scapos AG - a startup that breaks the pattern
Since the founding of the company in 2009, scapos AG has supported research institutions and SME’s with the distribution of their software products. In doing so, the company draws on a worldwide network of sales partners, which makes it possible to market their partners’ innovative solutions in growth markets such as Asia. Technical software products by research institutions such as the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and solutions by innovative start-ups characterise scapos AG’s offer. The focus lies on topics such as simulation (CAE), packaging and slice optimisation or HPC and cloud.
Can you explain to us, what scapos AG does?
Thorsten Bathelt: Scapos AG is very different to a classical research spin-off: we don’t develop or produce products or services, but work as a specialised distribution company for technical software. As a result, we are lean, able to align our processes to the specificities of license sales and supply customers and partners worldwide with solutions from the world of research. Product examples include a software, which calculates optimal container fills with complex components or a compression software, which reduces result data from crash calculations of the automotive industry by more than a factor of 10. As a second foothold an R&D project management by big EU research projects has been established, which is closely associated with topics from our product portfolio (HPC/Cloud/Big Data, Computer-Aided Engineering).
You've been around for almost 10 years, how have you evolved over time, and what have been important milestones for you?
T.B.: The scapos product range has increased significantly in the last ten years and consequently the number of our partners, who develop the software products. The coupled increase in personnel (even if scapos is still a small company) ultimately leads to structural and organisational changes. Tasks and roles have to be distributed, interfaces defined and substitute/cover plans for absent employees followed up on. Even though tasks are distributed evenly in a small company, employees have to be flexible, as illnesses, holidays and even business trips eventually lead to the takeover of a colleagues activity. Very important milestones were the cooperation with our distribution partners worldwide. Especially Asian countries are a big hurdle for our SMEs as it is almost impossible to conclude contracts with big companies. In such cases, our partner firms help us to win over customers, care and support for them and eventually lead them to additional licensing purchases.
Why did you spin-out of Fraunhofer?
T.B.: The individual Fraunhofer Institutes, aren’t really designed for the distribution of software. The scientific staff is fully occupied with their technical research and project work. Hence, any trade fair / conference follow-up is additional and most often unloved work. We have specialised in the distribution software and created the necessary framework conditions (CRM system with a connection to the license database, software and processes for export control, employees with excellent foreign language skills, etc.). Furthermore, contracts for product distribution under the conditions of a research facility were very difficult to conduct. Classic R & D contracts could not be used for licensing, but an individual contract negotiation was hardly feasible for both sides and not a custom in the market. Standard software is usually distributed through licencing, not individual contracts. Here we act like a classic software house and can thus quickly supply our customers without any legal hurdles.
To what extent do you think the startup landscape has changed since you started?
T.B.: As an oddball in the startup world, we did not have to take some of the hurdles a classic spin-off would have had to take, e.g. we did not use external funding. But, maybe TV formats like „Die Höhle der Löwen“ can finally increase the public’s awareness of the fact that an excellent idea is not always sufficient for success, and failures do not represent weakness. On the contrary: One has to show strength whilst trotting such a difficult path.