Thursday, May 6, 2010

Reflecting on Newforma’s beginnings 6 years ago

Yesterday, Cinco de Mayo 2010, was Newforma’s 6th birthday. It was on May 5, 2004, that we closed our Series A funding.

The idea of starting a new business actually started a full year earlier, in May 2003, in the offices of Borealis Ventures in Concord, New Hampshire.

I wasn’t there, but as the story goes, several participants left that meeting saying “No thanks, and don’t call me again.” Others, including Bob “Batch” Batcheler (now Newforma’s VP Industry Marketing and Product Management) and Larry Nuttall (now a partner with the Ascentage Group) , were inspired enough to commit to doing some more research and to start talking to potential customers. Soon after, the instigator of the whole adventure, Jesse Devitte (our initial investor and current Board member), recruited Todd Kozikowski (NE Region Sales) to help. Next, they roped in Jim Forester (Senior Technical Advisor) and Allen Preger (Chief Product Officer) during what started as a casual conversation on a sun deck out in California. They then arm-wrestled Dave Plunkett (VP Engineering) to consider leaving his job at Autodesk.

So Newforma was started without any technology, not even a prototype – but with a founding team that was highly qualified to analyze the state of the AEC market to identify opportunities. Our founders sought to add value by creating a new class of software application to meet business needs that were not already being met by existing vendor solutions. Part of the process was to lock themselves in a conference room at an Embassy Suites in Las Vegas with only a small porthole window for a couple of days, after which AEC1 became a registered Delaware company with 7 founders: Batch + Larry + Todd + Jim + Allen + Dave + Jesse.

That is also about the time that I got a phone call asking if I would review the AEC1 business plan to provide input/feedback. This soon became a second full-time job, consuming nights and weekends. After exchanging lots of redlines I recall flying from California to New Hampshire on a very cold Dec 27th in 2003 to work for the next two days with the team on finalizing the business plan in the very same Borealis conference room where it had all started back in May. In January, I was asked by the founders if I would consider becoming interim CEO to lead the fundraising effort and start pitching the business plan to potential investors. Somewhere along the line I resigned from my VP role at Citadon, sold my house in San Francisco, packed my family into a Jeep and drove 3,000 miles across the country all the while pitching VCs in the hope that we would get funded.

I wanted to share this story with you to help you imagine just how excited (and relieved) all of the founders and I were on May 5, 2004, when our first round of funding closed and we actually had a bank account with a credit balance and we could all look forward to our fist pay check.

Wind the clock forward to today and we now have 50 employees, 460 customers, 40,000 users and a second-generation Seventh Edition product that has just been released. At this writing, we have over 1,100 servers deployed that index and share information on more than 350,000 projects. Along the way we have created: project information management (PIM) as a new software category in the AEC market, and we have established Newforma as the leading solution provider in that category.

In addition to thanking everyone on the Newforma team for their important contributions toward achieving these terrific milestones, my genuine appreciation goes to our partners and customers. To all the architects, engineers, construction professionals and IT executives who have shared their detailed requirements with us, provided feedback on product design ideas, validated our product functionality and volunteered to test our software; and to our partners, who have integrated their products with ours, we owe a birthday toast to you all!

What an amazing ride so far - - with still more fun, new challenges and lots of opportunity to provide even more value to our customers ahead !!


  1. Ian
    A truly inspiring story - especially in these times - and well-told. Thank you for sharing!Here's to continued success and growth.

  2. Ian -

    Congratulations to you and the team. Thanks for sharing the story and best of luck in year 7.


  3. Ian,

    Congratulations to all of you at Newforma and thanks for sharing your story. You can't invent that kind of "folklore" or make up a great company culture; you have to live it and earn it. I think your tale also illustrates that the most important thing in starting a business-- more than the idea, the plan, the funding, etc.-- is to start with great people.

  4. Ian

    An excellent story of ambition and drive that has truly made a difference. Watching from afar (Cold UK) it is great to see Newforma really make PIM a reality.

    Happy Anniversary to the team who had the vision and experience to follow through.

    James Brayshaw