For this episode of the “PLM Quick 30,” Oleg Shilovitsky shares his experiences of growing up in the Soviet Union and navigating his way to be a major contributor of 2 acquisitions, including SmarTeam and Inforbix. His keen ability to constantly see opportunity has led him to the successful creation of OpenBOM while always finding ways to give back. Listen to the journey, including Oleg’s generous offer to help bring some relief among the challenges our world is currently faced with.

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Transcript

The transcript is close to a literal transcript of the spoken word. Please excuse any grammatical errors, spelling errors or break in the flow. The podcast is a non-scripted conversation with natural flow aimed to deliver value.

Patrick:

Hello everybody and welcome to another episode of ArcherGrey’s PLM Quick 30 where we cover all topics around PLM. And today’s guest is serial entrepreneur, is how I’d put it, he has been around the block. I’m sure many of you will recognize his name as soon as I say it, Oleg Shilovitsky. Oleg, how did I do on that one?

Oleg:

You’re doing great. Patrick, thank you for having me here, and I’m excited to be on your podcast.

Patrick:

Well, thanks for taking the time, I know you’re busy. I was doing some research before we jumped on the call, and I was going through your LinkedIn profile and everything said from some point in time in previous to present. So you wear a lot of different hats, and so, blogger, consultant, mentor, Tedx speaker, CEO, entrepreneur. I was going to introduce you, but I’d love to hear how you introduce yourself to others.

Oleg:

Sure. So, I’m Oleg Shilovitsky and I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM, which stands for open, bill of materials and if you’re in the airport you can say Open B-O-M, don’t say open bomb, that’s really dangerous.

Patrick:

Yeah, that’s right.

Oleg:

And I’ve been around PLM business and engineering and manufacturing software for quite some time, and happy to be here and happy to talk to you about it as long as you’d like.

Patrick:

Yeah, great. Thanks Oleg. The first time that I became aware of you, so I’ve been in the industry for, well the PLM industry for about 14 years now, and I became aware of you just reading your blog, which you’ve been doing for quite a while. So first of all, thank you for all of your contribution throughout all the years, it’s been great material. In fact, we reference your articles and put links to your articles in many of our newsletters, it’s great content.

Oleg:

Yeah, thank you. Blog is an interesting part of what I do. I found this is a language to talk to people and talk to the industry and share the knowledge and contribute to the industry openness, it’s been 12 years. I try to blog daily, except weekends. Sometimes I’m more successful, sometimes I’m less successful, but the show must go on, it’s usually daily.

Patrick:

You really are able to crank out a lot of content, at different times I’ve been motivated to write articles and produce content on a regular basis, and that’s a challenge. I see the frequency in which you put it out, I’m impressed.

Oleg:

Thank you. It’s hard to say how it was, originally it was part of the challenge that I got when I was working at the Dassault Systemes and SmarTeam, that was already 12 years ago. And the challenge was to share technology with customers. So, that came around in terms of how you can explain technology to customers and this is where I started to think how to do it in a better way, and back those days, nobody really thought that a blogger can be useful in enterprise software and PLM. But it was a way to share knowledge, it was a way to share the experience and somehow I started and since then I can’t stop. So, it just became part of what I do on a regular basis.

Patrick:

Some of the ones that I think back on were when you’ve been writing about differences between various technologies and I was always expecting to see some type of bias, but you represent each pretty fairly and that’s a tough thing to do.

Oleg:

That’s part of the vision of OpenBOM and Beyond PLM… Sorry you see I’m getting crammed with names, when you’re doing something a lot and starting a company. So there are certain names that you cannot say differently, so for me if I start typing open, 99% I will finish with OpenBOM, that’s how it works. It’s actually tough. But Beyond PLM, the vision behind the blog was completely vendor neutral, and so far Beyond PLM survived two of my big employers, the Dassault Systèmes and Autodesk and also second startup. So I am neutral, I’m not promoting anything on Beyond PLM, it’s just knowledge sharing and the sharing of my experience.

Patrick:

It’s really good experience worth sharing too. I mean if anybody has had the time to go backwards, you’ve done part of your introduction of CEO and co-founder of OpenBOM and we’ll get into that topic a little bit more. And then also, you’re an active blogger and the name of that blog is Beyond PLM, but then you referenced some of your previous employers of Autodesk and Dassault Systèmes as well. So there’s a rich history, but before we kind of get into some of the great things that you’re doing now, I’d like to rewind the clock a bit and understand your journey.

You’re living in the United States, but born in the Soviet Union, I believe. Is that right?

Oleg:

Yeah. I was born in the Soviet Union, the country that doesn’t exist anymore. And today I can say that I thought that I’ve seen everything, when I’ve seen how Soviet Union was collapsing in the late 80s and beginning of 90s, but it looks like coronavirus is going to beat this experience. I never thought that I would see something bigger and more disrupting, but it is what’s happening. But yeah, Soviet Union was the place where I was born, growing up, had the education and that’s part of the experience. Those days I already was infected by how to use software for engineering disciplines. I was trained also in computer science and also in architecture and construction. So, back in those days I was starting to use CAD systems, so this is where it started. I was using AutoCAD back in the 80s and I was using some other systems like DataCAD and CADKEY, so that’s where it started.

Patrick:

Why the interest in engineering in the first place and computer science? Was it just natural, you just drifted that way or was there a compelling event?

Oleg:

It’s hard to say if it was compelling event, but it was kind of mixed. I like math and I also like drawing, so that was kind of a combination. How you can combine two, you make computer aided design instead of making hand-made drawings. That’s how it started, that was kind of my moment to start it and then it continued in different places. After I finished my PhD and then I emigrated to Israel, I continued with the AutoCAD related business, I worked for a Autodesk reseller in Israel and that was the place where I started joining the customers. It was a small business with a lot of hands-on customers on different software education, also programming tasks. That was all mixed together.

The amazing experience there was that you see the entire picture, you see also how software is made and you also see customers and how they use it. That was pretty unique and I am thankful I had this experience back in those days, so it was a good foundation.

Patrick:

Was it a mature software product when you came into it or were they starting new software off the ground?

Oleg:

It was Autodesk reseller who also developed different applications for the CAD, some of them I developed from scratch and some of them I maintained and also I was responsible for support and technical sales. It was back in those days, the AutoCAD business was the king. You go any architecture and construction firm and you’ve seen AutoCAD. Honestly, today you will see it as well, I think not very much changed, but yeah, it was a mix. It was a mix of everything.

Patrick:

Every CEO or entrepreneur that I speak with in more instances than not, they have some type of sales acumen or exposure and kind of the full life cycle of running a business before they’re actually in that place. And it sounds like that was where you kind of cut your teeth and getting the full exposure of developing software and seeing people respond to it and dealing from a customer service perspective and sales, it sounds like a pretty tremendous experience.

Oleg:

Yeah, the combination is very unique. I remember first time I was at this job for a few weeks and I’d been told that I’m going to the phone support, in a different language. So I was four weeks in the country and they said, “No, you’re going to do support in Hebrew.” And you learn.

Patrick:

Yeah, how did you do?

Oleg:

You learn.

Patrick:

Did you keep them as a customer?

Oleg:

I have, yeah. That was fun time.

Patrick:

Great. When did you make your move from living and working in Israel to working for Dassault Systèmes?

Oleg:

That was actually related through another company. I worked for a company that called SmarTeam, you probably remember names. SmarTeam was acquired by Dassault in 99, so that’s many years ago already. But that was another cool startup that I joined. Amazing team of people, I’m still talking to many of those people and it was a great team and great product and SmarTeam is still used by many companies, although it’s stopped develop for quite long time by Dassault.

I’ve been part of SmarTeam and Dassault for 10 years in different positions, different responsibilities, but after 15 years in Israel, Dassault acquired MatrixOne and as part of the transformation I’d like to relocate to Boston so this is how I made it here.

Patrick:

I’m interested, you kind of breezed over the SmarTeam. So that was a startup, were you one of the founders or?

Oleg:

No, I joined SmarTeam that was founded by two great persons at a non-level [inaudible 00:11:52] They’ve been great and it was a great idea back in the 90s, and the sort of thing that I’ve learned in SmarTeam, I joined in development, so I’ve been in different positions in development in SmarTeam. Was running development for some time and I was the SmarTeam CTO. In that position, I relocated to Boston and joined the team and all the other stuff, when the products were combined and moved to what today is known as the 3D experience, I almost said V6.

Patrick:

Yeah, don’t say that. 3D experience.

Oleg:

No, it’s fine. It’s okay. 3D experience. That was part of this experience also.

Patrick:

So you’re evolving at Dassault Systèmes and a successful career there as well for 10 years and then I see that you decided to start another business outside of that, Inforbix?

Oleg:

Yeah, that was the company that I decided to start. It was a lot of inspiration back those days around cloud and around different ways to deliver software. Back those days when you said user experience is important, it was not like today, so today nobody [inaudible 00:13:22] And back in those days you remember some systems, I don’t want to mention them by name, but they’d been ugly and people said, “Look, it’s not for fun, we’re doing business and you’re going to use those systems.” So you user experience was one of the things that I’ve been very much inspired by the simplicity and the way cloud can change it. Inforbix was search technology that was in the very early days of cloud.

We’ve been indexing CAD data and making it available in a Google-like user interface. So you’ve been searching for data and navigating through different pieces of data. It was very interesting technology. And also experience how to deliver this technology to customers. So customers were downloading the agents that are doing indexing of your discs, for example, you’ve been using CAD SolidWorks, Inventor and indexing this data, sending it to cloud servers, so that was 2008/9 pretty crazy time. Back those days everyone was saying, “Well, manufacturing companies will never use cloud technology. Forget about this.” So that was inspiration. I’ve been inspired by technology, I’ve been inspired by the opportunity and so that was the right time to start.

Patrick:

You were kind of on breaking ground and a little bit ahead of the time. Would you say it was good timing or do you think it was premature? Or do you feel like you were laying the foundation for everything that’s happening now?

Oleg:

It was certainly very early days, but you learn and you get a lot of experience and making mistakes and then you can fix those mistakes later, or you can fix those mistakes with customers. So yeah, I’ve learned a lot with Inforbix and it was a great team experience and a great opportunity to work together with some very interesting customers. Learning how messy can be data on the customer side. So it was totally interesting experience and technology that they developed and a great opportunity it was to sell this technology to AutoDesk.

Patrick:

So Autodesk acquired and it looks like you worked there for a few years. It looks like you started Beyond PLM, which is the blog that we were talking at the beginning, in December of 2008 so you started writing this blog while you were at the Dassault Systèmes, is that right?

Oleg:

That’s correct, I started at the Dassault. Blogging was together with my… I got approval from Dassault to start a blog. So that was actually a very challenging task back those days.

Patrick:

Yeah, I’m sure. You start writing in 2008 and then 2010 to 12 writing it is fine. And then the Autodesk thing happens, did they care about the blog during that timeframe or no?

Oleg:

Well, I think Autodesk liked the blog, and again, nobody ever said no to this. Because like we said before, blog never promote anybody in very a specific way, so it was not an issue, and I was responsible for cloud PLM and also BDM development. Technology was used in some Autodesk cloud products, so that was another page in the journey. It was a great opportunity and I’m thankful and grateful to Autodesk team, it’s a great team to work with. I am in touch and work with those people today as well. So we are partners with Autodesk and that was a great team and great learning experience. You go from very small company and very small team developing technologies to a large company like Autodesk, managing teams. So that was a great, great experience back those days.

Patrick:

One thing that I can tell has been a constant thing that you’ve been mentioning from each of your experiences, is it looks like you approached them with an open mind and collaboration with the team that you’re working with and maintain those relationships from each of the experiences both from Israel, the names of those SmarTeam has escaped me, but then working with SmarTeam and then Dassault Systèmes and the team at Inforbix and then AutoDesk, you speak of all of them highly and good experiences and I think that speaks to kind of your mindset. And maybe I should turn that into a question, were they actually good experiences or do you think it’s your mindset walking into those experiences with an open mind and wondering what you can learn from the experience and how you can bring value?

Oleg:

All of them are a great experience and I’ve learned a lot of things and I made mistakes, you always do. Would be very strange to say that you don’t do mistakes because then you do nothing, but I appreciate each of these opportunities to learn more and see how to improve and to see how to move forward. The teams were great and each of them has its own unique character. I’m grateful for this opportunity and I’m staying in touch with most of people that I work.

In PLM and engineering I always say it’s like Hotel California, you can check out, but you cannot leave. So you’ll see all these people around working for different companies.

Patrick:

Oh my gosh! That is so true. That’s funny. I listened to Ted talks. In fact, when I exercise, I stop listening to music and I will listen to various podcasts and Ted talks. So I’m intrigued. What did you talk about on the Ted stage?

Oleg:

As a part of the TEDx team here in Boston, I was helping the speakers and I was helping the organization. It was part of a community here in Boston, Brookline. Not a huge experience, but I think I was also looking at a lot of TEDx talks and I found it’s pretty unique, so I always look how to connect local communities and the things that you mentioned about working here, working in Boston. Also my mentorship with MassChallenge was part connecting to local community, connecting to people that live and work in Boston and Boston is amazing place.

Patrick:

What is MassChallenge?

Oleg:

MassChallenge is a startup accelerator in Boston, but they started in Boston but they actually expanded as a worldwide organization, but as you can see from their name, MassChallenge it has roots in Massachusetts, in Massachusetts state. So yeah, it’s a startup accelerator that is unique, that is not taking equities from startups, but they run it as a program. So they have a program, submitting their ideas and what they work on, and then there is a voting process which starts online and then there is a live judging. I’ve been judge and mentor for MassChallenge now already for several years. And then they have a summer MassChallenge program, so the companies are coming to MassChallenge office and they work together with mentors and with other people.

Patrick:

Wow, that sounds great. Are there any-

Oleg:

Yeah, it’s quite interesting experience, seeing a lot of people, seeing a lot of opportunities to communicate and meet people.

Patrick:

Are there any companies the folks listening to this podcast would recognize that have bloomed from the MassChallenge?

Oleg:

Well, there are tons of customers and tons of companies that came out of MassChallenge. You can Google MassChallenge and I think they have names of the companies, but usually they have 128 companies on the program every year. And it’s worldwide, there is a MassChallenge in the UK and Israel and many places. So it’s a big organization.

Patrick:

I’m going to do some research after this conversation. Well, that’s great. I mean, living in a community and helping improve the community, especially when you had such a rich history such as yours and being able to give back, especially young, ambitious folks that are trying to make a difference in the world and in the community in which they live. Thank you for being part of that and bringing some of the lessons learned from your past experiences for others. That’s fantastic.

All right, well thanks for taking us on a trip through memory lane. Sorry to ask those questions, but I think it’s important to kind of understand how people’s journey brought them to where they are today. So why OpenBOM? After all of the successes that you’ve had historically how did OpenBOM come to be?

Oleg:

Well, probably natural because I’ve seen the challenges that happening in manufacturing world and the opportunities that come in. Like I said in 2010, cloud was more than just a crazy idea and very early beginning, but in 2015 and 16 it was actually a real business that cloud and SAS companies were growing and it is an opportunity to change the way technology works. I’ve seen an opportunity how to change the technology that manufacturing companies are using and the biggest opportunity that I’ve seen is that previous PLM systems were developed for a company. So you have a company, you have PLM system, so it’s usually a database that holds the data by product, but in the current manufacturing state, people are collaborating, even small teams are distributed in many places working as contractors, suppliers, and even bigger companies are even more distributed.

And what I’ve seen as an opportunity is to develop a system that is capable to provide service also for individual companies, but at the same time to be a platform for multiple companies. So if you think about this, you have two PLM systems and if you put them on the cloud, actually the collaboration is not more than marketing because you will have two isolated database sitting in the Amazon for example, and in order to connect them together, it will not be different from just connecting two PLM systems working on premise. So the technology to change it called multi-tenant cloud systems and examples of multi-tenant cloud systems are available if you take a look on the Salesforce’s multi-tenant systems, but also if you think about the multitenancy, web systems like Facebook and Google are also multitenant.

So think about Facebook as a single system serving everyone. You as a user on the Facebook, you have your data and if you’re a part of the groups you can see some other information, you can do some stuff but you don’t see some others. So that’s, in a nutshell, the idea of multitenancy. People and companies and teams can have their own parts of data, and the way system is doing it, it’s just sharing resources. So that gives unique possibilities to collaborate and also unique opportunity for creating new business models. So, all this together was the foundation to start OpenBOM, as a platform that can help manufacturing companies also to work together and also to provide unique data management and the collaboration features, so that’s how OpenBOM started.

Patrick:

I’m curious, with OpenBOM there’s acronyms of E BOM, M BOM, S BOM and there’s others, but if we’re just going with those three and then I compare it to OpenBOM, how do you describe how OpenBOM manages those? Does it matter what type of BOM, or do you have a different perspective on that?

Oleg:

It doesn’t matter if it’s any of this. What you speak about, engineering bom, manufacturing bom or service bom, it’s just the obstruction levels of data, how people creating models of the information and the OpenBOM provides its own way to do it. The important part of the OpenBom, also [inaudible 00:27:42] technology, is that we took a spreadsheet as an approach to provide the simplified user experience. You can think about OpenBOM as a massive Google spreadsheet with a huge amount of bill of materials, engineering PLM and ERP steroids It is simple experience with a lot of data management power that we provide behind the scenes.

So it’s easy to start, it’s easy to use, but it also creates a lot of data management capabilities to manage all these boms that you mentioned.

Patrick:

And so what about CAD?

Oleg:

CAD is an important part of our OpenBOM strategy. It’s integration with CAD systems is an important part of our strategy because we believe in how OpenBOM can simplify access to data and make it open for everyone. And if you think about CAD, which is still, even today, I would say 95 to 99% of CAD systems are still running on desktops. This data is pretty much locked to desktops. One of those questions that we’re getting huge interest these days, for the last months or so, when coronavirus started to impact people at work and people are stuck with the CAD files located on computers, they’re hardly available. So how you can deal with this? How you can make data available to the team that is now working from home offices and working from distributed locations.

So OpenBOM integrates with all CAD systems and very painlessly and an easy way to extract this data and keep it in synchronization with the bill of materials. So we connect to those CAD systems, we connect to those desktop systems and we connect also to cloud systems. So, part of the strategy of OpenBOM is the seamless integration with design and engineering there, because this is where the data starts. It’s the foundation of the data, foundation of production, starting and design and engineering. So this integration is extremely important for us.

And our integrations with CAD systems are pretty unique, I mean also technologically and also in the industry. To think about it, if you’re, for example, a SolidWorks user and you have your design in SolidWorks, you can register for OpenBOM account, it will take you two minutes online and then you can download SolidWorks, add in another two minutes and then you install it, then you get your design and the material has created. Total, you will do from five to eight minutes, you will be up and running with the custom data models and the cloud sharing data with contractors, suppliers, doing road costs and anything that you expect from bill of materials. So that’s the power of technology that I’m proud that I created and a lot of customers are happy and using it every day.

Patrick:

It sounds like a lightweight version of how to collaborate. Would you call it a PLM system or do you call it a collaboration system?

Oleg:

If you like, I can call it PLM system, the customers do, although most of customers don’t care if they call it PLM system or something else because what customers do care is how to get their work done. And if you’re an engineer that needs to create the bill of materials and send it the purchasing department, doing it with Excel, it’s a lot of pain and making updates and send this Excel by email to somebody who is buying parts, it’s another big chunk of pain. We had a customer, you can see this customers’ story on our website, so they developing a huge outdoor constructions. You can take a look on our website, you’ll see it’s constructions type of kind of roller coaster, big roller coaster.

And part of the job, he got two gigabytes of CAD data and he’d been asked to create part list. Again, it’s pretty much impossible job and OpenBOM did it. And that was part of a survival plan because they needed to create the materials, they needed to count parts. As much as it sounds crazy, but yes, you need to count parts, and you need to create a shopping list, go and make estimation, of course, and make estimation of procurement of how many parts and how much materials you need. So call it PLM maybe, but it’s a job that needs to be done.

Patrick:

If somebody has a PLM system implemented today, does OpenBOM replace that? Is there a need? How would it coexist? What are your thoughts on that?

Oleg:

The companies that today have the PLM systems are mostly large OEMs. If you take a look on the market, in PLM market, and let’s put this way, there are a manufacturing companies more than $1 billion in revenues. And then you can take a band for $500 million to $1 billion and then less than $500 million, so about 80% of PLM market today is with the companies that more than $1 billion dollar in revenues. If you go to medium-sized companies and smaller companies use zero PLM. So most of the companies that we are [coming 00:33:40] companies that don’t have any PLM and they struggle with Excel. Excel is the most widely used PLM system for them. So this is known thing, so I’m not opening anything new. And those companies looking for usability or furtherability and ease of use and we provide them all of this in the single package.

For PLM systems, we do have integrations and usually it comes, we have integrations with partnership with PTC, with Windchill and we have some other integrations with PDM and PLM systems like SolidWorks, PDM and some others. So the story of integration with PLM is usually a story that PLM is very much popular in the engineering environment and how most of our customers say when you leave the door of engineering department, the love for PLM is going down. And this is where OpenBOM comes to help and this is where we see a lot of potentials in the coming years because the ability of OpenBOM to share information is a huge contributing factor to how OEM can collaborate with suppliers and contractors going downstream and the value of bill of materials and product structure and related information sharing is as big as your value downstream process. And this place is having instant collaboration is just the paramount that everyone is looking at.

Patrick:

You’re certainly dead on with your assessment of the demographics of the market of folks who generally have a PLM system from a revenue perspective, a billion is a good metric there, but I would say surprisingly even companies in the billion dollar plus range, it’s amazing how relevant Excel is within their own organizations and sophisticated Excel documents that are crucial parts of the process.

Oleg:

Yeah. In every company I have a name for this. In every company you have chief Excel officer, and then chief Excel officer usually does the job and nobody can touch those Excels.

Patrick:

Yeah, right. Well, I’ve had my own trouble trying to adopt systems, getting out of Excel. It takes a focused effort.

Oleg:

Maybe you need to start with OpenBOM tomorrow.

Patrick:

Well, Oleg, I’ve enjoyed this conversation so much, thank you for taking the time. I know you’ve got a lot on your plate and boy, congratulations on such a successful career and I wish you all the best with OpenBOM and everything that you’re doing. I have no doubt that it’s going to be a successful venture and already is.

Oleg:

Yeah. Thank you. Thank you very much for inviting. I just want to say one thing because we are at those hard days and tough days and this fight with the coronavirus pandemic and we made OpenBOM free for all teams and engineers working on the project that’s related to coronavirus. So you have it on our website, you need to register if you work on those projects, we will provide for time, OpenBOM for free to work on these projects and help to collaborate with teams that today who are working from home. It’s part of our contribution. We’re a small, tiny startup, but we believe that we need to put our part and our contribution to fight this disease.

Patrick:

Oleg, thank you for that. At this time, we’re looking for moments of inspiration and we find it from moments just like that. And it’s surprising to see organizations that we’ve traditionally worked with retro fit their process to try to contribute and do what they can to fight this virus, so thank you for your contribution as well. That is excellent.

Oleg:

And again, thanks for inviting me. I enjoyed the conversation and look forward to staying in touch.

Patrick:

So Oleg, how can people find you?

Oleg:

It’s very easy OpenBOM.com, that’s the name of the company and website of the company and you can find me, my email is O-L-E-G @openbom.com and LinkedIn. You can Google me, it’s also very easy.

Patrick:

Excellent. Well, Oleg thanks again for all your time and your contributions to this small world of PLM and we’ll look forward to continuing to see you in all of the events and read future blogs.

Oleg:

Thank you very much and stay safe and healthy these days.

Patrick:

You as well.

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