Autodesk has made a name for itself among designers, engineers and architects with its 3D and other modelling software. Now, as it continues to build out its business in adjacent business areas like construction, it has acquired Assemble Systems, a startup that has built a platform to help plan and run building projects — and more generally building information management (BIM) — across the network of people and jobs involved.
Terms of the deal are not being disclosed as Autodesk says the value is not material to its previous guidance. The deal will be a mixture of cash and stock: Autodesk had led Assemble’s Series A last year, so it was already a strategic investor in the startup.
This will not be Autodesk’s first move into construction. It had recently launched a project management platform called BIM 360, and the plan will be to integrate Assemble — which provides software that lets construction firms plan projects, but also manage bids, estimate costs and carry out assembly works — with that. And it will also bring a lot of potential customers into the Autodesk fray: Assemble has 174 unique customers using its software across 1,000 sites, working on 12,700 projects.
“I welcome the Assemble Systems team to the Autodesk family, as part of our efforts to digitize and improve the construction industry,” said Andrew Anagnost, president and CEO of Autodesk, in a statement. “We are connecting project data from design through construction, creating the cloud-enabled tools necessary to make the critical preconstruction phase of a project more predictable and profitable.”
The rise of “construction tech” has been part of a bigger trend in the last decade, where startups have increasingly applied the advances of technology — in this case, mobile apps, cloud computing, collaborative working, graphics that quickly render, and data-heavy computations that complete faster than the blink of an eye — to fields of work that have yet to be digitised and have not traditionally been associated with tech. Now, every company is a “tech company.”
Startups like PlanGrid helped put the concept of construction tech on the map when it became a part of Y Combinator in 2012 with its early concept of using iPad tablets as a better way of creating and sharing blueprints. But given that construction goods and services is estimated to be a $10 trillion industry — and employing seven percent of all of the world’s workforce, making it one of the world’s biggest — it’s no surprise to see rising demand and valuations for startups in the field. Katerra earlier this year raised $865 million from Softbank, and Oracle acquired construction collaboration software maker Aconex for $1.2 billion last December.
This is the opportunity that Autodesk is hoping to capitalise on, which makes sense, as it flows directly from the software-based services it already provides to sectors that are directly linked to the world of construction.
“Autodesk is an [architecture, engineering and construction] technology leader and was the majority investor in our Series A funding last year,” said Don Henrich, CEO of Assemble Systems, in a statement. “We partnered closely with Autodesk to make the greatest impact on the construction industry. We’re excited about joining Autodesk and continuing to make BIM data more useful across construction project workflows.”