More confusion from Versata on think3

I was just going through some of my old email, trying to cull out the old ones. I came across one from Austin Scee of Versata from early this year and wanted to see if anything was new. I found out that Scee is out as the former GM and a new GM (Shannon Willems) is managing what’s left of the acquisition, which ain’t much. The links on the site don’t work and there seems no way to get info on the products.

I had the chance to speak with Willems earlier today, hoping that I could get some additional info on their plans and how the relationship with the Italian think3 organization is being resolved. Alas, I learned little that was new. To Willems’s credit he stated that “he and Versata were excited about the think3 software and that they were investing substantial resources in the product.” I repeatedly pressed Willems for more information about what substantial was, but could not get any details, other than that they had development firms in Boston, Russia and Italy working on the product.

If you go to it leads you to a page with lots of complex court filings, with no reference to Versata or their website. No real surprise here since Versata did not acquire think3, just the intellectual property (IP)- the think3 software. One look at the Versata website at leads me to believe that Versata is putting as little resource into the acquisition as possible. Clicking on the products page reveals not one link to another page for more info. What could be more revealing about their intent?

Versata think3 product page has NO links

Willems indicated that there is still revenue being derived from maintenance from existing customers. The US courts seem have decided that Versata owns the worldwide IP for the products. But, the Bologna, Italy courts seem to have made a similar decision for the Italian company. Customers can get the software from either company except where local legal decisions have been made supporting Versata’s claim, notably Japan and Dubai. Even then policing installations seems virtually impossible.

My conclusion is that Versata continues to provide minimal support and virtually no product enhancements for think3. The legal machinations continue to be fought around the world, apparently aimed at Versata preventing the Italian organization from gaining revenue.

On the other hand, the Italian site appears operational and moving ahead.

In addition, there were many LinkedIn contacts showing think3 as their active company, mostly from India and Italy.

My first choice as a customer would be to abandon this mess and go with other well-supported software. Lacking that choice, I would choose to do business with the think3 provider that is most open about the product and its future.


Highlights from the Versata think3 conference call on 19May2011

I listened in to the conference call held by Austin Scee of Versata think3. He was there to discuss Versata and the future of think3 on the conference call. Much of this was covered in his letter posted in my previous blog. Here are some of newest highlights:

  • Scee and his predecessor have spoken to more than 300 customers since last October. Their mission is for customer success.
  • He urged customers, if they are in a quandary as to who to pay for maintenance, to withhold payments until it is clear. Customers can still call Versata for service whether they have paid or not.
  • He further urged customers not to pay for any licenses other than those generated from Versata; otherwise “you are stealing from us.”
  • The company strategy is: Reset, Revitalize, Relaunch.
  • Versata has acquired 20 companies over the last 6 years, most of which were in distress. The first 100 days are the most difficult. [Ed. In this case we are way past the first 100 days!]
  • His strategy for the first 18 months is to focus on existing customers.
  • Scee unequivocally stated that Versata owns the IP and is asserting its rights in Italy and elsewhere. They bought the rights from think3, Inc., the US based company. Versata believes that the Italian court is using improper legal concepts; that an exclusive license (which they evidently purchased) is the same as an IP purchase.
  • An independent auditor was employed by Versata to evaluate the value of think3 before the acquisition. Versata spent millions of Euros on the IP. Versata paid twice what the auditor valued the company.
  • There are 15 global “success managers” to support customers [Ed. What we would call account managers.]
  • They are looking to improve the usability and speed of think3.
  • The company seeks CAD development expertise to “plug into the devFactory.”

Check out devFactory for yourself at It’s pretty obscure what they do and there is nothing that indicates they are part of Versata.

You can check out the website at Oddly, the support site referenced contains nothing on think3. So far — much talk, but little action!

An interview with Austin Scee, GM of the think3 division of Versata

Two days ago, on May 10th, I spoke with Austin Scee, General Manager of Versata’s think3 Division. Austin responded to my email messages and was kind enough to call me from Europe, where he was busy engaging with think3 customers. His latest notice to customers can be read at and is entitled “Who is Versata?”

Q. Most importantly, do you own the think3 intellectual property (IP)?

A. Yes, we bought it from the US based organization, think3, Inc. We have the source code, the documentation, and the customer database. Regarding the Bologna bankruptcy court action, we have the best lawyers working on this now and we are confident in our ownership.

Q. Who are you and why did you take this job?

This is my second week on the job and I am excited about the team and the people at Versata. I have a 15 year background in software, ½ on the operational side and ½ on the investment side. I have known the Versata executives for some time and felt this was an exciting opportunity. The former GM, Scott Brighton is still with Versata and is working with me.

Q. Where does Versata’s support for think3 software stand now?

A. Since we bought the IP last October we have released four versions aimed at fixing problems. When we acquired the software there were 1000 reported bugs. Since then we have fixed 300. Most of the customer contacts will be through account managers, some of whom will be employees, but most will be outside contractors.

Q. It is my understanding that you have few, if any think3 former employees working for you. How is it possible that you can do this and enhance the product in the future?

A. Versata uses a concept called the devFactory, which uses an open source type development applied to commercial applications. We have more than 1000 of the best developers in the world as part of devFactory. These developers don’t get paid unless they develop software that meets our design specifications. They are all independent individuals or companies that bid on these development projects. We believe that the typical approach to proprietary software is a thing of the past.

Q. Has Versata been successful with these techniques in the past?

A. Very much so. We often buy troubled companies that have great code and use our common customer focused methods to make the companies successful.

Q. Have you ever made an acquisition like that that did not work?

A. Many of our successes have come from rocky starts like this one.

Q. I am skeptical that you can use this technique for IP protected code and get the technical expertise, particularly for development planning and the intricate mathematical techniques to support your proprietary kernel. Can you explain?

A. Until now we have been focused on the most important issues that don’t require deep domain expertise. We feel we have stabilized the code that was left languishing during think3’s slide into bankruptcy. We are looking for a CTO with deep CAD experience to help us with the development planning. Our short term plan aims to stabilize the code, improve the speed, and make it easier to use. Longer term we want to advance the code base.

[Ed note] I found out from Dave Weisberg that Versata acquired Auto-trol last November. A note below from David Ramsey, a former Auto-trol employee, might explain their take on the acquisition.

Q. What has been the customer reaction so far?

A. Our team has met with 300+ customers and one of the needs customers tell us about is integration with ERP systems. We are not acquiring new customers yet, but focusing on existing customers. We are looking to partner with customers that want to stay with think3 software.

Q. What is your strategy about software licenses?

A. I will be more prepared to discuss this at out webinar on May 19.

We are planning for three levels, standard, gold, and platinum where platinum includes managed upgrades and help with creating extensions.

Q. Can you share any metrics about think3 in terms of numbers of customers, licenses, and such?

A. I cannot divulge that type of information.


David Ramsey note dated Nov 10, 2010:

So this is it, folks

Auto-Trol was bought out by Versata this month. Versata is moving quickly to reshape the company in their own model, which is no employees, all contractors. KONFIG source code is going to be moved to a Versata subsidiary in India, gDev. All development work will be done from there. The future of work here in the US is currently undecided and in doubt. Almost no one here expects to have a job within a few weeks to a few months.

In my discussions with the Versata rep who has been talking to the employees here, he seemed taken aback by the level of customer interaction we do and the amount of services work we do. I reiterated that many large companies work this way, such as SAP, Oracle, and BMC, which is right across town here in Houston. I gave him examples of the extensive workflow customizations we’ve done and that most of our customers not only expect, but demand this level of interaction in order to be satisfied with their purchase. However, Versata’s plans already seem set in stone so I doubt I changed his mind about anything.

Those of you who have already moved on from Auto-Trol to other ventures, know that just about all of us here expect to be joining you soon. What that will do for or to the existing KONFIG customer base, I have no idea, but then again, no one asked me before embarking on this particular voyage.


The think3 story keeps evolving –badly

Just 4 days ago I tweeted that “think3 Italy and Versata are duking it out. Both claim IP ownership. See and Trying to speak with someone.”

Since then I have received a few email messages from Austin Scee, the new General manager of the think3 products Division of Versata, as well as a few messages from Silvano Joly, the prior marketing head of think3 who evidently still works for think3.

Apparently both are now claiming ownership of the intellectual property (IP). Versata claims to have purchased it from think3, Inc. the US parent company; think3 Italy, via the bankruptcy court also claims ownership of the IP and is attempting to restart the company. Joly wrote on 5 May that think3 is working hard on codes and licenses instead of making promises using e-mail. think3 is trying to recover and re-establish think3 and also considering partnerships and M&A alternatives.

Evidently Versata is moving ahead anyway. Here is what the latest missive from Versata received on 6 May says:

think3 and Versata Logo
Dear think3 Customers and Partners,
My name is Austin Scee, and I have recently been appointed as the General Manager of the think3 Products Division of Versata. I’m writing both to introduce myself and provide some clarity on the recent confusing series of events, including the bankruptcy proceeding with the Italian branch of think3.As I write this, I have just landed in Madrid to begin two weeks of on-site meetings with customers all over Europe. I am energized about what I am hearing from customers and about the future of the think3 products.

I look forward to sharing our vision of rebirth for think3 with as many of you as possible over the weeks to come. We will be having a webinar in both English and Italian on May 19 that will share our future vision for the think3 products with you and also provide you with the ability to ask questions. You can register for the English webinar here, and the Italian webinar here.

In the months since Versata acquired the software assets of think3, we have shipped four product releases (more than think3 had shipped in the prior two years), completely rebuilt the support organization around the world, improved support quality from a customer reported rating of 28% “excellent” to 75% “excellent”, and launched two exciting new programs – Platinum WOW Support & The “Stop The Shelfware” Promotion – that have been adopted by hundreds of customers.

Perhaps most exciting is our work on the new Enterprise versions of each of our major product suites – thinkDesign, thinkPLM, and thinkDesign PLM. The Enterprise versions will be a ground-up revamp of the products that will improve performance 10x, vastly enhance usability via new screen designs, improve quality, include native 64-bit support, better leverage the Cloud, and provide a strong foundation for future features that will make the think3 products world class leaders again. We are tentatively planning a first release of the Enterprise Edition as early as this summer.

There has also, unfortunately, been a great deal of confusion surrounding Versata’s acquisition of the think3 intellectual property assets and the recent bankruptcy proceedings of the think3 Italian Branch and subsidiary distribution entity. The truth is relatively straightforward. Versata purchased the software intellectual property assets from think3 Inc., the US-based parent company. Roughly two weeks ago, the Italian branch and subsidiary were placed into bankruptcy by a court in Bologna, Italy. Since being placed in bankruptcy, a local administrator was appointed to run the local Italian Branch and subsidiary distribution entity.

This administrator has since taken a number of steps that we believe to be damaging to think3 customers and which are not consistent with applicable law. He has seized the think3 website (our new website is available at and posted threatening messages. Contrary to what is claimed in these threatening messages, a local Italian administrator does not have the legal authority to “terminate” Versata’s ownership of the think3 products. Versata spent millions of Euros – well above market value according to independent auditors – to legally purchase these assets.

The priority of the administrator clearly is focused on protecting creditors, even at the expense of customers. Conversely, our focus is squarely on customer success – and Versata has the resources, assets, and capabilities to advance the product and support the customer base at levels that think3 could not before and certainly cannot today. We have also begun investing in CAD expertise, including an effort to hire noted industry leaders to join our team. We believe the future for think3 products is extremely bright. We ask you to give us a year to prove it to you.

We expect that the administrator in Italy may persist in issuing confusing or threatening communication. We will work to proactively address every misleading or inaccurate statement. And we promise to be completely authentic – you will hear the complete, unfiltered truth from us – none of the “legal speak” you get from the administrator. We also commit that we will be using every legal means at our disposal to aggressively protect your investment in the think3 technology.

Further – and most importantly – we commit to you that we will put your interests ahead of everything else. Every decision we make will be guided by our prevailing philosophy of 100% customer success. And you should feel free to email me directly if there is anything that we can do to increase your success with the think3 products or if you have any questions or concerns. Please email me directly at
Warmest Regards,

Austin Scee
General Manager, think3 Division

think3, the company, officially out of business

Here is the latest posting on the website:





This is the last gasp for the original think3 company. Their intellectual property was acquired by the US company Versata last year. (

Since then there has been wide unrest among their user base. As far as we can determine, Versata has released virtually all its developers since acquiring the software and appears to be focused on maximizing its service revenue, while delivering very little service. My sources tell me that the bulk of their marketing effort is involved with milking the last drop of maintenance and license revenue from existing users.

The industry has seen this done before. In the early 90’s Gores Technology acquired Applicon and its Bravo software in a bargain sale, and immediately eliminated all development. It took a few years, but the Bravo sales dwindled rapidly, while Gores gorged on the high margin profits from software maintenance. Deja vu all over again!

We have had several notes from think3 customers, particularly of consumer products, that just love think3’s GSM (global shape modeling) and are willing to give Versata the benefit of the doubt and hope that some new enhancements are coming.

Users would be wise to examine alternative products. Excellent shape design products are available in Inventor/Alias, Creo, Catia, and NX.


Latest update 24 Apr 2011: Not only is the link down, but a search of the site for any mention of think3 comes up blank. A bit odd if Versata truly owns the think3 IP!

Versata gives think3 inquiries the cold shoulder

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.