Autodesk: Young Cleantech Firms, Get Yer Free Software


autodeskimage1We wouldn’t normally report on a clear marketing effort, but a program launched today from software giant Autodesk (s ADSK) is actually pretty valuable to its partners — on Tuesday afternoon the maker of design and engineering software announced that it is starting a “Clean Tech Partner Program,” through which it will hand out free software bundles, worth $150,000 each, to the most promising early-stage cleantech startups. Autodesk calls its program a way to provide “seed” grants for firms and plans to give away software bundles to 100 companies by the end of January 2010, for a total value of $15 million.

Already Autodesk has handed out the bundles, which include six types of software and up to five licenses for each one, to green building firm Serious Materials,and Syncromatics, which creates bus-tracking systems using GPS and cellular location technology and won the transportation division of the California Cleantech Open in 2007.

My immediate question for Lynelle Cameron, director of sustainability for Autodesk, was why? Autodesk’s building design software can help developers create greener buildings and reduce physical modeling, but the software maker doesn’t necessarily have the strongest ties to the greater cleantech industry. Cameron said: “Our customers are designing and remaking the world around us,” and a company like Syncromatics can use Autodesk’s software in the design and engineering stage of its solar-powered transit signs. My guess is that given cleantech is such a hot area, catering to those firms that Autodesk thinks will be large and disruptive helps the software maker gain more traction and sales in the growing cleantech industry.

There’s also the fact that like most tech companies out there, Autodesk has been hit by the recession. Its first quarter earnings for the fiscal year 2010 delivered revenue of $426 million, which was a decline of 29 percent from the first quarter of the fiscal year 2009. For Autodesk, all the funding that the U.S. government is funneling into green ventures this year — through the stimulus package and the climate bill — means any effort to add more cleantech customers is probably a good idea.



While I applaud Autodesk on this generous move, it highlights a serious problem in the professional software market. Professional-grade design and engineering software cannot be priced this steeply without seriously limiting the pool of people capable of utilizing it. If we truly want to accelerate innovation in greentech and other areas, we need cheap or free tools with comparable capabilities, allowing those with passion and skill but little money to participate as well.

Albert Castillo

I “whole-heartedly” agree. Also, other engineers from around the world get this software free (via pirate channels). So, unless US engineers, with deep pockets(!), are able to purchase this software or find the same pirate channels, then we are at a disadvantage.

If they sell the software for $50-$100 bucks, but sell millions more, I’ll bet they can do as well in terms as revenue.


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