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Since 2015, Cadgen has helped electrical, fire and security contractors throughout the U.S. with their projects, by licensing them the FireCAD fire alarm design application. But the roots of the company began much earlier — more than 50 years earlier, actually, when August Conte began his career in the fire alarm industry in Chicago.
Family Business Roots
August ran a successful fire alarm design and installation operation for many years, with all his children playing a role behind the scenes. One of those children was Anthony (Tony), who started out in the stockroom while he was still in high school. “We all had to do something in the business,” Tony says. “I had to help my dad in the back room.” It was there that Tony learned everything there was to know about commercial fire alarm equipment at the time. “I learned everything from putting panels together, to how these circuits work, to firing off strobes and horns,” he says. “I had a great time.”
Early AutoCAD Design
Tony’s father had seen his son’s eye for fire alarm design — so as a young man, his dad began hiring him to draw them. Soon, Tony was converting paper drawings into electronic drawings using AutoCAD. “AutoCAD was young then,” he says. “We were working in a DOS prompt and using Windows 3.0.” Over the next few decades, Tony would retain his design skills while transferring to electrical work, doing installation and service as a union electrician while still creating fire alarm design drawings using AutoCAD.
Software Startup Launch
In 2002, father and son launched a software startup with a product that automated fire alarm designs. Their tool was able to take all the manual calculations of fire alarm design and automate those calculations with software.”Essentially,” Tony says, “we were designing what FireCAD is now.” Soon, national brands like Siemens were requesting the tool for their own use. That led to August and Tony designing tools and add-ins for other well-known companies, including Johnson Controls and Honeywell. Tony had become renowned for his ability to create plugins for AutoCAD — so in 2013, he decided it was time to go back to the fire alarm design industry.
“I started creating what is now FireCAD one piece at a time,” he says. “I realized that because I was the programmer, I had half my time working on this great tool, and it was cutting my design time in half. It was giving me time to automate the features I was designing by hand. I thought, ‘Wow, I could do this with one click if I created a tool for it.’ That’s what started FireCAD.”
Tony had created a new definition for fire alarm design software. It cut project time down from three months to three weeks, start to finish.
The Next Step
Tony’s next step would be to expand his new product into its own viable company. More on that in Part 2 — but in the meantime, you can learn more about the FireCAD product by contacting the Cadgen sales department at (855) 223-4361 Ext. 1. We’re ready to answer your questions about our outstanding fire alarm design software product.