Beyond the Pitch

Syscom Advanced Materials: Setting the Pace for Startup Acceleration

Source: The Washington Post

Source: The Washington Post

It was exciting last year, to learn that AmberStrand®, the initial product from Syscom Advanced Materials, a SpringBox Labs acceleration client, was actually aboard NASA’s Mars Rover Curiosity.

It was even more thrilling in 2013 to see Syscom earn AS9100C certification, the standardized quality management system for the aerospace industry that is aligned with ISO 9001.

But perhaps the most exciting news from Syscom Advanced Materials is that this spring the company graduated SpringBox Labs and moved into its own corporate offices and R&D space to continue to expand production, sales, and market reach.

“This is why we do what we do,” said Ron Landthorn, TechColumbus VP of Venture Programs. “The whole idea of SpringBox Labs is to help companies achieve concept and prototype milestones faster to reach paying customers sooner.”

Syscom executed the SpringBox Labs playbook to a T.

1. Achieve market validation

Syscom improves performance and reduces cost for aerospace and defense industries.

Syscom designs, develops, and produces metal clad fibers that offer a unique combination of strength, flexibility, and weight reduction. They create an attractive replacement for copper wire in demanding electrical/electronic applications.

Think of these fibers as electric yarn where a polymer fiber is given a metal coating.

The conductivity of these fibers is designed for specific electronic applications.

“Customers can come to us with an issue or requirement, and we can tailor a conductivity to meet that customer’s specific needs,” said Joe Reed, Syscom president and CEO.The firm’s current markets are in the aerospace and defense industries where electronics battle small spaces and severe stress, such as airplanes, satellites, and other space vehicles, and where weight savings has an extremely high value.

The industries’ quest for weight reduction has created the unintended consequence of increased electromagnetic interference (EMI) which requires shielding.

As a replacement for copper wire, Syscom’s fibers achieve an average weight savings of 75 to 85 percent and provides the required shielding performance.

“Since Syscom first came into initial production in 2008, the market we serve has grown more than five-fold. Syscom is the leading supplier,” said Reed. “With our initial success, it is time for us to expand our operations to further penetrate these markets.”

2. Recognize the things you do well, and find the right business partners to help accomplish the rest.

Syscom’s basic business is to produce the metal-clad fibers with the appropriate attributes to meet market needs. To launch its initial product, Syscom partnered with a leading supplier to the aerospace industry.

“Where Syscom has the edge,” Reed said, “is with its experience in the complex process of producing metal clad fibers designed to meet market needs in electronic/electronic applications. For example, we design and build our own product lines to ensure proper handling of the yarn. Our staff has decades of experience in metallization. This expertise gives us a competitive edge in terms of quality and product.”

In launching its initial product, Syscom partnered with a distributor with more than sixty years experience in the aerospace industry.

“This allowed us to significantly compress time to market and quickly establish credibility for our product,” Reed said. “The result has been a win/win for both partners, a significant benefit for the market and record sales each year for Syscom.”

3. Identify and satisfy any unique requirements for current and future markets.

AS9100 C certification was required for Syscom to expand in target markets.

“It is a bit unusual for an emerging company to pass the initial ISO certification audit the first time. It really speaks to the dedication of our people. From the start we put best business practices in place early and worked off those to achieve certification,” said Reed.

It’s the approach that Syscom took from the very beginning.

“We knew that if we were going to succeed, we needed to have the same best business practices and documentation that the big companies have. We believe this is how you run a business. Our people not only accept them, they embrace them,” Reed said.

4. Bootstrap to carry out a bold and achievable plan for growth.

Syscom created a right-sized facility and is focusing on the key hires to expand market share.

Syscom’s new offices were built in former warehousing space on TechColumbus premises. The offices are directly across from the Syscom’s production site.

“We expanded our office and laboratory capacity in order to provide the necessary technical and marketing support to grow our business.” Reed said.

”This includes the enhanced capability of designing and developing new products and applications as well as our product testing capabilities.

Syscom is also focusing more on market intelligence to be closer to developments in technology and the dynamics of target markets.

“The aerospace market is dynamic and the supply chain continues to evolve,” Reed said. “We need a viable strategy and tactics that recognize this.”

Reed noted that in 2013 Syscom had received its second patent with several other patents pending.

5. Use the resources of SpringBox Labs and TechColumbus to accelerate milestones and engage paying customers earlier.

“TechColumbus was a big help,” Reed says. “They provided initial access to state resources as we transitioned from development to the commercial phase. As we shaped our strategy and tactics it was extremely helpful to get feedback from TechColumbus venture advisors. It is very important to have that reliable resource that can ask you with credibility, ‘have you thought about this or that?’”

Syscom is on a path to reach 25 full-time employees this year which is a mix of engineers and production technicians

“We intend to be out there with the breadth and depth of products that our customers need,” Reed said. “It’s a nice growth for the Columbus economy, especially when we started in 2008 which wasn’t the most opportune moment to launch a company. We feel we are following the tradition of Ohio manufacturing in providing innovative and value enhancing products that grow the economy and provide jobs.”

As part of its move to 1305 Kinnear Road, Syscom has an option on contiguous space.

“If we continue our rate of success, we will ultimately need more space,” Reed said. “We like the idea of continuing our proximity to the resources that TechColumbus can provide.”

Contact TechColumbus to discuss how your startup can use our services to accelerate milestones and growth like Syscom has.

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