Nov 26 2014

My Bigstep interview: SaaS attitudes are changing

“When it comes to SaaS, there are the early adopters and those who need some more convincing. There are plenty in the construction industry who still view SaaS with suspicion, preferring to keep their information on premise and behind their firewall. This attitude is eroding, but it’s still there.”

BigstepThis is the opening to an expert interview I recently did for the BigStep blog, where I went on to say: “SaaS businesses need to show construction people that they offer a secure, reliable, scalable, and – above all – cost-effective alternative to in-house IT.” I also talk briefly about Big Data, BIM and wearables (Bigstep provide infrastructure-as-a-service, IaaS, Big Data solutions in the cloud, by the way).

Incidentally, the interview first appeared just as Aconex shelved their IPO. As I said this was one of the most significant developments in our market at the moment, I am glad they revived it to keep my interview relevant. :-)

Permanent link to this article: http://www.extranetevolution.com/2014/11/my-bigstep-interview-saas-attitudes-are-changing/

Nov 21 2014

Could an app improve the image of construction?

Could a construction app, helping improve project communications, help change the image of construction?

constructing excellenceLast week’s Constructing Excellence national members convention attracted about 90 people to talk about “The Image of Construction“. The event was curated by CE’s early career movement, G4C, and they invited speakers from the Considerate Constructors Scheme, the Construction Clients Group, Women in Construction, Turner & Townsend… and me.

As well as being a long-time supporter of Constructing Excellence (I sit on CE’s steering group and am a CE Collaborative Working Champion), I am also chair of the UK Chartered Institute of Public Relations Construction and Property Special Interest Group, and it was in that role that I spoke to the conference. Earlier in the week, I had asked advice from Chief Construction Advisor Peter Hansford and from Liz Male, chair of Trustmark (also a former CAPSIG chair) – and the feedback I got from both was similar:

  • General perceptions of construction are often heavily influenced by negative experiences as consumers at the SME level
  • We have some landmark projects (the Shard, the 2012 London Olympic games infrastructure, Crossrail, etc) that are world-leading, but which are often overlooked in favour of “cowboy builder” stories and other negativity.

Communicate, campaign, collaborate!

I reflected these themes back to Constructing Excellence’s audience, highlighting some of the initiatives already under way (some of them cited in the government/industry Construction 2025 strategy), but underlining – as any good PR professional would – that the industry’s reputation is the result of what it does, what it says and what others say about it. It can’t control the latter – it can only control what it does and what it says.

And, in keeping with CE’s collaborative working ethos, I said the industry needed to stop thinking of itself as a monolithic entity and start to identify changes it could make across its many disciplines, and then get them communicating, running long-term, integrated, pan-sector campaigns, and working collaboratively with partners, trade bodies and (most importantly, perhaps) its customers. Using social media is also increasingly vital (why doesn’t the Considerate Constructors’ Scheme include its Twitter handle, @CCScheme, on its site notices?).

ProjectEasy App

After lunch, Ben Pritchard and Antonio Pisano presented a G4C perspective on the “Image of Construction” incorporating many of the points raised by previous speakers, but also – like me – highlighted the role that social media and new technology could make. They showed a short video outlining an app concept….

GenieBelt - construction, here we comeI watched this with particular interest as I have seen and written about more than a few mobile construction applications over the past year or so. Since the conference, I have suggested to the G4C guys that, rather than seeking to build an entire app from the ground up, they should talk to existing developers who have already created apps that do almost everything they envisage – mentioning FieldLens and GenieBelt, in particular.

Incidentally, since GenieBelt launched on 5 November, it has gained users in 200 locations across 50 different countries.

[Disclosure: I have provided PR consultancy services to GenieBelt.]

Permanent link to this article: http://www.extranetevolution.com/2014/11/could-an-app-improve-the-image-of-construction/

Nov 21 2014

Aconex’s IPO prospectus reviewed

Aconex’s IPO prospectus delivers a wealth of information, but there are some omissions too.

Aconex prospectus coverI have been browsing through the IPO Prospectus (sent to me – thanks! – by an Australian contact) published on 17 November to support SaaS construction collaboration vendor Aconex‘s on-off-on-again flotation. The exit of private equity partner Francisco Partners is significant, I think, but the document also gives some useful facts and figures about the company, its market, and industry and technology trends:

  • Over 50,000 user organisations use Aconex worldwide, of whom approximately 1,070 were fee-paying customers using the Aconex platform over the course of FY14.
  • Aconex offers the option for customers to pay on a per-user basis; however, greater than 90% of customers prefer to pay a fixed subscription fee for unlimited users. For the conservative purposes of its prospectus forecasts, Aconex suggests the revenue opportunity represents 0.08% of project value; on average, it has been charging 0.096% of the total construction value.
  • Aconex is forecasting global revenues of Au$76.5m in the financial year to 30 June 2015 (Au$84.8m in the calendar year ending 31 December 2015). Revenue visibility is high, with approximately 75% of
    FY15 revenue and 56% of CY15 revenue to be generated under contracts relating to committed and operating projects. 48% of FY14 Aconex revenues come from Australasia, 25% EMEA, 16% Americas and 11% Asia.
  • It estimates the global construction collaboration solutions market to be worth US$5.6 billion (citing an undated report by Frost & Sullivan).
  • It highlights the BIM opportunity and the role of SaaS-based collaborative ‘Common Data Environments’ to support BIM.
  • The UK market is (rightly, IMHO) cited as the most mature “due to its high acceptance of SaaS and the presence of at least five domestically based vendors of cloud construction collaboration solutions”. Australia shares similar characteristics, while Germany is “also well-penetrated, with two significant German-based vendors.” (I would say Germany has three: Think Project!, Conject and the acquisitive RIB.)
  • Aconex has started a two-year process of migrating most of its hosting infrastructure from various third party data centres to one new (unnamed) third party providing a managed hosting service, with data centres located in each of Aconex’s operational regions.

However, the company also makes some assertions or omissions that jar with my view of the construction collaboration market. For example:

  • It dismisses some enterprise content management solutions (eg: SharePoint), or engineering design and document management solutions (eg: ProjectWise) as internal systems not used project-wide and/or being expensive and cumbersome. This may be true of some ECM and EDM systems, but Bentley has been extending the connect-ability and reach of its ProjectWise solution, including launching a SaaS alternative, ProjectWise Essentials.
  • Its assessment of the UK market says Conject and 4Projects are Aconex’s major direct competitors, and, while mentioning “ASite” [sic], omits Business Collaborator, which before its acquisition by Unit4 was earning higher revenues than Asite, has some major industry customers and has also been strongly investing in its BIM capabilities.
  • In the US, it says “The major competitors to Aconex in the United States are e-Builder and Procore.” There are several other smaller indigenous players, but UK rivals are also marketing in north America, with the 4Projects platform strongly placed to target US contractors through its parent ERP vendor Viewpoint, and I saw numerous US case studies regarding adoption and use of Bentley’s ProjectWise at its recent conference. Newforma’s hybrid cloud, on-premise and mobile portfolio also has some strong US AEC traction, and the recently launched Trimble Connect provides another SaaS alternative from an expanding US-based software group.
  • And no mention of Autodesk at all…

 

Permanent link to this article: http://www.extranetevolution.com/2014/11/aconexs-ipo-prospectus-reviewed/

Nov 20 2014

Aconex IPO signposts VC exit

Aconex’s private equity partner Francisco Partners will exit the business comforted by a US$23.5 million cash compensation payment.

Aconex logo 2014The Australian Business Review (see also report by Reuters) underlines one impact of the resurrected Aconex IPO: US private equity firm Francisco Partners will terminate its involvement in the Melbourne-based SaaS construction collaboration technology business, just over six years after it headlined a potential AU$107.5m (£48.8m) private equity investment into Aconex in September 2008.

Aconex later reported that this new equity was in two tranches: an initial $57.5m (Au$44.85m), and an additional ‘acquisition tranche’ – though this was rarely dipped into (if at all): Aconex’s only deal was to acquire Grazer in June 2012.

The ABR says:

Francisco Partners is finally able to realise its investment in Aconex worth more than $62 million, after the construction software company relaunched the float today after slashing the deal size.

Aconex is raising $140m at $1.90 per share, according to its prospectus lodged earlier today. That includes $50m through the issue of new shares and $90m by the sale of shares held by existing shareholders.

The offer size has been slashed from a previous target of $230m. Vendors were previously attempting to raise that amount at $2.20 a share, but had to shelve the plan recently due to concerns about post-IPO performance.

Francisco Partners, a PE firm focused on technology investment, holds a 23.9 per cent stake in Aconex and will sell all of its shares through the IPO, worth about $62.4m based on the new issue price.

Aconex founders Leigh Jasper and Rob Phillpot, non-executive directors and executive management will retain a majority of their existing holdings in the company and hold a combined 55.2% stake after the IPO, expected on 9 December 2014. The revised price suggests an Aconex market value of around $312m.

On the face of it, it looks like Francisco Partners’s investment in Aconex hasn’t yielded a huge return. However, the Aconex prospectus (p.20) says: US$23.5 million will be paid to Francisco Partners as a cash compensation payment in consideration for agreeing to the conversion of the Class A Preference Shares” (21 November 2014 update: in comments on a previous post, Francisco Partners total profit was calculated as around US$32.4m – “equivalent to a touch over 9% p.a. compound interest over 6.2 years” – thanks, Bob).

Of the rest of the proceeds of the flotation, Au$16.2 will be retained by the company.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.extranetevolution.com/2014/11/aconex-ipo-signposts-vc-exit/

Nov 17 2014

Basestone wins €10k startup prize

BasestoneBasestone, the London-based construction SaaS and mobile start-up which I first profiled in January, and which upgraded its solution to Basestone 2.0 in September, recently celebrated another landmark. It was crowned Best Startup at Web Summit, Europe’s biggest technology conference, in Dublin, beating 1500 startups to a €10,000 prize, plus mentorship from sponsors Coca Cola and a trip to their Atlanta headquarters (read their blog-post).

imageAfter two initial rounds of pitching, Basestone faced world-leading technology experts and investors as well as executives from Coca Cola in the third and final round, on the main stage, in front of a 5,000-strong audience

Basestone growing

In January, Basestone had three employees, but now has six UK staff, plus a trio of developers in Slovenia, and has clearly benefitted from its experience of working with the Costain/ Skanska joint venture employed on three ongoing Crossrail projects in London.

I met up again with civil engineer CEO Alex Siljanovski and his colleagues last week (now based at IDEALondon in Wilson Street), and he showed me how the product had matured into a stronger PDF drawing review toolset, divided between a web application and an iPad app (he told me support would be extended to Android and Windows apps once the iOS app was “nailed”). The web application is being constantly updated, while new versions of the iOS app are made available about every 3-4 weeks.

For site use, a useful feature is an automatic alert if the user opens a drawing for which a new version has since been issued. When drawings are uploaded, Basestone also scans and extracts metadata from the file which can then be used to help users search for drawings. If issues are identified on-site, associated documents (eg: photographs) can be permanently linked, and the navigation has been refined so that more data is displayed full-screen.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.extranetevolution.com/2014/11/basestone-wins-e10k-startup-prize/

Nov 16 2014

Aconex resurrects IPO plans

Aconex IPO reportedly downsized but back on track for a December 2014 ASX listing.

Aconex logo 2014Just a couple of weeks after postponing a planned Au$230m initial public offering (IPO) just 24 hours before it was due to publish its prospectus, Melbourne-based Software-as-a-Software construction collaboration technology vendor Aconex is (according to a report by Sally Rose in The Age; see also The Australian) to be back on track to float after a revised IPO secured $140 million from cornerstone investors. (17 November Update: Read also Aconex’s news release).

Joint lead managers Macquarie and UBS have now completed the institutional book-build for the re-engineered Aconex IPO, raising $140 million at $1.90 per share. Macquarie head of equity capital markets origination Mark Warburton explained:

“We had covered the book for a $230 million raising, but then the market came off, risk aversion was on the rise, investors were displaying a bit of IPO fatigue, and we wanted to make sure it traded well.

“The pipeline of technology companies coming to market is stronger than it has ever been. We are developing a really good local tech sector, but for that to work out this deal has to trade up.”

Macquarie and UBS returned to institutional investors that had supported the original Aconex IPO deal to cornerstone the new smaller, more competitively priced raise. An updated prospectus is expected to be lodged with the regulators shortly, with the listing slated for 9 December 2014. Aconex founders Leigh Jasper and Rob Phillpot were reportedly persuaded to give up $90 million in value so the float could be re-priced.

Sally Rose adds: “Aconex will be the biggest float of an unprofitable technology company in the history of the local market. At listing the company will have a market capitalisation of $312 million,” showing Australian investors are prepared to accept valuations based on revenue multiples, rather than the traditional emphasis on profit. A month ago, market talk was about an Aconex valuation between $350m and $410m.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.extranetevolution.com/2014/11/aconex-resurrects-ipo-plans/

Nov 15 2014

Bentley targeting SMEs with ProjectWise Essentials

Bentley’s SaaS-based ProjectWise Essentials, “a cloud-based, instant-on integration environment,” potentially links more firms to Bentley’s ecosystem.

Bentley - logo

Last week’s Bentley Systems Year In Infrastructure conference in London saw several major announcements by Greg Bentley and his team, including a tighter integration with Trimble products for construction delivery. While there is clearly a developing relationship with Trimble, it doesn’t yet extend to the two companies’ collaboration products.

Just before Bentley’s conference, Trimble announced the launch of Trimble Connect, based on its GTeam acquisition, providing a cloud-based collaboration platform for teams involved in the design, construction and operation of buildings. Meanwhile, Bentley’s CONNECT Edition strategy included the September 2014 launch of ProjectWise Essentials, “a cloud-based, instant-on design integration environment” using Microsoft’s Azure platform, to help connect more firms into Bentley’s project ecosystem (see Bentley news release).

Bentley CONNECT Edition

Bentley CONNECT EditionThis ecosystem aims to streamline information mobility and is based on three main areas of Bentley software: the Microstation and related design authoring tools, ProjectWise CONNECT Edition, and Bentley Navigator. Bentley’s focus on a “platform approach” was a constant refrain during the conference; I heard senior vice president Bhupinder Singh describe the company’s commitment to enabling engineering content management across the ecosystem so that, regardless of their discipline, all workers (office, site or field, including via cloud services) can have instant connection to and visibility of the information they need. He talked of a common project environment underpinned by:

  • a common data environment (a term much [ab- or over-]used in the UK currently, as there is an emerging requirement for a CDE to support Level 2 BIM)
  • a common modelling environment
  • a common deliverables environment
  • a common “App-lications” environment (Navigator was particularly highlighted here as a tool that works in a consistent way whether accessed on desktop, mobile device or via the cloud)
  • a common performance environment (giving visibility to asset operation information)

Of course, there was a considerable focus on the installed software that is the core of Bentley’s revenues, on connecting separate instances of ProjectWise, and on extending the reach of this “organisation-centric”, corporately-held data to clients, supply chain workers and partners across multiple devices (by the way, Bentley’s mobile tools are on all three key operating systems: Apple iOS, Android and Windows). However, I noted last year a much-needed expansion of Bentley’s cloud-based capability to support globalisation, growth in flexible and mobile working, and the emergence of building information modelling (BIM), and it is being somewhat grudgingly expanded (as one might expect from a business founded some 30 years ago when it was all about selling upfront licenses for installed software).

ProjectWise Essentials

I talked to Bentley’s Nicole Stephano (product manager, information mobility) about ProjectWise Essentials, which offers immediate access to a cloud-based instance of ProjectWise, making it more accessible to smaller firms and their supply chains, particularly those without IT expertise or who can’t self-host. Instead the service is hosted in multiple Microsoft Azure datacentres (located in numerous geographical locations “all over the world” to – hopefully – avoid some political/safe harbor sensitivities). This SaaS capability isn’t totally new. Nicole reminded me: “We had a ProjectWise online service – providing an online instance of Projectwise but which still needed quite a bit of configuration services – and it could be provided through customers’ own hosting at, say, Amazon or Microsoft.”

The relationship with Azure has become more mature following last year’s announcement of the CONNECT services. ProjectWise Essentials Instant-on became commercially available in September 2014, and is targeting “smaller businesses, mid-sized businesses that typically do not have an IT administrator to self-host; they may not have a system administrator to manage the product itself or the user permissions required.” The Essentials package might also appeal for non-corporate requirements, Nicole said: “it’s a great opportunity to set up projects for joint ventures,” and it allows businesses to try ProjectWise ‘in the cloud’ before committing to perhaps hosting it themselves and maybe extending their reach into other Bentley services.

Each instance of ProjectWise Essentials allows up to 40 named users for a modest monthly flat fee. Nicole was unable to go into the specifics of pricing (broadly, across a team she hinted we were maybe “talking about £2 a day per engineer”, including those down a lead firm’s project supply chain) though a ‘Bentley CONNECTIONS Passport’ annual license is required for each additional named user. The license also gives access to various Bentley mobile applications such as Bentley’s ProjectWise Worksite (previously known as “Field Supervisor” – renamed to reflect its wider use) and i-Model sharing capabilities.

The ProjectWise Essentials platform is, Nicole explained, focused on design integration and collaboration for engineering professionals, and includes integration with Bentley Microstation, and with Autodesk and Adobe tools, though some of these will be mainly through some of the new capabilities of Navigator toolset to be launched in early 2015.

[Disclosure: I attended the Bentley Year in Infrastructure conference as a guest of Bentley Systems, who paid my hotel expenses. I was also a juror in the BE Inspired Awards.]

 

Permanent link to this article: http://www.extranetevolution.com/2014/11/bentley-targeting-smes-with-projectwise-essentials/

Nov 07 2014

Bullish business update from MCS

Priority1 logoOn Thursday (13 November), I will be dropping in on Mobile Computing Systems 7th PriorityOne user conference, being held this year at the Building Centre in central London. Other work prevents me attending the whole event, which will include an update on the company’s performance, its plans for the future, along with product feature demonstrations and guest speakers. One of my highlights of 2013’s event, for example, was the presentation by Software-as-a-Service collaboration vendor 4Projects, revealing how the two companies were looking to develop complementary capabilities to satisfy mutual customers.

Last year MCS invested in its own SaaS capabilities, implementing a private cloud hosting facility in July 2013, and then launching a business intelligence reporting platform. It recently expanded its cloud infrastructure to support its growing users base, working with a new private cloud provider with faster, more robust and scalable storage facilities.

In the company’s fifth straight year of growth, MCS’s turnover for the financial year ending 30 June 2014 grew by 30% to £1.16M with profit up 70% on the previous year to £258K. There is clearly a strong appetite for the Priority1 mobile toolset of snagging (aka punchlists or defects management), quality control, permitting and Health & Safety and environmental reporting tools.

mace logo-new.gifUpdate (16 November 2014) – As well as sharing some mutual customers with 4Projects, Priority1’s mobile solution is also used by loyal customers of other SaaS collaboration vendors. For example, Thursday’s user conference heard an implementation case study from Mace Group – a long-term client of Conject. Steve Fearnside explained how Mace had first tried Priority1 in 2004, and, at one point, the group had seven different mobile solutions in use to report defects. Deciding to rationalise, during 2014 it reviewed 11 different systems (iSnag, Snagr and Snagmaster were among those Steve mentioned) before selecting Priority1 (which was “not the cheapest”) as its new enterprise solution.

Another interesting snippet learned during MCS’s event: 4Projects will be renamed Viewpoint from September 2015, said EMEA BD VP Steve Spark (presenting a Viewpoint branded slide-deck).

Permanent link to this article: http://www.extranetevolution.com/2014/11/bullish-business-update-from-mcs/

Nov 06 2014

e-Business in construction survey

e-Business in ConstructionIn various ways I have been involved with eBusiness in construction since the late 1990s (I’ve even written chapters of books about construction eBusiness), and the adoption of eBusiness technologies has grown considerably over the past 15 years. But many parts of the industry are still reliant on paper-based processes when it comes to many construction business transactions – this is one area that firms such as Textura (post) are seeking to address.

And more and more IT businesses are waking up to the need to help data flow more seamlessly rather than maintaining separate and isolated business information silos. I have talked to vendor user conferences about this, identifying SaaS, mobile, BIM, social media and Big Data as among the disruptions that challenge conventional approaches to IT delivery.

Watching this space, UK group Construct IT for Business is supporting a research project, run by a task group, TG83, of the International Council for Research and Innovation in Building and Construction (CIB, for short), looking at eBusiness in construction. If you are interested in contributing, here’s a survey link (though I didn’t get the promised invitation to complete the survey – broken?). And if you are interested in the current state of mobile – remember there is an ongoing COMIT survey too (post).

Permanent link to this article: http://www.extranetevolution.com/2014/11/e-business-in-construction-survey/

Nov 05 2014

GenieBelt construction collaboration is free forever

With GenieBelt, construction small- and medium-sized businesses can now share construction documents quickly anywhere anytime, and it’s free.

GenieBelt logo

Copenhagen, Denmark-based software developer GenieBelt has launched a mobile-based construction collaboration application that will help workers and managers access construction information, including drawings and schedules, online across any computer or mobile device. Unlike other providers which sometimes offer a free 30-day trial for a basic level of service, the fully-featured GenieBelt service is available from the outset and will be free forever.

GenieBelt is a Software-as-a-Service developed by a 16-strong Copenhagen-based software company founded in 2012 and led by a British CEO, Gari Nickson (a QS and project surveyor formerly at Davis Langdon, now AECOM, and COWI – who I first encountered in October 2013, around the time GenieBelt received €0.5m in funding), who identified various gaps in the market. He says:

GenieBelt Mobile View“First, current widely-used collaboration platforms were designed primarily for desktop and laptop use, whereas GenieBelt has been expressly developed to work on mobile devices.

“Second, our competitors tend to target larger businesses and bigger projects. The simpler needs of the smaller contractor, subcontractor and tradespeople working on modest projects are often overlooked, and yet they make up the bulk of the construction industry’s workforce.

“Third, rival systems are not attractively priced to small- and medium-sized businesses. In an industry notorious for low margins, charging to use collaboration tools reduces profits. GenieBelt is free. It costs nothing to start using it and to keep using it, and the efficiency savings it enables will boost profits. And we are committed to keeping it free forever.”

GenieBelt features

GenieBelt features-notificationsGenieBelt allows users to create shared web-hosted spaces into which they can upload drawings, documents, specifications and project programmes so that teams working on a project can work off a single version of the truth. Project schedules can be imported from MS Project and Asta PowerProject, and, from the resulting Gannt chart, users can begin to monitor the progress of activities, linking to relevant documents or folders, and adding text, photographs and other information as necessary. The system also provides a searchable people directory, helping users identify every person that is working on their projects.

The platform supports multiple projects, and includes a dashboard view that provides an “at a glance” indication of task progress and issues on each project a user is working on. All interactions with the system are securely captured to provide an audit trail outlining who did what and when, while also showing the rate of progress on tasks within the schedule.

A feature which further differentiates GenieBelt from other systems is “Beats”. Instead of relying on email notifications, “Beats” provides a transparent, shared discussion space – similar to the conversation features on some social media platforms – so that authorised users are quickly notified and can easily join and track discussions about issues that are directly relevant to them.

Gari Nickson, GenieBelt CEOGenieBelt provides a high level of functionality at no cost to the contractor or to subcontractors or end-users, which Nickson believes will encourage adoption. The web platform is supported across all common smartphones and tablets (there is also a native Apple iOS app, with an Android version coming soon). Accessing GenieBelt via a desktop or laptop will allow easy upload of project information from local hard-drives or network shared folders, so that the information is then available to all authorised project users. Information cannot be accidentally deleted or over-written, and GenieBelt has invested heavily in creating a user interface that is simple, logical and intuitive to use even if working out on-site wearing protective equipment (former Woobius founder, architect and SaaS and app user experience expert Bob Leung is part of the GenieBelt team).

Of course, GenieBelt has to make money some how. It is doing this by offering premium services on the GenieBelt platform including: long term archiving, analytical reports, access to its audit trail, admin users overview, bulk data extraction, and telephone support. These are available for companies at €190 per calendar month per admin user. As one admin user may be managing multiple projects concurrently, the costs of such premium services can therefore be spread, making the service economical to use.

My view *

The idea of a free construction collaboration app is not new. In the first breathless rush into the dot.com market in October 1999, Autodesk was a 40% shareholder in a spin-off business Buzzsaw.com, which launched an online project collaboration service, ProjectPoint, soon after, having raised around $90 million. This service was, for a time, offered as a free service as vendors sought to build large industry footprints. By mid 2000, Buzzsaw had 240 employees, 10,500 projects on-line and 50,000 registered users – and was “chewing up cash at a $10 million per quarter rate” (see 2008 post). After it posted an operating loss of over $50 million in 2000 and began laying people off in May 2001, Autodesk acquired the business in July 2001 and ProjectPoint was later re-branded as an Autodesk product, Buzzsaw, and it remains part of the Autodesk portfolio.

However, the market environment for launching new applications in the construction industry has changed enormously over the past 15 years. For example:

  • Creating and launching a new web-based business is now much less expensive (hosting and storage costs have plummeted).
  • In stark contrast to the early days of what we now call Software-as-a-Service or cloud computing, persuading people to use online software is easier, and adequate bandwidth is rarely an issue.
  • Mobile software tools are now low or no-cost options that extend right down the supply chain, no longer requiring expensive devices and long-term contracts, and so only for larger businesses. There are also now hundreds, even 1000s, of construction related apps – many of them free or costing just a few dollars – across the different operating systems’ online app stores.
  • There is also a rapidly growing AEC market for mobile solutions, particularly ones that might offer a better experience to some long-established solutions that were not designed expressly for the mobile worker (maybe a sole trader or small business owner – 95% of construction businesses are SMEs, after all).
  • ‘Freemium’ business models are now better understood.

This is a bold step by GenieBelt but the company hasn’t taken it lightly. It’s looked at the industry and identified some shortcomings in existing vendors’ approaches which it thinks it can exploit commercially. As the UK market has also begun to polarise, it will also be watched carefully by some of the existing low-cost file collaboration service providers that have targeted SMEs (see post), and it will be monitored by US vendors such as Plangrid and FieldLens.

[* Disclosure: I have provided PR consultancy services to GenieBelt.]

Permanent link to this article: http://www.extranetevolution.com/2014/11/geniebelt-construction-collaboration-app-is-free-forever/

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