Freesteel Blog » Battery Ventures hoovers up WorkNC

Battery Ventures hoovers up WorkNC

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013 at 1:49 pm Written by:

The press release says Vero Software Acquires Sescoi International, but that ain’t the truth. It would be more accurate to say that BV Acquisitions S.à.r.l. (a Luxembourg shell company that probably exists for tax reasons) acquired the company that makes WorkNC, because then people won’t be mislead as to the actual forces behind it. I don’t have any experience in tracking down company data in France, but there are some details of the business here.

I’ve got a lot of historical interest in WorkNC, because in many ways it was the software which started me off. It was sometime in about 1994 where two of us programmers in NCGraphics were driven over to Depo, a factory making these new tungsten carbide insert tools in an industrial estate in northern Germany, and sat in front of a copy of WorkNC and told to make something at least as good as that, but which was designed for running their toroidal depo tools. We travelled to Germany a few more times to closely inspect the software on the strategies it was outperforming ours on (according to the Depo engineers), as well as to learn more about machining strategies. And that’s how we got Machining Strategist off the ground.

Battery Ventures have updated their website to explain their strategy:

From years steeped in Software, the Battery team knew that mature and fragmented markets offered great opportunities for consolidation, and Europe was no exception.

Working from a successful playbook of midmarket software buyouts in the US and Canada, the team set its sites on key European markets, looking for the right situation in which to build a platform

After 9 months of intense research, team focused on the $1B CAM Software market and the universe of companies in that sector, until the one with the right fundamentals was in sight: Vero Software – a market-leading CAD/CAM company with great products, a recurring revenue base and happy customers.

The team recruited Richard Smith as an Executive in Residence, believing his 20 years of experience in the European software markets would help them to successfully diligence the opportunity and ultimately create a powerful platform to consolidate the fragmented market. Richard worked alongside the Battery team to evaluate the company and market opportunity, and build the right strategic plan for a dominant CAD/CAM vendor.

After 15 months of hard work, Battery finalized the take-private of Vero Software and appointed Richard as CEO of the newly private company.

Vero subsequently acquired Planit Software, another UK-based CAM software vendor, roughly tripling the size of the business with very little product overlap [really? –JT], creating the largest independent vendor in the market.

Executive in Residence, eh? Is that like an Artist in residence? What the heck is that all about?

Who knows what it’s like in there day-to-day. The point is to take advantage of the opportunities that flow from a set of businesses that are now under a single management where the workers are allowed to cooperate, and no longer have to interact inefficiently on the open market.

As far as I can tell, there are three strands of consolidation:

A) Consolidation of customers. By reducing competition the customers can no longer shop around and drive better prices and services.

B) Consolidation of financial engineering. While a company like Starbucks has the skills and resources to afford the costs of arranging to pay no tax while obtaining corporate welfare, most smaller companies don’t have this knowhow (they are too busy running their business). It is without doubt that Battery Ventures, whose core competency is finance, has the skills to avoid taxes that the rest of us pay to maintain the quality of civilization their associates have come to depend on. Freeloaders.

C) Consolidation of software technology. This is by identifying the best technologies across all the products and porting them from one to another so that all of the products are improved with very little cost. If Intel took over AMD in 1994 then they would explain how we would get better floating point units burnt into the CPU silicon of the Pentiums.

Clearly, only consolidation of type (C) is beneficial to the customers. So why don’t they demand it? We don’t even get much lip service in that area. In another world where people actually knew what the best software was in the same way that they know what the best whisky is, the press release would go like this:

For many years, Machining Strategist has been seen as having the best offset area clearing algorithms in the world. However its rest area detection scores six points below the quality of WorkNC’s routine on the bug index. We propose to move these functions across to the relevant products for a release to customers by Easter and have put our chief programmer Mr Gnu in charge of the operation. He will be supported by a team of temporary consultants Software Merge Services who are proven experts in the field of algorithm salvage and code quality assessments, with their focus on test driven re-development.

SMS was founded by Hewlett Packard in 2013 with the specific task of finding the one line of source code developed by Autonomy that had any positive end-user value. Here it is:


Instead, we get this computer generated abstract waffle:

“We are extremely pleased to be joining the Vero Group. Since originally founding the company in 1987, Sescoi has become one of the world’s key CAD/CAM providers with WorkNC. However, with Vero’s global distribution, additional development resources and proven technology sharing concept, I am certain the products will advance at an even faster pace and continue to provide innovative solutions that boost productivity, bolster competitiveness, reduce costs and improve quality.”

This is just not good enough!


  • 1. Russell replies at 9th January 2013, 12:58 am :

    Julian – whilst of course deals like this are driven by financial considerations, I think perhaps you underestimate the motivation of developers to exploit the opportunities for technology sharing that arise when companies come together like this.

    It’s interesting to compare this post with your “Another day another “revolutionary” new roughing strategy”. I agree that there’s a huge amount of wasted effort in different teams developing essentially the same technology. But having some sort of independently-judged league table wouldn’t solve this – if anything it would exacerbate the problem, with competing companies throwing resource at the same areas to improve their standing. What should improve the situation is the merging of companies, as long as there is a commitment to identiying and sharing the best practices and algorithms that now exist within the group.

    And that of course is the rub. I believe that this is happening within Vero; driven in no small part by the development teams themselves recognising the heinousness of duplication of effort, and their willingness to embrace better solutions to problems if they exist elsewhere in the group.

    If your post was more to lament the fact that this isn’t highlighted more in the press releases, well, that may be true (although I think it covered these areas pretty well), but ultimately that’s unimportant when set next to the fact that the process is happening.

  • 2. Julian replies at 10th January 2013, 8:32 pm :

    So far, after three months at Autodesk, I have been unable to find any process — formal or otherwise — for systematically exploiting the opportunities for technology sharing. I’d be willing to bet money that the situation is even less good in other proprietary software companies, given that this one appears relatively enlightened and is managed by people who should know about the development process.

    There is either an infrastructure for developers to discover code across the business, or there isn’t. With open source, you can just google stuff and read blogs and ticket lists about bits of software that you can scavenge. None of this is there inside a company. Are there weekly seminars where each team makes a technical presentation of what they’ve got? List the ways that the necessary information could be transmitted between the developers it needs to be transmitted between. Are any of them operable?

    Reuse of unfamiliar code is an aspiration. You can believe it is happening, but I would need to see evidence that it is actually happening, given the habitual inherent momentum of not doing it. It does not come naturally. It would need to be pushed by specialized consultants with experience in the code merging process (they don’t exist), or by the top management kicking butt daily and never getting off the case, like Jeff Bezos.

  • 3. Graeme replies at 7th February 2013, 3:54 pm :

    Vero have hoovered up surfcam, at this rate there will be nobody else left.

    I am a visi/machining strategist user and other than peps wire appearing in visi I haven’t noticed much change (there is a new feature manager but thats rubbish). They also use the machining strategist kernal but they made it more complicated and less user friendly.

    It’s a shame they don’t integrate it more as with a few tweeks it could be a fantastic piece of kit.The CAD side of things is a joy to use (feature manager excluded)

  • 4. 5axes replies at 10th February 2013, 6:55 pm :

    Surfcam is ne next one :

    And Now ?

  • 5. Tony replies at 23rd August 2013, 9:33 am :

    We all saw the confusion in the market when vero bought NCG, or so they thought, and ended up with the code for stratergist4, but of couse the core code has been sold a few times since by the owner we understand. there was such activity with both sales teams rushing round to the shared customers with great promises of fixes and updates. i presume this will be the same to the WorkNc customers with the encouragment and promises and also of course the offer to upgrade from worknc-cad to visi-cad. But the previous comments are really on the money. the merge of many differeing data structures is always fraught with danger, programming teams have many years of working with their code, and i would assume much of it undocumented. There may well be a magic button for the end user that seems on the face of things to transfer data seemles. but internally there will be much activity

  • 6. Graeme replies at 31st July 2014, 11:04 am :

    And now Vero themselves have been sold to Hexagon.

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