The CAD world expected a lot from SpaceClaim. A promising startup founded in 2005 by none other than Mike Payne, whose previous companies, PTC and SolidWorks forever changed mechanical design. SpaceClaim, the product, looked good, it was easy to use and with direct modeling the trending topic in MCAD, it seemed to be in the right place at the right time. On the product side, CAD insiders gave it a thumbs up.
Despite all its promise, however, it failed to take the world by storm.
Some would say it faltered out of the gate. Its subscription pricing came was ahead of its time, and was eventually abandoned for a more conventional perpetual license model. Then it proved to be difficult to unseat SolidWorks and Pro/E users. SpaceClaim's "adjacent seat" tactic really meant you had to to have two CAD systems. That's one more than the number CAD users want. Then they were a front end to CAE software. A front end to CAM systems. Even a ECAD (electrical CAD) system. Maybe users would use it to read, to convert from one CAD system to another, be a super viewer of CAD data... the tactics seemed to vary with the weather.
As late as December of last year, SpaceClaim claimed to have 40,000 seats. Not bad. But not enough to change the big picture. Even perennial contender Solid Edge had risen to an order of magnitude larger.
It doesn't look good when a founder leaves for a day job with another company in the same space. Co-founder Blake Coulter left SpaceClaim in early 2013 and surfaced at GrabCAD. Marketing had been lackluster, consisting mostly of Blake tirelessly tweeting and talking his online friends into reviews of the product, plus the occasional press release about key customer wins. Bernie Buelow, VP of Marketing left not long after Blake. The position remained unfilled.
ANSYS the White Knight
Then ANSYS buys them. $85 million may seem like a lot of dough at first, but compare that what Dassault paid for SOLIDWORKS, over $310 million SolidWorks 17 years ago (1). At the time SolidWorks had only 6,000 installed seats. That's over 3.6 times as much as SpaceClaim -- for less than one sixth the number of seats.
Was it the channel? CAD insiders say Dassault bought SOLIDWORKS for the reseller channel they had set up. But also, SOLIDWORKS was already perceived as a company on the rise.
Already in Bed
SpaceClaim was already in bed with ANSYS. SpaceClaim had signed up with ANSYS as their modeling front-end. It made sense, as modeling was hardly the strength of CAE programs, whereas it is a SpaceClaim specialty. But why buy a capability you already have access to? And why pay $85 million for it? I doubt it would be justifiable in savings of license fees.
An Answer to Autodesk
The answer of why ANSYS bought SpaceClaim may have more to do with Autodesk's actions of late. Autodesk, mostly a CAD company, has been buying up CAE companies to the tune of $300M. CAE companies collectively have been shrugging this off. The seemed content, almost complacent, failing to notice rising temperatures, making excuses for inactions: What does a CAD company know about analysis? Who would believe them? Their channel cannot support it. Not like us, who know what we are doing. We have real solutions. Our results are precise. We have PhDs writing our software. And PhDs using it. What does Autodesk have?
Such an encroachment did not go unnoticed by CAE market leader ANSYS, who saw Autodesk enjoying an unopposed march deep into its homeland. If Autodesk was going to buy up companies in the CAE space, well, they would buy up a company in the CAD space. Just as Autodesk could hope to migrate their CAD users to their newly acquired CAE tools, why couldn't ANSYS buy CAD users to convert them to ANSYS? Two could play this game.
The most likely CAD users to be interested in what ANSYS offers are MCAD users, many of them are already mechanical engineers, in which case their education would involve FEA and other analysis tools. No doubt ANSYS went shopping for MCAD users -- and had to look no further than SpaceClaim, a company they had already partnered with.
- 3 Key Questions as ANSYS Acquires SpaceClaim - tighter integrations to enable engineers, full-blown CAD offering, parametric driven design studies, Chad Jackson, Lifecycle Insights, May 6, 2014
- ANSYS Buys SpaceClaim (Finally) - for $85 million in cash, expects SpaceClaim to have revenue of about $14 million in 2014, Monica Schnitger, Schnitger Corp Hot Topics, May 1, 2014
- ANSYS Acquires SpaceClaim: May the Force(s) Be With Them, Jeffrey Rowe, MCADCafe, May 1, 2014
(1) Dassault Systemes Signs Definitive Agreement to Acquire SolidWorks, June 24, 1997