This company appears to be the Russian CAD vendor with the largest market share, 20% (vs the 26% of the non-Russian Autodesk). Like much of the source for technology in Russia, the three co-founders worked at a military manufacturing plant. (The same story is true for just about any middle-aged programmer today.) The PC arrived in Russia in 1988, and they began to figure out how to program it. The subsequent fall of communism allowed entrepreneurs to flourish, and the three launched ASCON.
(There are no public software firms in Russia, owned by shareholders as we know it in North America. Instead, co-founders tend to be the sole shareholders as well as the board of directors.)
By the early 1990s, they had the first Windows-based MCAD program in the world, beating SolidWorks by two years. Throughout the 1990s, they found it hard work selling software into a market saturated by free (pirated) copies of AutoCAD -- about 99%, half-joked the ceo. KOMPAS for Windows was launched in 1997; parameters were added in 1998. Copyright law was strengthened in Russia, and today 80% of Russia's space-related agencies use KOMPAS 3D.
They aim to provide reasonably priced MCAD software for the mass market, and so it is priced under $4,000, which includes first year maintenance and free training. They hope to export their formula for success to North America.
As to my question, why no Linux in Russia? ASCON and other firms sell what customers are using, which is Windows. Naturally, ASCON is keeping an eye on Linux, and once its marketshare exceeds 10%, then it will be time to make their move.
As for direct modeling, they have a similar mindset as that of SolidWorks: it has a specialty placement in the design process, and so it is no priority for them.
This software company was specifically set up to outsource the expertise of Russian programmers to Western firms. 50% of the work for its staff of 70 today is CAD, the other 50% business processes.
This company operates under NDAs that do not allow it to boast of its client list nor of its successful projects. Appropriately enough, their offices are located in a former military complex; female guards continue to man the entrances.
I grew frustrated as the interview regressed, for there wasn't much they could tell me. Finally, the ceo called in several programmers who wanted to meet me, and to ask me questions. I had been told they read upFront.eZine and this blog; I was stunned that their questions actually did refer to back issues of my publications! Part of which resulted in a lively debate over whether man will ever make it to Mars (I say not); for them, getting to Mars is merely an engineering problem to be solved.
Current hot topics like the cloud, direct modeling, and Linux are irrelevant to them: they program what their customers want. If the customer wants a cloud-based direct modeler running on Linux, then that's what SoftDev will deliver.
(Detailed interviews with both companies will appear in upFront.eZine starting September 15.)
About the Photo
The fortress on Hare Island, the original construction site by Peter the Great that founded Saint Petersburg nearly 400 years ago. This island fort and its 300 canons convinced the Swedes to consider not longer claiming this area as their own. Losing the subsequent war convinced them completely.
SoftDev does work for some very well-known CAD companies. Yet, as a general rule, even its customers don't know who all its other customers are.
The one SoftDev customer that is public knowledge is the Open Design Alliance.
Posted by: Evan Yares | Sep 07, 2009 at 08:07 PM
Ralph, just a small remark: St.Petersburg was founded 300 years ago, not 400.
Posted by: Dmitry Ushakov | Sep 07, 2009 at 09:19 PM
SoftDev website mentions some of the products the company took part in the work on: http://www.softdevspb.com/projects.php
One can easily restore the customer names from that list.
Posted by: Dmitry Ushakov | Sep 07, 2009 at 10:40 PM
When I asked about ODA, they replied, "ODA do not welcome mention of SoftDev," according to my notes.
Posted by: Ralph Grabowski | Sep 08, 2009 at 12:54 AM
Re: "ODA do not welcome mention of SoftDev."
Still, since I signed the original development contract between SoftDev and the ODA, I have first hand knowledge of the relationship.
Posted by: Evan Yares | Sep 08, 2009 at 11:35 PM
Ralf, just a small clarification on the dates: KOMPAS for Windows was launch in 1997 and parametrisation appears in 1998.
Posted by: Irina Voronkina | Sep 09, 2009 at 12:23 AM