By Ethan Duran
This September, Madison startup company SciArt Software, Inc. was awarded a $530,000 investment from the Idea Fund of La Crosse. The tech company developed Pareto, a plugin system for digital design programs that allows engineers to calculate the strength of materials more efficiently. Now, Pareto is being used by companies like Milwaukee Electric Tool Corporation in Brookfield to speed up the design process and make vehicles more fuel efficient.
Karen Caswelch, the CEO of SciArt, was born in Milwaukee with her three brothers before her family moved to St. Louis. After graduating MIT, she worked and travelled for General Motors for 10 years, then spend 10 years afterward with different startup companies. She said that a major trend in technology today is weight and fuel efficiency. Design engineers are scrambling to make transportation lighter, which saves companies money and puts a little less carbon into the atmosphere.
Caswelch has been working with her co-founder Praveen Yadav, a PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in SciArt Software since 2016. “The amount of inventions and technology out of Madison is impressive. This is a really solid place for technology,” Caswelch said.
According to the Idea Fund of La Crosse website, the Ideas Fund investment strategy is to work with companies at their earliest stages by supplying venture capital. In a press release, Idea Fund’s Managing Director Jonathon Horne said that the organization is excited about the potential of SciArt’s innovative technology. Caswelch said that SciArt got the funding it did because 85 percent of its customer base renewed Pareto for the next year, despite how small that base started at first.
While Pareto hasn’t been used by any metal companies based in Milwaukee yet, Caswelch says that being in close proximity to Milwaukee makes it easier for SciArt to work with companies there than companies halfway across the world.
“We’re constantly talking to customers,” Caswelch said. “Any metal design company in Milwaukee has potential to use our program. There aren’t a lot of aerospace companies in Milwaukee, but one potential product would be motorcycles.”
Caswelch’s advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to be able to handle failure, stress and uncertainty. She also said to be willing to listen and learn to people, because people will give you the benefit of the doubt.
“There are so many paths to entrepreneurship,” she said. “Mine was getting solid experience at a large company before moving to startups. A lot of people and business experience helped with that. The path that I took was the right one for me.”