From left to right: Dr. Nelson Hartunian, Dr. Thomas Willemain, and Charles Smart
In the Beginning: Smart, Hartunian & Willemain
Two close friends, Charles Smart and Dr. Nelson Hartunian, formed the partnership in the Boston suburb of Belmont. In June 1981, they were joined by a third friend and colleague, Dr. Thomas Willemain. The focus of the firm was to provide statistical and economic consulting services, primarily to insurance companies, law firms, and medical device manufacturers.
The three partners realized that nearly all of their client companies struggled with producing fast, accurate forecasts of product demand and that the lack of an effective solution cost them and thousands of manufacturers and distributors millions each year in lost sales opportunities and excess inventory costs. Smart, Hartunian & Willemain realized that the market was sorely underserved and that providing better forecasting solutions based on some of their new statistical ideas would, in turn, provide substantial savings and other financial benefits for potential customers. When the first business-acceptable personal computer, the IBM PC, started gaining traction in the market, the trio pivoted. They had intended to be a specialized technology shop for statistical algorithm design and software module development, but decided to reconfigure as a full-service commercial software firm, with all the marketing, advertising, customer support, and other business functions that entailed.
Transitioning to Smart Software, Inc.
The team pooled profits from its consulting business, personal savings, and private placement investments from friends and family to focus on developing a state-of-the-art forecasting solution for the IBM PC. Two math professors from Northeastern University were recruited and became valued consultants. Smart Software, Inc. was born in the spring of 1983, and the company’s first software product, SmartForecasts®, was introduced to the market in the summer of 1984, becoming the world’s first automatic business forecasting system for the PC.
At that time, nothing was settled in the microcomputer technology realm. There were dozens of PC makers and several competing operating systems (there were four different operating systems, including DOS, available on the first IBM PC). Despite all the overhead that goes along with building software with no clear operating system standard, the team successfully launched a product with multiple innovations.
SmartForecasts was the first PC forecasting software that automatically selected the most appropriate statistical forecasting solution by running a tournament among competing methods. And it did so using a sophisticated and computationally complex form of analysis—an approach that was not only more accurate than that in use in more expensive minicomputer software but also required absolutely no statistical knowledge on the part of the business user. However, recognizing that the incorporation of business judgment was a necessary complement to statistical data analysis, the team also made sure SmartForecasts included the first on-screen “eyeball” forecast adjustment capability. These and other innovations combined to make SmartForecasts an instant technology leader.
Early Days at Smart Software, Inc.
With his MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management and his prior experience as a management consultant and surface warfare officer in the US Navy, Charlie became President/CEO and captained the ship. With his deep background and experience in statistics, Tom oversaw research and algorithm development. Nelson, with a Ph.D. in Astrophysics and a deep intellectual curiosity, assisted Tom on R&D. Nelson ran sales by day and coded by night with Tom’s help. All three collaborated in the design of the software’s product features and user interface. Putting in 14-hour days, 6 days a week (with only a few hours on Sunday!) was the norm. Nelson’s sister-in-law and Charlie’s sister helped with publicity, advertising, and marketing. Charlie’s Mom even helped with the bookkeeping, and Nelson’s children cleaned the office and often helped ship upgrades to the customer base. Tom’s wife helped with the advertising layouts.
The very first product sale was to Yellow Freight, a regional trucking firm, in the summer of 1984, and dozens of sales quickly followed to companies of various sizes in a variety of industries. The product was sold for a very competitive price that averaged less than a thousand dollars per licensed user and came with a 30-day money-back guarantee. A front-page spotlight in the Wall Street Journal, a favorable mention in hi-tech guru Esther Dyson’s influential newsletter, excellent reviews in the PC trade press, and a number of 5-star user stories appearing in a variety of industry journals led to a successful, self-sustaining business.
Smart Software Today
Today, Smart Software has hundreds of supported customers in a wide range of industries using its software products all over the globe. Multiple National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research (NSF SBIR) awards helped underwrite several forecasting advances, including a US Patent for a radically different way of predicting and managing demand for spare parts and other intermittently demanded items. Most recently, Smart has developed probabilistic forecasting and machine learning methods that over the next several years will completely replace traditional “best fit” algorithms in the marketplace. Smart Software’s headquarters remains in Belmont, MA.
Smart Inventory Planning & Optimization (Smart IP&O) was launched in 2017 as a cloud-native, multi-tenant, SOC-certified platform with inventory optimization that prescribes optimized stocking policies, analytics that uncover operational insights using machine learning and advanced statistics, supply planning to automate the order management and replenishment process, and consensus demand planning to support the Sales & Operations Planning (S&OP) process. The platform includes multiple bi-directional integrations to many leading ERP, Asset Management, and E-Commerce solutions, ensuring that customer data is always accessible.
Although the founders continue to be active in various capacities, management and strategic direction of the business have passed to a new generation of leaders. Nelson’s son, Gregory Hartunian, now serves as President & CEO, and Tom’s daughter Katherine Willemain is an integral part of Smart’s support and implementation team. Prepared professionally by his MBA from Babson’s F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business and attitudinally by his background as a Division I wrestler at Syracuse University, Greg has assembled a talented and aggressive executive team, including CTO Sreekumar Menon, a veteran of several hi-tech startups, and VP Business Development Jeffrey Scott, a tech veteran and MIT Sloan MBA.
Despite the recent Covid pandemic, Smart Software continues to grow, hire talented new staff, develop exciting new algorithms, translate them into useful new products and enjoys the success of customers new and old. Today’s Smart Software is proud of its deep roots in the industry, innovation, and longevity. “Not many companies, especially those in the software business, can claim 4 decades of innovation and success. Smart Software is field proven and offers a differentiated set of solutions. We will continue to innovate, grow, and serve our customers in the years to come.”