We still programmed everything on laptops we had at home, finally we have decent laptops”. The remainder of the money went into the business. The startup will make two new investments. “Soon we will start searching for a part-time employee,” Wilschut tells. “For this we need a financial buffer.” Besides, the company will invest in knowledge about software development. “We hire Albert Hofkamp, a scientific programmer at the department of Mechanical Engineering, for a couple of hours per week to advise us. In the end, we are mechanical engineers and not computer scientists”, Wilschut says.

Both men are developing themselves as entrepreneurs. Wilschut: “At the beginning our aim was to get the tool online as quickly as possible but now I see this completely different.” The service is as important as the software itself. “The value of the software is far greater when we help the client to reach the maximum result with it. In the future, this will be our building blocks to make our software and services successful.

Bron: Linda Bak, Innovation Origins