Tony Ryan, the flamboyant Irishman who has been CEO of SaaS technology vendor Asite since 2006, died suddenly in London yesterday (2 January 2020).
“It is with great sadness that we announce that Tony Ryan, Chief Executive Officer of Asite, died yesterday in London, due to unexpectedly severe complications from a recent illness. The entire Asite family mourns this loss. On behalf of our Board of Directors, management team and employees, we extend our deepest sympathies to Tony’s family.”
With immediate effect, our Chief Operating Officer, Nathan Doughty, is appointed Chief Executive Officer, supported by the Board of Directors and management team.
Ryan, who died aged 48, was appointed CEO in June 2006, having previously been COO (December 2005) and before that Asite sales director, back in the days when it was an AIM-listed company. Ryan succeeded Gordon Ashworth who had taken over from Tom Dengenis (later CEO of Synchro – since June 2018 part of Bentley Systems) in March 2005.
With Nathan Doughty (former CTO then COO), he led Asite through a period of enormous change in the AEC SaaS space. For the most part, UK collaboration vendors survived the Global Financial Crisis of the late 2000s, after which began a series of mergers and acquisitions which, in Ryan’s view, left Asite as the only significant UK vendor that was still independent (though GroupBC might disagree). Ryan led the company to its first annual profits in 2010. Technologically, Asite was also one of the earliest of the UK vendors to embrace building information modelling (2006) and to look at mobile solutions and Salesforce-style platform-as-a-service models (2010), while it also invested in its marketing – embracing social media (2009), creating a cartoon robot character called Adoddle (2012 – Ryan incorporated the phrase ‘It’s a doddle” into his Twitter handle), partying hard at an annual yacht regatta, running Open BIM design competitions, and launching the 17th edition of Asite’s software at an Irish-themed party in London’s Shoreditech on St Patrick’s Day (17 March 2014 – Ryan, pictured right at the event, was a flamboyant Irishman) – repeating the feat four years later in Sydney, Australia (March 2018). Revenues continued to rise throughout his time, though efforts to break into the US market and to grow Asite’s business in other locations were less successful – in 2018, around three quarters of the company’s revenues were still from the UK (post).
The Extranet Evolution perspective
As CEO of one of the UK’s leading AEC SaaS vendors, Tony Ryan spoke to Extranet Evolution on numerous occasions, commenting on ownership changes among competitors or on technological developments, while – ever the salesman! – also promoting Asite hard and trying to position it at the leading edge of industry developments. There have been occasions when the accuracy of some of his claims needed to be questioned, but he would argue his case hard and sometimes abrasively.
New CEO Nathan Doughty has been with Asite throughout most of its existence. He joined the business in 2002 from another AEC SaaS startup, Bidcom (where he was a colleague of Tom Dengenis), which later merged to become part of Citadon, and was active in several of Asite’s technology initiatives, being also involved with BSI, the International Alliance for Interoperability / BuildingSMART, and the Network of Construction Collaboration Technology Providers, championing open BIM throughout.
Less flamboyant and more pragmatic than Ryan, Doughty is perhaps the perfect person to steady Asite at this tragic time. The business and its shareholders have seen several of its former UK competitors snapped up by international corporations in billion-dollar deals: BIW and Aconex are both now part of Oracle, 4Projects became Viewpoint and is now part of Trimble. Doughty might be the man to steer Asite, which is still majority owned by the property tycoon Robert Tchenguiz (post), towards a similarly lucrative outcome.