The Future Of Think3

Google is great. This morning I was searching for some information on Think3 and it pointed me to this Think3 Virtual User Conference webinar held on 2nd November. It was presented by Scott Brighton, Think3’s new CEO, and he laid out in some detail the new vision for Think3. If you are a Think3 customer, I strongly recommend you click the link above and listen to the recording (registration required). The webinar is about an hour long and if you don’t have the time here is a summary.

This was the first of a set of quarterly webinars that Scott will personally be giving. This webinar was focused mainly on the acquisition of Think3 and its new vision. Scott admitted that there were some concerns about the future of Think3 post its acquisition and hoped to put some of the fears to rest. He started out by giving an overview of acquisition and then dedicated the rest of the webinar to explaining the new vision for Think3.

The Acquisition

I found it interesting that Scott used the word “acquire” and “purchase” when describing the relation between Versata and Think3. But I will not get into that in this post. He made the point that when a company is acquired by another one of the first concerns is whether the acquiring company will stop investing or radically change the product line. Scott said, “The answer to that is an unequivocal no“. He continued, “One of the things that we believe Versata brings to the table is an army of development talent to both improve the quality of the code, increase the frequency with which we can release products and vastly accelerate the pace at which we can add new capabilities. Your expectations of us should frankly be higher that what they were before.

As regards whether key people were going or would change, Scott said, “There is going to be significant changes to personnel. Anytime there is an acquisition there are redundancies created“. He also stated that when Versata acquired Think3 it was a financially distressed company. It had a cost structure that made it unprofitable and put it in a significantly serious financial condition. He said that to ensure the company’s viability, there would be a need to let people go.

As regards Think3 as a company, Scott said that it was now managed as a member of Versata Enterprises, a global company wholly owned by Trilogy Enterprises. He noted that Think3 was roughly their 20th Enterprise Software acquisition. He said, “We manage millions of lines of code and tens of thousands of customer relationships.” Scott has been with Trilogy for a decade and has run a number of companies that Versata has acquired, mainly those what were in trouble. He said that he had experience in turning around companies in distress. Apart from being the CEO of Think3, he is also the President of Trilogy, the parent company of Versata. He comes from a sales and marketing background.

Think3 will continue to operate as a standalone company. It will have its own products, services and its own identity. There will be no rebranding of the Think3 product line to make it look like Versata’s products. Scott believed that the fundamental reason why he will be able to execute the turnaround was because Think3 now would be able to leverage the development and support resources of thousands of people spread across the world in the Versata family of companies. With the addition of Think3 this is what the Versata family of companies now looks like.

Customer Success

Scott explained what he called his notion of customer success. He said that most companies spend 80 to 90 percent of their resources in acquiring new customers. “That is not our approach“, Scott said. “We are going to spend the majority of our effort in enhancing the value that we are delivering to our existing customers. We believe our existing customer base is our best marketing asset“. In fact, one of the reasons for acquiring Think3 was the unique surfacing capability in its products and a great customer base.

Scott wanted to make a distinction between the way most enterprise software companies operate and the way he runs his companies. He said the top priorities in most software companies is growth, mainly due to pressures from investors. The second is profitability. He highlighted Think3 as an example which was forced to grow at such a rate that its profitability took a turn for the worse. According to him, customer success was the lowest priority. Scott’s priority is basically an inversion of this list. His top priority is customer success. He said that this was a metric that he actually measured. He said that he would be personally calling up every Think3 customer twice every year to ask if they were successful or not. In fact, he fired up a live survey in the Adobe webinar software and asked attendees to vote whether they felt they were successful or not. The results were Yes – 48% and No –  52%. The second priority would be profitability and last would be growth.

Future of Think3 Products

Scott asserted that no Think3 product would be stopped. In fact, he said that they would continue to develop and enhance the entire think3 product line. He said, “Right now we are in the process of taking the code and evaluating its quality. Versata brings a rigorous process around software engineering. When we release code we see to it that its of the highest quality. Usually when we purchase a software company, we find that they are not using the same levels of software engineering as us. And that is the case with Think3“. He said that his primary focus would be to fix bugs and eliminate stability issues. The person driving Think3’s R&D will be Kumar Vikas, the head of Versata’s global development operations, who is based in their office in Dubai.

WOW! Support

Each Think3 customer will now have an account manager. They are also in the process of revamping the support system by clubbing it with Versata’s global support infrastructure.

Scott reiterated that he expects to ramp up the investment that goes into R&D. He mentioned something called “WOW! Support” in which Think3 customers would be “delighted” with. He also mentioned leveraging the cloud as one of the areas that R&D will focus on.

Previously Think3 customers had just one support plan. Moving forward there will be three support programs: Standard, Gold and Platinum. This is what they look like.

The standard level is roughly the same as the current support plan. Customers on the Gold and Platinum can get custom macros created for them by Think3 personnel. They can even get CAD files translated from other CAD systems to Think3, video renderings of models created by customers as well as exploded views of drawings. Customers on Platinum will get higher priority when it comes to enhancement requests. There will also be a Platinum support hotline which will be available 24×7 in the local language. The best part is Platinum is only 16% more expensive than Standard. Existing customers can continue to stay on Standard or upgrade to Gold or Platinum. Existing support contracts will be honored through to the end of their term.

For new customers Think3 will be creating three bundles: Styling, Engineering and Professional. This is what they look like:

For the next 90 days, Scott announced what he called a “Stop The Shelfware” program in which existing customers will be able to shop around for software at the Think3 store and get a whopping 80% discount.

Scott announced that they were suspending new feature releases in 2011. He said this was because of the time they needed to assess the quality of the existing code base and fixing things that needed to be fixed.

Q&A

One attendee asked Scott about his plans for VAR’s globally. He replied that he wanted to concentrate on those VAR’s who would be able to deliver the level of customer experience that he wanted. He added, “There is going to be some restructuring of the VAR program. We are likely to have fewer VAR’s in the future. Those VAR’s will be bigger and have more Think3 business.

Another question was “When will the 2010 release be available to the customer? A gap we have with think3 is that a release working on a 64bit platform is missing.” Scott admitted that a 64 bit version was the single most requested feature when he spoke to customers. He did not have a release date for the 2010 version. Once again he blamed the delay on the current process of evaluating the quality of the code.

The next question was “What experience does Versata have with design software and what resources do they have in place to further develop the software?“. Scott replied that they have a variety of competencies across the entire Versata family. But he admitted, “Think3 is our first CAD software company. In terms of resources to further develop the software we have a network of thousands of programmers spread across the world. In the States, India, China, Ukraine and other countries“.

The last question was “Marketing and technical support in the US has been minimal. Please tell us your plans to enhance think3’s name recognition and high level tech support“. Scott replied that he didn’t know why the US was not a priority for Think3. He said that Versata does shave a strong presence in the US market and he was trying to figure how how that could be leveraged by Think3.

Conclusion

Scott ended by saying “I know an acquisition is a time for uncertainty and anxiety. I know you depend on our software for your business. The thing I want you to know is that we are going to be focused on you. We are not going to spend our resources on other things. I believe this will be a two year revitalization for Think3. I look forward to talking to you individually“.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe Scott forgot about the unpaid employees?

    • I don’t know for sure, but I believe the unpaid employees are not Scott’s problem. That’s the part of the puzzle that I am trying to figure out myself.

      • Think3india1

        Do not bother to think about the puzzle cos The Owner of Versata is samrt enough to escape from the liabilities…..

    • Quite possibly the staffs overdue payments have been negotiated away as part of the transition discusions. Have personally seen this happen and, from the former staffs position, their is little they may be able to do – as the bird(s) will have flown.
      This tho is interesting; “He said that he would be personally calling up every Think3 customer twice every year to ask if they were successful or not.” Are there so few this is actually possible?

      • Think3india1

        Paul i would like to enhance one thing on this, The customers in India who are using the software for more than 3 years and facing problems, have not even been heard….

        And the interesting part of Scott calling up every customer, is like a joke wherein no body would even think of giggling….

        • Maybe before jumping to conclusions on whether the new management of Think3 will do something or not, maybe we should give them some time and see what they really do. If you saw the recording of the webinar, Scott gave his email address and phone number to everyone. So if he doesn’t call his customers, maybe the customers can call him. It doesn’t matter who calls who, as long as a conversation happens.

  • Jerry

    Great job Deelip. I am confused though. Versata’s press statement says they have something to do with Think3. Their communication to customers say they have a lot to do with Think3. Why the about turn now?

    • Shyam

      And their reply to Deelip’s query says they have no stock holding or control over Think3 and have nothing to do with Think3. Which one is true?

  • Think3india1

    Shyam everything is true when it comes to think3 and its customers, and the speeches and the deliverables from versata is false…
    classical example of true or false
    its like Think3 or Versata…

    • Let’s try and understand something here. The old management of Think3 basically ran the company into the ground. That’s why we have the situation that we find ourselves in today. Your assertion that the new management will not be able to deliver implies that if you were still employed with Think3 (not sure if you are not) you would not be able to deliver either. That does not speak highly of yourself, now does it? I think we should keep the rhetoric to a low and make predictions based on some sound facts.If you have some insight that you would like to share, please do so. But simply saying that Versata will not be able to deliver without explaining why does not make much sense.The tone of your comments here resemble those of a disgruntled employee which does not help the cause you are fighting for. I request you to refrain from posting such comments in the future.

      • Think3india1

        Great Deelip, would keep that in mind before writing it down.
        Now i have a simple question for you and would want a sincere answer for the same.

        When Versata said that it had no direct or indirect relation with Think3, then why did Scott Brighton had a user conference and stated that the acquisition of think3 has bought a new lease of product portfolio to think3.

        • The clarification I got from Think3 Inc. was that Versata did not have any shareholding in the company. This means that Versata cannot legally be held accountable for the liabilities of Think3 Inc.

          It is clear from the webinar that Versata is going to continue development of the Think3 range of products. Whether Versata has bought the intellectual property of Think3 or whether Think3 has contracted Versata to develop their products or something other arrangement, I don’t know. I have sought a clarification from Think3 on this and am yet to receive a reply. Since they are not publicly traded companies they are not obliged to share information that they do not need to share.

          I don’t believe Versata and Think3 have said that they have nothing to do with each other. They are sister companies in the same family of companies. What is yet to be determined is which entity owns Think3 and hence is responsible for its assets and liabilities. The only thing we know for sure right now is that Versata is not that entity.

          • Kiran Kumar

            Think3 inc. is not a subsidiary of any company, it is an independent company, Versata might only have stake either directly or indirectly.

            Can govt. punish parent for childs fraud when both are paying taxes separately? I dont think so, I dont know if corporate rules has anything as such either.

            In my opinion, I dont see why Versata will be accountable if think3 fails. As a parent company it can always support it to grow, if it couldnt then it can leave it as orphan safely.

            Anyway Scott has clarified that think3 will remain independent and brand name will not be changed, so I dont think we need to break our heads to analyze this. Think3 subsidiary companies liabilities they have to fight it out from think3 Inc. but not Versata.

          • “Think3 subsidiary companies liabilities they have to fight it out from think3 Inc. but not Versata.”

            I agree. That’s why when Think3 India employees come here and start bitching about Versata, I don’t quite appreciate it. They need to find out who the legal owner of Think3 is and stop barking up the wrong tree. I am trying to get that information myself. When I do my readers will be the first to know.

          • Think3india1

            Deelip, now I would request you to use a descent language while writing about the employees who are portraying their helplessness through your media.

            I would not wish this situation to come to you, but try and put yourself into our shoes and react.

            We are not bitching neither barking at the wrong tree but just trying to tell the readers what Versata has done, or has been trying to do with us…..

          • Kiran Kumar

            He is not using indecent language, its just a saying in informal way, please take it in a positive way. It is understood that all think3 employees are walking on the roughest road. Please keep your cool you will certainly win your battle to get what you deserved.

          • Exactly which part of “Think3 Inc. had not been directly or indirectly acquired by Versata” do you not understand? If you yourself do not know who the owner of Think3 Inc. is how can you say that you are not barking up the wrong tree?Even if we assume that Versata has bought the intellectual property of Think3 Inc., that becomes a separate business transaction between Versata and Think3 Inc. What does that have to do with your salary problem with Think3 India?If you have some information that I don’t then please enlighten me, taking care that you do not violate any confidentiality agreement, of course. If not, please do not drag Versata into your Think3 salary problem unless you can provide evidence that Versata is the company that needs to pay you your salary.I need you to understand something very carefully. By hosting your comments and accusations on my blog I can be held liable for them. I have already made it clear in an earlier post that I do not want people posting tirades against companies and their executives without providing evidence. I am not going to repeat myself again.

          • Think3india1

            Thanks a lot for your long lecture which has absolutely nothign to do with me.
            Carry on with your blogs and being held responsible tags….
            take care

          • Vahid Anwari

            What happened to the Think3 employees is not right. No matter which way you look at it they have been robbed of their salaries. This cannot be justified just because a new owner has taken over it. Even if it is “legal” it is morally and ethically wrong. I will never do business with Think3 (or any other company that I know has not acted in an ethical manner)

          • I will never do business with Think3 (or any other company that I know has not acted in an ethical manner)
            Never say never Vahid. With your ethical bar set at this high level I hope you follow thru’ to check the ethical conduct of the companies you deal with; or do you wait to for others to uncover the issues and make your decisions based on their revelations?

  • Praveen

    Any Business in a civilized society should be ethical and legal….And to-day, we are going ON & ON to get clarified about New ownership of Think3 and to know who has what responsible and media’s role to play, don’t you feel that who so ever bought this company needs to clarify on this facts to all the stake holders ,if not to this blog post.We aren’t bothered about the micro details of the transaction,which subsidiary as bought what…..All you need is a Voice to say Who we are and What we intend to do, Just by being silence when so much of noise is made about ownership indicates only evil sense designed to happen in future…Big round of applause to you for bringing just interesting Business deal in our CAD community & Not just some CAD sales pitch…..

  • murray

    At those prices, they’re going to need all the marketing oomph that their competitors have, and then some. And then they’re going to have to provide convincing evidence that they ARE competitive with, if not superior to, Delcam, DS and Siemens. Are there any users out there who think so, or that their “unique surfacing abilities” are a deal-maker? As of now, they’re playing catchup. They aren’t unveiling new product streams or capabilities right now, they’re trying to stop their passengers abandoning ship by sweet-talking them, but they appear to have pushed at least some of the crew over the side first. 52% of the webinar attendees consider themselves unsuccessful. As businesses, or as Think3 users? Either way, hardly confidence-inspiring. I don’t know that “boutique” CAD has a future, dubious human resource policies or no.

    • I won’t expect Think3 to spend a great deal on marketing, at least not in the immediate future. Scott was quite clear when he said that growth was low on his priority list. I think the main objective now is to hold on to existing customers and stabilize the ship before looking for greener pastures.

      Personally, I think profitability should be the number one priority. But then to achieve that you need to have customers.

      I really can’t think of anything else better that could be done in this situation.

  • Kiran Kumar

    Think3 has some liababilities, which Versata is trying to ward off legally, but again think3 has good customer base and products, hence supporting verbally by saying joined the family, but never says it owns think3. It appears to be trying to lookout for all options to get away with the liabilities legally, that includes using the loop holes in the legal system.

    Think3 has a research mindset while Versata has good business capabilities. T3 was seeing crisis from a magnified glass and couldnt get the full picture, Versata is good at seeing through a telescope. I personally feel Versata can pull out think3 from its financial turmoil. T3 used to value small customers and their request and spend lots of time and resources for a little profit, while Versata is only interested in larger customers and wouldnt mind sacrificing tom, dick and harry in this process of recovery. It knows where it can get better profit margin. When scott that think3 old managments low profit margin approach had led to crisis why is 80% discount being offered in some cases? Is it to pin down the customers? Anyway 80% offer appears high to me.

    Scott says it has huge professionals strength across the globe, while think3 is trying to wipe off france, india and china operations. How is this possible?
    Versata has a shareholding in an enterpreener product called ODesk where users across the globe can work on contract basis, Is this contract workers does it mean by professionals across the globe? Can any such contract worker really add value to think3 products? Are think3 products so small that any contract worker can manage it?

    • Think3india1

      Think3 as a product has to have a lot of Branding to be done.
      If Versata hires contract employees to even market the product then, i doubt the existence of product in the Asean Market….

    • I hope you don’t mind me say this. But the idea that the Think3 product line can be developed by freelance programmers at oDesk is plain and simple absurd. I wouldn’t even get my small plug-ins developed by freelance developers, let alone a full blown CAD system.

      • Shyam

        Hmmm! Is that what Versata is trying to do? This link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Versata has done some thing similar asking people to work through oDesk. Now this gets interesting if Versata is planning to get contractors work on a mainstream MCAD Product. And that should be a question asked by Think3 users and media on how they believe this will work.

  • Interesting. If the information on that Wikipedia page is true, then I’d like to know how that worked for Versata back then. From my experience in developing CAD software I can tell you with almost certainty that this will not work with Think3. Like I said, its plain and simple absurd to even think that a product line like that of Think3 can be maintained and enhanced by contract programmers.

    • Kiran Kumar

      How about a separate article on contract development for CAD?
      These comments are becoming really long now… a separate article will do better justice… of course it certainly requires some homework… but i feel its worth the extra effort 🙂

    • Never say never Deelip and saying ‘plain and simple absurd’ may not be a wise choice of words. What you can achieve is not necessarily what can be achieved by others. Managing contractors on major projects is not an unknown process nor new – except to (programmers) and those who never experienced it.

      • shyam

        Paul, I agree!! I dont think it is right to reject an idea outright. But it is important to note down what a customer expects from a MCAD Product and how this contract based system will deliver it.

        For.e.g – MCAD users always look for regression free software. Now with free lance contractors, how will that be assured? You ask any product developer, this is a single most pain area of having thousands of test cases to be run to make sure nothing is broken.
        MCAD Users expect regular release cycles, service packs distributed to them. With free lancers how is the collection of all the changes going to be managed?
        And then the MCAD product has various subsystems, like feature modeler, geometry kernel, UI, File system.I dont think there is one person who has mastered all these. Experts in each area work together. How can it be possible in the case of free lancers? Companies like Dassault, AutoDesk, Siemens, even Think3 invest millions and millions in developing skills of people, processes to deliver on all these. It will be interesting to know how Versata plans to address all this through their free lance contractors. I think this is a pertinent question the MCAD Media should ask Versata, how they intend to deliver in all these promises?

  • Kevin Quigley

    Those of us that have been around a while might recall when Think 3 were created. When they launched Think3 it was genuinely innovative. Totally unique way of buying software (rental), unique functionality at the price (global shape modelling), ahead of its time support and training (Webex delivered support and training – all included in the rental cost).

    At the time I paid £1800 a year for Think Shape, Think design and ThinkReal with the CATIA v4 file translator. During that time (and bear in mind this was the peak of Think3’s marketing) the software plodded on – virtually zero added functionality apart from bug fixes. After 3 years they did release a new improved version, but by this time the market had moved on (certainly in the UK) and the innovative online support failed dismally due to reliance on old style pay by the minute ISDN connectivity rather than broadband – my phone bill in Think3 days was £700 a quarter. Couple of years later after I had broadband installed – aand a business level package at that – my total telecoms costs were half that.

    But after 3 years they increased the price of my package to 5500 Euros a year. Time to move on, so I did. Looking at the price list it appears that the Pro bundle is 40,000 Euros a seat. wow!

    For that kind of money I am well into advanced NX and CATIA packages – so why would I switch to Think3?

    In my time as a Think3 user the one common strand was that the company did the ostrich approach to development – our technology is superior, we are the best. er no. They had some unique functionality – but – by the time I moved on most or all of that functionality was available in most mid range systems like Solidworks, and was certainly in packages like CATIA and NX.

    Think 3 I believe are the AutoStudio of MCAD. They have some loyal customers and some unique tools that work very well at certain specific tasks in certain industries – they target a niche market and so charge niche prices. The question for the long term should be – how long do you think companies will sustain that niche functionality at that pricing?

    I always like using Think3 software, but I have no regrets buying into SolidWorks.

  • The question for the long term should be…

  • Drnx2000

    I’m not totally sure where these people from Versata came up with the prices the way they did, well I can think of a pretty good place, but Kevin is correct, 40-55K and you’ve got Catia, not exactly the most user-friendly CAD package, but one of the most notable. And that’s why i loved (LOVED, past tense) thinkdesign, it has a lot of power and is extremely easy to use. Versata, now, is strong arming it’s current client list with having to be part their ridiculous WOW program in order to get the 2011 version, as in “WOW, i can’t believe they want that much money for what is supposed to be an included release for customers.”

    And when you said you think profitability should be the first priority…IT IS! Think3’s software was right around 5K the last time we renewed and not in Versata’s hands yet. The price now is beyond ridiculous and will be happily moving forward away from Scott’s money grubbing hands into Cimatron.

    These acquisition firms should be against the law. They really are nothing more than legalized theft. How many people who worked for Think3 lost their careers? Much more than those who kept there jobs. Everyone I have ever had a conversation with is now gone, and my “Account Manager” (what a joke this is) was a woman with a screaming child in the background who continued to break away for a moment to try an calm the child, after a few minutes I couldn’t take anymore.

    I’m disgusted with Versata and I’m saddened for the people who made Think3 a great program and, whom now, are gone. I hope they’ve found something else and moved on to bigger and better things, because Thinkdesign is finished.

    • There was a fear that Versata would cannibalize Think3. From what you are saying that is happening. Can you give me more details on the pricing and support that is being offered by Versata and how it compares with that offered by Think3

      Deelip

    • There was a fear that Versata would cannibalize Think3. From what you are saying that is happening. Can you give me more details on the pricing and support that is being offered by Versata and how it compares with that offered by Think3

      Deelip

      • Drnx2000

        The cost of maintenance has increased fifteen percent from our previous year of use (the price of T3 has gone up every year, sometimes small, sometimes large) with promises of great improvements and bug fixes with the 2011.1 version. That being said, the assigned account manager informed us that there were some issues with 2011.1, one of those issues is not having the ability to switchback to 2009.3. That is a very important feature to have, that is why thinkdesign has a dedicated switchback program, incase one needed to go back to an earlier version for compatibility issues. But that is only one instance, they may have claimed to have 280 bug fixes, but that doesn’t matter when the software is faulty and more bugs are produced. With the increase in the maintenance and the unwillingness to provide features in a single blanket license like “Die Design,” “Surface Drafter,” or “Zone Modeling” (because they are separate license purchases even before the Versata takeover) it makes me think that Versata is not thinking about ways to make Thinkdesign a great CAD Package for customers to have with great features that should already be in the package rather than available as separate licenses, like Cimatron, Solidworks, so on and so forth. If we didn’t have over a decade of files in .e3 and .e2 format, it would be a no brainer to switch out, but that process will begin soon. I still like the last software package, but I just can’t get over the catches that you have to renew, even if it isn’t time for renewal, in order to get the support you need for the software you should be able to get as a customer.
        The new support page has migrated to cloud9 support. The most generic page I’ve ever seen. It reminds me of when a broken link is clicked in a search engine and topics are displayed as links related to the article or page you were trying to get to (not sure if that made sense to you or not, but it did to me). Anyway, These links posted in the support had nothing to do with Thinkdesign. They were for other software applications that are irrelevant to my field and company altogether. Kind of like if someone started posting about fixes or updates for accounting software in your blog about Thinkdesign. It makes no sense at all. So far they have answered my first ticket regarding the release of 2011.1 and how to get it, but they want these surveys filled out. So far I’ve received 3 emails from 3 different people regarding a survey for the promptness of the support and requests to fill it out. It’s only one question and it’s giving a numbered rating, 1-5, on my view of the support.
        I will not be giving a good rating, because they did not answer me. They sent an email “deemed closed.” They never got in contact with me on how to obtain the 2011.1 version until after I received the surveys. There was no communication between themselves is my point, and the software is junk, so no, I am not happy about it. I’d rather stick with 2009.3 until I get all of our files converted and move on.

        • Think3india1

          Sincere suggestion to all the think3 users, kindly be careful with the product and the upcoming releases , cos al the R & D staff have flown out of the organisation, and the acquired company is left with no one to actually develop the software.

          I would suggest you to switch to other platform, which can assist you in your Product development System.

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