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May 04, 2011
Another One Bites the Dust: think3 Declares Bankruptcy
Please note that contributed articles, blog entries, and comments posted on MCADcafe.com are the views and opinion of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the management and staff of Internet Business Systems and its subsidiary web-sites.
Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor

by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
Each MCAD Weekly Review delivers to its readers news concerning the latest developments in the MCAD industry, MCAD product and company news, featured downloads, customer wins, and coming events, along with a selection of other articles that we feel you might find interesting. Brought to you by MCADCafe.com. If we miss a story or subject that you feel deserves to be included, or you just want to suggest a future topic, please contact us! Questions? Feedback? Click here. Thank you!

By way of a cryptic “Important Notice,” on April 14, 2011 think3 was officially declared bankrupt by a court in Bologna, Italy. Another one bites the dust, ending one of the most enigmatic sagas I have ever witnessed in the MCAD industry.

It’s demise was not that the company produced bad products. Rather, I feel it was the lack of focus and perpetual management turnover that was its ultimate undoing. No big surprise there. It had developed some very innovative technologies, features, and capabilities that included advanced surfacing and even voice commands. On the negative side, though, think3 attempted to go up against the likes of Autodesk and SolidWorks in the machine design space (with thinkdesign), and Alias in the industrial design space (with thinkiD) – and failed. Also, think3 tried to enter the PDM and other MCAD-related spaces with little or no market strategy, presence, or

think3 did actually play a prominent role in industrial design for a few years, but primarily in education that really didn’t translate into many commercial seats after graduation. Because of the UI, relative ease of use, and ability to generate surfaces, I always felt that the company would have been better served (and maybe ultimately survived) if it had stuck with the ID space. However, bigger brains prevailed, and they felt the ID market to small to focus on, and felt they were destined for bigger (and more competitive) markets. But more about that later.

Before coming the North America think3 was quite popular in Italy, central Europe, and Asia. The first time I spent time with thinkdesign (about 10-11 years ago) I distinctly remember how different and easier the UI was for design work. At the time I was impressed with how easy it was to work with both solids and surfaces in a hybrid environment.

While it was quite capable for certain types of design, it also had some problematic issues with handling large assemblies, as well as limited interoperability. Counter to what the company claimed, this latter issue prevented wide adoption by organizations using other MCAD systems.

I’d seen a lot of good people come and go from think3 over the years. After a while of witnessing the perpetual turnover, you start to see the writing on the wall. The nomadic nature of the company also didn’t help. I started following the company in the US when it was headquartered in Santa Clara, California, then moved its HQ to Cincinnati, OH, to I don’t know where from there. I was also most familiar with the company during Joe Costello’s tenure as CEO.

Before coming to think3Joe Costello was a very prominent person in the electronic design automation (EDA) industry. He was president and COO of SDA Systems from 1987–1988 and CEO of Cadence Design Systems, which became the largest EDA company under his tenure, from 1988–1997.

Joe Costello was on a mission when he arrived at think3, but then again, he always was. His assignment at think3, however, proved to be his most challenging – challenging self-proclaimed “upstart” company think3, which had approximately zero share of the mechanical CAD market, against SolidWorks, CATIA, and Pro/ENGINEER. A tall order, but Costello proclaimed he could accomplish great things in the MCAD market. His marketing skill, combined with his dramatic presence, earned him a reputation as one of the computer industry’s best salesmen. Would it work in the MCAD market?

Costello joined the company in 1998 after high-profile stints at Oracle and at Cadence Design Systems, which, thanks to his leadership climbed from its deathbed to the pinnacle of the microchip design market as a billion-dollar enterprise. Now, Costello was hoping to work the same magic with think3. Unfortunately, it never happened . . .

Back then, he said, “A year ago we scaled back our sales and telemarketing operations in North America because the sales model we implemented in 2000 simply wasn’t working,” Costello says. “Back then we thought we could create a sort of grassroots revolution, using telemarketing and our website to grab engineers, hoping to sow seats. We did manage to sell about 400 seats of thinkdesign in one quarter alone. But it was rare that we could sell two to four seats and then build that up to 50 seats. It’s no longer a bottom-up market. We found out that there’s not much chance to build the kind of scalable business we had envisioned.” This proved
to be true.

Version 6.0 version of thinkdesign, released in 2000, was aimed at the industrial design market because that sector reflected the program’s strength at the time. “We decided to go after that market, but even if our grassroots revolution had worked, the industrial design market is probably only about 15% of the total MCAD market – not enough to sustain us.” True enough; it wasn’t.

By the end of October 2001 think3 had laid off most of its sales and marketing staff. The company was losing money - but only in North America. In Italy, where think3 was founded, its system of direct sales/VARs was a success. At least in relative terms.

By the summer of 2002 think3 boasted a revamped management team (again)- including former PTC senior VP Scott Rudy, heading up worldwide sales – and $10 million in additional capital from the venture firm New Enterprise Associates. The funding came on the heels of winning several major new customers. These customers came from the sector think3 was now aggressively going after – machine design – the most competitive MCAD market segment.

Specifically, think3 targeted mid-sized manufacturers, those with revenues between $50 million and $1 billion (the same market Autodesk, SolidWorks, and others were also pursuing). “This group is the largest and also the most neglected segment because the higher-end MCAD companies go after the bigger fish,” Costello says. “This mid-sized range is also the domain of 2D CAD, which plays to our strength, since thinkdesign is a 3D system embedded with a 2D core.” Was he thinking that no other competitor had thought of this strategy?

Costello explained that the latest release of thinkdesign, version 8.0, was made to order for the machine design customer. “It’s got everything you need for sheet metal, large assemblies and it’s 3D. There is a large, untouched market within this mid-sized niche – perhaps 40% or more of the mechanical design market itself. So that’s what we’re going after now.” Again, a little late to the party.

Whereas thinkdesign sold as a subscription package for $1,995 per user and ran on Windows PCs, the more established players such as Dassault Systemes, and PTC had more expensive offerings, but well-established sales teams. In addition, those programs are difficult to learn and require significant investments in extensive training whereas think3's software can be learned relatively quickly over the Web, according to Costello. The subscription model and Web-based training were innovative for the time, but to compare thinkdesign with CATIA and Pro/ENGINEER was quite a stretch.

In addition to their expense and high learning curve, those high-end rivals possess another disadvantage: lack of 2D to 3D compatibility. “think3 is built on a single system that embeds a 2D core within 3D. thinkdesign can operate in 2D mode – that’s instant payback. This is especially useful in the area of machine design, where there are so many existing legacy drawings and so much of that is used over and over.” Again, just about every competing MCAD system had these capabilities and had quite a head start in the marketplace.

According to Costello, think3 offered another advantage – an integrated Product Data Management (PDM) program called thinkteam, that captured, organized, automated, and shared engineering product information, including standard components, documents, part numbers, bills of materials and active projects. thinkteam was available as a standalone product or could be integrated into thinkdesign or into Microsoft Office. thinkteam was an example of how the company was trying to be all things to all customers and the result was a product line that became diluted with diminishing direction (and return).

In 2001, the company brought in about $15 million in revenue. The next year, Costello had a goal of earning $27 to 30 million, thanks to new accounts from such customers as U.S. Filter, Buell Motorcycle and Boeing, one of the world's biggest CAD users, primarily using CATIA. The entrée into Boeing was a good start, but the company would never disclose how many seats were actually installed.

This time frame was also the high point for think3, and it didn’t last for long. It turned out that Costello could not work his magic one more time with think3 as he had with Cadence. Same smart guy; totally different markets.

After the Costello era, the company drifted from Silicon Valley to Ohio with an relative lack of presence. As a matter of fact, many MCAD industry watchers started counting down the end of think3. As a matter of fact, it virtually dropped off all the radar screens of industry pundits and customers.

Last October, though, think3 sort of surfaced when the following press announcement was released:

Think3, Inc., a provider of design and modeling software, will join the family of Versata affiliated software companies. Think3 provides technology that links three separate design areas: the concept, its development, and the finished product.

Think3 will continue to operate as a stand-alone corporation within the Versata family of software businesses. Atlas Capital IB LLC acted as financial advisor to Versata on the transaction. Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

Scott Brighton has been named chief executive officer of Think3. Brighton most recently served as president of Trilogy Enterprises.

“We are very excited to announce Think3 as the newest member of the Versata family,” says Brighton. “Our focus now is to grow the company by investing in our most important asset—our customers. Our goal is to make our entire customer base, which includes over 31,000 customers worldwide, completely successful with Think3.“

Chris Smith, the newly appointed Chief Operating Officer of Think3, brings more than 20 years of global acquisition and consolidation experience to the position.

“Think3 now has access to Versata’s largest asset, its extensive support and development network,” says Smith, Think3 COO. “That allows us to create success for Think3 and its customers by drastically accelerating product development and improving customer support.”

Versata started in the early 1990s as a software consulting company called Vision Software. Over time it developed and sold software for Microsoft Visual Basic development market. Around 1994, it began development of an integrated development environment for applications. It included a GUI builder and a business rules engine that enabled developers to create a Web application rapidly using MS SQL Server or Oracle in the backend. The product, called Vision Jade, was released around 1997.

Vision Software changed its key product and company name to Versata, went public in March 2000 and, and was worth an estimated $4 billion—astonishing considering that the company had revenues of about $60 million and was losing a lot of money; but this was during the dot-com bubble. Despite hard times, Versata managed to stay alive and maintain its customer base.

In mid-2005, the company was notified by NASDAQ that it no longer met NASDAQ's requirements for continued listing, related to maintenance of a minimum amount of shareholder's equity, market value, or net income. Rather than continue to focus on these requirements, the company decided to move to the OTC in order to remain publicly traded.

In December 2005, Versata announced that Austin-based Trilogy, Inc. had made an offer to acquire the company. That deal was consummated in February 2006, taking the company private.

Trilogy then proceeded to merge portions of Trilogy, specifically, Trilogy Technology Group, into Versata and began acquiring other companies, reorganizing dramatically and offshoring most technical positions to its office in Bangalore, India.

From 2006 to 2008, Versata continued to make acquisitions mostly in US. Rumor had it that most of the employees in the acquired companies were laid-off with the majority work being offshored to its India office in Bangalore.

In 2009, Versata made another major overhaul of its business model when it asked all its employees in India to work as contractors through oDesk for a gDev which is an entity incorporated by Trilogy to manage its outsourcing activities. The only employees left in Versata were the ones in the US.

Versata was involved in a couple other legal entanglements, and things stayed relatively quiet for the company until its intent to acquire think3 was rumored and announced. Why would a company like Versata with its history want to acquire a company like think3? Neither think3 or Versata would say.

The whole think3 acquisition by Versata started started smelling fishy when requests for information were ignored, such as the one below from

“As many others have stated in trying to determine if think3 software has any future, I have also had no luck in reaching Versata, even after several calls to their PR department. It’s alway — “we will get back to you soon” or “the executives are busy dealing with customers.” The few folks in Italy just refer me to Versata in the USA. Hardly a way to do business. Especially when we have the ears of their customers, or I hope we do. If I had the poor luck of having think3 installed after these brushoffs, I would RUN to their nearest competitor.”

Ray translated from French a note sent to him anonymously by an unconfirmed source, supposedly sent by Scott Brighton, CEO of Versata. Here is the translation direct from Google about the demise of the former think3 business entity. The translation is rough but the primary idea comes thought. He added some words in brackets [ ] to clarify the translation.

Think3 Customers and Partners –

As you could learn this week, the entity distribution Italian think3 has been placed in liquidation, the first step to a possible bankruptcy. This unfortunate outcome is the result [of] ineffective management by the previous

owners. This will not affect the product development or support [for] customer[s]. Versata, which is independent of think3 SRL and has the mark think3 and productive assets, these commercial operations continue as usual.

To ensure that our customers and partners undergo the minimum disturbances, we are implementing preventive measures immediately.

On the one hand, customers previously served by think3 Italy will now served by Versata. This is good news for customers – Versata is a global software company, financially stable, with development resources and support widely higher. Customers can expect a more rapid innovation in the software, better support and new [product] offers. We will send another letter soon explaining options available to you: stay on your program Support existing switch to WOW our support Standard, or evolve on one WOW programs Premium – Gold or Platinum.

Secondly, we integrated the website into think3 website Versata to
http://www.think3.versata.com family. The old site
http://www.think3.com, will no longer be accessible.

Regarding customer service, as you know the function support Customer service was migrated in February on[to] the support site Versata Cloud9. We are now being migrated to the feature licenses Customer Service Support Website Versata also.

Today, you can submit your requests for licenses by opening a
http://cloud9.versata.com/ ticket on or by sending an email to
Email Contact. The site will be Customer Service more accessible. For more information on support or Cloud9 how to gain access, you can download the FAQ here.

Finally, we migrated all the email addresses on think3 [to] Versata. All email addresses still exist, but they are @ Versata.com to
Email Contact place. For example,
Email Contact becomes now
Email Contact. You can not contact anyone [at] think3′s old address, but the same alias to the new address Versata will reach the same people as before.

To explain all the changes taking place and respond to questions you’re likely to have, we planned a webinar (Conference virtual) May 3, 2011. I will explain to you personally our plan, what we have done, what all the changes mean and answer questions from customers and partners. I hope you will join me for this important session.

Thank you again for your confidence as we work towards introduction think3′s new revitalized. I promise you that your patience will be rewarded.

Bien cordialement

Scott Brighton

CEO, Versata

It’s May 2, 2011 and I have not heard anything further about this so-called “important session,” and don’t expect to.

For quite some time previous to its ultimate demise, and in the end, on many levels, it seems that think3 didn’t really think it through, and that’s still evident today with being brought into the Versata fold.

So, another MCAD player rides into the sunset – once again leaving its user base looking for viable alternatives. Too bad, really, but inevitable given the course that think3 had chosen. Although the technology was always good, it was management that lacked vision and funding that ultimately submarined the company.


The Week’s Top 5

At MCADCafé we track many things, including the stories that have attracted the most interest from our subscribers. Below are the five news items that were the most viewed during last week.

Aras announced that Extensible CAD Technologies, creator of automated quality control and inspection solutions, has joined the Aras Partner Program. Through the partnership, Extensible CAD will enable Aras users to automatically extract detailed characteristics and data from leading CAD applications, including SolidWorks, CATIA, AutoCAD, Pro/ENGINEER and Solid Edge, directly into Aras PLM Quality Control Plans, saving time, increasing accuracy, and improving APQP and related compliance efforts. Since 2004, Extensible CAD Technologies has focused on the needs of CAD and PLM users by developing integrated software solutions and productivity enhancement tools designed to eliminate manual
processes. The Company’s flagship product, InspectionXpert, eliminates the manual ballooning of inspection drawings and automates the creation of inspection sheets for first article and in-process inspections, including AS9102 and PPAP forms.

IT Power, an energy consultancy headquartered in the UK, is using 3D design software from Autodesk to develop innovative renewable energy devices for harnessing wave and tidal power. The Pulse Tidal device uses oscillating horizontal hydrofoils in place of more traditional rotating blades to generate renewable energy. This approach offers many advantages over existing tidal stream technology by maximizing the area that can be swept — and hence the power captured — in a given depth of water. This makes the technology particularly suited to shallow tidal flows, while requiring smaller support structures and lower installation costs than many competing systems. The Autodesk Clean Tech Partner Program — which provides software for emerging clean tech companies in North America and Europe — enabled IT Power’s Marine Group to use Digital Prototyping technology to accelerate design of the mechanical and structural elements of its energy capture systems. IT Power used Autodesk Inventor software to simulate the Pulse Tidal device’s transmission mechanism. Placing load data for the hydrofoils into a 3D model in Inventor and running a simulation enables the team to rapidly optimize the design of the mechanism and verify mathematical models of the system. Using Inventor has helped IT Power speed the development of a preproduction 1.2-megawatt
prototype of the Pulse Tidal energy device. IT Power is also using Inventor to assist the mechanical and structural designs of the OWEL device.

For years, SolidWorks users have been achieving stunning photorealistic images of their designs by leveraging the PhotoView 360 application, built with Luxology rendering technology. Luxology announced a new tool that facilitates the use of the company's modo software for advanced visualization by SolidWorks users. The new modo for SolidWorks Kit simplifies the import of SolidWorks models into modo while maintaining user interface conventions familiar to SolidWorks users. The modo for SolidWorks Kit expands modo's native functionality with additional options for efficiently importing parts and assemblies while providing flexibility on how the model is organized for visualization
purposes. Inside modo, users are presented with a familiar SolidWorks-style layout and navigation controls, along with drag and drop support for changing materials and selecting lighting environments.

WIKISPEED, the Seattle-based team developing ultra-efficient road vehicles, announced that the company will publicly demonstrate the Alibre-designed SGT01, a vehicle that can deliver more than 100 miles per gallon, at the Earth Day celebration at Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour (
www.futureofflight.org), took place on April 22, 2011. The SGT01 was designed with 3D software from Alibre. The WIKISPEED SGT01, an ultra-light, four-passenger car that is configurable with different seating and body styles, shares its approach to fuel efficiency, modular engineering and composite carbon fiber exterior construction with Boeing’s own innovative, next-generation aircraft, the 787 Dreamliner. WIKISPEED’s SGT01 placed in the top ten in its vehicle class in the 2010 Progressive Auto X Prize, a global competition to build cars that achieved at least 100 MPGe in real-world driving. The SGT01 runs on regular gasoline, meets all road-safety regulations based on lab simulations, and is uniquely modular in design – delivering fully interchangeable parts and body panels including the drive train, suspension, safety structures and interior seating. The design is so flexible that even the engine can be switched from gasoline to electric in 30 minutes, and owners can also quickly switch its lightweight body from a sedan or coupe to
a pick-up/SUV or even a convertible.

Striker Systems, a developer of sheet metal CAD/CAM and nesting software released PARTshare for Solid Edge, a Solid Edge add-in that allows Solid Edge to share sheet metal manufacturing data with the Striker Systems nesting software. From the Solid Edge environment an individual part or entire assembly is extracted. Sheet Metal parts are automatically unfolded as necessary and placed into the Striker Systems PARTshare nesting library. Critical manufacturing data including part number, revision level, routing information, and material properties are transferred with each part. Bend information is maintained to facilitate bend line marking during CNC punching or cutting operations.
Production nests can then be created interactively or automatically from any networked computer running STRIKER nesting software. The PARTshare process minimizes data handling and reduces the risk of manufacturing error.

Jeffrey Rowe is the editor of
MCADCafé and MCAD Weekly Review. He can be reached at
Email Contact or 719.221.1867.

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-- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.

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