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Colorado Springs software company has big plans, starting with interactive dashboard displays

May 16, 2016 Updated: May 17, 2016 at 2:57 pm
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Mike Juran has an ambitious vision for Altia Inc. that spans the world, but calls for the software company could employ more than 1,000 at its Colorado Springs headquarters within five to 10 years and generate more than $1 billion annually in revenue.

If you drive a late-model car or truck, chances are you use a dashboard display developed with Altia software - it has been used to develop the interactive displays of more than 17 million vehicles ranging from the Ford Focus and Dodge Dart to the most expensive Range Rover or Lamborghini.

Juran sees an even bigger potential market in selling Altia's software to develop displays used in everyday consumer products that access the Internet, the "Internet of Things" made up of devices ranging from refrigerators and stoves to thermostats and fitness equipment. His goal: Everyone in the world by 2025 will use an interface designed with Altia software at least once a day.

"Our goal is help companies develop good interfaces that are easy to use and give people good information to improve their lives," Juran said. "There is all this technology and data in the cloud that can be accessed by only a relative few today. We are trying to make it available to everybody."

Altia today controls about 20 percent of the automotive market for software that develops graphic displays, but its share of the broader and faster-growing Internet of Things market is in the single digits. The company, which employs 20 in the Springs and 30 in other offices, expects big growth in the auto industry as manufacturers use more displays in their vehicles - Altia software is being used to design displays in dozens of models that will be introduced during the next seven years with expected sales of more than 100 million vehicles.

"It is important to Chrysler that the Dart appeals to a young target audience, so their commercials feature the displays and portray the car as being a smartphone with wheels," Juran said. "Right now, the displays are all about interacting with the driver, but that will change as we get into self-driving cars."

An even bigger opportunity lies in the market for displays in everyday household appliances and gadgets, wearable technology such as fitness monitors, specialized medical gear like insulin monitors and industrial controls, Juran said. That market is expected to grow 25 percent a year to 55 billion devices by 2025, or seven devices for every person on Earth. For Altia, that future has arrived - the company has exceeded its 2015 revenue total this year, and Juran expects Altia to double that undisclosed number by the end of the year.

"We can keep growing at this pace for a while because demand is so high for our products," Juran said. "We plan to grow our staff aggressively, mostly in engineering areas like software development, quality assurance and testing, doubling the work force within three to five years. If we even get close to the number of devices that people are predicting, the market size available to us will grow from $1.5 billion today to between $6 billion and $7 billion. If we have a significant share, we would be a $1 billion company and would need thousands of employees with more than 1,000 here."

Juran believes Altia has a good chance to make his dream a reality because it has a proven high-quality product and relationships with some the world's largest consumer product companies.

The company probably will need to raise outside capital to grow and find a steady supply of engineering talent willing to come to Colorado Springs.

Juran and Tom Walton, two engineers with Hewlett-Packard's test and measurement operation in Colorado Springs (now part of Keysight Technologies) founded Altia in 1991 because they saw a market for display software they were developing beyond the test and measurement industry. The company, which is still mostly owned by Juran. Walton and Altia employees, has attracted investors ranging from PV Ventures, the investment fund of local technology entrepreneur Bill Miller, to former Fluke Networks CEO Chris Odell, real estate investor Ben Horton, local investor Phil Lane and Rocky Mountain Innovation Partners CEO Ric Denton.

Altia's "secret sauce," Juran said, is how its software can generate the software code used to make electronic displays work that can fit in very small and inexpensive microprocessor chips, which sell for a tiny fraction of the cost of chips used in smartphones - typically no more than $10-$20.

"We help our customers produce a great user interface on the lowest-cost hardware in the shortest amount of time," Juran said. "Our products must produce beautiful, productive, high-quality and low-cost displays."

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Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234

Twitter @wayneheilman

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