What’s the story behind the company name and logo?
Juha: We have been Visual Components from the start. I think the name was quite descriptive of what we do: component-based simulation with a strong emphasis on visuality. I’m not sure Scott agrees though, haha!
Scott: Yeah, I had some different ideas about the name.
Juha: Craig came up with the first logo, something to do with a good eye for visuality. The current logo is the fourth one.
Scott: The name might actually be Craig’s idea too. The name is pretty long, and for some time I thought about coming up with something a bit crispier that doesn’t take too much time to spell in emails. Today, company names should have two syllables and no more than five letters, but we decided to showcase our strengths in the name. I remember that one of the first logos got confused with a target, so we had to update it.
Mika: The name was on point, since simulation was traditionally used for engineering purposes only. We wanted to make the software useful for marketing and sales as well, so the name had to be clear about the fact that our product was visual and bringing component-based simulation closer to wider audiences.
Tell us about your first customer, JOT.
Scott: JOT was the starting point for the whole company in 1999. They were developing the production lines for Nokia, which was one of the top 10 biggest companies in the world at the time. Craig knew people in the JOT hierarchy and they got interested in our software expertise.
Mika: At first, they needed a visualization tool for marketing. They also had the resources for software development, which usually takes a lot of time. We thought that was a good place to start. Pretty soon we realized that the challenge was far greater than we had anticipated. The examples they wanted us to make for their trade shows were so complex that we had to start putting together a full simulation program instead of a simple visualization tool.
Scott: Suddenly we had our first client before we even had a company! They became our investors and majority owners.
Juha: JOT provided funding for over a year, but they were doing so well that they got busy with other things and didn’t have the time to manage VC. They agreed to sell us the majority of the company and still remained our customer.
Tell us about the early days of Visual Components?
Mika: After JOT pulled out, there were some financially tough times when we had to take pay cuts to keep us afloat. We were also chasing big customers and doing cutting-edge software development at the same time. The challenges were complex and deadlines tight. In the early days, we worked day and night, and I remember pulling quite a few all-nighters to meet deadlines.
Scott: We had the basic challenges: everything related to money, setting up a legal entity, finding talent and so on. The biggest challenge, however, was getting our name out there.
Juha: I agree with Mika and Scott. Also, dealing with administration while trying to develop our own expertise was hard. However, securing KUKA Robotics as customer was a big deal that gave us steady revenue. When we got a major automotive customer around 2008, I knew we had reached a new level.
Mika: That was big. We were the underdogs before that, since it was hard to convince huge companies to rely on a small service provider such as us. I think the big clients made us push harder on the software development side.