Gábor Bojár | Dávid Harangozó

Perspectives in Goulash Valley: the Graphisoft Story

ArchiCAD, a 3D architectural design software revolutionized architectural planning all over the world. As one of Hungary’s most important innovations, it has reaped great successes of all kinds for its inventor: rewards, recognition, profit.

The Wall Street Journal ranked ArchiCAD among the ten most important innovations. In the last twenty years, most architectural planning done in 3D was using this software.It has been sold in over 80 countries.Today, its originator, Gabor Bojár dedicates most of his time to an even more important mission: the Acquincum Institute of Technology (AIT). This is an educational campus of high-tech industry and the purpose is to provide computer science training with business savvy. It is crucial, given the fact that only 5% of all software is used by the end user.

Gábor Bojár, whose credibility could not be brought into question with AIT, seeks to support two of his allegations. One: business success need not necessarily be achieved outside Hungary, especially as here the human asset is outstanding in terms of top-notch science education. Two: education is not a pointless and directionless, though, valuable waste of time, but is an activity that produces measurable business success, clean profit and above all, does not have to exclude the principle of equality.

A success story with lots of millions

The events that led to the establishment of the Acquincum Institute of Technology comprise the success story of ArchiCAD. The real merit of the design software, of course, is not its illustrative power, but its capacity that enables the designer to handle and control a massive and complex set of interrelated data.

It turned out to be outstanding because all the contributors involved were outstanding themselves. Graphisoft was originally started by Gabor Bojar and Gabor Istvan Tari. Ten colleagues joined later and they all ended up as propri- etors of the company. Even the smallest – happy – shareholder had more than 2% of shares, when the company value at Dow Jones was USD 250.000.000. Regarding the history of ArchiCAD, the firm was set up in 1982, the earliest a private company could be established in Hungary. Showing the world market that Graphisoft was a force to be reckoned with was a huge challenge. Bojar says “innovation was a commercial need, as simple as that.Innovation should not be supported by anyone,but the market and competition. Limits force entrepreneurs to create a new solution.”

Graphisoft's limit was that they did not have access to great capacity computers and they were the first who developed a 3D modeling program on a simple personal desktop computer – something that made them world famous. Obstructions and needs provide the challenges to which one has to give a competitive response by overcoming them. As Gabor Bojar says, his advice to every entrepreneur is to welcome difficulties and something the entrepreneur should not do is to wait for state subsidy, because that only ruins the business. How did ArchiCAD culturally conquer so many different regions, the German, the American and Japanese markets, for instance? The inventor- businessman says they began in smaller markets because they were somewhat more receptive to the product. As Graphisoft came from a small country, its product was well received in likewise smaller countries. The first country was actually not that little, it was Italy, but then came Belgium, Austria, Portugal, and then greater ones like France. After Germany and Great Britain, came, of course, America and Japan, but to stand their ground on these markets, Graphisoft had to prove that they were a truly global company. Graphisoft had to open its own company in these countries and, in smaller countries, find a local representative who enthusiastically sold their products there.

The feasibility of a brooder

The technological market in Hungary was too small for a packaged product. Graphisoft knew they had to adapt their products to the local market to fit the local needs and styles. In Italy, emphasis was put on the elegance of the product's outlook, in France it was the artistic design, in Germany the technological precision, and the careful following of the “DIN” norm, the German engineering standard.

Altogether, hundreds of minor changes had to be implemented in the different regions. When competing with big German companies in the United States, for example,it was much easier for Graphisoft – than for the Germans – to adjust their products to the American market. The fact that the Hungarians were more humble in adapting to different cultures turned out to be a considerable market advantage.

ArchiCAD turned out to be a great global success.The morals of this are put to use as Gabor Bojar now spends most of his time and energy on AIT. The 21st century means knowledge-based societies where education is going to be the most profitable business. At AIT, he uses all he has learnt in software engineering. One key to success is to narrow down the target, but sell it globally. The same principle should apply to education. The other experience is that American commercial success is a point of reference all over the world. That is why this education campus welcomes would-be software engineer graduates from great American universities such as Princeton, Harvard and Yale. It is a good reference when such recognized institutions send their graduates for a halfyear training. The education campus welcomes Hungarian students, too, free of charge.

For admission, talent is the only thing required from them. The tutors and professors are Hungarians – it is an important principle, but it is their top-notch science knowledge combined with business savvy that seems to be a winning combination.

Market communication and understanding what customers need for their success are two of the key elements (must-know kind of skills) of a successful software engineer, who wants his/her product to be part of the 5% which is really used by the end users. Hungarian scientific heritage with global marketing – it smells of success, although, the education campus has been opened only for a year.

Alica Árvay

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