The $9 billion company with Delaware roots


Good afternoon,

This month, the financial media’s focus has been on the initial public offering of Snowflake – a data warehousing company based in Silicon Valley.

Flying under the radar was a software company with ties to Delaware that also had its own successful September IPO. That company is Bentley Systems.

The 36-year-old company was founded by brothers, one of whom worked for DuPont Co. and developed more versatile and lower cost engineering design software, according to a chapter in a book on the history of engineering software, The Engineering Design Revolution.

The Bentley brothers, the sons of a DuPont Co. engineer, grew up in the Milltown area south of Pike Creek.

When exiting DuPont in the mid-1980s, University of Delaware graduate Keith Bentley negotiated a deal that gave him rights for the software. In return, Bentley agreed to support users.

After working in California with his brother, the Bentleys later set up shop in Chester County, PA, and continued to develop software, with Bentley Systems becoming a free-standing company. Bentley’s headquarters is in non-nonsense office space in Exton, PA. Its worldwide workforce totals 4,000.

At the time, Delawarewas not a great option in the ’80s and ’90 for the Bentleys of the world.

DuPont’s presence was far-reaching and the tech/venture capital environment was far less friendly than in neighboring Chester County. At least that was what I heard at a meeting in the ’90s aimed at building a tech community in the state.

Growth continued and the early 2000s, Bentley pulled out of a planned stock offering and instead made a long series of small “bolt-on” acquisitions that along with internal growth helped move sales past the half a billion-dollar annual revenue mark.

The careful strategy stood in contrast to the Silicon Valley world of stock offerings of young companies with little or no revenue.

Bentley, true to its engineering roots, focused on careful growth that allowed it to navigate through the 2009 recession that hammered engineering customers for a time.

The recent stock offering keeps the family firmly in control and according to CEO Greg Bentley was aimed at providing a way for employees to become stockholders and build wealth. The stock market presence also raises the worldwide profile of the company

While the stock is considered pricy by Wall Streeters, investors snapped up shares in the $235 million offering of a highly profitable company. The market now values the company at an impressive $9 billion. – Doug Rainey, chief content officer.

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