Nanosoft Visit

Today I visited Nanosoft in Moscow and met with Maxim Egorov (Managing Director), Denis Ozhigin (Product Manager) and Dmitry Popov (Product Launch Manager) to learn more about the company and its product Nanocad.

Although the company was started just a couple of years ago, the founders have a long history in the CAD software industry. They were Autodesk partners in Russia and used to develop plug-ins for AutoCAD. At that time their company was called Consistent Software which then became CSoft Development. They had an Autodesk Developer Network number of 003.

Five years ago CSoft Development tried to OEM AutoCAD for a huge custom development project. Apparently there was a huge delay in getting a response from Autodesk and when it came the price tag was not acceptable. So they decided to go on their own. They had a 2D raster based platform. They merged their existing 2D vector code to come up with a solution and bag the contract. Obviously, there were not too happy with the solution and wanted to come up with a more robust one. The company was already using the DWG read/write SDK from the Open Design Alliance and they took the decision to upgrade their ODA membership to “Founding Member” so that they could get the source code to create their own CAD platform.

In 2008, the programmers from CSoft and managers from Autodesk resellers joined forces to form Nanosoft. Today they are around 20 developers. They also outsource some of their work outside the company. When forming the company the developers were of the opinion that it would take them 1.5 years minimum to come up with the required platform. On the other hand, the managers wanted it done in a year maximum. As it turns out we are in 2010 and Nanosoft has just released Beta 2 of Nanocad a couple of weeks ago.

The thing that makes Nanocad different from other AutoCAD clones is the rather interesting business model of Nanosoft. They give the basic 2D CAD system for free and sell the vertical applications at a cost. You can buy a permanent license or lease the software for a year.

I asked them for the reason of choosing this peculiar business model. I found the reason quite interesting. Its a known fact that software piracy is a huge problem in Russia. Many years ago when AutoCAD wasn’t in the picture, people used expensive CAD software like VersaCAD. Nanosoft alleges that Autodesk “allowed” piracy of AutoCAD in Russia in order to spread its roots in the country. Apparently that’s how AutoCAD became famous, especially with new users. One of the goals of giving Nanocad for free is to fight piracy. They claim that their verticals can be leased so that users don’t need to pay the entire amount upfront.

Currently, Nanocad is available only in Russian and is expected to graduate from beta in about six months. Nanosoft wants to concentrate on the Russian market for starters but go international in time.

I asked whether Nanocad will be offered as an OEM for others to build their solutions on. The answer was no. They went ahead to say that they would not allow third party developers to build plug-ins for Nanocad. Apparently you can build a plug-in for Nanocad for your own internal use, but cannot sell it. I found that pretty short-sighted and told them so. I understand that they want to get paid for something or the other. But not allowing developers to extend Nanocad does not make sense because they would have to develop all the solutions themselves. I suggested that they could take a cut from the developers. That way the customer will get a wide range of plug-ins to choose from, the developer will get paid and Nanosoft will get something for their efforts in creating the platform. Everyone will be happy.

As far as numbers go there Nanosoft estimates there are 100,000 seats of free Nanocad and paid verticals already out there. Apparently, from the 6th of September when Beta 2 was released till today there have been about 10,000 downloads. Nanocad can also be downloaded using torrents which are a popular way of download software in Russia. The problem with that is you have no way of keeping a count of the downloads since the files are mirrored across the internet.

Unlike the free DraftSight, no registration is required. Simply download, install and use. Currently, Nanocad is a 2D application only. To add3D modeling features they would need to license a third party modeling kernel, which would not allow them  give it away from free. So they plan to create another version of Nanocad with 3D features at a price. Either way, their focus is on the AEC segment and they believe that 80% of that market does not need 3D anyways.

I asked what kind of support do users get for the free product. They replied that users get free email support and can seek for help in the forum. As regards marketing, its mainly the internet. But now they have started creating a dealer network. At the end of September they plan on conducting a series of 10 seminars across Russia.

Here is a screen shot of Nanocad.