I met up with Newforma CEO Ian Howell in London on Friday (10 October) and asked about the recent SmartUse acquisition (see post).
From his perspective, the deal was the next stage in Newforma’s “mobile-first strategy,” building on previous deals (2012) to add mobile and cloud-based capabilities to the Newforma portfolio, while satisfying the company’s VC backers that they could deliver the required growth. Buying SmartUse was primarily about acquiring “a software technology that allowed sheet sets to be rapidly synchronised to all devices and which allowed mobile cloud collaboration across them all.” Ian was keen to stress that this was also about helping constructors and owner/operators view and collaborate on drawing-based information:
“We are an AECO business: we started with the A and the E, and we’re now complementing this and helping the C and the O.”
Newforma is not about to become a hardware vendor. While SmartUse’s A0 smartboards make it easy to view drawings full-size in the construction site office, the market for the product is already becoming ‘commoditised’ – many existing offices have smartboards already, there are other products in the market, and prices are dropping. The deal was about acquiring mobile-oriented software that could help users view drawings on any smartboard, plus a range of other mobile devices, Ian said.
We talked briefly about BIM too. Newforma’s view is that the UK BIM mandate is currently mainly focused on designers (“the A and the E”), whose needs the company is currently meeting through the Project Center platform’s support for sheet set export from Autodesk’s Revit. Ian also highlighted the platform’s integration with Bentley’s Projectwise (see June 2014 news release), stressing that enabling easy access to secure in-house installations and to Newforma-hosted data had to be better than uncontrolled corporate use of consumer-oriented solutions like Dropbox or Box.net. The current SmartUse mobile application is purely about 2D collaboration, he added; it doesn’t offer BIM viewing and collaboration support “yet”.