1991 – ArchiCAD beginnings

Murray was convinced there was a great market opportunity in New Zealand for the right Architectural Design system. Due to the high price of Sonata Murray started investigating alternatives and had seen ArchiCAD at a number of trade-shows in the late 80’s while still in the UK.

Around late 1990 early 1991 Murray sent a letter to Gábor Bojár – the founder of GRAPHISOFT the developer of ArchiCAD in Budapest Hungary – making the case for Murray/Cadimage to become the New Zealand Distributor.

Around the same time Andrew Ecker (who is based in Christchurch) had been sourcing ArchiCAD from the Australian distributors and had sold licenses to three practices – two of which remain customers to this day.

Murrays first request was declined by Gábor, with an explanation along the lines of “we have a distributor in Australia so contact them and see if you can become a reseller.”

Murray is definitely not one to give up at the first hurdle, so he tried again. This time however he included a geography lesson. He indicated to Gabor that Sydney, Australia is as far away from Auckland, New Zealand as Madrid is from Spain and explained there were a number of distributors across Europe.

This second proposal was accepted and Cadimage became the Exclusive Distributor for ArchiCAD in New Zealand. This did rock the boat a little with Andrew Ecker, however, Murray very quickly took on Andrew as the reseller for the South Island.

From what I understand Murray had to agree to sell 10 licenses in his first year which was initially a a daunting expectation. 

Early on Murray was unsure about selling ArchiCAD as while at $12,500 it was cheaper than Sonata it was still a lot of money for an architect to spend (I’d say invest but not everyone sees it that way). Therefore, Cadimage also had a 2d based Cad system for around $3,500. Murray quickly found that architects understood the concept of the 3D Virtual Building System and would either jump straight in or at least delay purchasing until they could commit to ArchiCAD – they didn’t see why they would move to a 2d system. 

To help cash flow the licenses for customers Murray also offered payment via post-dated cheques, generally this was 1/3 on delivery, 1/3 one month later and the final 1/3 after 2 months. Murray was supported by generous payment terms from GRAPHISOFT meaning he’d received all payments by the time he needed to pay GRAPHISOFT. In more extreme cases Murray would take 5 cheques over a 4-month period.

As history shows however 10 licenses was only the start and the first year saw the target achieved. The following year (1992) over 100 licenses were sold and the beginnings of a strong New Zealand ArchiCAD base started to take shape.

Until 1994 ArchiCAD was an Apple based product only and somewhere along the way Cadimage became an Apple Reseller and also sold HP Plotters. At this early stage this hardware was essential and allowed Cadimage to offer complete turnkey solutions as the majority of these early ArchiCAD customers were switching from the drawing board.

As a side note, ArchiCAD in New Zealand has built a significant market share and is one of the top markets for ArchiCAD worldwide. When I was asked why I think we were successful I also answered with what appears at first a counter intuitive answer – “we were behind”

As you read above when prospects were presented with the option of 2d or 3d the 3d system was the obvious answer. Architects always think in 3d. So, when they considered moving from the drawing board to ‘cad’ they saw 3d as the most sensible option. Other markets like the US and Australia were well ahead of NZ and started moving to computers in the 80’s and those who adopted computers for their business simply upgraded from a draughting board to a 2d computer draughting software – similar to moving from handwriting to using a typewriter. 

When New Zealand architects began computerising in the 90’s Cadimage and ArchiCAD were there and 3d just made sense and we benefited from having virtually the only 3d solution at the time.

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