Delivering those ‘eureka’ moments!

4 mins read

Neil Tyler meets the newly appointed CEO of Percepio, Andreas Lifvendahl, and discusses future opportunities for the provider of observability solutions for embedded systems.

Credit: Percepio

Percepio is a provider of observability solutions for embedded edge systems throughout the products lifecycle, making it possible for users to deploy intelligent systems with much greater levels of confidence.

During application development the company’s Tracealyzer offers real-time observability through software tracing and advanced visualisation, while during testing and in deployed operation, DevAlert provides users with secure observability for continuous improvement in terms of product reliability, security, and on-going performance.

The technology can be scaled to support large device fleets and can be integrated on any edge processor, whether small IoT nodes or powerful multicore SoCs.

Only a few months ago Andreas Lifvendahl was appointed Chief Executive Officer with the brief to accelerate innovation and guide the company’s next stage of growth.

“We want to scale up the business and build on our leadership around embedded software observability, especially when software and applications are becoming more complex,” said Lifvendahl.

He brings considerable expertise to the business as he has led and advised technology startups and growth companies over the past 25 years. Before joining Percepio he had been CEO at IMINT Image Intelligence, specialising in visual intelligence, and led the business from being a startup to becoming a publicly traded company. He’s also had senior roles at IAR Systems and has served on the boards of numerous technology companies, including Percepio itself.

“Having been on the Percepio board for several years I could see the potential in its tools and what we could offer the embedded community. I’ve spent most of my career with smaller companies and can bring to the business the commercial experience needed to take this bleeding edge technology to the market, ensuring all the value it can provide is explained and then made available to engineers.”

His stint at IMINT saw him join when there was just himself and a CTO.

“I joined IMINT because I wanted to experience being in a start-up again. IAR had been a small competitor, when I joined, up against the likes of WindRiver and Greenhills but after 12 years we had established a strong presence in the market. It had required patience and the willingness to spend time developing and building alliances for what were highly specialised products, but I felt I needed a new challenge.

“My time at IMINT provided me with the necessary experience to be CEO at Percepio. It had been tough; we struggled with a limited cashflow but on the brightside unlike working in a large firm, where you have to address a plethora of problems, we only had the one issue to deal with!”

The big breakthrough for IMINT came with MWC 2014 when their technology was picked up by the likes of Huawei and Samsung.

“We had a whole set of high-level meetings which led to orders, and which provided investors with the confidence to carry on supporting the business. In 2016 Huawei launched their flagship smartphone with our technology and opened the doors to other companies. Today over a billion smartphones use that technology.”

Figure 1: Percepio's Tracealyzer provides realtime observability through software tracing and advanced visualisation

‘New energy’

Despite great success Lifvendahl admitted that he had contemplated leaving IMINT during lockdown.

“I’d missed meeting customers and engaging with people and I knew I would leave a good legacy behind me. I didn’t leave immediately but I knew it was time for a change and to find a ‘new energy’ through a new opportunity.”

I asked him why he felt the need to move on from what was a remarkably successful company?

“Well, you can play it safe, stay in a job and accept the plaudits when things are going well, or you can look to create new things. I knew that when I passed 50, I still had ambition and one more operational journey left in me.”

According to Lifvendahl having been on Percepio’s board for several years – in fact despite leaving IMINT he’s still on the board there too - he’d had a ringside seat and could see how impressive the company’s technology was, but shared the company’s frustration at the limited growth it had seen.

“The team at Percepio is really focused on having the backs of the software development community. Our founder, Dr. Johan Kraft, has created a culture of developing and delivering for quality and useability. “Is this function useful?”, “Is this easy to understand?”, “How can we help our customers further with…” are daily questions in the office,” he explained.

Speaking after only a few months in the job, Lifvendahl makes the point that software developers are a combination of artist and meticulous professional, and they want to be creative and productive.

“Today product development is extremely complex, and we continue to add multiple layers of abstraction to address it but that isn’t removing the complexity – rather it just hides it.

“What we are bringing to the table is something unique and that’s observability that provides insight across all layers, from deep runtime behaviour to top-level system functionality, and that enables embedded engineers to build products that they and their users can trust.”

Figure 2: DevAlert provides users with secure observability for continuous improvement

Lifvendahl was appointed to take the company forward and to expand its reach.

“There’s been a lot of internal soul-searching as to how we can grow the business. It’s a sophisticated tool for expert users and there has been a tendency for engineers to turn to us only when they are in trouble with a project. But what we’ve seen is that once they’re exposed to Tracealyzer, for example, they start to use it more systematically across new projects.

“There is still so much untapped value,” Lifvendahl believes. “We’ve recently moved to a subscription model and are turning the business into a software as a service company. We’re gradually extending and expanding the portfolio across the development cycle, which has meant a lot of work in terms of developing a suitable licensing model as well as reconfiguring our offer. While it’s a conservative industry most customers have accepted the change – we’re no longer seen as a ‘fire-extinguisher’ for problems.

“Our tools are now helping to turn what were months of frustrating bug hunting into hours of ‘Eureka’ moments, and I’m immensely proud of the work of the team at Percepio.”

Going forward, Lifvendahl said that Percepio will work to better support the development community and the trends being seen in modern software development.

“Tracealyzer and DevAlert and our advanced observability platform will enable organisations to optimise development productivity for embedded and edge devices offering real-time visibility into complex embedded software behaviour. Our solutions are set to play a critical role when it comes to accelerating debugging and troubleshooting and improving product quality,” he explained.

“We’ve built a truly differentiated observability technology for embedded systems in what is a rapidly expanding market with unmet needs amid mounting software complexity pressures.”

The hard borders between development, integration, test, deployment, device monitoring, and maintenance are dissolving, according to Lifvendahl.

“Development never stops, and we believe that product teams not only should have, but are entitled to have, the same level of observability and insight throughout the entire product life cycle as they have traditionally had in the original development phase, and that is what we are looking to deliver.”