A clutch of broken link alerts, a website now longer accessible, emails bouncing…. It seems that west London, UK-based construction collaboration technology provider, Cadweb, has ceased trading, weeks after UK rival Woobius did the same.
Formed in 1995, Cadweb launched its first commercial product in 1998 (I wrote an IT Best Practice Programme case study about its use on a project at Green Park, Reading in 1999); its Cadweb.net SaaS solution followed in March 2002, and the company claimed to be one of the longest-established UK project collaboration providers, delivering collaboration services to several long-standing customers (including Land Securities, PRUPIM, Gardiner & Theobald, Chapman Taylor Architects, and Sweett Group).
Its CEO Francis Newman often attended meetings of the short-lived Network of Construction Collaboration Technology Providers (NCCTP) trade grouping, and I occasionally bumped into business development director Tony Dodd (briefly a BIW colleague of mine before he joined Cadweb in 2002), though he left the company in late 2013 – which was roughly when I last met Francis. The Cadweb team carefully guarded information about the company’s financial performance (see my January 2009 post), sometimes making a virtue that it had not required external funding (the company, always one of the smaller collaboration vendors, was 99% owned by a Newman family trust). However, during the late 2000s (when the global financial crisis adversely affected the revenues of several collaboration vendors) and judging from the limited information made available via Companies House returns, its liabilities grew and its net assets declined, and it seems it’s eventually ended in insolvency.
On 15 July 2014, the London Gazette published a notice regarding a meeting of creditors to be held last week on Wednesday 29 July at the Wheathampstead, St Albans offices of insolvency practitioners Maidment Judd.
Meanwhile, in October 2013, Francis became a director of a new business, Rapiere Software, which is developing a web-based decision support tool for design of low impact buildings. Apparently based in Architype‘s London office, the new company’s backers include Sweett and BDSP Chapman.
It comes as little surprise that Cadweb has closed down. It rode the wave of interest in SaaS-based construction collaboration in the early 2000s and benefited from early adopters testing out the various solutions, and it gained some loyal customers. However, rivals say they rarely encountered Cadweb in client competitions in recent years, and as these rival solutions developed stronger capabilities, Cadweb’s relatively simple platform had less appeal.
After Woobius closed down recently, I used a UK football analogy to describe the gradual polarisation between the “Premier League” of leading providers and a “Championship” level tier who support loyal long-term customers, but who compete at a product and price level below that of their more successful rivals. If a business can’t manage customer ‘churn’, if its premium services can’t be adjusted to attract the SME market, and if it doesn’t have other services in its portfolio, it will struggle – and this appears to have been Cadweb’s fate. (Long-time Yorkshire-based rival Sarcophagus, for example, offers e-tendering and email management solutions as well as SaaS collaboration.)