Things were trending toward remote collaboration well before the world ground to a screeching halt under the heels of a pandemic, but the past year and a half have undoubtedly been a major catalyst for rethinking the way people work. It’s a phenomenon Flux has been thinking about for a while now, beginning development in 2019 with a team of employees who worked at places like Apple, Facebook and NASA.
The startup designed a web-based, real-time collaboration tool for electronics design and engineering. Today it’s announcing a $12 million seed raise, led by Outsiders Fund and featuring additional investments from Bain Capital Ventures, 8VC and Liquid2 VC. The funding will go toward expanding Flux’s development team, investing R&D for additional features and increasing its marketing reach.
Flux cites both the explosion of remote work (which won’t be going away any time soon) and ongoing hardware constraints, such as the chip shortage, as major drivers in the interest surrounding its technology.
“The world has changed dramatically since the first commercial chip developers opened shop in the 1970s and 80s. Today’s chip shortage is just the latest sign of that,” co-founder and CEO Matthias Wagner said in a release tied to the news. “The supply chain challenges we’re seeing now aren’t just a pandemic problem, they stem from decades of inattention to the design process itself. We built Flux to finally address these issues and we feel very fortunate to have found so many incredible investors who share our vision.”
Flux says its technology is supported by “all modern browsers,” requiring no downloads. The system features a simulator, automated part-sourcing and version control. The Community Library, meanwhile, offers access to schematics, models and open source parts — a little bit GitHub, a little bit Makerbot Thingiverse.
Wagner tells TechCrunch that the company is taking a GitHub-style approach to monetization:
We are very inspired by GitHub and how it changed the whole software ecosystem with its open and community-driven repository of reusable code. Similarly, we’re planning on having a freemium SaaS model to make it easy for anyone to get started while also offering teams and organizations the type of features they require. This model enables the hardware community to come together and build and share reusable components like parts, simulator models, and reference schematics that can be forked and improved upon. Of course, engineers will always have control over what they share and publish. As engineers ourselves, we want to empower as many engineers and teams as possible.
In addition to funding, the service is also using the opportunity to launch in beta.