Think Project! CEO Thomas Bachmaier is optimistic about his business’s prospects in the increasingly competitive European SaaS construction collaboration technology market. The Munich, Germany-based company is now facing stronger competition in its core markets following the acquisition of key competitor Conject by the international market leader Aconex in March 2016, but has been busy expanding its own European footprint in recent months.
In an exclusive Extranet Evolution interview, Bachmaier listed a string of recent moves:
- strengthening the Think Project! marketing operation in Austria (“an interesting market and a good hub for eastern Europe”) in June 2016
- establishing a development centre and new marketing business in Szczecin, Poland (“it’s still a small proportion of our business but we are seeing very dynamic growth”)
- a September 2016 announcement of a joint venture with Madrid, Spain-based ProjectCentre to target Spanish and Portuguese-speaking markets, and
- the acquisition of a German competitor, Conetics (announced earlier this month).
German market consolidation
Bachmaier was particularly pleased about the Conetics deal:
“In Germany, we have a number of smaller construction collaboration businesses, and also ‘point solution’ providers in fields such as defects management. Conetics is one of the oldest – it was started in 2002 by a property and construction business, the Bauwens Group, managed by the grandson of former German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. The acquisition has strengthened our position in north, western and central Germany, and while we have a good customer base in construction and engineering, Conetics had strong relationships with several German property developers where we were less strong.”
The deal added ten employees to the Think Project! workforce, and will boost revenues by around €2m a year, he said. Further deals may follow in 2017, but the immediate plan was to consolidate the existing group businesses.
Existing Think Project! customers have helped the company establish a footprint in projects in France (in addition to its involvement in product lifecycle management, PLM, vendor Lascom), in Benelux (“a very mature market”) and in Denmark and Sweden, Bachmaier said.
However, customers in some markets are sensitive about working with vendors from outside their own country. This provided the rationale for establishing a joint venture with – rather than acquiring – Spain’s ProjectCentre. “It is the strongest player in a recovering market that has yet to adopt SaaS collaboration to the same extent as countries in northern and central Europe,” Bachmaier said.
Poland also appears to be ripe for rapid growth in SaaS adoption in construction, he continued, highlighting opportunities in infrastructure projects there and in nearby central and eastern European countries such as the Czech Republic.
Bachmaier said there was also growing investor interest in European construction software businesses. The Aconex acquisition of Conject had increased focus on the sector, buoyed also by German interest in ‘Industry 4.0,’ or digital transformation, of an industry which had hitherto been regarded as somewhat conservative. “We started to see changes in the market in 2015,” Bachmaier said. “We are now having lots of ‘C level’ meetings with organisations interested in investing in BIM and digital transformation to improve industry productivity.”
Such German interest in digitisation parallels the “Digital Built Britain” strategy in the UK – first launched in February 2015 (post), and strengthened by the launch at the ICE BIM conference (19 October 2016) of a new Digital Built Britain body (see news release). This stresses that the continued development of the sector’s IT capabilities is not just a BIM or even a construction issue, but also anticipates the development of wider strategies encompassing Smart Cities and the digital economy.