The big Bricsys interview 11 – free viewer?

This is the final post in a series covering an extensive interview with Bricsys CEO Erik De Keyser and COO Mark Van Den Bergh. If you’ve made it through to the end of this series, congratulations! I hope you found it illuminating.

In this post, R.K. McSwain asks a question about a possible BricsCAD-based DWG viewer, which turns into a brainstorming session!

R.K.: Do you guys have a viewer? A read-only viewer? Is it something you’re looking to do?

Erik: No. BricsCAD classic costs, you know, $400.

Steve: Autodesk is giving one away anyway.

R.K.: They give it away, but you know what it is. It’s almost a 1 GB download, I was thinking as maybe a way to get people interested in BricsCAD? Here’s a viewer, I wonder what else it can do…

Mark: What? (disbelieving) The viewer is almost one gig?

Steve: …

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The big Bricsys interview 10 – platforms

This is one of a series of posts covering an extensive interview with Bricsys CEO Erik De Keyser and COO Mark Van Den Bergh.

In this post, R.K. McSwain asks about BricsCAD running on three different platforms. Erik explains why BricsCAD for Mac (and Linux) is so much more complete than AutoCAD for Mac, which has more holes than a block of Swiss cheese.

R.K.: Do all three platforms (Windows, Linux, Mac) contain the same functionality?

Erik: Yes. Sometimes it’s a bit hard with the Mac to bring it along but so far, so good. The only problem sometimes is in the APIs.

We are using wxWidgets and not the Microsoft classes. This gives us the ability, with the same source code more or less, to serve Mac, Linux and Windows. By far Windows is the most important one. By history, all the applications …

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The big Bricsys interview 9 – treading on developers

This is one of a series of posts covering an extensive interview with Bricsys CEO Erik De Keyser and COO Mark Van Den Bergh. Erik explains that Bricsys won’t trample over its application partners in Autodesk-like fashion, except…

Steve: Autodesk is known for treading on its third-party developers and replacing their market. Can you tell us about your attitude to doing that?

Erik: We have always said that we are not stepping into any application market. We will not do it.

There’s only one exception, that’s where there is no [other] possibility. There was no sheet metal. There is no viable [third-party] DWG sheet metal product in the market today for sheet metal. Then we do it, of course.

For BIM, there are. There is a German product. We have talked to those guys, but the problem is, for BIM the way we do it, it’s so deep …

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The big Bricsys interview 8 – boundaries and BIM

This is one of a series of posts covering an extensive interview with Bricsys CEO Erik De Keyser and COO Mark Van Den Bergh.

Erik discusses where Bricsys can go in future and the place BIM has in that.

Cyrena: So what is your vision, ultimately, of what Bricsys will become in tandem with your partners? Do you have limits or boundaries of which markets you will address and which you won’t? Are you going to be bigger than… “somebody else” one day?

Erik: If it comes to the number of customers, challenging AutoCAD is difficult. 12 million registered users. If you count illegal users it might add up to, I don’t know, 20 million, 30 million? I don’t know, nobody knows.

What are the boundaries of where we can go? It’s more or less dictated by the application markets. We have application developers in GIS, we have …

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The big Bricsys interview 7 – the applications ecosystem

This is one of a series of posts covering an extensive interview with Bricsys CEO Erik De Keyser and COO Mark Van Den Bergh.

In this post, Erik discusses the Bricsys efforts to work with and assist third-party developers. He does this without being prompted by a question – it’s obviously very important to him.

Erik: For our future growth it’s very important, the ecosystem of the applications we have now. We have talked a lot about what we are doing and about our own products, but we should maybe have spent more time on the importance of the ecosystem. The worst thing we could do is forget the application market for us.

We will not, and we are not able, to develop another HVAC system or a [inaudible] system. We are limited in our resources and focused too much in our development. We believe that if there are five …

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The big Bricsys interview 6 – lean and focused

This is one of a series of posts covering an extensive interview with Bricsys CEO Erik De Keyser and COO Mark Van Den Bergh. In this post, the dynamic duo explain the mystery of how Bricsys can sell smaller numbers of a more capable product than AutoCAD for a fraction of the cost – and still make money.

Steve: It’s kind of interesting that your product is so much cheaper than AutoCAD, and more capable. They’re making a loss and you’re making increasing profits. How does that work?

Erik: I think it has to do with being lean and being focused. I mean, we’re talking about Autodesk, and we’re talking about AutoCAD and Revit and Inventor, but did you have a look at all the products they have? The managers that have to work on those products… I don’t study the detail of their annual figures, but I think it’s …

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The big Bricsys interview 5 – perpetual licensing and choice

This is one of a series of posts covering an extensive interview with Bricsys CEO Erik De Keyser and COO Mark Van Den Bergh.

In this post, Erik confirms the Bricsys commitment to perpetual licensing. That’s a statement important enough to preserve, so here’s the recorded audio for posterity.

We also learn what proportion of CAD customers choose perpetual licenses over rental when given fair pricing and the choice. Hint to Autodesk: it’s not 0%.

Steve: Are you committed to the perpetual licensing model?

Erik: Yes, yes. We are committed to choice. If somebody wants another way of licensing our stuff, that’s fine as well. I mean you can hire our stuff, you can pay per month, it’s possible.

Steve: That’s not in all markets, is it?

Erik: We don’t promote it, but it’s possible if somebody contacts us, no problem. It’s choice, and we believe …

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The big Bricsys interview 4 – thank you, Autodesk

This is one of a series of posts covering an extensive interview with Bricsys CEO Erik De Keyser and COO Mark Van Den Bergh. In this post, we learn that Autodesk’s move to all-rental has helped drive BricsCAD sales higher and continues to do so.

Cyrena: Backing up just a step to sales, were you able to track any impact on your sales numbers with the chronology of Autodesk’s announcements of ending perpetual? Did you see an effect that you could map to that?

Erik/Mark (together): Yes.

Erik: We see that especially with large companies. I hear it from Mark always!

Mark: That’s what I wanted to explain this morning too, although we have an indirect sales channel, we have our resellers at work out there, especially with the large deals, we are involved always. So there’s always one of our guys, a business development manager together with the local …

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The big Bricsys interview 3 – looking after people

This is one of a series of posts covering an extensive interview with Bricsys CEO Erik De Keyser and COO Mark Van Den Bergh. In this post, I learn about Bricsys’ astonishingly good staff retention record and the reasons behind it.

Autodesk likes to periodically pat itself on the back for being a great employer, but history shows it’s a company that discards about 10% of its workforce every few years to keep the share market happy. I suspect another round is coming up soon, unfortunately. There’s a stark contrast between a company that disposes of its chattels in that way and one with a CEO that says, “…every time somebody leaves the company that’s really, really bad.”

You as a customer may not think that matters to you, but it does. I believe there is a direct correlation between Autodesk losing knowledgeable staff and Autodesk repeating old mistakes and …

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The big Bricsys interview 2 – making money

This is one of a series of posts covering an extensive interview with Bricsys CEO Erik De Keyser and COO Mark Van Den Bergh. In this post, I ask about Bricsys’ profitability and growth.

Steve: Do you publish your numbers?

Erik: No we don’t. We are a private company.

Steve: Can you give us an indication of what’s happening with your sales at the moment?

Erik: Last year we grew in revenue 25%. First quarter this year was up 27% over the same quarter last year. If you compare the sales in total of 2016 compared with 2015, it was 25% in growth. It means that the growth is going faster and faster and faster. That’s what we expect normally as well.

This is without any sales to Intergraph. We expect that the Intergraph deal will have an impact on our growth for sure. Mark as COO is responsible for …

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The big Bricsys interview 1 – why invite the press?

This is the first in a series of posts covering an extensive interview with Bricsys CEO Erik De Keyser and COO Mark Van Den Bergh.

On April 26 and 27, I attended Bricsys Insights, a press event in Ghent, Belgium. Other attendees included Cyrena Respini-Irwin (Cadalyst editor in chief), R.K. McSwain (CAD Panacea), Ralph Grabowski (upFront.eZine), Randall Newton (GraphicSpeak), Roopinder Tara (Engineering.com), Martyn Day (DEVELOP3D), Jeff Rowe (AEC Café), Anthony Frausto-Robledo (Architosh) and Paul Wilkinson (pwcom).

Although Bricsys has invited some of these people (including myself) to previous events, this was the first gathering of such a significant number of illustrious industry press, bloggers and observers. So when myself, Cyrena Respini-Irwin and R.K. McSwain …

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Carl cashing in his chips

Here’s an interesting Carl Bass exit interview with Roopinder Tara at engineering.com. If you’re wondering just how much stock Carl offloaded in those planned sales, here are his reported sales of Autodesk stock in the weeks leading up to the resignation:

  • 11 Jan 2017 $7,894,150
  • 9 Jan 2017 $7,888,768
  • 5 Jan 2017 $7,694,038
  • 23 Dec 2016 $1,971,715
  • 22 Dec 2016 $1,968,935

That’s $27m, give or take. Carl’s reported as having sold over $49m of Autodesk stock over the last three years.

While Carl still has tens of millions of Autodesk stock, dumping that much of it before leaving doesn’t strike me as the actions of someone as supremely confident in the future of Autodesk’s ailing cloud push and rent-or-go-away business model as his words would suggest.

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Autodesk Cloud interview May 2010 – Part 3

Steve: Another issue I have with Cloud-based environments is the lack of customisation. One of the things that makes AutoCAD so efficient for people is that they can get it exactly the way they want it. With a browser-based environment, we’re pretty much stuck with what you guys decide to give us. Can you see any solution to that in the longer term?

Tal: From a pure technical point of view, there’s not a lot of difference in terms of the way you can customise an application on the desktop versus customising it on the web. I think AutoCAD, having a very mature application has a lot of functionality which has built up over the years to provide customisation capabilities to the nth degree. So I think it has less to do with the platform of your choice and more to do with the maturity of the solution and how …

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Autodesk Cloud interview May 2010 – Part 2

Steve: Autodesk is currently giving away these Cloud-based services, Butterfly for example. Presumably you’re not going to keep doing that for ever. Are you going to start charging for these services eventually?

Guri: Again, you’re pushing us to talk about future. Currently, for as long as this is in a Labs environment, we’re encouraging users to use it and we’re giving it free in the Labs environment and we’re not putting any limits on it during the Labs experiment. Once we make it a commercial product we may change that.

Steve: I put a poll on my blog asking readers what they thought about CAD on the Cloud, and most of them are either concerned or frightened. Solidworks users are in revolt about what they see as being forced onto the Cloud. Why do you think there is this fear or apprehension of CAD on the Cloud?

Guri: I’m not …

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Autodesk Cloud interview May 2010 – Part 1

On 26 May 2010, I had the opportunity to ask Autodesk some questions about the Cloud in general and what was then Project Butterfly (now AutoCAD WS) in particular. The Autodesk people were:

  • Guri Stark,Vice President, AutoCAD & Platform Products
  • Tal Weiss, R&D Center Manager (Israel)
  • Noah Cole, Corporate Media Relations

The interview was conducted by phone conference with no prior notice of the questions. Here is the first part of the interview, which I will be posting in three sections.

Steve: Guri, are you responsible for all of Autodesk’s Cloud-based offerings?

Guri: Tal and I are responsible for Butterfly, that’s the only Cloud-based offering that we are responsible for.

Noah: Steve, you can put the cloud-based offerings into three categories, those that are related to current products and therefore come out of the same organisations and divisions that those products come out of. So Butterfly which is related …

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Cloud benefits – collaboration, with Autodesk’s Tal Weiss

In May 2010 I took part in a phone conference with several Autodesk people about the Cloud. Part of that discussion was in the form of an interview, which I will publish in later posts. Another part was in the form of a verbal presentation from Autodesk’s Tal Weiss, concentrating on what was then Project Butterfly, Autodesk’s then Labs-based Cloudy CAD offering. This product had been called Visual Tao and was later renamed again to AutoCAD WS. As this presentation was largely based on the benefits of the Cloud for CAD collaboration, I think it is worthwhile reproducing it here. Obviously, it represents Tal’s view rather than my own.

First, a little background. Project Butterfly started with an Autodesk acquisition in November 2009 of a company called Visual Tao, based in Tel Aviv, Israel. This is now an Autodesk development office led by Tal Weiss, former …

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Not answering the question

Here in Australia, we’re in election mode, so I have even more reasons to avoid watching TV. On those occasions when I do watch it, I am often annoyed by what I see. This is not a novel observation, but one of the things that annoys me about many politicians is their habit of sidestepping questions when interviewed. It also annoys me when interviewers fail to follow up these non-answers and let them slide. Depending on the circumstances (e.g. limited timeframe, more important questions to ask, etc.), there may be valid reasons for journalists failing to chase after legitimate answers in a live interview situation. But I would much prefer to see a non-answering interviewee tied down and not allowed to wriggle free. Squirm, baby, squirm!

For on-line journalists and bloggers, there are few excuses for letting non-answers go unchallenged. There is virtually unlimited time, opportunity and column space in …

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Autodesk’s Callan Carpenter responds to Subscription follow-up

You may remember a month ago I raised the question What proportion of Autodesk customers really are on Subscription? Shortly after that, I sent Autodesk Subscription VP Callan Carpenter these questions following up on the interview:

I have a request for follow-up information arising from this interview. I hope you can find the time to provide some answers.

Preamble: Several people have called into doubt your assertion that the simplified upgrade policy affects only a tiny minority of your customers (you seemed to imply a figure of around 3% non-Subscription customers, with 1.5% who upgrade within a year or two). My own calculations based on Autodesk’s latest published financial results indicate that of upgrades represent 21% of the combined income from Subscription and upgrades, which is 7 times greater than the impression you gave in your answer. Please see this post for more discussion.

Questions:

Callan Carpenter interview 5 – the 12 month cycle

This 5th post concludes the Callan Carpenter interview series. For the record, this interview was done in real time over the phone, with no prior notice of the questions.

SJ: The 12-month cycle that you have for most of your software has come under some criticism from all sorts of people, especially me. Once you have your customer base practically all on Subscription, what’s the incentive for the 12-month cycle to persist?

CC: In what way have you criticised the 12 month cycle?

SJ: In that it damages the product. In that there’s not enough time to release a properly developed product within that 12-month cycle. This is an observation that many people have made going back many years. That’s the basis of the criticism; not that, “Oh no, you’re giving me more software”. Well, there are people who complain about that but I don’t think that’s a valid criticism. …

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Callan Carpenter interview 4 – enhancing the program

Part 4 of 5 in this series.

SJ: There is always the fear that once you have all of your customer base on Subscription, you’re not going to need to offer those benefits any more. Can you assure people that that’s not going to be the case, that you are going to keep being “nice” to your customers?

CC: Absolutely. I think my team and I spend as much time and brain energy trying to figure out how to enhance the program as anything else. Our goal is to make Subscription a compelling value proposition; to make it not only cost-effective but valuable in other ways. An example would be the Advantage Pack program. We had a history of Subscription including extensions and other little technology bonuses for subscribers. But last year, we said we’re going to do something different with that. One of the problems with our historical technical …

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