Nemetschek invests in Sablono

The Nemetschek Group has participated in a series A financing round of the fast-growing German contech startup Sablono, while also expanding its own SaaS operations.

Sablono logoBerlin, Germany-based Sablono, described by Nemetschek as a “market leader in digital lean technology for construction enterprises”, raised €5.3 million, and plans to accelerate its international growth (read news release). The company has for some years marketed itself outside Germany including in the UK, where it has exhibited at trade shows and presented at events (see The future of project controls, November 2018).*

Thomas Bachmaier was lead investor in the round. Bachmaier was the founder and, until May 2019 (post), the CEO of Munich-based SaaS vendor thinkproject. (In April 2021 – post –  thinkproject appointed former Nemetschek executive Patrik Heider as its latest CEO, succeeding Gareth Burton). Update: Bachmaier told EE: “It‘s a pure venture investment from my side and Nemetschek – not a strategic investment of Nemetschek. Sablono is 100% independent.”

Matt Wheelis, VP Industry Strategy Build & Construct Division at the Nemetschek Group, and Bachmaier will join Sablono’s advisory board.

Sablono investment perspectives:

Sablono graphicWheelis said:

“I am extremely excited to join Sablono’s Advisory Board and provide the company with my construction industry expertise and international network. We will support Sablono to enter the next phase of growth and execute on its vision of becoming a leading platform for real-time project controls across time, quality and costs”

Dr. Axel Kaufmann, Heider’s successor as CFOO and spokesman of the executive board of the Nemetschek group, said

“Our investment in this young and innovative high-growth company fits perfectly with our strategic goal of shaping the future AEC market and driving innovation. With this step we will enrich our vast experience in this industry with new ideas and approaches, leading to an even higher customer value.”

Lukas Olbrich, CEO of Sablono, said:

“Having Nemetschek continue to back the business and add experienced leadership to Sablono’s board creates a powerful combination of entrepreneurial and international spirit. We really look forward to the next phase of Sablono and reaching the next level with this team.”

[* Sablono is a participant in Glimpse of the Future this Thursday, 10 June 2021.]

Sablono in the UK

Update (11 June 2021) – Olbrich told EE that Sablono has established a solid position in the UK.

Lukas Olbrich - Sablono CEO“We started out in Germany in 2013, brought our first solution to market in 2014, had the first major project in Dubai in 2015 and started marketing Sablono on the back of that in October 2015 in the UK. Since then, our home event has always been the Digital Construction Week and we are attending it every year. We have grown our business in the UK and won major UK construction companies like Lendlease, Ballymore, Bouygues UK, McLaren Construction. The UK is our core market for Sablono and with the new investment, we are doubling down on this market, opening our office and hiring key business personnel in the UK.”

Nemetschek building SaaS strength

Nemetschek GroupThe Nemetschek AEC software group includes Allplan, Vectorworks, Graphisoft, SCIA, Maxon, Bluebeam (a 2014 deal), Solibri (2015) and dRofus (2016 post), and is a strong advocate of open BIM.

Despite the industry impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the group achieved its 2020 financial targets, growing overall  revenues 7% to €596.9 million (c. £512m or US$706m), with an EBITDA of €172.3 million (c £148m or US$210m). Within these numbers, Nemetschek’s recurring revenues from subscription and Software-as-a-Service increased by 19.9% to €359 million – over 60% of total revenues – and it plans to expand its SaaS growth. Conversion to a cloud-centric subscription model of its global, but highly US-focused Build division brand Bluebeam will start in the second half of 2021.

Nemetschek graphicIn April 2021, Nemetschek Group reported a strong start to 2021 with revenue growth in the double-digit percentage range and an over-proportional increase in the operating result (EBITDA). The main growth driver was recurring revenues from software service contracts and rental models; revenues from subscription and SaaS alone grew by 44% to €8.3 million.

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NBS Summit: accelerating digital transformation

April 2021’s NBS Construction Leaders’ Summit focused on the Construction Playbook, the climate emergency, building safety and the role of digital technologies across all three.

NBS logoFollowing its successful online Construction Leaders’ Summit in October 2020, Newcastle, UK-based technology and information services provider NBS (now owned by Byggfakta) held a follow-up event, again over two days, on 21-22 April 2021.

As before, it attracted some top-notch speakers, including UK construction minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Simon Rawlinson of Arcadis and the UK Construction Leadership Council, and his CLC colleague Ann Bentley of Rider Levett Bucknall. Over 2000 people registered to join the event, which covered the accelerating digital transformation of construction, including new UK Government guidance, the pandemic, the climate emergency and building safety regulation. And since the event, further detail has emerged regarding the proposed ‘Golden Thread’ element of building safety regulation.

Construction Playbook

Trevelyan highlighted key developments since the previous Summit, including the December 2020 publication of the government’s Construction Playbook – it “resets the relationship between construction and government,” she said – as well as highlighting the urgent need to respond to climate change challenges (the UK is hosting the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow in November 2021). Energy efficiency and accelerating commercialisation of low carbon approaches were recurring themes. Post-Grenfell, she also touched on building safety in high-rise buildings and the establishment of a national regulator for building products, and echoed the Playbook‘s endorsement of the UK BIM Framework at the heart of efficient project delivery.

Who will use the playbookAcknowledging the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Rawlinson noted previous industry calls to “Never Waste a Good Crisis” (the title of the 2009 Wolstenholme Report). He expanded on Trevelyan’s  keynote, highlighting the Playbook‘s core themes: accelerating industry innovation, improving certainty of outcome, defining and driving value more effectively, and making better use of data and insight. The Playbook is set to be used by several of the UK construction industry’s biggest government and infrastructure customers.

Ann Bentley said government policy changes are aligned to how money is to be spent on construction, with increased focus on value for money, and on transformational change. Indicating the importance of the Playbook, she described it as “Perhaps the most significant construction document I’ve seen in my career“. As one of the leader’s of the CLC’s value workstream, including the Construction Innovation Hub‘s Value Toolkit, Bentley said the UK government’s value-based approach is also being taken up by private sector clients.

Digital acceleration

After a presentation by Crawford Wright from the UK Department for Education, this first group of speakers responded to questions, with digital transformation a key strand. Bentley said the COVID-19 lockdown had really helped industry workers utilise and appreciate digital tools; Rawlinson was optimistic about “industry data democratisation” enabled by cloud-based technologies for businesses large and small, and said aspects of the Playbook such as data transparency are desirable and easy to adopt by non-gov clients.

How deployment of technology could help deliver better buildings more efficiently was then described in the next session which included a presentation from Bryden Wood’s Jaimie Johnson, leader of the CIH’s Platform for Design for Manufacture and Assembly programme (“the Playbook provides more impetus and momentum to the platform programme, … the start for ‘harmonisation, digitisation and rationalisation’”). And Matt Hallissey of modular housing provider TopHat talked about opportunities for mass customisation to meet local authority planning needs as well as home-buyers’ requirements.

The climate emergency, and building safety

The Summit’s second day (which was partially sub-divided into two streams for NBS’s primary targets, one for designers and specifiers, and one for manufacturers)  focused more on the climate emergency and building safety. Gary Clark, chair of the RIBA Sustainable Futures Group opened the day talking about ‘Building Sustainably’; sustainability in design is now also being encouraged in the RIBA Awards where judging criteria demand information about energy in use, embodied carbon and water use (read more).

Golden Thread initiativeOnce the event split, the specifiers stream heard from housing association L&Q speakers Johnny Furlong and Kirsty Villiers, and from Rebecca Thompson, an advisor to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. They talked about their ongoing work to flesh out the detail of the post-Grenfell Hackitt Report recommendations concerning the ‘Golden Thread’. Their aim was to pilot production of a standardised digital Golden Thread of building safety information for higher risk residential buildings. And an information management platform group is looking at how technology can support the process (I believe Nottingham, UK-based technology vendor ActivePlan is involved).

The ‘Golden Thread’ defined

Summit attendees effectively got a preview of emerging UK safety guidance. Since the summit, MHCLG and the BIM4HAs group has produced a formal definition, comprising five key criteria, backed by a nine-point annex.

According to a 28 May 2021 BIMplus article, the ‘Golden Thread’ covers the information, documents and information management processes used to support building safety (relating to both the building itself and people in and around it). The guidance highlights that “information could be held in a common data environment, but that there is no requirement for such,” with information held in a “structured way”, and will “likely align with the rules around open source data – so that information can be handed over in the future and still be accessed”.

The summit for specifiers continued with an overview, of the NBS Chorus specification platform (NBS Building, Landscape, and Create, are set to retire on 30 June 2021) and NBS Source (now combining NBS’s Product Selector, National BIM Library and NBS Plus), delivered by Stephen Hamil. He referred back to earlier presentations, stressing the key role of specification (apparently the Playbook mentions specification 38 times), while suggesting digital tools and standard processes are allowing better collaboration, more coordinated information and heightened transparency on audit trails. Carlos Muriel of Atkins then talked about digital design of internal spaces, and Alastair Kell described BDP’s adoption of BIM.

In the day’s final Q&A, the need for an industry culture change was discussed, and Hamil echoed the opportunity outlined earlier by Rawlinson: “We need to get away from decisions made in emails and telephone calls to decisions captured in shared spaces and platforms“.

Presentations and videos from the NBS summit are available via the NBS CLS webpage. NBS has also been promoting follow-up webinars reprising content from the summit – see events. And the 2021 NBS digital survey was also launched at the conference.

[* Disclosure: As a paid consultant, I supported NBS efforts to promote and to share content from the NBS Construction Leaders’ Summit. #CLS2021]

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thinkproject appoints new CEO

thinkproject logoGerman SaaS construction technology vendor has appointed former Nemetschek executive Patrik Heider as its CEO and further strengthened its board.

Former Nemetschek executive Patrik Heider has been appointed as the new CEO of Munich, Germany-based construction collaboration SaaS technology provider thinkproject

Patrik HeiderHeider, right, has held roles at PwC and the Hoffman manufacturing group, and spent five years (2014-2019) as spokesman of the executive board and CFO/COO at the Nemetschek construction software group, and 16 months as CEO of riskmethods (a supply chain risk management software vendor based in Munich). Under Heider’s tenure at Nemetschek, say thinkproject, “the company experienced impressive organic revenue growth and executed multiple group and brand level acquisitions – expanding the presence of the group from its core in building design and construction into building management.”

Heider replaces Gareth Burton who was succeeded thinkproject founder Thomas Bachmaier as CEO in May 2019 (post), having previously been the CIO of UK contractor Laing O’Rourke and, from January 2018, a non-executive director and member of thinkproject’s board of directors.


In late 2020, Swedish international investment group EQT took a majority stake in the German business (read: EQT takes majority stake in thinkproject). Florian Funk, a partner at EQT and member of thinkproject’s board says:

“Patrik is an inspiring leader with deep industry knowledge and a strong business acumen. He was a natural choice and an excellent successor for Gareth. He will continue the strategic focus on driving sustainable growth and further increasing the market position. I’m delighted to welcome Patrik to the company as he will play a key role in establishing Thinkproject as the leader in construction intelligence.

Heider says:

“I’m excited yet humbled to take on the responsibility of leading Thinkproject forward into the next phase. Digitalisation of the AECO industry is still at the beginning and there are a lot of opportunities as well as challenges ahead, both for us and the industry. I’m looking forward taking these challenges on with the talented employees, our customers and partners to help construct a better world.”

Gareth Burton (think project! CEO)Burton, right, told Extranet Evolution that he had agreed with EQT that now would be the right time for a transition.

“Life is like that in private equity – the soccer coach analogy is a good one: high passion, high intensity, but it can be over very quickly. Last year was exceptional … and I feel I am leaving on a high. …. The FY20 results were well ahead of budget [thinkproject achieved 40% revenue growth in 2020] and the business is in a great shape this FY.”

Further ex-Nemetschek representation on thinkproject board

Malou AamundSean FlahertyMeanwhile, Malou Aamund, left, is the new chair of thinkproject’s board of directors. Aamund is the managing director for Google Denmark, and has previously held international leadership positions at Microsoft and IBM in Europe, EMEA and the Americas. She is a board member for several companies and also chair of the Board of Ecoinnovation.

Sean Flaherty, right, also joins the board. Flaherty is an AECO industry veteran with over 30 years of experience in creating design software and working in BIM. He has held various leadership positions including spells as CTO then as CEO of Vectorworks; later, he was on the board at Nemetschek Group as CSO and chair of several of its brand companies.

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Openbuilt spreads its “wings of transformation”

OpenBuilt sees major IT players including IBM and Red Hat combining to develop a connectivity and automation platform for the built environment industry.

OpenBuilt logoOpenBuilt is positioned as “a connectivity and automation platform that enables businesses to work faster and more accurately with their existing software“.

It has been launched by a group of businesses including global IT giant IBM, open source software leader Red Hat, international construction materials supplier Cemex and Oslo, Norway-based construction product data specialist Cobuilder. The OpenBuilt website says it “combines industry expertise and big tech credentials with the agility of a startup.” It is “building trusted data pipelines and low code development tools that will enable anyone to automate their business processes without complex software integration”:

“Through integration of previously siloed systems, enabling standardisation of data and providing tools to automate processes the OpenBuilt platform will bring the connectivity needed to unlock latent innovation – from industry 4.0 to the circular economy – that is required to meet the industry’s productivity gap.”

CDE … ecosystem … environment …?

OpenBuilt was launched yesterday (14 April 2021) and immediately  sparked considerable debate on social media about exactly what it is.

“IBM has just entered the CDE market,” tweeted BIMlauncher’s John Egan (who has history in this platform field with his 2016 Jenca Cloud; post). Edify’s Martin McDonell tweeted that IBM and Red Hat “seem to be making a big play as a CDE”. Cobuilder’s Antony Brophy insisted it wasn’t a CDE but a “connected ecoysystem”. BuroHappold’s Alain Waha felt it was “certainly more Common Data Ecosystem than any other system proposed so far by CDE vendors.” His colleague Shaun Farrell felt it was “more a component in the ecosystem … reliant on platforms being connectable.”

Some were more sceptical. One observer described OpenBuilt as “a ‘Johnny-come-lately’ lash-up grouping of reputable but less well-known names, which is trying to belatedly get a slice of what promises to be big action.” Also underlining it’s not a CDE, IBM’s Paul Surin was quick to defend the platform saying it was “not trying to muscle on the market”, adding “OpenBuilt is an independent company owned and led by a consortium of industry partners”.

BSI’s Dan Rossiter was “intrigued”: “The CDE process is about portability and QC, this appears to be more about retaining the syntactic and semantic relations as information is exchanged.”

CoBuilt standingAccording to OpenBuilt’s website, it’s not too late to get involved and help to build an automated exchange platform that works for the industry. The project is still at an early research stage, but its principles include “trusted data” and being “truly interoperable”, with the capability to “manage complex technical product data.”

“Take the edge off opaqueness … break down the deep silos and fragmentation …”

Mark FarmerAs part of the launch, one of the UK’s major champions of the need for change, Mark Farmer (author of the 2016 UK construction industry report “Modernise or Die), was interviewed for an IBM blog post. He said:

“Cloud platforms that enable people to collaborate in an open-source manner, such as OpenBuilt, could take the edge off the culture of opaqueness by enabling people to build interconnected ecosystems. It could build more trust in how we do construction and commercially contract.”

And in Designing Buildings, Farmer said:

“In pursuing the broad goal of construction industry transformation, there is a critical need to break down the deep silos and fragmentation that exists in how we organise and operate design, manufacture, construction and operation processes.

“This is equally true in the emerging digitalisation challenge. To create more strategic and scalable intelligent workflows, we need data and software to be part of a fully connected ecosystem. The concept of digital platforms is nothing new, but if construction is ever going to realise the full potential of some of the technology solutions that are now proliferating, and if those solutions are ever going to be given the chance to scale to maturity, then there is a need for market leadership in creating a unifying platform that can host these solutions and enables interoperability.

“What IBM and partners are offering through OpenBuilt is the opportunity to act as a digital integrator at an international and industry wide level, gluing together what is becoming an increasingly fragmented digital marketplace for construction technology solutions. This is an important step forward which has great potential to make our industry more efficient”.

OpenBuilt product development

According to Designing Buildings, OpenBuilt’s collaborative product development will initially focus on three areas:

  1. Establishing OpenBuilt using Red Hat OpenShift running on IBM Cloud to enable cconstruction companies to adopt a hybrid cloud approach and connect their supply chain. To maintain consistent technical language, OpenBuilt will use Cobuilder’s data templates to structure all data in a way that allows for machine-readability and interoperability with existing and future systems.
  2. Integration of independent software vendors to make an array of software and services accessible. IBM solutions and Salesforce open APIs will be integrated into the platform during the development to enable users to build functionality into their intelligent workflows.
  3. OpenBuilt ArchitectureDevelopment of new applications including a solution that will enable organisations to search, filter and sort building product technical data. Cobuilder’s data dictionary solution Define will be among the fundamental technologies enabling the use of a common language within the initial OpenBuilt flagship applications.

Echoes of the boom?

Reading about OpenBuilt and watching the social media conversations was reminiscent of similar conversations more than 20 years ago during the boom. That wider digital explosion sparked some major changes, but construction proved somewhat resistant to any significant digital transformation. During 2000, various major industry companies set out to create new construction trading platforms (eg: Mercadium, AECVenture, Arrideo, EU-supply, B2Build, etc – plus Asite, see update below), but competing construction materials giants or major contractors rarely wanted to work with each other. Sellers were concerned about aggregated spending driving down profit margins; buyers didn’t want their purchasing habits potentially visible to competitors; and the costs and technical challenges involved in channelling high volumes of data through centralised online marketplaces were beyond the budgets and technical competencies of largely traditional and highly cost-conscious construction businesses.

Only time will tell if OpenBuilt succeeds in its efforts to persuade partners to join its research and product development activities. Now that the initial partners have broken cover, will OpenBuilt attract a critical mass of other partners? (A couple of Paul Surin’s tweets mentioned a handful of UK independent software vendors including 3D Repo, SpecifiedBy and Asite – are they targets or already involved?) Or will it – like the era e-commerce platforms – spawn some competing platform players? IBM is certainly a big name backer, but there are other major generic IT players – Oracle, Microsoft, etc – who might also see the current, highly fragmented built environment industry as a potentially lucrative market.

OpenBuilt – “basically rebuilding Asite”

Asite logoUpdate (2.30pm BST, 15 April 2021)Extranet Evolution talked to Nathan Doughty, CEO of London-based Asite since January 2020 (read Nathan Doughty’s new Asite era), about OpenBuilt. He said he had been contacted by OpenBuilt to participate in late 2020 but had only had occasional contacts as they moved toward launch; there had been no concrete involvement by Asite so far. Following yesterday’s launch and reading more about OpenBuilt’s ambitions, he felt OpenBuilt was “basically rebuilding Asite”, recalling the early history of his firm.

As mentioned above, Asite was one of several ventures heavily backed by industry heavyweights looking to corner part of the construction B2B e-commerce marketplace in 2000-2001. In June 2001, Asite’s backers included British Land, Stanhope, Mace, Laing O’Rourke; technology partners included Microsoft, Compaq, Commerce One, BIW Technologies and Bidcom. However, after the bubble burst, Asite retrenched and refocused (with Doughty heavily involved then as CTO).

In-house, it began to build a web-based integration platform in the “cloud” on open source technology (Asite Exchange): an open and interoperable platform for system-to-system exchange of structured data. Doughty says:

Nathan Doughty“Since 2003 we’ve connected 100s of disparate systems for our construction clients, including pretty much every major ERP, document management system, and CAD/BIM package. We’ve been powering a decent portion of the UK construction B2B purchasing transactions using structured product catalogue data on our open platform for years and years. Asite Exchange powers our ‘CDE’, our supply chain (procurement and product data) and asset management functionality and the Asite ecosystem.”

He says Asite would be pleased to engage with OpenBuilt – or any similar venture:

“There’s obviously no rule saying there should only be one Asite. On the contrary, there should be as many as needed in the market – all underpinned by open-standards-based data interchange. So, of course, we’re happy to partner and lend our experience as this new project takes shape.  The same goes for other players in our market. The endgame for me is open systems connecting up to serve the needs of the built environment.  The more the merrier.”

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Bentley collaborates with Nvidia

Bentley Systems is developing applications using Nvidia’s Omniverse platform for photorealistic, real-time visualisation and simulation of digital twins of massive-scale industrial and civil infrastructure projects.

Bentley logo 2017Visualisation and simulation are increasingly important in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) sector, but the costs and manpower needed to develop really sophisticated and powerful capabilities demand that AEC incumbents work with more generic hardware and software experts. This week, Bentley Systems has announced (12 April 2021) that it is developing applications using Nvidia‘s Omniverse platform for photorealistic, real-time visualisation and simulation of digital twins of massive-scale industrial and civil infrastructure projects.

Jacobs Waterworks TeamBentley Systems says it has extended its iTwin platform to integrate with Nvidia’s Omniverse platform. Bentley iTwin is an open-source, scalable cloud platform that enables the creation, visualisation and analysis of digital twins of infrastructure assets. The Omniverse platform (see this May 2020 AEC Magazine feature for detailed background) allows teams to stream data from multiple applications and to interact in real-time on the combined high-fidelity result.

So, instead of exchanging and collaborating upon massive files, architects, engineers and other designers can work simultaneously in their chosen applications, with any changes instantly appear in co-collaborators’ applications. Pixar’s USD (Universal Scene Description – an open framework for exchanging 3D computer graphics data) makes this possible.

Bentley/Nvidia collaboration

Bentley Systems CEO Greg Bentley said:

“Visualization and simulation underpin many of the use cases for infrastructure digital twins. The collaboration of Bentley iTwin and NVIDIA Omniverse is delivering real-time, immersive 3D/4D experiences that will enable true-to-reality, physics-based simulation of even the largest and most complex infrastructure assets. GPU-computing is transforming the world of engineering and construction and promises to unleash the potential of AI for simulation and advanced analytics in infrastructure digital twins.”

Jensen Huang, founder and CEO of NVIDIA

“Modern infrastructure are magnificent feats of engineering. NVIDIA and Bentley share a vision of physically based digital twins – so accurate and realistically simulated that they will revolutionize everything from infrastructure design to operations. NVIDIA Omniverse was built precisely to realize this vision – to create shared virtual worlds that are simulated with physical and photo realism. We are delighted Bentley is developing applications for infrastructure digital twins on NVIDIA Omniverse.”

… but collaboration costs

Application plug-ins are needed to connect to the Omniverse server platform. In the AEC software world, Omniverse Connectors are currently available for Autodesk Revit, Rhino, SketchUp, Archicad, blender, 3ds max, CityEngine, and Unreal Engine (see also: 8 March 2021 post, 3D Repo develops Unreal Engine-based 3D platform). Omniverse can also support point clouds – useful insofar as Bentley has invested heavily in  ContextCapture and related laser and photogrammetry data capture and visualisation tools.

However, collaboration comes at a huge cost that probably puts it out of the reach of all but the largest global firms. For, say, 25-strong workgroups, Nvidia Omniverse Enterprise prices start at US$1,800 per user per annum, plus $25,000 for the platform’s core, the Omniverse Nucleus Server. Larger implementations could run to $250,000 if they want Nucleus Server to service the needs of 500 people or more.

However, the Omniverse platform and some basic functionality is apparently available at no cost for individuals to try out. And Nvidia RTX Virtual Workstation (vWS) software, also part of the platform, lets users run graphics-intensive 3D applications on low-powered devices, including standard office laptops that don’t have powerful graphics processing units (GPUs).

In other news…

Update (15 April 2020) – Bentley Systems has announced it has acquired Montreal, Canada-based INRO Software, a developer of multimodal transportation planning, traffic simulation, and mobility visualisation software.

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thinkproject acquires UK-based Formworks

thinkproject completes its second major UK acquisition to grow its mobile construction field data capture capabilities.

thinkproject logoMunich, Germany-based construction collaboration SaaS technology provider thinkproject recently announced (6 April 2021) its acquisition (for an undisclosed amount) of the London-based software developer, Digital Field Solutions, creator of the mobile application Formworks.

The deal comes nearly three years after thinkproject acquired Gloucester-based contract change management specialist CEMAR (May 2018 post) and six months after Swedish international investment group EQT took a majority stake in the German business (EQT takes majority stake in thinkproject).

Formworks ‘low-code’ environment

Formworks logoDigital Field Solutions was established in London in 2005. Formworks is a self-service application builder and workflow solution that enables rapid process automation. Users can configure customised mobile and web forms that can be linked to multiple data sources, including SQL environments, CRM, ERP and third-party software solutions.

Formworks websiteIn the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) sector, access to complex logic, calculations and validation can be critical. New data may need to be captured and validated in environments where there is often limited or no internet connectivity, or where security measures make it difficult to use technology to capture and collect the data needed. Formworks can quickly solve data collection challenges by providing users with a low-code environment in which they can build their own custom applications to capture, validate and share complex field data.

Formworks uses powerful browser-based technology to digitise dynamic forms and workflows through a simple interface. All regularly used business forms can be made available to all stakeholders involved in construction projects across multiple devices and platforms.

Deal perspectives

Michael Bischoff, CTO of Thinkproject, says:

Michael Bischoff, thinkproject CTO“Since its launch, Formworks has won numerous awards and is used by clients in construction, financial services, real estate, utilities, training, social care, maintenance and manufacturing. We are delighted to welcome the Digital Field Solutions team to Thinkproject and look forward to continuing to enhance and develop Formworks for both existing and new customers with a specific focus on the AECO lifecycle. We see significant potential for customers to combine dynamic forms creation and data integration to Thinkprojects application portfolio to drive their digitisation efforts.”

Tim Howard, co-founder of Digital Field Solutions, says:

“We are very proud to be part of Thinkproject’s expansion strategy. Formworks is an excellent extension of Thinkproject’s construction intelligence solutions to solve data collection and validation challenges for construction teams across the three phases of design, build and operate. … Becoming part of a large, successful software group will enable us to accelerate the development of Formworks to meet the rapidly evolving needs of all our clients and provide us with the platform to extend our reach into new territories and sectors across Europe.”

thinkproject growth

Now over 20 years old, thinkproject continues to grow, achieving revenue growth of approximately 40% in 2020, despite the difficult market conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic (see thinkproject news), and now has almost 500 employees worldwide in 18 offices in 11 countries,

Karolin BeckFollowing the EQT investment,the management team has been expanded, with chief marketing officer Karolin Beck (ex Sauce Labs and Microsoft, right) the first woman to join the company’s executive team, and CTO Michael Bischoff (ex eFront and Sage) leading development of thinkproject’s construction intelligence platform. The business’s new board is chaired by Patrik Heider, who has been joined by ex-Siemens executive Janina Kugel and CCO of IFS AB Michael Ouissi, as well as private equity executives Florian Funk, Morgan Seigler and Stefan Dandl.

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RIB Group grows revenues 24% in 2020

Germany’s RIB Group grew its revenues 24% to €254.6 million in 2020, despite a slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a reduction in its M&A activities. International expansion means over a quarter of revenue now derives from north America.

RIB software logoStuttgart, Germany-based RIB Group has announced its results for the year ending 31 December 2020. During the year, the group−since July 2020 part of French multinational Schneider Electric (post)−grew its revenues 24% to €254.6 million (c. £217m or US$301m) from 2019’s €214.6m (post) and its operating EBITDA grew 27.5% to €65.3m (c. £56m or US$77m).

Understandably, the 2020 revenue performance is towards the lower end of guidance issued in August 2020 (“between €240 million and €270 million”), with the Group talking of “severe economic implications caused by the COVID-19 pandemic”. First half results in 2020 had seen RIB revenues up 42% but a further six months of pandemic operation clearly slowed the trajectory. However, the business anticipates “organic growth in the Software business in the double-digit range” for the current financial year. RIB is structured into two main segments: software business iMTWO, and a much smaller procurement and e-commerce business, xYTWO, part of which it had been looking to sell. Overall, for 2021, it forecasts “revenues in the range of EUR 280 to 310 million and operating EBITDA of between EUR 65 and 75 million for the RIB Group.”

Global expansion

RIB regional revenues, 2020Revenues are increasingly global. Until 2016, the company drew more than half its revenues from the German market. Today, this delivers over a third (34.4%) of group revenues. Just over a fifth of 2020 revenues comes from the rest of Europe (22.8% – down from 30.5% in 2019), with revenues from north America up from 19.1% in 2019 to 26% in 2020, while APAC revenues remained relatively static.

The north American growth may reflect the company’s 2019 investment in US acquisitions: During a busy 2019, RIB acquired 60% of the Atlanta-based building specification software vendor, BSD (June 2019). The pandemic slowed its merger and acquisition activities in 2020. In January 2020, it acquired Intech, a cloud and managed services provider for Microsoft Azure in Puerto Rico to expand its customer base across USA and Latin America, and also bought BSD founder Arol Wolford’s startup VIM AEC (post). In June 2020, it bought a controlling stake in a Chinese technology developer, Bochaosoft, and in September 2020 it bought the remaining 40% of BSD. The Group now says it has over €350m in investment funds to finance its further global expansion.

In August 2020, RIB sold its xTWO e-commerce business area (primarily used in the business-to-consumer, B2C, arena for the online organisation of procurement and delivery of building products) to a Leipzig-based firm in which RIB CEO Tom Wolf has a majority stake.

RIB Group partnership with SoftwareONE

In November 2020, RIB Group and Switzerland’s SoftwareONE signed a strategic partnership agreement, aiming to accelerate the market introduction of RIB’s MTWO platform globally. It has set of target of 150 large deals in 20 countries by the end of 2021.

RIB has announced several major deals in the first quarter of 2021. Most have been focused on RIB’s German heartland, but there have also been some wins elsewhere. For example, in January, RIB said one of the consortia working on the UK’s High Speed 2 (HS2) rail network would be using its 5D BIM Big Data technology. It also did a January deal with Spain’s Avintia group. In March it announced deals with US-based precast concrete specialist Fabcon, and with a Hong-Kong-based property developer.

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Bentley acquires E7

Bentley Systems has acquired E7, a Brisbane, Australia-based specialist in construction delivery software for heavy civil projects – formerly known as Envision (post).

Bentley logo 2017Bentley says the acquisition (announced on 25 February 2021 – no terms disclosed) will add to its project delivery capabilities to helps civil contractors meet schedule and budget requirements of infrastructure investment programmes. Specifically, it will extend the capabilities of Bentley’s digital construction management software, Synchro (acquired in June 2018 – post), to create what Bentley describes as a ‘comprehensive 4D construction digital twin solution’.

Envision-E7E7 is designed to help firms better utilise resources on site through mobile and web interfaces that transform manual, site-based tasks into digital workflows. It includes capabilities specifically designed for heavy civil construction, including daily diaries, unplanned event tracking, timesheets, dockets, daily costs, and quantity progress measurement. which enable managers to produce daily progress measurement reports.

E7 adds field resource management

Dustin Parkman - BentleyDustin Parkman, vice president, project delivery, Bentley Systems says:

“Visibility into field resource utilisation is key to project profitability. The addition of E7 to Bentley’s Synchro digital construction delivery solution complements our industry-leading 4D construction modelling with field-based resource management tools that are essential for heavy civil contractors. This new combination makes possible a truly comprehensive digital construction delivery solution for heavy civil contractors everywhere.”

Bentley Systems E7E7’s CEO Hugh Hofmeister and CTO Adrian Smith are joining Bentley as director of product management and director of product development, respectively. Hofmeister said:

“After more than 10 years of working, first as Envision and then as E7, to develop the leading field-based construction delivery solution for Australian and now global projects, Adrian and I and our colleagues are excited to be joining Bentley. There is already great alignment between E7 and Bentley’s SYNCHRO team. Our shared vision will accelerate the adoption of 4D construction digital twins that will significantly benefit our users in driving more profitable and predictable project outcomes.”

Extranet Evolution has tracked Envision/E7 since 2011 (read: Ennova and Envision). By 2016, the platform was supporting multiple parties across major projects, functioning as a data and reporting hub at the heart of a constellation of applications and web services (read: Envision expanding capabilities), and in 2019, the platform was being deployed on mega-projects outside Australia (Envision: building construction transparency).

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Atlas ICAS targets healthcare market

London, UK-based startup Atlas is targeting the healthcare construction market with an integrated design and project delivery SaaS platform, ICAS, supporting design for manufacture and assembly (DfMA) approaches.

Co-founded by David and Maha Harper, London-based Atlas has developed an “integrated construction and architecture platform” (ICAS) that they believe can dramatically break down silos and improve productivity when it comes to delivering healthcare facilities. Funded to date by the founders, the startup is now seeking seed funding to help it support its first client projects.

David Harper - AtlasAtlas CEO David Harper, right, has 20 years’ experience in the healthcare construction industry as a construction project manager, having worked in building technologies for major hospitals in the UK (including Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital) and in Qatar (including the US$7. 9 billion Sidra Medical & Research Centre). Maha Harper, below right, Atlas’s COO, is a corporate lawyer with a strong background in corporate and real estate transactions. Both are convinced that the construction sector’s poor productivity and inability to deliver complex projects on budget and on programme (with the resulting legal disputes) can be overcome.

Breaking down silos

Maha Harper told Extranet Evolution that the company was inspired by work undertaken by the UN and the Gates Foundation in developing countries to deliver working hospitals and clinics. Maha Harper says:

Maha Harper - Atlas“One of the main issues holding the industry back is the so-called ‘silo effect’ – the linear nature of information being passed from silo to silo – plus the variety of different information formats involved.  While the industry has started to move more towards digital solutions, they are mostly ‘point solutions’ which, in effect, digitises those silos. This doesn’t, effectively enough, do away with the delays and cost inefficiencies.”

“We have talked to lots of healthcare customers and identified that we could potentially realise 20% efficiency savings by a targeted spend of 4% of the overall budget.”

She explained Atlas aimed to bridge the gaps between healthcare providers and the project delivery disciplinary silos (procurement, design, logistics), the point solutions they rely upon, and the disparate digital outputs these solutions create. Atlas, she said, was providing an integrated platform geared solely to the needs of the healthcare market, not just in developing economies but also in the US and Europe.


ICASA software-as-a-Service platform, ICAS starts by defining the customer’s needs, and then developing designs to meet those needs. Maha Harper says:

“You can develop the best tech in the world, but if you don’t really  understand the end-user’s needs and what they will actually adopt, then you’re just developing ‘great tech’ instead of a ‘must have’ solution for customers.”

Atlas has been engaging with facility investors, healthcare owners, and operators (“Many have been discouraged by previous projects that ran late, over-budget”). The company’s ICAS solution is currently being deployed to help deliver a $100m 150-bed hospital in the Americas. Harper says the project brief was developed using artificial intelligence and generative design to create a detailed configuration of the building and its rooms and systems. This process (and the supporting data) can inform feasibility stage decisions. Then, with a clear view of the proposed design, Atlas could then engage with preferred suppliers and manufacturers to procure materials and products, aggregating them into the integrated model. As well as streamlining design and construction, the ICAS platform also provides an environment to configure devices, equipment, etc, to speed up commissioning and handover.

The ICAS platform does not replace existing design or scheduling tools such as Autodesk Revit or Oracle Primavera P6. “By bringing together project systems through APIs [application programming interfaces], ICAS can minimise the disconnects between different solutions. We are using a lot of the Oracle and Autodesk software stacks.” ICAS will also help deliver a graphical interface to healthcare and building operation systems, including a hospital user manual, HUM, to support operation and maintenance work, and an intelligent clinic operating system (ICOS) for long-term operational information (healthcare informatics is one area where data standardisation is particularly advanced).

To date, the Harpers have invested £460,000 into the Atlas business and are looking to raise £2.5m in seed funding to push the company forward. A chief technology officer is set to be appointed to help drive the company’s devops model.

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Bentley’s billion dollar buy: geoscience tech vendor Seequent

Bentley Systems is spending around US$1 billion to buy New Zealand-based geoscience modelling software provider, Seequent.

Bentley logo 2017Bentley Systems has announced an investor-backed deal led by Accel-KKR to acquire Seequent. The Christchurch, New Zealand-based business specialises in geological and geophysical modeling, geotechnical stability, and cloud services for geodata management, visibility, and collaboration. The deal involves US$900 million in cash, plus just over three million Bentley Class B shares.

Bentley says the Seequent acquisition will “deepen the potential of infrastructure digital twins to help understand and mitigate environmental risks, advancing resilience and sustainability.” Once the deal is completed, Seequent will operate as a stand-alone Bentley subsidiary. Seequent’s current chief operating officer Graham Grant will succeed the retiring CEO Shaun Maloney and report to Bentley’s chief product officer Nicholas Cumins.
Seequent logo

Seequent deal logic

Seequent has over 430 employees in 16 office locations, serving geologists, hydrogeologists, geophysicists, geotechnical engineers, and civil engineers in over 100 countries, plus the world’s top mining companies. Its established presence in mineral-intensive geographies such as South America and southern Africa is expected to accelerate Bentley’s overall opportunities in these regions with significant infrastructure requirements. In turn, Bentley’s established presence in China, and its mainstay reach across civil engineering sectors, is expected to accelerate Seequent’s expansion in new markets.

Seequent industry solutionsBentley says its current offerings enable digital twins to incorporate what’s constructed “near surface,” including foundations, drainage facilities, buried utilities, tunnels, and subsea structures. Now, the addition of Seequent will “make it possible for infrastructure digital twins to reach full subsurface depths, augmenting environmental resilience against flood, seismic, climate, and water security threats”.

Seequent had been planning an initial public offering (IPO) in 2021. Tom Barnds, co-managing partner at Accel-KKR and Seequent board member, said, “We had been looking forward to Seequent’s IPO this year, but we are so convinced of the logic of this combination that we are glad to anticipate instead becoming Bentley shareholders.”

Seequent software

Seequent first applied implicit modeling technology to geological science more than 15 years ago. It began using mathematical tools to derive and visualize 3D geological models from measured data and user interpretation. This advance caused a “leapfrogging” paradigm shift in understanding of the earth’s subsurface. Geoscientists and others are increasingly able to uncover and visualise valuable insights about environmental conditions and challenges.

Seequent - Leapfrog softwareSeequent’s products include Leapfrog, its leading product for 3D geological modeling and visualization, Geosoft for 3D earth modeling and geoscience data management, and GeoStudio for geotechnical slope stability and deformation modeling. Bentley’s complementary geotechnical engineering software portfolio, including PLAXIS, gINT, and OpenGround, will be integrated in due course to support open digital workflows from borehole and drillhole data to geological models and geotechnical analysis applications.

The mining industry, with its economic sensitivity and environmental responsibilities, was the first and fastest to adopt 3D earth modeling, superseding traditional 2D processes to speed and improve decision cycles. Seequent recognized the potential, for all major infrastructure engineering projects and assets to likewise “leapfrog” traditional 2D subsurface modeling and simulation processes. Leapfrog’s usage, often in conjunction with Bentley’s software offerings, has been growing consistently in civil infrastructure sectors.  Seequent is a leader in 3D modeling for geothermal energy sources, and its software and cloud services provide the important geosciences context for water resources simulations and environmental engineering.


Bentley CEO Greg Bentley said:

“We can be very confident about Seequent’s contribution to our shared future not only because of our product synergies, but because we recognize in Seequent’s trajectory an echo of the playbook that made Bentley Systems successful—except they have grown faster! They have made farsighted decisions to benefit the future at every stage: identifying and then laser-focusing on the 3D “vertical” opportunity in earth modeling, institutionalizing a subscription commercial model from the outset, directly populating the appropriate global markets, acquiring and consolidating the best software for adjacent disciplines, and bringing it all together with cloud services, ready for digital twins advancement together.”

Seequent CEO Shaun Maloneysaid:

“By ‘leapfrogging ahead’ with Bentley to align geosciences with infrastructure engineering through deeper digital twins, Seequent underscores our conviction that better understanding of the earth creates a better world for all. Users and accounts of Seequent, as a Bentley Company, can expect business as usual, with many product and commercial synergies eventually forthcoming.”

Bentley’s CFO David Hollister said:

“The transaction is expected to close in Q2, with the cash consideration settled via a combination of cash on hand and availability under our undrawn $850 million revolving credit facility. We expect Seequent to contribute in excess of $80 million to our ARR during this year. Seequent impressively has a historical and current organic revenue growth rate which, coupled with an operating margin profile similar to ours, makes Seequent accretive to our financial model.”

The Extranet Evolution perspective

This latest Bentley acquisition is a sizeable one, similar in magnitude to Autodesk’s recent acquisition of water engineering software provider Innovyze (February 2021 post). It is also the second major deal EE has tracked regarding a New Zealand-based engineering software business – just under a year ago, Germany’s thinkproject acquired highways asset management software developer RAMM (April 2020 post).

Seequent’s approach to data is also similar to Bentley’s. The latter is historically associated with powerful on-premise design tools, backed by a growing portfolio of online collaboration capabilities. In addition to Leapfrog, etc, Seequent has also developed a suite of cloud services. Seequent Central allows users to visualise, track, integrate, and manage their geoscience data via a centralised, auditable environment.

Update (23 June 2021) – On 17 June, Bentley announced the completion of its acquisition of Seequent Holdings Limited, for approximately $900 million in cash (for a debt free business and subject to final working capital adjustments) plus 3,141,342 BSY Class B shares.

Update (8 July 2021) –  Bentley Systems has announced that Seequent has acquired Danish company Aarhus GeoSoftware, a developer of geophysical software.

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