Peter Bonne Interview on Recent Acquisition by Bentley
I recently had the opportunity to discuss the acquisition of Orbit GT by Bentley Systems with Peter Bonne, CEO. Congrats to Peter Bonne and his team. Another example of how hard work for many years pays off.
Let’s go all the way back to the beginning of Orbit GT. When was that? What opportunity did you see? Who were you working with? What technology did you have? What customer problem did you identify? Who was the target customer?
We have a history dating back to 1962, when our father founded one of the first non-military aerial imaging companies and started private photogrammetric map production for governments and utilities. But what is at stake here is the evolution of the 3D mapping business, which would not exist without photogrammetry. Whereas traditional photogrammetry was on its way back in the mid-2000s, there was renewed interest in this technology by means of the early street-level Mobile Mapping and the first UAVs. We did our first UAV mapping projects back in 2008. Building on that, our software grew to support primarily asset-related inventory projects, with an extra touch of volumetric analysis (UAV-based) and profiling (both). As these new technologies matured, Orbit GT decided to focus on 3D mapping and envisioned the unified exploitation of various reality capture techniques. That pivotal point was 2014. We mainly worked through hardware vendors and were providing solutions for asset inventories and online browser-based sharing. As Mobile and UAV mapping became globally accepted techniques, we grew our reseller network to address the world at large.
What was the start-up phase like? How many people were there in the beginning ? Who were some of the important early customers?
It was more a transition than a start-up. We have been engaged in photogrammetric solutions for quite a while, and then decided to push the pedal on Mobile Mapping to 3D Mapping. So, we were more like a scale-up during the last five years, starting off with only 5, now having 15 colleagues. Early adaptors were to be found in the engineering contractors that quickly recognised the benefits of adopting these new technologies. We saw this happening in the US, Europe and Middle East, followed later by APAC.
What were some of the big wins that you had that really got the company going?
Our background played a major role. We knew the required technologies, and had have a lot of experience in developing solutions using that technology. So, we could develop at a high pace to bring technology to products that were easy to use. The UI experience had a different background, as I’ve been designing applications since forever for many different customers.
What size is the company today?
We have grown to 15 people addressing the globe. One needs to be extremely efficient to accomplish that. We are lucky to have such a great team and so many reseller-partners that believe in our products, which does help a lot of course.
How did the deal get started? How long has it been in the works? When is it expected to close?
Talks were going for quite a while. It’s normal to first get to know each other. I realize Orbit GT was an M&A target for quite a few companies, and talking doesn’t always lead to results. But we understood that Bentley Systems was serious about moving forward and we achieved a basic agreement only last summer. So, the acquisition went very quickly.
Partners are a key to your business model. How do you see that being affected by the acquisition?
The domain of 3D mapping, and especially Mobile Mapping is a bit new to Bentley Systems. Our partners typically address a different market than Bentley reps do and there’s little overlap. So, I believe they will continue to play an important role, now and in the future. Obviously, relations will become streamlined with Bentley standards but that shouldn’t hold them back to continue on this road. We believe they are very important to the success of our products, and we will continue to treat them with due respect.
What are the plans for the current staff and office?
The team stays together and continues to work in the same office. That’s an important message to the team, customers and partners. The Orbit GT team is and remains a center of expertise, providing the same products and services. By becoming part of the Digital Cities group within Bentley, there are plenty of opportunities to move ahead faster than we could on our own, many integrations, much knowledge that can be shared and optimized for the better. We’ve got a great future ahead of us.
How will your customers benefit from the deal?
First of all, we’ll continue our current portfolio and services. That is the most important item today. But we’re already looking ahead to what’s next, and how to leverage and combine knowledge, expertise and products of our new colleagues, and vice versa. This will ultimately result in even better products for our customers, with more integration, interoperability, flexibility and openness. There’s really no downside on this!
For more on the acquisition click here.
Thanks to Peter Bonne for taking the time.
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