We chat with PlantStream CEO, Seitao Narue, about the inspiration behind the product and what’s in store for the future.
Welcome, Mr. Narue. First up, introduce yourself to our readers.
Well, I’m the CEO of PlantStream and I have first-hand experience designing and constructing a power plant. I originally worked at Chiyoda Corporation as their lead piping and layout engineer. While there, I was involved in various projects around the world at gas, LNG, and petrochemical plant construction sites. I’ve been CEO of PlantStream since 2018.
What was the catalyst for launching PlantStream?
I’ve personally experienced the critical issues facing those in the plant engineering industry. Specifically, I saw the difficulty of creating plant 3D models, and the enormous amount of time it required. That led me to start working on the development of PlantStream and after two years, I saw the project was working so well, I decided to launch it as a new business venture.
What does PlantStream look like today — and what’s your role in the business?
PlantStream is still growing as a company and nearly all of the software development is done by Arent, a computer-aided design (CAD) consulting service company. PlantStream is in charge of dealing with clients and making sure their services are satisfactory.
Since we’re still working on our business model, I tend to wear a lot of hats. I’m not only running the company, I also work directly with clients. I speak with people at plant construction sites and give them advice on how to streamline the plant creation process.
In my view, PlantStream today isn’t just a 3D CAD tool, it’s also a business where oil and gas companies can get advice on how to become more efficient in their construction and design processes.
You clearly have many responsibilities. What does a typical work day look like for you?
We try to be really efficient with our time while making authentic connections with one another. PlantStream’s operations were initially completely remote for the first six months, so one of the biggest challenges was communication.
Now that we can go into the office, I try to take advantage of that and spend time with staff. My commute from home is about an hour each way, so I like to read books on how to build a better business while I’m getting to and from work. I go into the office three times a week. We don’t have daily team meetings — instead, we meet for about 30 minutes a week. That’s because I want to spend the majority of my time with clients and then with my employees.
You mentioned coming up with PlantStream’s software as an engineer at Chiyoda Corporation. The original project was to build a tool to help with Chiyoda’s internal development, but at which point did you determine that the software you were making would be something that you could sell?
Honestly, I realized the program could really be something valuable after just two months of development. I was able to confirm my intuition with Arent. I spoke with around 10 other IT companies, and with Arent, it seemed like a perfect match.
While PlantStream can definitely make an impact, the product itself isn’t cheap — how did you get your first client?
Since I was working with Chiyoda Corporation and I originally developed the software for them, I assumed our first client was going to be from the oil and gas industry, but it was actually a water treatment company called Kurita Water Industries. They provide all sorts of products related to safe water. Software like ours was able to help them with their engineering blueprints just as much as an oil and gas company that might need help with their piping infrastructure.
There are probably plenty of success stories you could share, but we’d like to hear some of your failures.
While some may not consider this a failure, it was really hard to come up with a great company vision and plan to show my parent company. I lacked a lot of the market research required to start something as complicated as PlantStream, and it’s something that I still feel I failed at doing properly. It’s not an easy task to have a company like Chiyoda create a child company — I’m still not sure that I was quite ready for it!
Some say the more hardship you face, the more you can ultimately overcome going forward. What would you say is your vision for PlantStream’s future?
Our number one goal right now is to improve the features of our product. PlantStream doesn’t provide full automation of the plant design process — rather, it’s a substitute for oil and gas companies that require a lot of manual labor and modeling by engineers during the design and construction phases of building a piping infrastructure. Space design requires a lot of experience and know-how, but it’s also something that can be fully automated if the software is done properly. Using our wealth of experience in that field, along with our very talented engineers, I think PlantStream can hone its software to be more user-friendly, and will become accessible to anyone in the plant creation industry.
Do you think you’ve built a product that helps save others from some of the challenges you might have faced as a plant engineer?
Perhaps. For me, I really like the process. Making a power plant isn’t just a one-person task. It takes tens of thousands of people to accomplish this enormous achievement. And within all those people and projects, PlantStream plays just a small part. But I want to help streamline processes in a way that makes clients happy.