Just over a month after Oracle bid US$1.2 billion for Aconex, Trimble has invested US$500m to buy one of Aconex’s US-based SaaS competitors, e-Builder.
On Friday 2 February, Trimble announced (news release) it had acquired privately-held Florida, US-based SaaS construction project management vendor e-Builder for US$500 million (c. £357m or €403m). Trimble says “e-Builder extends Trimble’s ability to accelerate industry transformation by providing an integrated project delivery solution for owners, program managers and contractors across the design, construct and operate lifecycle.”
According to the news release, e-Builder currently manages more than US$300 billion of construction project value and over 200,000 projects from some of the most influential owners in North America. Annual revenues were reported to be around US$53 million, and growing at over 20%.
e-Builder back story
It is one of the AEC SaaS sector’s longest established firms, having been founded by brothers Jon and Ron Antevy in 1995, and has featured in ExtranetEvolution regularly over the past decade or so. In August 2011, the Miami/Fort Lauderdale company had around 60 staff, with about 25,000 users of its software, mainly in the US and Canada, and it regarded Meridian’s Prolog as its principle competitor (Trimble had acquired Meridian in 2006).
Two-and-a-half years later, in February 2014, e-Builder’s workforce had almost doubled and was forecast to reach 135 people by the end of the year. Some US$100bn of projects were being managed on the platform, predominantly in North America, with most of its customers being owner/operators in healthcare, education and government bodies. Revenues were said to be growing at 40% per annum, but BIM was still at an early stage for most of e-Builder’s customers. However, in July 2015, e-Builder acquired Scenario VPD, a BIM developer.
In addition to its 2006 Meridian acquisition, Trimble has been expanding its SaaS construction collaboration capabilities. It acquired Google’s SketchUp in 2012, which was consolidated alongside the Meridian products into its Trimble Buildings design-build-operate (DBO) offering. Then, in September 2014, it acquired Gehry Technologies’ GTeam platform, subsequently relaunched as Trimble Connect (October 2014). And it launched a mobile-oriented platform, Trimble ProjectSight, in December 2014.
Trimble acquisition rationale
Trimble’s presence in construction is focused, first, on civil engineering projects, second, on the construction of buildings and structures. It says both will benefit from the e-Builder acquisition. “Trimble solutions leverage constructible Building Information Model (BIM) workflows to integrate processes, improve information fidelity, reduce rework, establish transparency and deliver higher productivity. By using Trimble technologies, contractors and owners are realizing substantial reductions in total project cost.”
Steven Berglund, president and CEO of Trimble, says:
“e-Builder has always recognized that owners play a key role in the construction lifecycle and that their influence will be key to the adoption of transformative construction technology. Trimble will extend its reach into the owner community by leveraging e-Builder’s presence. In turn, we intend to aggressively bring e-Builder solutions to civil and building contractors and the international market. We see a significant opportunity in leveraging data and intelligence gained through design-construct workflows across the full infrastructure lifecycle. e-Builder’s solutions and, more importantly, its organization provide a strong platform for significant growth.”
Ron Antevy, president and CEO of e-Builder, says:
“e-Builder’s mission is to improve project execution to make construction faster, less expensive and more reliable. The addition of our solutions to Trimble’s broad portfolio extends our collective ability to best support owners and contractors with project delivery and management. e-Builder current and future customers will benefit from Trimble’s construction management expertise, culture of innovation and global reach to take e-Builder solutions to the next level.”
The e-Builder business will be reported as part of the Buildings and Infrastructure Segment.
Hardly a month seems to go by without announcements about mergers and acquisitions in the construction software sector, with Software-as-a-Service businesses seemingly very much in demand. Oracle’s pitch for Aconex valued the Australian vendor at around ten times revenue, while Trimble’s acquisition of e-Builder is almost 9.5 times revenue, underlining the attractiveness of SaaS additions to a wider software portfolio.
The deal won’t particularly extend the geographical reach of Trimble’s SaaS portfolio – much of its Trimble Connect heartland remains in Meridian’s old core north American market – but it will expand its reach into owner/operator organisations and into businesses operating in the building, as opposed to civil engineering, sector.