YEDaily: Zak Homuth

Zak Homuth started Upverter – a tool to help the collaborative process for hardware designers – in August 2010. Since its inception, engineers and designers alike have begun to flock to this innovative solution. Find out more about this 26-year-old YE in today’s feature.

Elevator Pitch: Describe your business in a nutshell.
Upverter is a year-old start-up company that is trying to change the way people design and build electronics. We are breaking down a lot of the barriers to designing electronics, and making it easier for people to take an idea and turn it into a piece of hardware. We are building a library of parts where users can collaborate and share designs, without starting from scratch. And ours is also the very first software to allow users to collaborate and work together on designs. It’s really all about making the design environment more collaborative and allowing designers to work together – which we hope will lead to incredible innovation in hardware.

Why did you start your business, what was the inspiration?
I worked as an electrical engineer for three years before founding Upverter and the biggest pain points I saw revolved around parts management, collaboration, and a very old and friction-filled work flow. I saw an opportunity to move this software to the web, to revolutionize the paradigms, to fix the work flow, and ultimately, to make designers’ lives better. Electronic design tools is a 30-year-old, $5 billion market that has ignored the Internet and been really void of innovation for the last 10 years.

What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
Talking to customers! I love it. We almost always get such great and positive feedback that you can’t help but smile that you are making the world a bit better. And even when the calls aren’t positive they always tell me what’s missing from making them a die-hard user, and promise to come back and try it again soon.

It seems like everyday in a startup is spent overcoming the biggest barrier ever: just to wake up and do it again the next day. For us the most challenging part has always been managing our technical difficulty and scope. We are solving an incredibly difficult technical problem with an immense scope. We regularly need to reign ourselves in and fight to focus on the core of the problem we are solving. For the last many months, we met weekly as a team to double check focus and direction.

Where do you see your business going in 5 years?
Upverter is going to change the way we think about, work on and design electronics. It’s in no way a sexy social network or a viral mobile game platform. It’s not a product seeking a market, or a solution seeking a problem. We are pretty real. Our tools are used to develop just about anything that plugs in or turns on. And five years from now we want to be the absolute best way to do that and well on our way to disrupting our market.

What does success look like to you?
Success is moving the dial for innovation. Success is seeing products on the market that wouldn’t have been possible without our tools. And probably biggest of all, success is seeing people doing hardware that couldn’t or wouldn’t be without our tools.

What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
Without a doubt it was when I quit my job, sold it all, and moved back into my parent’s basement. I had nothing beyond a laptop and some clothes, and I was hellbent on changing the world. It’s really, really hard to jump off the cliff, but it was also the best decision I’ve ever made.

Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Hustle and persevere. It’s not about winning, or even getting lucky, it’s about staying in the game long enough that you have the chance to win.

Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
I’m a big fan of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; they are not just trying to make today better, but tomorrow too.

What is Notable to you?
Notable is getting off your ass, jumping off the cliff and making it happen. Notable is real entrepreneurs with useful products trying to change the world.

Blackberry, iPhone, Android, or Other?
IPhone 4.

How do you keep active, energetic, and vibrant?
It’s hard. For starters I try to get a few hours of sleep at night (surprisingly hard). Beyond that sports and exercise help. I bike in the summer and play hockey in the winter.