Gravity Sketch attracts $33 million for a platform for designing, collaborating and producing 3D objects – TechCrunch
Platforms like Figma have been a game changer when it comes to how creatives and other production and product team stakeholders design and iterate around two-dimensional designs. Now a company called Gravity Sketch took this concept to 3D, leveraging tools like virtual reality headsets to allow designers and others to dive into and better visualize a product’s design as it is made ; and the London-based startup is today announcing $33 million in funding to take its own business to the next dimension.
Series A arrives as Gravity Sketch surpasses 100,000 users, including product design teams at companies like Adidas, Reebok, Volkswagen and Ford.
The funding will be used to continue to expand the functionality of its platform, with particular attention to expansion Landing areaa collaboration feature he created to help “non-designer” stakeholders see and provide feedback on the design process earlier in a product’s development cycle.
The round is led by Accel, with GV (formerly known as Google Ventures) and previous backers Kindred Capital, Point Nine and Forward Partners (all from its 2020 round) also participating, as well as anonymous individual investors. The company has now raised over $40 million.
Oluwaseyi Sosanya (CEO), Daniela Paredes Fuentes (CXO) and Daniel Thomas (CTO), co-founders, Sosanya and Fuentes met while both pursuing a joint design/engineering degree at the Royal College of Art and at Imperial College London. They also worked together in industrial design at Jaguar Land Rover. Through these and other experiences, the two found that they encountered the same issues in the process of doing their jobs.
Much of the early design is often still sketched by hand, Sosanya noted, “but the machines for tooling work on digital files.” It’s just one of the steps when something gets lost or complicated in translation: “From sketches to digital files is a very arduous process,” he said, involving perhaps seven or eight versions of the same design. Then you have to produce technical drawings and then model for production, all complicated by the fact that the object is three-dimensional.
“There were so many inefficiencies that the end result was never closer to the original intent,” he said. It wasn’t just the design teams involved either, but also the marketing and manufacturing, finance and management teams.
One of the issues is that we think in 3D, but the skills need to be learned, and most digital drawings are designed to meet those needs, translating them into a 2D surface. “People draw to bring ideas to the world, but the problem is that people have to learn to draw, and that leads to a lot of misunderstandings,” Paredes Fuentes added.
Even sketches made by a designer may not be true to the original idea. “Communications and conversations were happening too late in the process,” she said. The idea, she noted, is to bring collaboration earlier so that potential inputs and changes can also be captured earlier, making the whole design and manufacturing process less costly in all.
Gravity Sketch’s solution is a platform that leverages innovations in computer vision and augmented and virtual reality to enable teams of people to collaborate and work together in 3D from day one.
The approach taken by Gravity Sketch is to be “agnostic” in its approach, Sosanya said, meaning it can be used from first sketch to manufacturing; or files can be imported from it into any tooling software a company uses; or the designs may not enter a physical domain at any time: more recently, designers have built NFT objects on Gravity Sketch.
One thing it doesn’t do is provide stress testing or engineering calculations, but make the platform as unrestricted as possible as an engine for creativity. Introducing this too early in the process would be “imposing limits”, Sosanya said. “We want to be as limitless as a piece of paper, but in the third dimension. We power the engineering tools, but that comes after you come up with a solution.
Although there are many design software manufacturers on the market today, there have been relatively few developments to cater to what Paredes Fuentes described as “spatial thinkers”. to bring out a 3D design engine.
“It’s very difficult to build a geometry engine from scratch,” Sosanya said. “Many did not dare to intervene because it is a very complex space due to the 3D aspect. Technology enables a lot of things, but taking the approach we have is what has brought us success. This approach is not only to allow “entering” the design process from the beginning via a 3D virtual reality environment (it provides applications for iOS, Steam and Oculus Quest and Rift), but also to use computers and smartphones to collaborate together too.
While a big part of the goal is to bring tools to the commercial world, Gravity Sketch has also found traction in education, with around 170 schools and universities also using the platform to supplement their own curricula. He said last year’s revenue had quadrupled, although he wouldn’t disclose actual revenue figures. Approximately 70% of its customers are in the United States
The investment will be used to continue to develop Gravity Sketch’s LandingPad collaboration features to better support non-designer stakeholders critical to the design process – a reflection of Gravity Sketch’s belief that greater diversity in the industry design and more voice in the development process will result in the best performing products on the market. Companies, such as Miro and Figma, have already disrupted the 2D space, enabling teams to co-create and collaborate quickly and inclusively in online workspaces. Now the inclusive features of Gravity Sketch are ready to shake up the 3D environment. The funds will also be used to enhance the platform’s creative tools and scale the company’s sales, customer success, and onboarding teams.
“In the current climate, online collaboration tools have become a necessity for companies that want to stay agile and connect their teams in the most interactive, authentic and productive way possible,” said Harry Nelis, partner at Accel, in a statement. “Design is no different, and we were blown away by Gravity Sketch’s innovative and future-oriented suite of collaborative design tools that are already revolutionizing workflows in many industries. Additionally, we predict that 3D design – coupled with the advent of virtual reality – will only grow in importance as brands race to build the emerging metaverse. The first organic and Tier 1 traction marks that Oluwaseyi, Daniela and the team at Gravity Sketch have already achieved as clients are extremely impressive. We are delighted to partner with them and help them achieve their dream of a more efficient, sustainable and democratic design world.