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[March 12, 2014]
Surveying company raises $36 million [Austin American-Statesman :: ]
(Austin American-Statesman (TX) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) March 12--Surveying and Mapping Inc., an Austin-based surveying, mapping and geospatial solutions company, has raised $36.7 million from Austin Ventures to continue its rapid growth, the company said Wednesday.
The investment is the first outside funding for the 20-year-old company, which is known in the industry as SAM Inc.
Bob Huston, adviser to SAM Inc. founder and President Samir "Sam" Hanna, said Hanna and other members of the SAM Inc. leadership team will retain about 40 percent ownership of the company.
Founded in 1994 Hanna, SAM Inc. has grown into one of the largest surveying and mapping companies in this part of the country. The company now has more than 700 employees, with offices in Dallas, Houston, Denver and Columbus, Ohio, in addition to the Austin headquarters, Huston said. The company is also planning to open offices in Midland and St. Louis, and SAM Inc.'s annual revenue has grown from $71 million in 2011 to $127 million last year, Huston said.
"We've enjoyed, over the last four or five years, substantial growth. All of it has been organic to this point," Huston said. "This investment... puts us in the position to have a very strong financial partner and lets us accelerate the organic growth we're already experiencing, but also look for strategic acquisitions. Even before this transaction, we had an enviable balance sheet. What this has done is put us together with a great financial partner... and add strategic acquisitions to our toolbox. We're very excited to team with AV, and we think it will put us on a great growth path." Vernon Bryant, partner at Austin Ventures, said SAM Inc. is "well positioned for continued growth." "Over the last few years, we have evaluated numerous companies tied to the ongoing and significant investment in North America's infrastructure, and the depth, experience and professionalism of this management team is rivaled by few," Bryant said in a written statement.
SAM Inc. got its start doing real estate development-related surveying, but has branched out in recent years to do work for oil and gas pipeline projects, power transmission projects, telecommunication networks, railroads and the Texas Department of Transportation.
The company has drawn attention with its use of LiDAR -- shorthand for light detection and ranging -- a surveying and scanning technology that captures laser light pulses that reflect off streets, buildings and other surfaces. The technology is similar to radar, but it uses laser pulses rather than radio waves. The advantages of LiDAR are speed, cost and the amount of data that can be collected and converted to highly accurate maps and images.
The company was hired in 2011 by the City of Austin to do a LiDAR survey of East Sixth Street. City officials wanted an accurate street survey as the baseline for streetscape improvements. After the Sixth Street project, the company won a contract with the Texas Department of Transportation to do a LiDAR scan of all the overpasses along the entire length of Interstate 35 in Texas.
SAM Inc. also operates a subsidiary, SAM-Construction Services LLC, that handles construction-related services.
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