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Growing a Software Business in the Pandemic

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Philipp Descovich Partium scaled

We talked to Philipp Descovich, the CEO of Partium a provider of a mobile Enterprise Search Solution for industrial environments that enables technicians to identify industrial spare parts within a few seconds. This is what he said:

First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times? 

Philipp Descovich: So far, so good – no infection yet. We are living the usual daily life with the current limitations. 

Tell us about you, your career, and how you joined Partium.

Philipp Descovich: Prior to Partium, I worked for 14 years at a large US software firm and worked and lived in Central Eastern Europe, Germany, and the US, eventually leading all European sales divisions of the group. 

In 2013 I started as CEO of Humai, which was the company’s name before the merger with Slyce and Catchoom, and since 2020 I am the CEO of our joint entity Partium.io, a company that is solely focused on making part searches in industrial environments easier and faster. We want technicians to spend their time fixing machines rather than searching for spare parts. 

How does Partium innovate? 

Philipp Descovich: Our innovation is based on 2 pillars: 

The first one is a permanent, very active interaction with customers and the market in general. Our customers are primarily in the industrial maintenance and aftermarket space. There is a lot of initiative and drive to digitize and innovate here – so we are working closely with our customers and partners to deliver innovative solutions that bring real life value to technicians on the shopfloor. 

The second pillar is our – for the size of our company – very large proportion of R&D team members (about 40 out of 80 employees).

How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?

Philipp Descovich: Internally, we completely switched to home office mode in our Spanish and US offices. In the Austrian HQ, only a couple of core functions are in the office, the rest also works from home. Our Canada office in Nova Scotia was the least impacted. But even there, our customer support team works under quite solid restrictions. Thanks to our IT structure & equipment we are coping quite well.

On the customer side, in 2020, our customers delayed many projects because of the uncertainty in the industrial markets. In 2021 this changed dramatically, we see a lot of growth because our Partium smart search solution allows maintenance & aftersales teams to cope with difficult situations, such as spare part identification of worn, broken, dirty, or even built-in parts, even if the experts are not on site.

Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?

Philipp Descovich: We completed a large merger in the middle of the pandemic (July/August 2020). Many things you would usually do in person during a merger had to be done remotely. That was and still is difficult. Also, despite the growth potential of our group, we had to be very careful with additional investments as the worldwide situation was so uncertain and unstable.

Our lessons learned are: 

  1. You need to triple the internal communication effort when face2face communication is not possible.
  2. As dramatic as new the switch to 100% remote work was, it helped us to get an international team aligned after a merger. Before Covid, many things would have been discussed in local meetings and only in small groups. This became a non-issue. Via Microsoft Teams, all team members can be involved easily.
  3. Thanks to our early investments in Digital Marketing and Lead Generation activities, the switch to a purely remote customer acquisition mode was easy. Even more, Covid reinforced this model and changed our sales approach.

What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?

Philipp Descovich: For communication, we are using Microsoft Teams to stay in touch during the crisis. The teams usually start their day with a “Daily” where they keep each other updated about each team members’ tasks for the day. Our “Townhall Meeting,” which usually takes place every month, involves all employees and gives information about current and future projects, achievements, and our revenue situation. And of course, there are very important 1-on-1 meetings.

Some teams even started to organize after work events via Microsoft Teams.

Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?

Philipp Descovich: We merged with the two other major players in our segment: US-based Slyce and Spain-based Catchoom, the world’s leading providers of image recognition and visual search technology. Partium, the joint entity, is laser focused on Enterprise Part Search. No one else in the world is as focused or does it as well. I know it sounds a bit strange, but we consider ourselves currently pretty much alone in this niche.

Your final thoughts?

Philipp Descovich: Let’s get those vaccines. 

Your website?

https://partium.io/

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