Lagoa Debuts ‘Industry First’ Cloud Based 3D Design Platform, Raises $1.6M From 500 Startups, Atlas

From physical to digital rendering, 3D is being hailed by many as the future, and today, Lagoa, one of software startups in this space, is unveiling a new product, called Lagoa, that’s helping 3D enter a new dimension: a full 3D rendering and collaboration platform based entirely in the cloud. To mark the launch, Lagoa is also announcing a $1.6 million round of seed funding from a strong list of backers: 500 Startups, Atlas Venture, Real Ventures and RHO Ventures, as well as a number of angels.

Lagoa claims that this an industry first for the computer-aided design industry. Up to now, 3D has has been too data-intensive to run as a cloud-based service, relying instead on offline, hardware-based software.

In contrast, the Lagoa service works via your average web browser, and comes with the kind of attractive pricing that has been a hallmark of so many cloud-based, disruptive services. There are four tiers of set pricing, starting with a free service covering 5 rendering hours, 1 gigabyte of cloud storage and unlimited viewing of public projects; through to a “powerhouse” level at $123 per month, 250GB of storage, 375 hours of rendering, and 25 private projects. Higher usage levels are priced on an ad-hoc basis.

Fred Destin, a partner at Atlas and one of the investors in Lagoa, notes that this changes the game for design companies, manufacturers and others that work in the business of creating objects in one place, sourcing materials in another, manufacturing them somewhere else, and selling them in yet more locations:

“Think of a luxury goods company making designer bags,” he explained in an interview. “A company like that can render at very high speed a number of variations in design. They will want to test hundreds of types of leather for a design,” he said. “This lets creative teams to look at them all rapidly, and for buyers to do the same before ordering, or manufacturers before making the bags. Processes like this can happen quickly and easily now rather than needing to wait hours or days before making sure everyone is happy.”

Thiago Costa is, in Destin’s words, a “whiz kid” from Brazil who moved to Montreal and found himself surrounded by the gaming community there. The gradual move to the cloud for gaming, by way of distributed computing, had a massive influence on Costa’s approach to the new 3D engine, created out of his earlier work on Lagoa MultiPhysics, a desktop-based physics engine (which John Biggs covered here in 2010).

Costa’s work on the new cloud solution also came out of what he admits are limitations for even his own desktop product: “People don’t want to pay for software,” he said in a statement. And the other is the basic necessity of collaboration: “I kept asking myself: Why do they [CAD software designers, that is] make all the tools as if we work in isolation?”

Long-distance collaboration, you could say, is part and parcel of Lagoa’s DNA.

Costa’s co-founder Arno Zinke is a PHD in physically-based rendering technologies, and he is based in Bonn, Germany, where he is focused on “research and development of accurate physically-based materials and techniques for simulating optically accurate materials.” His early work, Destin points out, was on accurate digital rendering of hair. On the other hand, we understand a lot of early users are in the luxury goods industry. These bookends point to a range of enterprise and industrial verticals where Lagoa’s cloud service might come into play.

Lagoa’s work fits into a bigger trend for advances in CAD technologies. They include Belmont Technology, which has raised some $9 million also for cloud-based CAD technology (it’s founded by the people behind SolidWorks, which sold to Dassaut for $316 million back in 1997); GrabCAD, which in October 2012 raised just over $8 million from Charles River Ventures and others for the “GitHub for mechanical engineers.”

TC Disrupt alum, with its own online collaboration platform for 3D imaging, is a potential competitor here as well. Lagoa says it has patent-pending technology for optimizing speeds on its platform, whereas Sunglass is an add-on to other software like Autodesk and SolidWorks. On Lagoa you can also import from other software and from what I understand there will be the ability to actually create the design on the site as well.

“They are all coming from different angles attacking the same market,” says Destin — a nice image for a business that’s all about improving the quality of work in three dimensions.