Autodesk Buys Instructables; Design Software Giant in Consumer Marketing Push

San Rafael, CA-based Autodesk (NASDAQ: ADSK), whose 3D design, graphics, and engineering software is used by more than 10 million design professionals around the world, has just made a small but interesting purchase. It has acquired Instructables, a San Francisco-based community site for DIY enthusiasts started almost six years ago by Squid Labs co-founder Eric Wilhelm.

Just last week, I published a long profile of Instructables, which is home to more than 55,000 how-to articles contributed by more than 20,000 volunteer authors, on everything from electric cars to cookie recipes. So I jumped on the phone with Wilhelm early this morning to find out more.

Turns out Autodesk plans to build up the profile of its consumer group, and they’ve been looking for a company that knows how to create online communities to jumpstart the outreach effort. “They want to build tools and services for creative folks as well as design professionals,” Wilhelm says. “They are realizing the power of really engaged communities around services and products, and we are going to help them build those communities.”

That doesn’t mean the existing Instructables site is going away—far from it. “We’ll now have the resources to make some improvements to the site I know our authors and community will love,” Wilhelm said in a blog post announcing the acquisition this morning. All 24 employees of Instructables are joining Autodesk, and the company will remain in its 2nd Street digs in SoMa (only blocks from Autodesk’s San Francisco location).

The companies aren’t sharing the financial details of the acquisition, but Wilhelm says that “everybody is very happy” with the terms. Instructables had raised almost $2 million in venture financing from San Francisco-based O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, the investment fund started by O’Reilly Media founder Tim O’Reilly, and Baseline Ventures, an early stage investing firm founded by former Kleiner Perkins partner and Microsoft exec Steve Anderson.

Wilhelm says that when he spoke with me for my original profile on July 15, he wasn’t able to share the fact that an acquisition was in the works. But I could tell that the question was on his mind—and in particular, that he’d been thinking about what would make Instructables an attractive purchase. “At the size we’re at, the actual revenue and earnings are not really that interesting to people who might buy us,” he said then. “The most interesting thing is … Next Page »

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

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