TriboForm, an automotive software startup, acquired by AutoForm

01 September 2016

AutoForm, an international provider of software solutions for automotive players and OEMs, has acquired TriboForm, a Netherlands-based startup that specialises in virtual tribology. The deal was advised on by financial experts from Sincerius, Ten Kate Huizinga and M&A lawyers from Damsté and Vriman.

Founded in 1995 in Switzerland, AutoForm today provides software services to over 3,000 users in more than 700 companies in 40 countries around the world. The company’s software facilitates the design and simulation of sheet metal forming – one of the key processes in the engineering and manufacturing landscape. According to the firm’s own website, its software is used at virtually every automotive OEM –which have recently seen record profits – and at suppliers of tooling, stampings and materials.

In line with the AutoForm’s growth agenda – the Zurich-headquartered company last month received a major capital investment from private equity firm Astorg* – the organisation has decided to expand its footprint with the acquisition of TriboForm. The startup, which grew from within the ranks of Twente University (launched in 2013 by Jan Harmen Wiebenga and Johan Hol), launched its tribology** automotive software product just six months ago in collaboration with launching partners Volvo, Mercedes-Benz and Skoda***. The car manufacturers use the firm’s software to, among others, design and develop parts such as motor caps, doors and other car parts.

TriboForm, an automotive software startup, acquired by AutoForm

“Our software is mainly used by car manufacturers for simulating friction, lubrication and wear in production processes of new car parts”, explains co-founder Hol. The technology, which he dubs ‘virtual tribology’, enables automotive firms and OEM suppliers to bolster the efficiency of their operations, as well as enhance the durability of products. “To date, such software did not yet exist at this level.”

For AutoForm the acquisition adds unique expertise to its portfolio, which in the coming months will be rolled out to its broader automotive client base. The firm was quick in its move – TriboForm had attracted significant attention from parties ready to invest since it unveiled its product, confirms Wiebenga, from both within as well as outside the automotive industry. “TriboForm’s expertise in the field of tribology provides a new dimension to sheet metal forming simulation. The integration of TriboForm’s technology into AutoForm software will allow for a new level of simulation accuracy, which in turn will bring substantial benefits to AutoForm users,” says a spokesperson of the Swiss company. As part of the deal, TriboForm’s office in Enschede, located at Twente University’s tech and knowledge campus, will become AutoForm’s centre of expertise for tribology.

The transaction was supported by dealmakers from four external advisory firms. Buyer AutoForm’s M&A effort was guided by Sincerius, an Amsterdam-based financial due diligence consultancy (deal team: Thomas Daemen and Evert van Anken), with legal support coming from Vriman, a boutique law firm also based in Amsterdam (the engagement was led by Bas Mees, Jan Vriesendorp and Marius Ankum). Sellers Wiebenga and Hol received financial advisory expertise from Ten Kate Huizinga’s corporate finance team, led by Aron de Jong and supported by Linda Spoolder and Dirk Jan Loeters, while legal advisory was provided by Damsté, with Caston Kroep in the driving seat.

TriboForm’s software enables a new level of simulation accuracy

Commenting on the deal, De Jong from Ten Kate Huizinga Corporate Finance says: “We are proud to have served the founders of TriboForm during this interesting process”, adding “The collaboration with AutoForm will allow TriboForm to accelerate the introduction and implementation of its software at leading automotive companies. I wish them the co-founders the very best of luck with their further endeavours.” 

Wiebenga remarks he is delighted with the joining of forces, and, looking ahead, he says that the firm has set the ambition to grow into the leading software standard for the development processes of automotive firms globally. “The competition in the car industry is big, which leads to a large demand for efficiency enhancing software products such as ours.” He concludes: “And also outside the automotive sector we are aiming to make a mark.”

* Astorg acquired a majority of AutoForm for an undisclosed sum.

** Tribology takes into account the effects of motion as well as the interaction between sheet material, lubricant and tool or coating material during the forming process. These tribological interactions influence the quality of the formed parts as well as the stability and efficiency of the production process.

** The solution ‘TriboForm’ was formally launched during Triboforum 2016, a three-yearly conference for the automotive industry.