Germany’s RIB has invested in north America’s VIM AEC, an augmented reality startup founded by ex Revit executive Arol Wolford.
After a busy 2019 during which Stuttgart-based RIB Software made several significant investments and acquisitions growing both its geographical footprint and its product portfolio, it has started 2020 in similar style (though few details of the scale of its latest investment have been given).
During 2019, RIB:
- made an investment in the UK AEC software reseller Cadline (April 2019)
- bought a 60% stake in USA-based BSD to strengthen its estimating and product data technologies and gain a bridgehead in north America (June 2019)
- acquired a 70% shareholding in South Africa’s CCS, a cost estimation and project control software provider (July 2019)
- took a strategic 15% stake in India’s Winjit, specialising in Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and blockchain (August 2019), and bought 60% of reseller US CAD, and
- invested in another India-based software developer, Softtech, bought a German business intelligence specialist, Datapine, and acquired an Australian reseller (November 2019).
Arol Wolford background
RIB’s latest investment announcement (no financial figures provided on the scale of investment) concerns Arol Wolford’s startup operation VIM AEC.
Wolford has an illustrious AEC software career dating back to the 1980s. He was a founder of Construction Market Data (CMD – acquired by Reed Elsevier in 2000 and today part of ConstructConnect), which provided a range of industry information sources. He was a board member at Revit Technology Corporation, creator of the parametric building modelling application, Revit (sold to Autodesk in 2002). In 2003 Wolford founded SmartBIM (today Concora), a creator of Revit objects. In 2010 he founded VIMtrek, rebranded in 2018 as VIM AEC (VIMtrek enabled distribution of visual models, VIMs, collaboration using VIMnotes, a 3D post-it note style system, and conversion of Revit files to Unity packages). Wolford was also chief innovation officer at BSD – as mentioned above, majority owned by RIB since June 2019.
According to RIB:
“VIM AEC is an extension of BIM helping to link design kernels such as Revit with rich data and create visualization in the cloud, on mobile devices and AR/VR much faster. This preserved design integrity, reduces risks and errors affecting re-work and efficiencies. It enables engineers and architects to use BIM 3D Models within special classes like Magic Leap, Oculus Rift or Samsung VR, combines the Design with Data out of the [RIB} MTWO platform and create a new virtual working environment for easy cooperation for the next generation of BIM supporting our strong relationship with Autodesk to get even more value out of BIM on an integrated online platform.”
The first version of VIM AEC on the MTWO platform is planned for late 2020. Wolford has apparently created a 20-strong team BIM VR and AR experts in Toronto and in Atlanta to close the gap between the gaming and construction industries when it comes to user experience in virtual 3D worlds. The target, RIB says, is to transfer Revit models into a cloud-based visual collaboration platform which allows users to walk or fly through buildings to better understand, inspect, analyse, optimise, and creatively discuss and collaborate on buildings with others – creating an almost real world similar to computer games.
VIM AEC CEO Wolford said:
“We have decided to invite RIB to invest into our start-up because we believe that the RIB MTWO platform which can be for example used complementary to the Autodesk BIM 360 platform will be a leading cloud platform for millions of users in the future. To integrate BIM Data from 3D Design with iTWO cost and time data and to experience all combined data within a first-class VR experience on a gaming industry standard can be a game changer for the building vertical. RIB offers the powerful MTWO platform to provide all computing power and managed services to run such data in the most efficient way. We are looking forward to the cooperation with RIB.”
Mads Bording, RIB Group COO said:
“Arol Wolford is one of the most recognized BIM visionaries and pioneers in the world. He was not only one of the founders of the leading BIM design software called Revit, but he also developed Building Systems Design in Atlanta and supported many research projects in leading universities around the globe. RIB’s target is to win 2 million users for our MTWO platform and to invest into technologies which can support the platform users in the digital transformation process. With our international R&D capacity, our deep knowledge in cost and time data, our worldwide new distribution network in EU, India, Australia, UK, Middle East and USA out of hundreds of construction software experts and with our global RIB Cloud platform MTWO, we believe we can bring the right infrastructure to the start-up to offer a new digital working experience for the building vertical in the future.”