CEMAR acquired by Think Project!

Germany’s think project! has added construction contract change management to its product portfolio, acquiring the UK’s leading exponent, CEMAR.

Thinkproject-logoMunich, Germany-based SaaS construction collaboration technology provider think project! has made its first UK acquisition, buying Gloucester-based construction contract change management specialist CEMAR (for an undisclosed amount).

CEMAR’s cloud-based solution helps teams manage contract-driven workflows and supports NEC (New Engineering Contracts) and FIDIC (International Federation of Consulting Engineers) contracts, among others. CEMAR customers include Highways England, Nuclear New Build, ITER, BAE Systems, Heathrow Airport, Network Rail and Sellafield.

The CEMAR back story

CEMAR logoCEMAR was founded in 2005 and initially developed traditional on-premise software, switching to a Software-as-a-Service model a few years later as it competed against SaaS collaboration vendors including 4Projects (now Viewpoint), Conject and Aconex (now merged and part of Oracle) and Asite, plus some UK-based NEC3 specialists including Sypro and MPS. For a time, contract workflow management became a fiercely contested battleground among the ‘extranet’ vendors, but their interest gradually cooled as building information modelling (BIM) took centre stage from 2011 onwards.

However, as they stepped back, CEMAR stepped up. The company has grown rapidly, enjoying year-on-year double-digit revenue growth. It generated around £3m in the year to 30 April 2017, and last September (CEMAR sticks to its NEC expertise) director and COO Nick Woodrow told me it expected revenues to grow 50% to around £4.5m. The business also more than tripled its employee headcount in two years. CEMAR’s leadership comprises civil engineers and contract consultants, one a member of the NEC4 drafting team.

The business’s strength in supporting the NEC contract suite saw it make significant inroads in UK water and infrastructure, and in higher education. The company targeted UK prospects in the so-called 6 H’s (HS2, Hinkley, Heathrow, Highways, Housing and Heritage), and was excited about new NEC4 workflows, and about accelerating international interest in the NEC suite. Importantly, though, the CEMAR solution is “contract-agnostic” – it can and does also support FIDIC and other contract forms.

CEMAR also had a working relationship with UK-based common data environment vendor GroupBC. At the latter’s September 2017 user conference Woodrow described how the two solutions complemented each other. A BC-CEMAR Connector had been developed as an optional module for the GroupBC platform.

Acquisition rationale

Thomas Bachmaier and Ben Walker, London, 22 May 2018When I talked exclusively to think project! CEO Thomas Bachmaier (above left, with CEMAR CEO Ben Walker) about the deal earlier this week in London, he highlighted FIDIC as one of the contracts most widely used by its customers in continental Europe. While the think project! platform did support some contract processes, he said, it was not as sophisticated in its capabilities as CEMAR. Its capabilities complemented Think Project! and this is what attracted them to the deal.

The acquisition is the latest of a recent series that has seen think project! expand beyond its central European heartland. It acquired 60% of France’s Lascom AEC in September 2015 (rebranded in June 2017), established a joint venture with Madrid-based ProjectCenter in September 2016, while also acquiring domestic competitor Conetics in October 2016.

The company has also expanded its technologies to support customers demanding BIM capabilities (July 2015) – a market that is now growing quickly in Germany and other mainland Europe markets, Bachmaier said – and expanded its board, adding a UK-based non-executive director, Laing O’Rourke CIO Gareth Burton, and a new MD and FD, Ralf Grüßhaber. The company has been backed by TA Associates, a leading global growth private equity firm, since January 2017.

Think project! says CEMAR will retain its own brand (annotated to show it as part of the think project! group); its contract management solution will complement its parent group’s product offerings. CEMAR’s contract management solution will be offered to think project! customers and markets, while CEMAR customers will benefit from think project! technologies, such as BIM and mobile solutions.

Bachmaier says:

Thomas Bachmaier“Entering the UK market with CEMAR is a major cornerstone in our international growth strategy. This acquisition provides think project! with the opportunity to acquire major UK and international customers, while adding a leading contract management solution to our product portfolio. We are very pleased to welcome CEMAR to think project! and are confident they will contribute significantly to the Group’s continued growth.”

Ben Walker, CEO of CEMAR says:

Ben Walker, CEMAR CEO“We are delighted to become part of the think project! Group. CEMAR will benefit from the experience and structures of think project’s international project business, as well as from synergies in our complementary technologies. Our joining forces has created a strong partnership for digital transformation that will further support our customers in the UK and internationally.”

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