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Alias and Kaydara: Behind the Scenes

Alias president Doug Walker talks about the company's new acquisition By Frank Moldstad

Whoever wrote the storyboard for Sundays Alias Global Users Association (AGUA) meeting at SIGGRAPH 2004 did a pretty good job: First, Alias president Doug Walker welcomed the users and promised some exciting developments ahead. Then, at the end of the first break, Walker and Kaydara president Michel Besner hurried in from a nearby parking lot, cell phones in tow, to announce that Alias was acquiring Kaydara.

Not that the two executives had worked out a deal in the parking lot. Discussions leading to the acquisition had begun about four months prior to SIGGRAPH, and they had hoped to kick off the user group meeting with the announcement. But last minute due diligence requirements caused a slight delay in the timing, leading to the more dramatic Hollywood treatment.


The Kaydara acquisition is Alias first big move since finalizing its independence from SGI in June with the help of equity investor Accel-KKR but other such strategic acquisitions may follow, said Walker. ?As a result of the investment, were able to buy technology companies. Thats what happened with Kaydara, he said at a joint Alias-Kaydara press conference the next day that was originally scheduled by Kaydara to announce MOTIONBUILDER 6, which is shipping in September.

Kaydara products, including MOTIONBUILDER, a character animation program, and the Kaydara FBX file interchange format, are widely used in professional 3D studios around the world. But Besner, who founded Kaydara 12 years ago, felt it was time to seek a bigger parent, and exploratory conversations with Walker soon became serious. There was a natural fit with the two companies product lines, Besner said. And with Aliass global distribution, Besner said he saw a great opportunity to expand Kaydaras reach far beyond what the company could hope for as a smaller independent developer.

The deal is expected to close by early October. Since the ink was barely dry on the acquisition agreement during SIGGRAPH, many specifics about how Kaydara will be integrated into Alias were still to be determined. But some things were decided fairly quickly. Although Kaydara is based in Montreal and Alias in Toronto, Kaydaras development team in Montreal will stay put, continuing development of MOTIONBUILDER and other products. Most other Kaydara employees are expected to remain, too. Besner will join the Alias board, and his new responsibilities are being worked out. Over time, the Kaydara name will be dropped in favor of the Alias brand. Also, Kaydaras FBX format will be maintained as a neutral way to exchange data beween competing programs.

Alias president Doug Walker
We sat down with Doug Walker on the third day of SIGGRAPH for a one-on-one interview about the acquisition and Alias new outlook since its independence from SGI.

What has the reaction at the show been to the Kaydara purchase?

Its just getting better. We, of course, as part of the diligence process talked to a number of customers and partners and tried to gauge what the reaction to this kind of purchase would be and the response was very positive. But until you actually make the announcement and really get out and talk with the users, youre still a little bit nervous. But response has been incredible. The way that our customers are responding is, ?Weve been thinking about this kind of technology for a while, but we really havent moved very quickly to understand it. Now that you guys own the company, lets talk. Lets try and understand where it fits in our pipeline and what things we could be doing with the technology.

Kaydara customers are equally as enthused -- by making our pipelines and our connectivity work a little bit better, by investing in the company to promote it, theres just going to be a way to create a larger amount of organic R&D in the business. Because the revenues are going to be going up. So, theres sort of a win all around. And in talking to their customers, and ours actually, theyre all excited that were going to keep these technologies neutral to all the 3D vendors in the marketplace. It only makes sense for us.

Weve always been a best-of-breed technology company. Weve always been about the technology working along with everybody else. We work with Avid products, discreet products, Quantel products -- it doesnt matter to us.

Its the real world.

Thats exactly right. Whereas we find our competitors trying to build pipelines front to end and sell that as the value, but we fundamentally dont believe that. We believe that artists will buy what an artist can be most successful with. So, were really comfortable with that. Well do some things with FBX to make sure people are comfortable, and that is the truth. The bottom line is, the reaction has been as good as, or maybe even better than, we expected.

 

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Related Keywords:Doug Walker, Alias, Kaydara, Michel Besner, SIGGRAPH, Accel-KKR, MOTIONBUILDER, Maya

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