Blue­print for a Re­model

Forbes - - Technology - By Kath­leen CHAYKOWSKI And Alex Kon­rad

Au­todesk’s soft­ware dom­i­nated ar­chi­tec­ture for three decades. but to stave off ob­so­les­cence, An­drew Anag­nost has to re­build the busi­ness.

Be­fore vis­it­ing An­drew Anag­nost, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Au­todesk, you’re sup­posed to walk through the gallery on the sec­ond floor of the com­pany’s San Fran­cisco of­fice. A full-size model of a MercedesBenz sports car grown from ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied seeds sits like a gi­ant Chia pet. Just past it is a 3-D-printed ny­lon dress draped over a man­nequin, which is next to a metal skull im­plant and a model of the tallest build­ing in China. It’s a mu­seum of a soft­ware maker’s great­est hits.

Up­stairs, Anag­nost, 52, awaits in a stream­lined of­fice, yoga mat tucked to one side. Two slo­gans greet the vis­i­tor at eye level. “Im­pul­sive­ness is not a virtue,” says one. And from his wife: “Pos­i­tive vibes.”

It’s a wel­come mes­sage at Au­todesk, the 36-year-old pi­o­neer in com­puter-aided de­sign, or CAD, soft­ware. Anag­nost got the job in June 2017 af­ter a lengthy ac­tivist-in­vestor bat­tle and the res­ig­na­tion of his for­mer boss. Au­todesk had spent years search­ing for a sec­ond act, ac­quir­ing star­tups and pour­ing money into long-shot re­search. Anag­nost had a sim­ple mis­sion: pick a win­ner.

Wall Street is bet­ting that he’s picked the right one. Au­todesk’s share price has nearly tripled in the last three years; its $27 bil­lion mar­ket value is 13 times rev­enue. That’s a big bet on a com­pany that has been los­ing money since 2016.

Anag­nost’s pick: soft­ware for the build­ing trades. The skills be­hind the al­go­rithms of build­ing and parts de­sign will now be ap­plied to the messy busi­ness of con­struc­tion man­age­ment. That meant toss­ing out other ven­tures and shed­ding 1,200 em­ploy­ees.

“Has it been painful? Ab­so­lutely,” Anag­nost says. “But by be­com­ing a de­sign-and-make com­pany, that’s how we’re go­ing to win.”

The man tasked with draw­ing up new build­ing plans for Au­todesk grew up an avid space and sci-fi fan in Cal­i­for­nia’s San Fer­nando Val­ley. A

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