He’d been with Vectorworks for more than 17 years, growing with the company to eventually take on the mantle of CEO in 2016, after filling the role of CTO—chief technology officer—for eight years. His name is Dr. Biplab Sarkar, and he came to the software company via Richard Diehl, who many will remember as the founder of Diehl Graphsoft, Inc., the company that developed MiniCAD and Vectorworks. “Richard called me for two years,” recalls Sarkar. “He wanted someone with a background in 3D.” Seems like the fit was like a glove.
As Vectorworks has continued to expand as a global design software developer, its reach into the entertainment industry has continued to grow, with room for more expansion to come. “Entertainment represents 18% to 20% of our overall business,” says Sarkar. “We are hoping to grow that and are working on a major strategy to increase that segment.” Part of that strategy is the recent acquisition of ESP Vision, previsualization software now known simply as Vision and part of the Vectorworks entertainment design suite.
Vectorworks Spotlight is also geared for entertainment, aimed at lighting and scenic designers working in theater, film, television, or special events, as well as theater planners, exhibit designers. “We have six or seven developers working on our software, they are not industry specific, but are working on how to solve real-world problems and better understand our customers’ needs,” notes Sarkar. “In Spotlight, for example, 100% of the features are user-driven. We are always looking to improve.”
To continue to spur growth in the entertainment market, Vectorworks has added Braceworks, at the suggestion of PRG in Germany. “I often go to our headquarters in Munich, and the folks from PRG wanted to meet me at the airport in Frankfurt,” explains Sarkar. The meeting was fruitful and through collaboration with Deersoft GmbH, Vectorworks created and now offers Braceworks as a rigging add-on to Spotlight. “Version 2.0 is on the way,” according to Sarkar, who sees continued development of Braceworks as a valuable entertainment rigging analysis tool.
However, as Sarkar points out, in spite of the fact that Braceworks provides design, production, and rigging professionals with an easy way to gauge the performance of temporary structures under load, they have, as he admits, “had trouble getting truss data from some of the US manufacturers,” so that it has to be entered by hand. A shortcoming they hope to remedy shortly.
Does Sarkar see any competition out there? “AutoCAD and AutoCAD clones,” he indicates, in terms of Vectorworks in general, and programs such as CAST wysiwyg in the pre-viz world of Vision. “Our rendering team now works with Vision,” Sarkar adds, noting that this has improved the visual aspect of the product as it continues to be integrated into Vectorworks.
“We are continually looking at current trends to see what’s new and what’s coming,” Sarkar points out, listing augmented reality and virtual reality as trends now at the peak of the hype chart. “There is also AI—artificial intelligence—which learns how you work, and can then carry out tasks for you,” he notes. “We are looking at all those aspects for the future.”
At the 2017 Vectorworks Design Summit in Baltimore, MD, in September, Sarkar addressed the close to 500 professionals in attendance, including architects, landscape architects, engineers, and entertainment industry folks. His hope was that they would take away a sense of “how progressive we are,” he says. “We are continually striving to make the software better and push as hard as we can to meet our all of our users’ needs. We stay close to our customers, in fact when I first joined Diehl Graphsoft, I was amazed at how close we were to our customers. And our developers work to fix current problems as well as advance new content.”
In terms of his five-year plan for Vectorworks, Sarkar’s mission is to “double our revenue. We are at a critical juncture, and have just crossed a major threshold. We have grown to around 180 at our home offices in Columbia, MD.” And there is no indication that the company has any plans to stop expanding anytime soon, so Sarkar might indeed one day be able to say, mission accomplished.