“Streamlining Workflow: Stell Supports Engineers to Prioritize Building Over Paperwork”

Stell, a two-year-old software startup, is focused on this latter part of the engineering ecosystem. The company has developed a tool for requirements management that allows teams to track, verify and validate requirements on complex projects. She founded Stell in 2022 with Anne Wen, a professional with experience in venture capital and getting space startups off the ground. They imagined something different: a tool that was truly useful and user-friendly, that cut down on paperwork, and that engineers would actually want to use. People might not have time to go to a two-week training on how to use a tool,” McLemore said.

Introducing Stell: The Software Startup Revolutionizing Requirements Management for Complex Engineering Projects

“Hard tech” is the latest buzz in venture capital, but all hard tech industries still rely on software infrastructure to ensure machines run properly, parts are shipped on time, and that they are built to very exact requirements.

In this fast-changing landscape, Stell, a two-year-old software startup, is paving the way in improving the latter part of the engineering ecosystem. Their innovative tool for requirements management allows teams to track, verify and validate requirements on complex projects.

“Requirements management is such a process-heavy, clunky workflow and all the tools right now are really failing at the user interface and being something the majority of team members at companies can use,” Stell cofounder and CEO Malory McLemore explained in a recent interview.

As a trained engineer with experience at major enterprises like Airbus and Raytheon, as well as manufacturing startup Hadrian, McLemore understands the challenges faced by engineering teams. Along with co-founder Anne Wen, who has venture capital experience and a background in getting space startups off the ground, they founded Stell in 2022 with a shared vision.

Throughout their studies at Harvard Business School, McLemore and Wen were struck by the overwhelming amount of paperwork and inadequate workflows that were holding back complex engineering projects. They knew that something had to change.

That’s when the idea for Stell was born – a tool that would be truly useful and user-friendly, and would cut down on paperwork while streamlining collaboration among engineers.

In January of last year, Stell raised a $3.1 million pre-seed to bring their vision to life. And now, even more investors have caught on to their potential. Stell recently closed a $4 million seed round led by Long Journey Ventures and Cyan & Scott Banister, with additional support from Third Prime, Wischoff Ventures, Urban Innovation Fund, Forward Deployed VC, and Fulcrum Venture Group, as well as a select group of angel investors.

Initially, Stell had planned to develop a tool for digitizing technical contracts and specifications – something like a purchasing or supply chain tool. However, after ongoing discussions with potential customers, McLemore and Wen decided to pivot in order to directly compete in the requirements management category as their first product offering.

It was a customer-driven decision, and one that ultimately proved to be the right move. As McLemore points out, one of the most popular legacy tools in this category is IBM DOORs – a powerful yet complex and costly tool that is no longer suitable for today’s diverse team structures and fast-paced workflows.

“[DOORs] ends up being more of an audit log that you just do to check a box because your customer said you must do it, versus an actual collaboration platform. That’s really what we’re up against. I think it is hard to compete, mostly because there’s just an inertia because it’s been so long since there’s been a competitor in the space that has been able to match the workflows that exist in that tool.”

But with Stell’s innovative solution, engineers no longer have to rely on inefficient workarounds like Excel, Word, or Jira. Stell offers features like search, linking, permissioning, and the ability to display technical contracts as a document and a matrix. Plus, their unique search function allows for the incorporation of artificial intelligence – a game-changing feature in this industry.

So far, Stell has three early customers, all in the space industry. And the startup recently received a $1.24 million direct-to-Phase II SBIR through the Air Force’s AFWERX program – a major validation of their potential impact in the industry.

The team, now consisting of six members, plans to use some of their new funding to hire additional engineers and an individual dedicated to compliance and cybersecurity. They also have plans to expand their product to include supply chain-focused functions, such as sharing digital specifications with suppliers and customers.

Looking towards the future, Stell could even play a role in the business development process. With its extensive database of specifications and technical data from past projects, Stell could be used to inform future proposals in a more data-driven way.

“We have all these friends in the industry that feel like they’re paperwork engineers, instead of actually building these products and working on these missions to build new space stations or what the US will be up against in this next era,” McLemore said. “So we see ourselves as essential to that mission. So even if it’s maybe hard to compete with these large software companies, we still think it’s important.”

Stell is just one of many early stage software startups that are constantly learning and iterating as they strive to make an impact in their field. With a first version of their product already shipped last June, McLemore and Wen are excited to continue their journey and make waves in the requirements management space.

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Ava Patel

Ava Patel is a cultural critic and commentator with a focus on literature and the arts. She is known for her thought-provoking essays and reviews, and has a talent for bringing new and diverse voices to the forefront of the cultural conversation.

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