Think3 acquired by Versata

The Italian CAD company Think3 has been in decline for a very, very long time so observers will be excused if the news that Think3 has been acquired by Versata seems like the end of a long slide to oblivion.

Versata announced the acquisition early in October. The financial details were not disclosed.

Versata has extensive development capabilities in India and primarily develops business process management tools. In a look at the company’s profile on Wikipedia it seems Versata buys small software development companies and hands off the development to its company in India. This shouldn’t be disruptive forThink3, which already established offices in Bangalore. The announcement, short and sweet, says Think3 will continue to be operated as an independent entity. Scott Brightman will take over as CEO. Brightman is also listed as president on the Trilogy website. Chris Smith will take over as COO. He is also COO of Versata.

Think3, based in Milan, sells 3D CAD. It is used primarily in the Japanese and Italian automotive industries. The company once harbored aspirations to take on Autodesk’s AutoCAD while that company struggled with moving to 3D parametric modeling. Think3  hoped to offer a migration path for AutoCAD users to 3D – this was well before the appearance of Autodesk Inventor, of course. Think3 had a meteoric rise, went public, and crashed under the leadership of the flamboyant Joe Costello, former CEO of Cadence, the EDA company and who is now CEO of Orb, a company building networked home entertainment products.  The company mounted a noble challenge to Autodesk in the 90s building a distribution network of VARs – in many cases converting Autodesk VARs to the Think3 team with more attractive deals. However, like so many other companies, Think3 didn’t prevail and development did not keep up.  Think3 did manage to get Autodesk’s attention and can probably take some credit for spurring the company on to the development of its own parametric 3D tools.

Think3 retreated back to Italy and has been quiet until a couple of years ago when it announced plans to open up new markets. It re-opened a U.S. office and established Think3 in China. The company claims to have 31,000 customers.

Versata has a few bucks to play with. The company has won a patent infringement suit against SAP for $139 million when a Texas court ruled that SAP violated 5 Versata patents. In 1997, Versata introduced pricing software. This software has formed the basis for the SAP suit.

What do we think?

Versata says it plans to further develop Think3 by taking advantage of its “extensive support and development network.” Chris Smith, Think3’s new COO says it can drastically accelerate product development and improve customer support. In addition to design and manufacture, Think3 also has product management tools, and we expect that this is where Versata will look for additional opportunity. Its CAD IP is just another piece of the package.

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