As users of Cuadra STAR, we were alerted late last week by Cuadra Associates of their acquisition by SydneyPlus Group of Companies. It was a considerate call to make, reassuring us that all will remain intact (management team, technical support and development staff to remain with the company, etc.). The deal was not unexpected given the current marketplace for smaller players like Cuadra Associates. There’s some news on the deal here.
Having worked in special libraries for the bulk of my career, I have a special fondness and high respect for the class of products that Cuadra STAR fits into. If you don’t know Cuadra STAR, you may have heard of a similar product in the same marketplace from InMagic. Both products have their strengths, but I personally give my thumbs up to STAR despite InMagic’s bigger market share.
I’ve used both products and I recall the sense of WTF I had with my first experience working with Innopac (and also later SirsiDynix’s Unicorn). With Cuadra STAR you can change indexes, work with non-MARC fields and databases, use one of their turnkey solutions or build your own from scratch. You have accessible interfaces, very good API support (we’re big users of Cuadra’s XML and STARDB APIs), and with a reasonable learning curve, STAR remains a strong candidate as a backend database for any special library. Affordable and cost-effective, I was always surprised how many smaller libraries still overlooked these tools in favour of the big clunkers. For reasons I won’t go into detail here, we use both Cuadra STAR and Millennium in our shop (the former due to bibliographic database requirements that just can’t be met with the big clunker).
Cuadra STAR was in many ways providing a model for what I thought a big vendor systems should be like: cost-effective + turnkey options + general database functionality + power API support when the job requires it. Cuadra Associates did well by not exercising any of the usual vendor lock-in tricks, so what data goes in can come out and their licensing model was reasonable. They’ve been around and stable for decades, so it looks as if this acquisition will be a good move for the privately held SidneyPlus.
As usual with these acquisitions, what will happen to the smaller company’s product? Clearly, SidneyPlus wants to get a foothold into those niche markets where most of Cuadra’s customers reside: special libraries, museums, archives and company libraries. In the short term, I don’t think Cuadra’s customers have much to worry about as it’ll take some time just to integrate the businesses, identify and exploit the synergies, etc. And I can think of a lot of worse players to be driving this acquisition. It’ll also be good for Cuadra Associates: the company has a stable and loyal customer base, but marketing and growing the company to the next level would have been a serious challenge given the competitive pressures coming from open source as well as other vendors reaching into their marketplace.
So for now it’ll be in SidneyPlus’s court to decide: the usual customer grab, or something better for all their customers?