Will Onshape Funding Make it the Future of CAD?
Roopinder Tara posted on September 24, 2015 |
Onshape is the only “full cloud” CAD for professionals, according to its makers. (Image courtesy OnCloud.)
Onshape is the only “full cloud” CAD for professionals, according to its makers. (Image courtesy OnCloud.)

Onshape, the CAD company created by the founders of SOLIDWORKS, has received an $80 million cash infusion from the Silicon Valley investment firm Andreessen Horowitz.

This brings Onshape up to a total investment of $145 million, despite generating little revenue.

The investments are largely a credit to MIT alumni Jon Hirschtick, and the belief that he and his team can repeat their success in making SOLIDWORKS a standard for mechanical CAD. This success is what led to Dassault Systèmes’ purchase of the company in 1997 for $310 million.

SOLIDWORKS seemed to come out of nowhere in a 90’s market dominated by PTC and Pro/ENGINEER. Being a fraction of the cost with the majority of the functionality helped cement SOLIDWORKS’ place in the market. More importantly, it was a native Windows application at a time when the rest of the competition either ignored Windows or struggled to adapt to it.

Onshape is betting that the same principle applies now.

The software offers most of the functionality of SOLIDWORKS and is priced at $100/month, with a free version available as well. Onshape also claims that their beta software is the first 100 percent cloud-based 3D design software product.

“Let’s be very clear,” says Scott Harris of Onshape. “This is a product for professionals,” an obvious reference to a CAD company that appears to be catering to makers. “We do like students, though,” he adds.

The Cloud lets users operate Onshape anywhere, on any device, without requiring an install. Users can pick up an iPad, login and make a design. The user doesn’t even have to pay. Quite frankly, it couldn’t be easier to start designing.

However, the recent announcement from Dassault Systèmes that a browser-based SOLIDWORKS is coming online might impede Onshape’s work. Fortunately for Onshape, the online version of SOLIDWORKS is currently only for those looking to test the software and has yet to receive a licensing model.

Jon Hirschtick

Jon Hirschtick

“We started SOLIDWORKS with only $13 million,” says Hirschtick who, along with the rest of the people I spoke to, seem to be hiding any excitement about their $80 million windfall. “This does give us a longer runway.”

“SaaS is different,” says Hirschtick, referring to software as a service, the class of software that Onshape falls into, as opposed to traditional CAD offerings that require a hefty upfront cost and a perpetual license. “Every time we sold SOLIDWORKS we got a $4,000 infusion. It’s not like that with SaaS. We’re going to get it $100 at a time.”

Onshape often refers to SalesForce.com, which revolutionized contact and sales management with a cloud based solution. After some years, SalesForce.com became a commercial success and Wall Street darling.

While no one will reveal to an outsider exactly what Onshape has done with their money so far, they are quick to dispel any thought that that they needed the $80 million to survive.

“You can say we got a fill up when we already had half a tank,” says Hirschtick. “And then, got extra tanks,” he adds with a smile.

Onshape, while still being called a Beta, is currently in use by 10,000 users. Users can get up to 10 “public” models, but to make more or to make them private, they will need to spend $100 a month. While free CAD is hardly an innovation, the private/public revenue model is new to CAD users, though it is in use by GitHub, a source control service used by developers.

To learn more, visit www.onshape.com

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