Rollup wants to be the hardware engineer’s workhorse

Hard tech startups generate a lot of buzz, but there’s a growing cohort of companies building digital tools squarely focused on making hard tech development faster, more efficient and — well, a whole lot more like software development. 

California-based Rollup is the latest startup to come out as part of this ensemble. While the company is emerging from stealth on Monday, it’s actually been around for three years. But the team has kept a very low profile, despite raising a cumulative $5.6 million from investors including Andreessen Horowitz and Thiel Capital. 

The startup has developed a software platform that could completely change how complex hardware is built. The platform is designed to be a companion throughout the lifecycle of a product, comprehensively supporting tasks such as systems engineering, systems modeling, requirements management, technical documentation generation, design reviews and more.

The platform is composed of different “modules,” like requirements management and a CAD viewer, and they all talk to each other and express changes made across the project.

“[Rollup is] a workhorse product, not a homework assignment product,” founder and CEO Collin Mickels explained in a recent interview. “A lot of engineering collaboration software is treated mostly like a homework assignment by the engineers. They go in, they upload their file, they approve it and then they get out.” 

In contrast, Rollup is meant to be left up on the side of an engineer’s screen as an all-day companion to their workflow. Mickels, who had short stints at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Blue Origin and Varda Space Industries before founding Rollup, said the status quo is characterized by communications inefficiencies, like meetings, emails and Slack messages, or else entire job roles whose purpose is to reduce the friction between different disciplines, like mechanical, electrical, regulatory and so on.

“Engineers are spending 10, 20, 30% of their time doing non-engineering work, essentially,” he said. 

The aim of the platform is to condense the iteration cycles in complex hardware, and ultimately to help companies, especially those at the earliest stages, go to market faster with less technical risk. 

Rollup is earning revenue, and nearly all its customers are early-stage companies, ranging from small satellite builders to robotics companies. The startup is aiming to bring in more mature companies to its customer base, and expanding the number of integrations with other tools and introducing more features into the platform. 


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