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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has more than 40 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CAD, CAM, CAE, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the … More »

Major Autodesk Disruption: Carl Bass Resigns

February 16th, 2017 by Jeff Rowe

It’s said that all good things must come to an end, and last week at Autodesk, they did, with the resignation of Carl Bass, Autodesk’s President and CEO.

While at SOLDIWORKS World last week, I received an early morning email from an Autodesk spokesperson that the company was announcing that Carl Bass had decided to step down from his role as President and CEO. “With our subscription and cloud business well underway, Carl and the board have determined that now is the right time for Carl to step aside and let someone else guide the company into its next phase,” said the spokesperson.

Carl Bass Steps Down. Source: Bloomberg

While the search is underway for a new President/CEO, Autodesk’s Board has formed an Interim Office of the Chief Executive to oversee the Company’s day-to-day operations, which will be headed by Amar Hanspal, senior vice president and chief product officer and Andrew Anagnost, senior vice president and chief marketing officer as interim co-chief executive officers.

Amar and Andrew are very capable and bring more than 50 years of combined experience at Autodesk. They both have strong backgrounds in product, strategy and go-to-market, and their combined expertise will continue to drive the company’s subscription business. While Autodesk said it was focusing on its transition to a cloud and subscription-based business, as part of that transition, the company last February laid off 10 percent of its workforce.

Note the emphasis on the “subscription business.” Since its inception, it’s something that has not set well with a lot of Autodesk customers and has been an ongoing bone of contention. Autodesk has hardly been alone with the subscription model, just look how Adobe has exploited it. However, Autodesk customers were left with no alternative deployment choices as the subscription hatched and proliferated.

Carl Bass In His Comfort Zone (Note the Instructables t-shirt)

Over the past 24 years, Bass had served in various roles at Autodesk. He joined the company in 1993 when Autodesk acquired his company, Ithaca Software. He was forced out two years later by then-CEO Carol Bartz, only to be reinstated a few months later after demands from engineers in the company. In 1999, he left Autodesk again to launch another startup called Buzzsaw, which Autodesk acquired two years later in 2001, bringing Bass back into the company. When Bartz stepped down as CEO in 2006, Bass took over the reigns for the next 11 years.

In a press release, Bass said, “It’s been my honor to lead Autodesk through this exciting period of growth and change. I’m very proud of everything we accomplished – from both a business and technology perspective. Our cloud and subscription business is well underway.

The company’s strategy is working, the management team is strong and it’s the right time for me to step aside. Autodesk is poised for even greater success as it enters this next phase. I’m looking forward to my next adventure but will continue working with the company through my role as a board member and am committed to ensuring that the cloud and subscription business model will continue to be successful.”

In the following video, Autodesk CEO Carl Bass talks about the power of new ideas, disruption caused by machine learning technology and how Autodesk is finding opportunities from the disruption of his own business.

Autodesk CEO Carl Bass: How Disruption Creates Opportunities for the Disrupted

Carl was always about disruption, and his departure was a major nod to his modus operandi.

As for what’s next for Carl, that’s anybody’s guess. “I am not leaving to spend more time with my family — that presumes my family wants to spend more time with me,” he said, somewhat tongue in cheek. “I will, however, be spending more time in my shop with my robots. I also have some other plans and will have more to say on what I’m doing in the next few months.”

For too many engineering software companies, it’s become all about the marketing hype. I’m sorry, but it’s all about product and Carl Bass was always about the product — and he kept it real. For that reason alone, he should be regarded as one of the few remaining champions of the customer, and not just the stockholder.

He’ll be missed, but we wish him well in all of his future endeavors, whatever they might be.

And The Winner Is . . . At our exhibit booth last week at SOLIDWORKS World we encouraged attendees to drop a business card off for a chance to win an Amazon Echo with a random drawing at the end of the conference. We received a lot of business cards and the winner of our drawing was Scott Taylor, a 2015 University of Colorado Boulder graduate with a BS in Mechanical Engineering.  Scott works for Coorstek (Grand Junction, CO) as a manufacturing/automation engineer, and uses SolidWorks to design everything from machine guarding fixtures to production and inspection machines. Congratulations Scott!

Scott Taylor’s Reaction After Learning He Won An Amazon Echo From MCADCafe

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