The June 1983 meeting was the first general meeting to include all of the Europeans who were actively developing and marketing our products. By that meeting we were clearly profitable and had generated more cash than twice the original investment in the company. Autodesk's stock value was clearly on the march, though nobody suspected how fast and how far it would go.
These notes, taken by Kern Sibbald, also reflect the inevitable growing pains inherent in turning a loose collection of programmers into a real operating company.
by Kern Sibbald
June 7, 1983
I have volunteered to take notes of the monthly meetings and to distribute them to everyone with the following ground rules:
Under these ground rules, please don't expect too much. I am interested in suggestions and feedback.
The meeting was held in the cabana at Duff's condominium complex at 1:30. The following people attended: Lars Moureau, Richard Handyside, Rudolf Künzli, Mike Riddle, John Kern, Duff Kurland, Dave Kalish, Mauri Laitinen, Hal Royaltey, Greg Lutz, John Walker, Kern Sibbald, John Nagle, and Dan Drake.
Due to the amount of financial activity lately, the report is approximate:
Assets ------ Capital Preservation $115,000 (up 45,000 from last month) Receivables 42,000 (7 days average age) Liabilities ----------- Salary for John Kern ???? Mike Riddle royalty 15,000 Mike Ford commission 15,000
To be more exact, some 370 invoices need to be processed.
Dan gave the following status report on setting up our books: Arthur Young has set up a chart of accounts and almost completed the books for our last fiscal year ending Jan 31. We show a tax loss of about $8000 which we can carry into fiscal 1983. The cost of the accounting service is somewhat unknown (about $1000) because accountants are like lawyers, it is not proper to ask, one simply waits for the bill. Jack Stuppin is, however, negotiating to get us the most for the least. Another 5 months of Autodesk accounting needs to be processed before we are up to date. We will be able to pay our taxes that are due on July 15. The accounting is structured to handle overseas sales.
The cash flow will soon be sufficient to reimburse us for our expenses such as car mileage so keep good records if you want to get reimbursed. We are all cautioned about making commitments for the company over the telephone particularly regarding what equipment Autodesk will support. It is OK to indicate that we are working on a machine, however. If you have a machine but don't have everything you need from the manufacturer to make it work, write a note and send it to Mike Ford. He will get you what you need.
Several people visited Digital Research in Monterey last week and found that they have machines everywhere and are running around like mad trying to get their software running on all of those machines. The main topic of conversation was apparently GSX, Digital Research's new CP/M graphics device interface. It looks like for AutoCAD, it will provide a universal display driver and a way to integrate mouse drivers, but we will have to continue to write our own plotter drivers. GSX could solve most of our problems supporting so many devices and only costs $60.00. DR is also interested in a $200 drawing package which could possibly be a stripped down version of AutoCAD.
A Sony Z80 system may have been shipped to us.
Valid Logic Systems is interested in AutoCAD. They have a very high resolution graphics device on a Unix based 68000. Keith talked to them and they agreed to send him a machine and pay a $2500 engineering fee. We hope to get TROFF (Typesetting Runoff) with it.
NCR has a machine on the way.
USI still wants 1000 copies of AutoCAD for evaluation and marketing (maybe?). However, they have not yet shipped any OptoMouses because of a bug in the production ROM. They seem to be finding their way out through cracks.
We are negotiating with a number of schools. U. of Idaho will buy one ACAD and get 9 more for developing a tutorial. U. of Arizona has 30 PC's and wants a site license; we are investigating.
Mike Ford has prepared a dealer contract that was circulated for comments at the meeting.
We have rewritten the end user license, which will be one sixth the size. It has been lifted from Victor; is very nice.
The registration card is being modified to have the machine serial number on it and possibly the new license since it is so short.
We are pursuing a hardware lock for AutoCAD--seems like pure blue sky at this point.
John is exploring a deal involving mapping archæology that may lead to a write up of AutoCAD in LIFE magazine.
Chuck Victory is putting together a 7x10 ad for InfoWorld. We are in the September issue of PC World in the directory under graphics.
We put on a very well received demo for the AIA (American Institute of Architects) in San Francisco.
We traded an AutoCAD to Victor for an 8087.
He has given over 110 demos. AutoCAD has been well received at many shows. Approximately 60 dealers have been found; 50 of them have been to Richard's house. So far sales amount to 38-36 Sirius, 1 IBM, 1 Z80. Richard spoke at length about the different ``real'' users with quite a few well known names such as Ford Motor, Shell, British Royal, etc. He has had one and a half people helping him since January to answer the phone, etc. He is spending a lot of time on support problems. To keep our happy customers happy, he feels we must solve the REPEAT problems and develop several required new features. There is even one software house with their own CAD package that is now selling AutoCAD. A firm with 200 draftsmen is organizing a course to teach computer drafting with AutoCAD.
There is high interest in AutoCAD but few orders for several reasons. The users want the source code safeguarded in Sweden (against war, etc.); they will wait to see if it continues to be popular; they want a Swedish language version. Norway and Denmark will follow Sweden in sales. He has ordered 13 systems and 5-10 demos and projects 100 copies by the end of the year. He says the first year will be the hardest until it is an established product. One company alone is talking about 50 Z80 copies. AutoScreen is hard to sell because WordStar took the market.
The French language manual will be ready in 2 weeks, the Italian version is in translation and should be finished in about 1 month.
DEC Rainbow promises to be a big seller in Europe because of its support.
We have had a number of very good press releases including one (not yet published?) by a German CAD magazine with a circulation of 200,000.
There were some good war stories about transporting equipment across borders for the Hannover Fair which was attended by Richard, Lars, and Rudolf and had 500,000 people in 10 days.
400 approx. shipped. 370 to SunFlex as of June 2.
Lars' option has been signed and the certificate will be issued soon. We are trying to set up a European company wholly owned by the U.S. company. Jack is heading up this effort.
Our office is now functional and is located at 150 Shoreline, Bldg B, Room 20. The phone number is (415) 331-0356. We are looking for a larger one so we can do demos there. 95-97% of the calls are handled by John Kern; the others go to Dan or Duff. All Victor disks are made there. IBMs are made at Mike's house for now but soon we will have another IBM and make disks in the office. We have a new perfect-bound Victor manual--very slick. John Kern turned around 3200 bingo cards in the first 3 weeks. We need complicated good looking professional drawings done on AutoCAD to help sales to architects. Office Staffing--John Kern full time, Kathy Marcelius half time, Jane Kern part time, Gladys Sibbald part time.
We will talk to Kevin soon. Jack Stuppin has put us in touch with a woman who is a prospective customer support rep. We have a job opening for a customer support representative for $1500/month. If anybody is interested now is the time to apply.
The plan submitted was approved 2 days after the May meeting.
The conversions are progressing nicely. John Walker and Kern Sibbald are working on the CompuPro. The DMS 5000 will show in Texas on the 6th. Greg is working on a configurator, which was called a ``crash project to keep us from going under''. He is approaching the beta test stage. A lot was said here about the configurator. We need to get the Victor version running on MS-DOS. Mauri has the Eagle technical documentation for the Eagle now and hopes to get something going. Duff is working on the NEC; he has the display driver part working and gave us a demo after the meeting. Dave has been working on the TI and has completed the code and must now integrate it into AutoCAD. He is looking for a debugger. John Walker finished the Z100 3 hours before Mike left for NCC. Richard has a working HP driver.
John finished the HP driver. He has shipped a bunch of ACAD-80's and sold 10 last month. He would like to drop support of the Z80 version but finds it difficult with several stories of orders of 500 possible.
The Digital Research C looks like a winner. We will get it late this month.
No floating point now or likely to come in the C we have from Digital Research. However, there is a full C due in the fall from another vendor.
For $15K we can buy 2% of this company which reportedly has 7 orders for a machine that finds defects in chips??? (I was in the head when this was discussed). John is interested to get input about this venture. It won't happen immediately.
The original company is dead. We are now a classic small company with one product rather than the imagined company developing many products. In any case, we must now act like a real company to succeed. We discussed the fact that it would not be possible to run a real company by getting everyone's consensus. After a lot of discussion, it seemed like everybody agreed that for operational decisions such as hiring and firing and getting facilities, etc. that the decisions must be made by the board of directors and the officers as they would in a normal company. However, strategic decisions such as bringing someone new into the company as an owner, or going public with the stock or other such major decisions should be discussed by everyone. The biggest complaint seemed to be the lack of communications about decisions rather than the fact that the decisions were made or how decisions were made. Hopefully notes like these and more participation in the company as it prospers will help.
We need to formalize the bug reporting process. Dave Kalish volunteered to keep an error log and to give it to Kern monthly for distribution.
We meet with SunFlex Thursday to resolve the European question. One point seems to be to insure that we are adequately compensated for the extensive marketing we have done to date.
How can we sell it? It is not very fast. No overall architecture. It still has one major bug. He doesn't recommend selling it. It is dead.
If you haven't done so, send your resumes to Mike Ford. Mike's sales plan is almost spot on so he is going to test his forecasting record by writing up a business plan.
Please send me a current list of the equipment you have and the projects you are working on and I'll collect it all and publish it in the next notes.
I made this drawing of the ENIAC ring counter circuit to test the new Attribute facility prior to the release of AutoCAD 2.0 and to serve as the testbed for the sample attribute processing BASIC programs I was writing for inclusion in the AutoCAD manual. This was the first drawing I ever recall doing on an IBM PC.
Editor: John Walker