Chris Howard, CEO of SoftEQ, talks about software development and how his international company offers more by owning the development process.
Please excuse any typos in this hasty transcript.
Matt Register: Hey guys, welcome back to the show, Texas Business Radio. TexasBusinessRadio.com is the Web site. Jay Curry, normally there in the co-host chair, had to step out. He’s going to join us here in a minute. I’m your host Matt Register and we’re talking about technology in Texas. Texas is a growing hub for startups, for technology. It’s not quite there yet, were Silicon Valley is but it’s getting there quickly. And we’re going to bring you, continue to bring you some more guest in the technology space. SoftEQ is a company out of Houston, Texas and Belarus’s Chris Howard is the CEO has joined us here in the studio. Chris welcome to the show sir.
Chris Howard: Thanks, happy to be here.
Matt Register: Tell me about SoftEQ. What do you do? Who do you do it to?
Chris Howard: Yeah, we’re a 20 year old company. We work for anyone from startups up to Fortune 100 companies. Developing hardware, IoT, wearables, mobile apps…
Matt Register: IoT, internet of things. Right?
Chris Howard: Internet of Things. That’s correct. And, you know, Web backend, cloud, cloud based web sites and services.
Matt Register: Okay. So very simply and correct me if I, if I, you know, get this wrong. We had a conversation during a break. But you guys not only can, can build the device. Right?
Chris Howard: Right.
Matt Register: Or take somebody else’s device and build the firmware for it. Or take somebody else’s device that already has firmware and build the back end, you know, app and support and web site and everything else that needs to go with it. So kind of a one stop shop for any kind of technology, you know, hardware, software type of, of technology. Is that right?
Chris Howard: That’s correct. Yeah. We, we’re what we call a full stack developer. Which means we can do the hardware development, PCB, mechanical design for your product. We can do the firmware and then, of course, you know, all devices nowadays need mobile apps. And they need the web back end and no one really cares about the dongle that much. They all want to know what it looks like on their phone.
Matt Register: Yeah, well, that’s, that’s it. I mean, it’s great to have a cool thermostat for your air conditioner but you need to be able to operate that thing remotely. I get it. And that’s what you guys do. Now talk to me a little bit about your business model because you are a very interesting business model in that you have a full, fully staffed overseas company that helps you in some of this development.
Chris Howard: That’s right. We opened an office about 10 years ago in a country called Belarus. It’s located in eastern Europe. It’s about two hours from anywhere in Europe. And what we liked about the location is it’s, you know, full of smart guys who like challenges and are good with algorithms. Used to be the center of Soviet research and development during the Russian Federation days. And that’s where they used to buy, build all of their PCs and products. And they have a high tech park initiative there, where they’re really supporting the I.T. sphere.
Matt Register: But this is not a small little office you have over there, you have hundreds of employees. Correct?
Chris Howard: That’s right. We’re, we’re up to 250 people now and, you know, we’re growing year to year. We just, just took over another floor in an office building that we’re at. And yeah, we have, most of the development is handled there. We do have U.S. based resources here, specifically in Texas to handle project management and face to face communication with local clients. But primarily most of the development is done there.
Matt Register: Well, talk to me a little bit about some of your clients because you have a pretty wide base of clientele.
Chris Howard: Right. Yeah, we work for the big guys. So we’re working a lot with companies like; Intel, Verizon, Epson and Videa. To work on their, you know, leading edge projects but, you know, we also work on small, medium based company products. And, you know, we’re trying to focus more and more on the startup community. We really believe in Texas being a third coast for technology. And so we’re working with companies like Station Houston and Houston and then other accelerators in Dallas, Austin and San Antonio.
Matt Register: Well and it’s really happening all over the state, isn’t it? Talk to me a little bit about what you’re seeing in the startup community because you guys are tied to it. They are a big customer base of yours.
Chris Howard: Right.
Matt Register: How are you seeing the growth of Texas startups?
Chris Howard: Yeah. We’re seeing really, you know, a ground swell now. I mean, I think that you’re going to see more and more of it. I mean, if you think about it, I mean Texas has always been in the center of the technology, you know, space. I mean, you had Texas Instruments here, you have Compaq, you’ve got Dell in Austin. You’ve got a lot of businesses and game development in Dallas. You have Austin, who is, you know, also a hub for things. I mean Houston has been a little underrepresented. But, but we really feel like there is a growing swell for that kind of development in the startup community. And that’s why we’re, we’re partnering with Station Houston, to really support those developers who are coming out with new products. And we like this space because it is innovative and you know there’s, there’s always leading edge stuff being done there. That of course, you know, eventually we, you know, we can do for, you know, the same types of things for the, the larger, larger businesses.
Matt Register: Yeah, no doubt. And the startups are the guys that are breaking new ground. Right? They’re the ones that are, that are out there really on the leading edge, where you guys are. Tell me a little bit about some of the interesting things you guys are seeing.
Chris Howard: Right.
Matt Register: As, you know, just blow your mind, next level technology that you guys have on plate.
Chris Howard: Yeah. Sure. I mean it ranges anywhere from products like smart dog collars. Where they’re really trying to innovate, what is a wearable look like for pets. Right? And anything from there to just, you know, things like AR and VR. I mean one of the, one of the more impressive…
Matt Register: Which is augmented reality and virtual reality. So…
Chris Howard: Right, right. AR, augmented reality. I think augmented reality is going to be the technology that you’ll see first, just because VR, it’s okay for gaming but AR really, you know, just like it says, it augments the world around you. And you’re not cut off and worried about walking into a wall. Right?
Matt Register: Sure.
Chris Howard: You know. So I think the best AR technology that I’ve seen is, it comes from Microsoft with their hollow lens. We were in the first wave of developers to get one of the Microsoft hollow lenses. And I’m just really impressed by how you can locate an object in space. and they just have the technology nailed to where that object does not move or slide around or anything. You can walk around it. You can look up and down around it, it’s just locked in. You know, you can play a game to where a guy gets up and sits on the desk that’s in your office, you know, he’s dangling his feet over the edge.
Matt Register: Sure.
Chris Howard: And he gets up, walks around. I mean it’s just, it’s just really amazing actually.
Matt Register: Well, there’s a lot of amazing things. We were talking during the break about, about the dog collar. Right?
Chris Howard: Yeah.
Matt Register: Very interesting things. And with the, with the internet of things, it now allows you to do some some very fascinating things with a dog that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. Right?
Chris Howard: Right.
Matt Register: Like cameras where you can see a dog’s eye view of what, you know, what they’re into. Or being able to talk to them. Or, what are some of the other features?
Chris Howard: Well, yeah, exactly. So, you know it has things like bark detection. The dogs barking, you can tune on your phone, what’s h,e what’s he barking at? You can set Geo fencing, so that, you know, you restrict him to certain zones or areas or out of certain zones and areas in your yard. You can use training, you can do invisible leashes. You know, Wag’s is the company that we’re actually doing the development for. It’s some pretty, pretty interesting stuff.
Matt Register: No, that is incredibly interesting stuff. What is the easiest way for somebody to learn more about your company, if they have a product that they need some assistance with?
Chris Howard: Yeah. Sure. Well, definitely go to our Web site softeq.com and just click on the little box, you know, and send us some information about your, you know, what you, what you’re trying to do. And someone will get back with you, you know, within 24 hours to tell you, you know, and kind of walk you through that process of getting that information and providing feedback or a quote.
Matt Register: Yeah, that’s interesting. And again, you do work for, you know, the Fortune 100, you do work for startups. So there’s really not a project, scale wise, that’s scary to you guys. Right?
Chris Howard: No, not at all. In fact, you know, we want to do the same thing that we do for companies like Intel. I mean, we take a lot of that uncertainty out of, out of a startup. We know how to get a product done. We’ve done it for the big boys and we can help a startup do that.
Matt Register: Nope, that’s interesting. And the stuff that you’re doing for a startup, three or four years down the road you’re going to end up doing for the big guys. They’re just not ready to take some of those risks yet. Right?
Chris Howard: Exactly, exactly.
Matt Register: Well, interesting stuff. There is indeed a lot of technology here in Texas but unfortunately we have to go take a break.
Chris Howard: Okay.
Matt Register: Chris Howard is CEO of SoftEQ. Softeq.com, S O F T E Q .com. We are going to have that linked right there from Texasbusinessradio.com. If you’re driving and can’t take notes, we’re going to have links to that. Interesting stuff Chris. Thank you very much for joining us.
Chris Howard: Thank you.
Matt Register: But we’re going to have to take a break and pay some bills of our own. We’re going to be right back with a whole lot more Texas Business Radio and technology in Texas. We’re just getting warmed up. Don’t go anywhere.
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In addition to hosting "Texas Business Radio," Matt is an investment banker and serial entrepreneur from Montgomery, Texas. He is the owner of RREA Media and Register Real Estate Advisors and a Managing Director and Principal at Corporate Finance Associates. He has a BS from the United States Military Academy at West Point and an MBA from Rice University in Houston. You can read more about Matt HERE.