It feels like an unique mixture of Youtube, Soundcloud and DeviantArt, but for 3D files. Indeed Sketchfab wants to turn the current 2D Internet into 3D, leading an authentic revolution in the way content is presented. The startup, with offices in Paris and New York, has developed a platform that allows users to publish and embed interactive 3D models on any website, and display them in real-time, as Youtube does for videos or Slideshare for presentations (for instance, see the 3D dinosaur below). Rather than an advertising based business model, on Sketchfab you can create a free account, or upgrade to the Pro plan ($10/month) to have unlimited uploads and up to 200mb per model.
We interviewed Alban Denoyel (@albn), Sketchfab co-founder and CEO.
Question. Is Sketchfab meant to be a mainstream platform or is it just for professionals? Who is your client?
Answer. There are two answers to your question. On the one hand, you have content creators, uploading 3D files on Sketchfab. On the other end, you have content consumers. Today, the creators are mostly professionals, because until recently it required advanced skills to make 3D files. But this is changing very fast with 3D scanning technologies, and we see more and more “normal people” uploading 3D files on Sketchfab. I’m not a 3D designer myself, but I’ve made a lot of things. As for content consumers, well , that’s everybody, since you can embed our viewer on any web page. So, yes, our goal is to be a mainstream platform. You can think of it a bit like Soundcloud: you have pro musicians, and hobbyists.
Q. In April you celebrated that more than 100,000 3D models have been uploaded to Sketchfab. That sounds impressive, but how tough were the beginnings? At the same time, 100,000 files seems tiny compared to YouTube or SoundCloud, does this concern you in terms of long-term profitability?
A. Beginnings were very tough, as for any platform. It’s still small compared to video, but we got there 2 times faster than some of the largest players (like Thingiverse), and with 3D scanning getting democratised, content creation is booming. It will soon get into our smartphones, and you’ll need a “YouTube for 3D files”.
Q. The most viewed 3D model on Sketchfab is a Playstation 4 one, with more than 594K views. Will we reach a point in where online retailers just display their products in 3D? Is Sketchfab establishing itself as the industry standard for that?
A. I strongly believe that 3D will become the standard way to display products, and the reason is simple: those products are in 3D in the real world. We won’t replace image but that’s a perfect addition. And yes, we want to be the standard way to do it with Sketchfab.
by JC Volumic
Q. Last December your company raised $2 million from Balderton, Partech and angel David Cohen. What changes are we going to see? How are you investing this VC money?
A. We just released a complete redesign, which makes Sketchfab a much better place to publish 3D files. We are working on a lot of new 3D features and web features, to make our platform more powerful, more reliable, and more enjoyable to browse.
Q. Sketchfab is a TechStars company (NYC 2013), alumni of Le Camping & WebFWD accelerators, and winner of several startup competitions. Which of these programs/awards have been more decisive for the project?
A. All have helped, but TechStars was definitely the most helpful, given the quality of the program and its network of mentors.
Q. Perhaps the most difficult one: Paris or New York?
Q. What kind of people do you hire? How is Sketchfab’s culture like?
A. We like to hire talented people who want to be part of this 3D revolution. The world is in 3D but the web is still in 2D, and we hire people who want to change that. We are a team of makers, who like creation and clean design.
Find out more about Sketchfab through this great infographic.