You would think Alibre and SolidWorks were competitors, as both are MCAD vendors. But Alibre's CEO Greg Milliken explains that Alibre is actually doing SolidWorks a big favor -- by taking care of customers that SolidWorks cannot-- or will not--service.
I met Milliken and VP of Sales, Paul Grayson, yesterday in San Francisco. "SolidWorks average sale is around $7,000." Alibre's average sale is only $1,000, so according to Alibre, they can sell to many wannabe solid modelers that cannot afford SolidWorks.
[SolidWorks is available as a basic package for $3995 but its Office Premium Bundle can fetch $7995]
"I've heard customers that try to get SolidWorks but can't get a SolidWorks VAR to visit them for a month," says Milliken.
What about Inventor?
Milliken has read the claims by Autodesk that Inventor is #1, but has difficulty believing them. "We just don't come up against them," he says.
"Hey, it's okay to be seen as a low end vendor," says Milliken, referring to the money that is to be made on what the big vendors were leaving behind. "For the last couple of years, our year-over-year revenue growth has averaged 50%, last year it was 90%," says Paul Grayson
After such growth -- as well as one and a half years of being profitable -- Alibre aims to jump out of the shadows and boost its marketing and advertising. The company has been content so far with a low visibility strategy, relying on Google ads, word of mouth advertising and upgrades from its popular Alibre Xpress, a free but limited modeler that has already been downloaded 250,000 times.
I asked if the users of the free Alibre Xpress were a drain on resources. Even free software required tech support, for example. But Milliken assures me that even users of Xpress are warmly received at Alibre and helped as much as possible -- after all it is an upsell opportunity. Alibre routs those calls through the sales staff.
A smallish company (50 employees overall, almost all of them in the Dallas, TX area), Alibre has survived its venture capital funded beginnings back in 1998 and its initial attempt to create CAD as an ASP application. "CAD users are conservative, they want to buy the software and own it forever -- even though with upgrades and maintenance, they end up paying about as much as we charged for the ASP model," says Milliken. Alibre is now a desktop application only, though Milliken hastens to add that Alibre does provide the online, collaborative peer-to-peer architecture for real-time data sharing.