Raleigh-based Revware may be celebrating its 30th birthday in September, but the company’s journey has brought its fair share of twists and turns. As Revware’s President and CEO Tom Welsh said, their path is a story of pivots.
Still, the company has stayed bootstrapped since day one, and Welsh said they’ve remained committed to the same mission of serving their customers, first in the manufacturing industry and now in a range of fields. And Revware still acts young; it’s participating in CED’s GRO Incubator program this summer alongside mostly young tech startups.
But at first, Revware sold others’ products. This was before Welsh built their first software product, RevWorks, which is geared toward reverse engineering using various types of measurement equipment and commercial CAD (computer-aided design) products.
The company split in around 2000, with Revware becoming the software division. But the economic downturn of that time period forced the company to start from scratch with a new type of software, Welsh said. Then in 2008, the primary piece of hardware Revware supported was set to go out of production.
So, like any resilient company, they shifted focus. Now Revware produces both software and hardware that are cost-effective ways of measurement, modeling, reverse engineering, spatial alignment and position tracking. Its MicroScribe product is more flexible, more accurate and easier to use than ever, Welsh said.
Whether used by an engineer at their desk, in the workshop on a machine, at the top of a bridge, or in the desert to measure bones, Revware’s MicroScribe product is portable for nearly any environment.
The applications of Revware’s products are numerous. They support everyone from forensic science professionals in collecting data from human skulls to identify remains, to Army ballistics researchers, to biomechanical engineers measuring ligaments and joints, and more.
Even as the company enters its third decade, Revware still has plenty of room to grow. That’s why Welsh and his team are participating in CED’s GRO Incubator, a 12-week program for budding ventures.
A three-decade company founder, Welsh has his own lessons he can likely impart to his fellow founders in the program. Namely, the importance of managing cash flow. This is in fact the soul of the business, Welsh said, alongside crafting a vision that will inspire you every single day.
“When I’m getting up every morning and realizing I’m going to have to manage cash flow again today, I have to have a guiding star, which tells me why am I doing this,” Welsh said. “Why do I want to keep banging my head against that wall? It’s because I’ve got a passion for the product.”
Although Revware has withstood the challenges of several economic downturns, companies generally weren’t prepared for the level of industry disruption that the pandemic sparked.
“It really brought a lot of uncertainty into the business,” Welsh said. “I had to focus on what I thought was most important and hope I was right.”
Welsh decided to focus on preserving the team first and foremost, and he’s proud to say everyone on the team who wanted to stay has been able to do so.
The Revware of the future
As they move through the GRO incubator, Revware has some new goals: target larger companies worldwide and step into the metrology market (“metrology” is the science of measurement) for manufacturing inspection.
Since small shops are under-served and can’t afford the large companies’ equipment or don’t have enough employees to keep a well-trained inspection staff, Revware can be their solution. The company is developing a product that is so easy to use that workers can literally train themselves.
“We want people to be able to do their work more effectively,” Welsh said. “I know that three-dimensional measurement is an important piece of every aspect of manufacturing. I want to make it easy and productive and accessible to everyone out there in manufacturing.”
Welsh has watched the Triangle grow into the tech hub it is today, and he’s thankful he made the decision to set his business’s roots here. That’s what allows him to join programs like CED’s GRO, which he says will help them refocus and guarantee they don’t have blinders on as a business.
“This is going back to school for me,” Welsh said. “It’s looking at the process of building a customer from the ground up, benefiting from the experience of a bunch of other people that have come before and have refined these skills.”
As an older founder, Welsh said he also wants to ensure a seamless business transition for when he’s no longer able to show up at Revware every day. This way, Revware can deliver on its mission in the many years to come.
“I have to accept that that might change if I’m not in it day to day, but I need to make sure that this business has the ability to sustain itself,” Welsh said.