Pre-IPO, SaaS construction collaboration technology vendor Aconex is focusing on emerging technology trends, and eyeing potential acquisitions.
On the eve of its Australian Stock Exchange debut (post), Melbourne-based SaaS construction collaboration technology provider Aconex has started to look to the next phase in its growth strategy, targeting emerging technology trends, and already eyeing potential acquisition targets.
According to Sally Rose in the Australian Financial Review, Aconex CEO Leigh Jasper is focusing on industry technology changes, saying:
“The two trends really driving the uptake in our collaboration technology at the moment is the move from 2D to 3D design and the shift to applications that can be used via mobile devices out on the construction sites.”
Apparently, since Aconex launched a mobile service four years ago, over half of all clients have taken it up. While the traditional business model was to charge extra for new modules on its products, Rose reports Aconex has decided to make its new 3D functionality free to help secure market share. Aconex launched its Connected BIM service at the end of October 2014.
Post-IPO, Aconex is expecting the increased transparency that comes with being a publicly listed company will help when bidding for contracts on multibillion-dollar projects, and make it easier to lead and complete more bolt-on acquisitions.
Australian technology company Urbanise is identified in Rose’s article as having a similar business model and a number of key clients in common with Aconex; “We may look at partnering in instances where the two platforms could achieve a complementary solution,” Mr Jasper said.
The two technology trends are at different stages of maturity, and are more about maintaining utility to customers and end-users.
Aconex has benefitted from being among the front-runners in adding mobile capability for its users – it launched its iPhone app in May 2011, and added an iPad version in September 2012. Some other vendors have recently been busy acquiring the specialist expertise needed to develop mobile apps (Newforma bought an apps developer in August 2012, for example; Conject announced its Wapp6 acquisition in January 2014; and 4Projects bought MCS Priority1 last week, having launched its first in-house developed mobile solution in July 2013). However, the mobile applications mainly extend the reach of the core solution out to the field, so making it more accessible – revenues may grow as a result of the added utility; most, if not all, vendors provide the apps free.
Without further information, it is difficult to know if “free” means a BIM project will be completely free on Aconex, or if use of the BIM module will incur no additional charge over the normal Aconex information and workflow management services.
Assuming the latter, keeping the 3D or BIM functionality free is a wise, if somewhat predictable, step. BIM is not yet a “must have” for most SaaS collaboration customers (and Aconex does not have a strong position in, arguably, the world’s most rapidly advancing BIM market: the UK); its adoption will be very gradual. As I wrote in October, there won’t be a sudden “BIM boom” for the SaaS vendors in 2016. More likely, there will be a slow UK ramp-up as centrally-procured public sector (and some early adopter private sector clients) projects start to require ‘common data environments’ (CDEs), and market expansion outside the UK will also be gradual. I think it will be in the vendors’ interests to encourage customers to test out their BIM capabilities without charging them extra for the privilege.