SpaceClaim Captures $5 Million Series D Funding to “Democratize” 3D Modeling

Concord, MA-based SpaceClaim has raised an additional $5 million in Series D funding, bringing its total venture pot to just over $30 million, president and CEO Chris Randles told Xconomy yesterday. The four-year-old startup sells 3D modeling software for non-engineers, and has been enjoying explosive growth over the past year, according to Randles.

The funds came from SpaceClaim’s existing coterie of investors, with North Bridge Venture Partners and Kodiak Ventures in the lead and Borealis Ventures and Needham Capital Partners also on board. Randles says SpaceClaim, which experienced a 2.5-fold increase in sales in 2009 and even faster growth in the first quarter of 2010, has moved solidly beyond the R&D phase and needed the new funds to invest in sales and marketing support. “Our big investment is in customer-facing technical staff who can help existing and prospective customers solve problems, as well as sales staff,” says Randles.

SpaceClaim is part of a major cluster of engineering software companies with headquarters or major outposts in New England, from established giants such as Autodesk, Dassault Systèmes (which owns Concord-based SolidWorks), and PTC, better known as Parametric Technology Corporation. In fact, both Randles and SpaceClaim co-founder Daniel Dean spent time at PTC. “It’s an overlooked asset in this area,” says Randles.

PTC largely invented parametric modeling, the dominant paradigm in 3D mechanical design, in the mid-1980s. To hear Randles tell it, there hasn’t been any fundamental innovation in the computer-aided design (CAD) field since then, though he says SolidWorks and other companies have improved on the idea. SpaceClaim’s innovation, which the company calls “direct modeling,” is to give engineers simple tools that allow them to experiment with design concepts by moving, stretching, combining, and re-using shapes onscreen.

“People who use CAD tend to be people who are specialists in CAD—if you want a parallel, think of the database specialists before the days of Microsoft Access,” says Randles. “We are democratizing 3D by bringing powerful but very easy-to-use 3D modeling tools to engineers who have never really used CAD.”

Randles says SpaceClaim’s business is split roughly equally between the Americas, Asia, and Europe. Automotive manufacturers and suppliers were the biggest customers in 2009, followed by aerospace and defense, consumer goods, and medical device companies.

SpaceClaim’s software is in demand because it helps companies’ product designers experiment with new designs without having to involve CAD specialists at every step. “3D modeling technology is changing working practices and moving things to market quicker,” Randles says. “In an odd way the global recession has also helped us—it’s made companies come to terms with some of their inefficiencies. When things are good, you tend to put off radical rethinking or reengineering.”

Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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