By Renuka Sena July 4, 2016
- Its CAD software for electrical engineers has found success on the international stage
- Founder Thomas Yip inspired by his mom’s example of hard work and resourcefulness
ENGINEERING undoubtedly makes life easier for all of us, but who makes life easier for the engineers?
Enter Radica Software Sdn Bhd, a software company that operates from Ipoh, a small Malaysian city. Its flagship product, Electra, is a unique CAD (computer-aided design) software that helps electrical engineers create and manage technical drawings easier and faster than ever before.
Electra has taken the engineering world by storm, with a string of high-profile customers from around the globe, including Petronas, Apple, Ford, Hewlett-Packard, and the world renowned US aeronautics and space administration, NASA.
It has also been selected as the ‘Editor’s Pick’ in Desktop Engineering, a leading engineering publication in the United States.
Success is evident now, but Radica’s journey to create a unique product was full of unexpected twists and turns, and it all started with Thomas Yip’s first foray into entrepreneurship.
Fuelled by family values
Thomas (pic above) did not grow up with a silver spoon in his mouth. His mother is a regular housewife whom he describes “as tough as nails.” During hard times, she would roll up her sleeves and do what needed to be done, without complaining.
Homebound with two young children, she used her resources to find additional income. She sublet the extra room in the house, sold home-cooked meals to local students, and babysat other children while taking care of her own.
Thomas was deeply inspired by his heroic mother. He knew that if he could emulate her resourcefulness and hard work, he would find success.
Moonlighting to machines
Taking a leaf from his mother’s playbook, Thomas worked as a coffee-shop helper to save enough money to buy a book to improve his English. With an early interest in business, he learned how to write a business plan and managed to craft his very first one at the age of 17.
Then he worked as a gardener, a door-to-door salesman, a factory worker and was even a construction site supervisor before saving enough to pursue an Electrical and Electronic Engineering degree in Singapore.
He turned down an offer for a Master’s degree in France so he could start earning money and reduce the burden on his family.
At first, he was moonlighting with his friends on industrial automation projects while holding a day job as an assistant engineer in a factory. As more projects rolled in, he jumped into entrepreneurship and formed a small industrial automation company.
Turning the tables
For 10 years, the company designed electrical control systems for machines in a wide range of industries.
One day, it was asked to submit quotations for a large project amounting to over RM1 million. The deadline was tight and the team needed to create circuit designs quickly.
Thomas and his friends searched high and low for suitable tools. Frustrated that the available tools were tedious, difficult to use, and expensive, they developed their own circuit design software to submit the quotation.
In the end, their quotation was rejected. But instead of being defeated, Thomas realised that, in the process, they had created an amazing piece of circuit design software.
They put their software online for other electrical engineers to use. Within three weeks, they were raking in sales from all over the world.
Thomas wanted to develop and scale the product further. Needing investment, he turned to his friend Marcus Woo Ah Kek, who agreed to support him. Marcus would eventually become his cofounder and the chief financial officer of Radica.
The two developed the software into the internationally-recognised Electra.
Through tough times
The entrepreneurial journey is usually not a walk in the park. Thomas faced many challenges that required him to innovate and find creative solutions.
When short on cash, he begged a friend to print software manuals on his laser printer. He would then stay up till two in the morning at the print factory to collect the software boxes, use stickers to correct any spelling mistakes, and then ship them out the next day.
Thomas and his team also faced payment gateway issues that halted international sales and took a long time to resolve with the banking system.
However, these external problems were not the toughest. Thomas says, “Our biggest challenge was actually ourselves. Until recently, we did not have the clarity and audacity of purpose that we do now.”
To overcome self-limitations, he needed a system of entrepreneurial support, which he received from various sources.
One of them was the Coach and Grow Programme (CGP), which opened his eyes and changed his mindset. It made him realise how much more Radica could achieve.
Thomas gained a bigger clarity of purpose, which was to go beyond being just a software provider to becoming the 2D diagramming platform for the entire Internet.
Working hard in the CGP towards this new vision led Radica onto many new paths, including increasing revenue by 169% and making new connections that led to increased exposure in local and international publications.
He also learned by observing how others do things and by talking to successful entrepreneurs. This has helped him understand his strengths and weaknesses, and opened his mind to move forward with the right mindset.
His advice for other entrepreneurs is simple and powerful: “Think big. Do not lose your integrity. Ever!”
Bringing it all back
Thousands of engineers now rely on Electra to make their jobs less stressful and more productive by being able to complete circuits 300% to 500% times faster. This doesn’t just save companies time, it helps improve their bottom line too.
However for Thomas, the greatest achievement is that this software helps improve an engineer’s quality of life.
“Each and every day, millions of people around the world are staying up late and going back to the office during the weekends, to complete their documentation and diagrams,” he says.
“Our purpose at Radica, is to provide them with tools that are easy-to-use and highly productive, so they can complete their work quickly and be able to spend more time with friends and family, without the need to work late.
“Everything that we work on is geared towards this goal,” he adds.
It is hardly a surprise that the entrepreneur who is inspired by his own mother aspires towards such an inspirational, family-centric goal.
Discover Radica Software at http://www.radicasoftware.com.
The above is an excerpt from the book Startups to Scaleups published in October 2015 by Cradle Fund and Proficeo Consultants, the programme manager for Cradle’s Coach and Grow Programme. DNA will be featuring every entrepreneurial story from the book in a special commercial arrangement.