Recording and transference of information has historically been a 2D exercise. From cave walls and parchment, to paper and silicon, the X,Y axis has been the primary plane. But advancements in computer vision, driven in part by robotics, XR and autonomous vehicles have resulted in massive amounts of 3D data and require new infrastructure. At Anorak Ventures, we are actively investing in startups addressing this need.
In 1992, a 3D game engine helped the masses appreciate the Z axis for the first time. Wolfenstein 3D was released by id Software and provided a new level of immersion, changing the genre of gaming forever. Creating these experiences were initially left largely to professionals. Unity came around in 2006 and made it easy(er) to be a creator. They provided a familiar UX/UI and create once/deploy anywhere functionality, that resulted in a vibrant user community.
The trend of more accessible tools continues, as does the amount of 3D data we are collecting. Satellites and planes are collecting geo-spatial data from the skies, and autonomous vehicles, from the streets. Companies are building 3D replicas of their products using laser and photogrammetry capture technology to provide new ecommerce experiences. Recent releases of ARKit and ARCore are making it easier then ever to leverage these assets.
Further pushing this trend is the growth of virtual and augmented reality where 3D is a necessity. As we increasingly spend time in the digital world, our digital “stuff” will rival the importance of our physical “stuff”. Non fungible tokens are providing authenticity verification and scarcity, making ownership and value more real. Amazon is the destination for physical goods, but the destination for digital goods is yet to be determined.
I first learned about Sketchfab in 2012 during my time at Autodesk. I was intrigued by 3D marketplaces and spent countless hours doing build/buy/partner analysis on the space. The thesis was that while there was a group of people who love building 3D models from scratch, using tools like Maya and 3DSMax, most people have neither the time nor the skill to do so. Many would rather modify and customize existing items in order to accomplish a task and flex their creative muscle. Enter Sketchfab! Taken directly from their website…
“We started Sketchfab in Paris, France, in early 2012. We were frustrated to see so many creators spending hours on making great 3D models, but ending up sharing boring screenshots as there was no better solution to showcase their work… Our community quickly grew to a mix of artists, designers, architects, hobbyists, engineers, brands, museums, game studios, schools and more. Today, with easier creation tools such as Minecraft or Tilt Brush, and 3D capture coming to our smartphones, everyone is becoming a 3D creator. Our goal is to turn 3D into a mainstream media format.”
Sketchfab now has more then 3,000,000 models on their platform and represents the largest single repository of 3D content on the web. The rate at which users are uploading content is also increasing at a steady clip. Creating an account and uploading models is free and they’ve never allowed advertising on their site. This has resulted in a strong brand, substantial good will, and fostered an active and passionate community now numbering around 2,000,000 people.
Sketchfab was not actively raising at the time I invested, but once Sketchfab’s CEO, Alban Denoyel had enough of my harassing emails, he shared some information with me. The numbers immediately reinforced my thesis on the continual acceleration of 3D content creation. The team works hard to maintain direct export capabilities from every major 3D content creation pipeline, 74 to be exact. This includes CAD software like Revit and Solidworks, game engines like Unity and Minecraft, 3D scanning software like Cappasity and RealSense, as well as modeling applications like Max, Maya, Blender, C4D, Houdini, and Modo.
The company has also made it easy for other platforms to leverage their 3D library with their recently announced SDK. Major players like Apple and Facebook have recently announced partnerships with Sketchfab to enable users to pull items directly from their library into native experiences. Sketchfab is providing the pipes that enable the fluid movement of 3D objects around the web. They’re also working with an increasing number of enterprise clients to provide a robust 3D backend and hands on support.
Just as Youtube made it easy and convenient for creators to upload videos and link to them, Sketchfab is positioning themselves similarly for 3D content and I believe the opportunity is just as big. If this post resonates, and you’re looking for new opportunities, Sketchfab is hiring and would love to hear from you.