Design software giant Autodesk has signed a definitive agreement to acquire PlanGrid, a leading provider of construction software, for $875 million net of cash. The mobile-first innovator helped jump-start the current construction tech boom all the way back in 2011 when co-founder and CEO Tracy Young recognized that the new iPad was the device that could modernize the heavy paper-based blueprint industry to an all-digital workflow.
PlanGrid and the SaaS Model
PlanGrid software is mobile first and cloud-native. The software lets general contractors, subcontractors, and owners in the building and civil industries work more seamlessly together from project construction inception through project handoff. PlanGrid offers real-time collaboration, keeping the field and the office on the same page and giving project stakeholders real-time access to project plans, punch lists, projects tasks, RFIs, submittals, progress photos, field reports and more.
“At PlanGrid, we have a relentless focus on empowering construction workers to build as productively as possible,” said Tracy Young, PlanGrid CEO. “One of the first steps to improving construction productivity is the adoption of digital workflows with centralized data. PlanGrid has excelled at building beautiful, simple field collaboration software, while Autodesk has focused on connecting design to construction. Together, we can drive greater productivity and predictability on the job site.”
“As designing and making converge, Autodesk is connecting project data from design through construction and putting predictive insights into the hands of contractors,” said Andrew Anagnost, Autodesk CEO. “There is a huge opportunity to streamline all aspects of construction through digitization and automation. The acquisition of PlanGrid will accelerate our efforts to improve construction workflows for every stakeholder in the construction process.”
Proposed Integration: PlanGrid and BIM 360
Jim Lynch, Construction General Manager at Autodesk, said in prepared remarks, “This acquisition us to do more for general contractors, and we’ve got new growth opportunities with subcontractors and owners. We’ll integrate workflows between PlanGrid’s software and both Autodesk Revit software and the Autodesk BIM 360 construction management platform, for a seamless exchange of information between all project members.”
Consistent with the message at Autodesk University 2018, held last week, that Autodesk is focused on openness and data exchange, Autodesk and PlanGrid have developed complimentary construction ecosystems with common lists of partner applications and services. This new acquisition will further expand the integration partner ecosystem, giving customers further flexibility, choice, and the ability to customize the platform to test and scale new ways of working.
Architosh Analysis and Commentary
Autodesk’s acquisition of PlanGrid represents another great exit by a construction tech startup and further reflects the recent CDE (common data environment) acquisitions activity by large tech companies. This time last year database software giant Oracle acquired Aconex for $1.2 billion and in April of 2018 Autodesk rival Trimble acquired Aconex rival Viewpoint for $1.2 billion as well.
The entire AEC industry is well known to suffer from great inefficiencies and despite much digitization since the advent of the personal computer, low to meager mid-range productivity gains. The construction side of AEC, in particular, has been very late to revamping tried-and-true workflows around new digital technologies.
Autodesk’s rationale in PlanGrid is that it provides an immediate presence for the design software giant in the construction space where the recent construction tech boom is happening at a rapid pace. PlanGrid has 400 employees and a superior mobile-first UI/UX that arguably leads the entire industry in ease-of-use and approachability—key aspects in getting salty general contractors and subs onboard with new ways of working.
This acquisition also gives both Autodesk and PlanGrid strength in battling the only construction tech unicorn in the history of AEC—rival SaaS tool Procore.
It is important to emphasize what this acquisition can mean for architects and engineers. Autodesk’ BIM 360 platform can now focus more on the design-side work process innovations while allowing PlanGrid to focus hard on competing with the build-side process innovations. Despite the strength in combining forces, BIM 360 plus PlanGrid will still face massive competition from Aconex, Viewpoint, Procore and several other outstanding CDE solutions in the marketplace, some of which (Procore) are now turning their attention to design-side customer workflows.