Software Engineering graduate Ang is applying his core skills to problem-solving for a unique market.
Qualification: Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) in Software Engineering
Role: CEO and co-founder of StrutFit
Ang Nayyar is the CEO and Co-founder of StrutFit, and sees engineering as a set of skills that enables him to define problems and then work towards innovative solutions that can help the business succeed.
StrutFit supplies computer vision and AI size recommendation technology to footwear retailers to help answer the most important question shoppers have when buying online: “will these shoes fit?” The software was created and developed in house by Ang and the other members of the team, allowing people to scan their feet with their smartphone and receive a sizing guide that accounts for the differences between different footwear brands and styles.
When asked if engineers might be more suited to entrepreneurship than they realise, Ang talks about his journey in the early stages of StrutFit where he was still working towards a proof of concept. In his eyes, engineers get things done, which is an especially valuable trait in the early stages of a business when it’s not always possible to employ more staff.
“Everyone employed in the company's an engineer; even our salesperson is an engineer. Because it's just a useful framework that you learn and you can apply to anything,” he explained. “When we started I wrote the machine vision algorithms, sure they weren't that good and they couldn't scale, but they proved the concept works and now we have someone much smarter doing that. You don't have to rely on anybody else – engineers are doers.”
What's actually really powerful about the University is not just what you learn, it's those networks that bring all these smart minds together that lets you create this team and which lets success happen.
Admittedly, Ang didn’t start uni with the aim of becoming an entrepreneur – or even an engineer – after initially doing a year of medical science. At that stage his sister was a third year student in our Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, and she suggested that he might connect more with the problem-solving aspects of engineering. He went into first year not knowing what he wanted to do within engineering, but tried each specialisation with an open mind and found he had the most fun with Software Engineering.
“I think the underlying thing I found in Engineering was you were learning a set of principles, which at a broad level will help you problem solve anything,” he said. “Then for each specific department you're just going deeper into that area, so you're learning more principles that are unique to that area, but at the base of it you’re still always problem-solving.”
Ang’s introduction to the concept of entrepreneurship and the potential real-world applications of engineering occurred while he was studying too, after his sister convinced him to broaden his spectrum and get involved in what is now known as Velocity, the University’s entrepreneurship development programme. Velocity runs a number of events throughout the year where student ideas can earn funding and grow their ventures.
“Frankly I joined because I like the colour orange and everything was orange,” he jokes. “I had no idea what entrepreneurship was, but that’s how I got exposed to it… and we were just seeing other people who'd created businesses and I'm like ‘if you can do this I can do this’. That's completely what I want other people to think when they look at what we've done at StrutFit”.
Ang is adamant that he wants entrepreneurship to be seen as something that is achievable for everyone. While taking part in the Velocity $100k challenge he was introduced to Andrew Steel - former CEO of 42 Below and Trelise Cooper - who became the group’s mentor and helped them move away from their original idea of making tailored shoes for men and focus on the software that was underpinning that concept.
“Andrew was a godsend. He was like ‘you guys are fashionable but you don't have fashion experience, you're a bunch of tech guys’”, Ang said. “In the end Andrew said why don't you sell this software?’”
“Last year when we got funded we started becoming sneakerheads, by virtue of working on the damn thing. Now we're really passionate about disrupting retail as a whole with our technology, but [that passion] wasn't there from day one. We built it over time.”
Having recently secured another round of funding from a New Zealand seed investor, StrutFit will move into new offices and continue to scale up. Ang is confident in the company’s future and wants it to be a disruptive force that’s connected with some of the world’s biggest companies within the next five years.