Kindly share your feedback on how GoodFirms has been doing so far in increasing your visibility among potential clients.
So far we have been very pleased with the outreach we’ve had with Goodfirms. It is a good support for our marketing activities and with some of our clients leaving reviews on GF, potential customers see the proof.
We know we are a unique company for hardware development, since we have all the design, engineering and prototype manufacturing in-house. With this interview I wanted to highlight this uniqueness and reach out to those looking for professional and affordable engineering services such as EnCata offers.
We would like to continue working with GF and kindly ask our customers to leave reviews on the platform. We also keen on the be recognised as a unique player in IoT/hardware/deeptech development which also has software development capabilities (which rare if not unseen).
Please introduce your company and give a brief about your role within the company?
EnCata is the end-to-end product development company, R&D center and private incubation Technopark dedicated for hardware + software engineering with all in-house design, R&D, and rapid prototyping capabilities.
EnCata works with startups, SMEs and corporate sector in effort of bulding software, IoT and physical products for a range of verticals. EnCata employs NASA’s Technology Readiness Level (TRL) methodology to manage R&D and new product development lifecycle. Our one-stop-shop new product development service and expertise in sciences enables EnCata to tackle multidisciplinary projects, perform technology transfer, R&D, early stage product development and deliver bespoke designs and engineering solutions in hardware & software. We employ thorough LEAN development and manufacturing process, following Agile methodology.
EnCata is the independent design house, and the entire business model is based on delivering premium R&D, design and industrial prototyping services to our clients. Importantly, when working with our clients we sign a contract where all the intellectual property to be generated during the R&D and engineering development belongs to the customer.
What was the idea behind starting this organization?
The story of EnCata goes back to 2006 when Oleg Kondrashov (CEO and initial founder) registered the engineering manufacturing company under the name of BDC-Air (short from Belarus Device Construction). BDC-Air currently produces and sells a wide range of industrial filters and custom industrial equipment and is the largest supplier of Industrial air purification/filtration units in the Eastern Bloc Countries.
Starting from 2012 BDC was involved in industrial IoT and automation projects and some large R&D projects were launched in IC design/power electronics and industrial IoT. So in 2014/2015 we decided to expand our operations and started offering engineering, R&D and new product development services and founded EnCata (Engineering Catalyst). Soon we realized that we want to create a holistic ecosystem for IoT, hardware and tough-tech startups, as the mission of EnCata is to “catalyse” R&D and hardware product development process and help with expertise, advice and the network. In the past 5 years in EnCata we worked with over 100 various startups (domestic and international) engaged in IoT, biotech, medtech, M-IoT, medical devices, robotics, aerospace, materials/nanotech, electric transport and deeptech.
Understanding the startups/product lifecycle we expanded our design and manufacturing facilities and opened a brand new fablab MakeIT Center, where startups can rent the equipment and office space and build their POC and advances prototypes themselves, renting advanced CNC machinery (pay per minute of use). In 2018 we have become the private technopark adding institution capacity to the hardware/deeptech ecosystem of EnCata.
What is your company’s business model–in house team or third party vendors/ outsourcing?
All our R&D, engineering design, software development and prototype manufacturing happening in-house. Although we have world best facilities and amazing set of machinery, tools and experienced design team, we work with some third party vendors and outsourcing companies. As such, have technology partners (e.g. SORACOM, STM, NXP) that provide us with the latest hardware component base and development kits; we have some partners for software development in the USA and Eastern Bloc; and we outsource some manufacturing (e.g. PCB batch- and mass-production, large fiberglass units, and some technology-specific manufacturing, e.g. friction welding or CNC routing of some large metal parts with dimensions exceeding 24 inches).
How is your business model beneficial from a value addition perspective to the clients compared to other companies' models?
We employ a typical engineering / software consultancy model where much value is added with much effort on the future product and its main features. However the major advantage is in having all in-house Hardware + Software design + advanced prototyping and manufacturing capabilities – something one can hardly find elsewhere (there are typically design houses who outsource software development, manufacturing, or OEM/ODM vendors that unable to run R&D projects and/or have problems with IP ownership).
With that said, we must highlight our competitive pricing (compared to the Bay Area or East coast): since we are based in E. Europe, we can provide our premium services at least at 1/3 of the price compared to domestic design consultancies.
Aside from this, EnCata offers a whole hardware ecosystem where startups can move quickly and established companies can accelerate their R&D from the very early stages and new product development programs. All this unparalleled rapidness is due to our LEAN and standardized development and manufacturing process.
What industries do you generally cater to? Are your customers repetitive?
• IoT: consumer IoT, industrial IoT (IIOT), Medical IoT (M-IoT)
• Electric transport
• Deeptech & sciences
• Consumer and wearables
• Advanced manufacturing and industrial automation
• Air purification / filtration and PPE
Mention the objectives or the parameters critical in determining the time frame of developing software.
SOFTWARE & HARDWARE
We always start project from the discovery phase. Running discovery phase with EnCata allows one to develop a robust estimation for the project and the SOW and/or SRS (software requirements specification. The discovery lasts somewhere between 2 and 8 weeks and it allows our clients to do derisking of their project and carefully plan their budget and timelines.
The discovery phase costs from 5 to 10% of the total project cost.
Discovery phase is typically run by the technical / business analysts together with senior-level engineers (architects). And in some cases it allows to save up to 50% on the future development and implementation.
Once project proceeds into development, project milestones are monitored with certain agility achieved with 2-3 week sprints and short retrospectives at the end of each sprit. This applies to both hardware and software projects.
How much effort in terms of time goes into developing the front end and back end of software?
This really depends on the project. A good practice to develop front-end design mockups during the discovery phase, which allows describing the new product/feature logics and paves the way for backend development.
In IoT project a lot more work done on the back end and with the cloud. While mobile and web development projects can be equal in front vs backend efforts.
What concerns embedded systems, firmware and APIs – it is usually whole “sort of back-end” development, unless a GUI exists.
What are the key parameters to be considered before selecting the right framework for developing software?
We typically advice our clients use the latest technologies. Sometimes budget is a significant consideration and some technologies offer lower development, support and maintenance costs.
Which languages & frameworks do you prefer to use in development of software?
We work with Php, C#/C++, Java, JS and React JS, Node JS, Python
In hardware it is a selection of technologies, such as
• STM 32, NXP chips, Nordic chips, Texas Instruments (TI), 8/16/32 bit MCU, PID controllers, PLC / HMI.
• Wireless systems: Bluetooth® (BT) & LBE, Wi-Fi/WLAN (802.11), RFID, NFC
• LoRa WAN, Z-Wawe, ZigBee protocols. Cellular: 2G, 3G, 4G, GSM, GPRS; GPS / Beidou / GLONASS
• NB-IoT, LTE Cat-M; Interfaces: USB, SPI/SSP, I2C, LVDS, RS232/485, SD/SDHC/MMC, Ethernet, PoE, 1-Wire, CAN, I2S, AC97;
What are the key factors that you consider before deciding the cost of software?
Any new project is unique, thus cost of software development can be just estimated from our previous experience and thorough product/feature decomposition. Thus the final cost of software is determined by the development and management hours incurred, i.e. we employ time+materials or dedicated teams approach. This is especially true for large projects which should must agility and room flexibility, in order to deliver good quality software.
Some fixed price contracts take place, but they fit only small projects, or projects with detailed plan, strict delivery dates and very well defined requirements.
What kind of payment structure do you follow to bill your clients? Is it Pay per Feature, Fixed Cost, Pay per Milestone (could be in phases, months, versions etc.)
We either use T+M billint, or dedicated teams billed on a monthly basis. This means our clients client typically makes monthly payments based on hours engineers spent developing software or hardware.
Same applies for hardware projects with the difference that there are components and materials to be procured; and machine time (especially CNC machinery) billed separately from engineering hours.
Do you take in projects which meet your basic budget requirement? If yes, what is the minimum requirement? If no, on what minimum budget you have worked for?
Sometimes we take on small consultancy projects billed by time&materials which is the case with some startup that develop their hardware and software projects in-house and they need design or code revision from time to time.
With respect to manufacturing and prototyping we can also take small projects and charge on a T+M basis, providing just a quick ball-park estimation prior to the start.
What is the price range (min and max) of the projects that you catered to in 2019?
In 2019 we had different project: from hardware & and software consultancy projects as small as $5000 to some large projects totalling $1.1 mn.