Bentley Systems, an infrastructure software company based in Exton and run by four brothers, might ride the wave of federal stimulus dollars in the region.
With more than 450 employees in southeastern Pennsylvania, including at least 300 in tech fields, Bentley is a major player in the region’s creative economy.
“Bentley has a large number of users throughout Pennsylvania designing, building, and managing infrastructure for water and waste water, roads and bridges, rail and transit, power generation and alternative energy, and green buildings and environmentally sensitive land development,” said Chris Barron, the company’s vice president for corporate marketing. “Some” of their clients will be involved with projects that will benefit from the stimulus spending, though he declined to go into specifics.
Though four brothers are the top dogs, Barron says he’s never confused them — “They are all very unique individuals,” he says — but, after the jump, he does share with us his favorite Bentley clan story and suggests, if they were superheroes, just what superheros they’d be.
Check out our notes from Barron, and we didn’t even get into Bentley chief technology officer Keith Bentley, who still flies coach.
Transcript of interview was edited for length and clarity.
- If Bentley’s software could be used to improve any piece of infrastructure in Philadelphia, what might you want it to be?
Hands down, it would be an upgrade of the Schuylkill Expressway to handle 21st-century traffic loads with an integrated mass transit line to reduce both automobile traffic and carbon emissions.
- Now that the initial federal stimulus has passed, does Bentley have a clear sense of how, where and when it will be involved in any federally-invested projects?
Because Bentley provides software to the engineers and owner-operators who design and build, and operate infrastructure, we’re a step removed from the process. Our civil engineering software is used by 47 of the 50 state departments of transportation, including PennDOT, and the U.S. DOT has released $26.7 billion to the states for highway projects. A small percentage of that money may be used by the states and their consulting engineers to invest in Bentley’s design and engineering software, but most of the stimulus will go to the actual construction costs.
Also, the majority of our revenues come from subscriptions – that is, our users pay us an annual fee based on the amount of their software usage – so there is a built-in lag time between the increase in software utilization by our users and the increase in Bentley’s revenues. At Bentley, we’re thrilled with the new found interest in infrastructure, but infrastructure – from buildings to bridges, power plants to waterworks – is all we do, so we’ve always thought that infrastructure is both interesting and a good investment. In the end, this kind of investment in our infrastructure is not just about stimulating our economy and our business, it’s about sustaining it.
- Have any good Bentley brother stories?
When founders Keith and Barry Bentley developed their first product in 1984, they showed it to a group of prospective users and polled them as to how much they would pay for it. As good engineers, they averaged the responses and came up with the price of $7,943.
- How does Bentley’s software used to design infrastructure projects compare to competitor’s? What is different about your company?
One of the key differences about Bentley is that we are uniquely dedicated to providing software for the design, construction and operation of infrastructure – that’s all we do. We are also known for the breadth and depth of our applications, enabling our users to tackle any design challenge, from the longest bridge to the greenest building. This approach has made Bentley the world leader in the fields of water modeling, roads and transit design, bridge engineering, building energy performance and plant operations.
Bentley is also unique in that it generates over 60 percent of its annual revenues on a subscriptions-based model, where our users pay an annual fee for the use of our software. This business model compels the company to deliver a sustained stream of value to our users as Bentley fosters a long-term relationship with them.
- Bentley has offices around the world. How strongly do its ties to Philadelphia and the region remain?
Four Bentley brothers – Keith Bentley, co-founder and chief technology officer, Barry Bentley, co-founder and executive vice president, Ray Bentley, executive vice president, and Greg Bentley, CEO – have lifelong ties to the region and work in our Exton, Pa., headquarters. Now in our 25th year in Pennsylvania, we look forward to the next twenty-five as a Pennsylvania-based company.
- If each of the Bentley brothers were superheros, who would they be?
The Fantastic Four.
Barron didn’t say which one would be the Thing… or the Invisible Woman.
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