Not sure if you realize this, but Onshape broke out of beta exactly one year ago. They celebrated their first birthday this week with a tiny chocolate cake I’m sure was fought over after this photo was taken. Not sure why Kevin Bacon photo-bombed that lovely picture. Rude.
It honestly feels longer, doesn’t it? Especially with the rate of updates they were churning out – I count 5 or 500… not sure, somewhere in between there. An update every few weeks. Jon Hirschtick: “15 updates, 120 new features/enhancements.” Well there you go. They must have a few goals. They definitely have a growing user base, as we hear from professionals all over that they’re trying Onshape or using Onshape with others asking, “Have you heard of Onshape?” – yes, we get that question, more than you would think.
Given that we’ll take any excuse to eat cake whether we’ve been offered it or not, we thought it was time to crash the party and catch up with Co-founder and CEO of Onshape, Jon Hirschtick, to find out what the last year has been like, what they’ve learned and what their goals are for the future. Let the cake eating commence!
SolidSmack: Can you break down some Onshape stats for us?
Jon Hirschtick: Over 2,000,000 hours of usage! And 1 in 6 Onshape sessions are from a phone or tablet (Android, iPhone, or iPad).
- We have 3 refrigerators
- We have 2 coffee machines — one Keurig and one that grinds the beans
- We are in Sprint 57 — meaning our 57th ‘period’ of R&D
- I have sat at 3 different desks in our office
- How many times users have installed Onshape: Zero 🙂
- How many people have downloaded Onshape: Zero 🙂
- Speed of my home internet connection: 330Mbps (ok, it cost me an extra $7 per month). Approximately 5 times faster than when we started Onshape. Score one for full-cloud apps.
- Speed of the newest CPUs compared to the old CPUs that were around when we founded Onshape: The same. No improvement. Got it?
It’s clear Onshape has shaken up the CAD scene. What did you expect would happen? What didn’t you expect would happen that did?
I expected that we would assemble a great team of people — and we did.
I did not expect just how much interest there would be in a true cloud system.
I did not expect to see so much interest in, and really a brewing movement among customers to, “Agile Design” — basically a change in their process to be more iterative, nimble, involve more people, and move faster. Customers want to change their process, and they see that traditional file-based installed CAD is not well-suited for Agile Design, but Onshape and our full-cloud database architecture are great for Agile.
We also did not expect just how fast/powerful tablets and phones would get (like the iPad Pro I am writing this email on 🙂 — we knew we were going to run on them for sure, but I did not quite expect how much performance has improved on mobile the past few years.
I’m also surprised that nobody else has yet come out with a true, full-cloud system like ours. Someday I expect they will, but so far we still are alone with our full-cloud approach.
Along the same lines, what’s been the most surprising development in Onshape to you over the last year?
The most surprising development in Onshape has been to see 40 different partners build apps using out API. It’s also been very surprising to see how reliable our full-cloud architecture is. Sure we have bugs and issues like any CAD system, but the notion of ‘crashes’ that plague installed CAD has been enormously reduced. Very surprising and cool to those of us who have built CAD systems for years.
Has the speed and which people/companies are transitioning to the cloud shifted? If so, has it changed how Onshape is approaching things?
Yes, more companies are accepting and embracing cloud, and faster than ever. One customer used to tell me a few years ago that they could not use cloud solutions. Now the same customer told me that he has a mandate from his management to get rid of all of his in-house compute servers, that the company has mandated that they *must* use cloud services.
It’s pretty dramatic actually to see the decline in cloud naysayers and the dramatic increase in cloud enthusiasts. Also, while there are of course still people with bad internet, the number of people with awesome internet is exploding. As I said above my home internet is 330Mbps. I’ve visited schools with 1Gbps.
You’re famous for your ‘Future of CAD’ outlook. Have you had some new thoughts about the future of CAD? If so, what has changed your thoughts?
One thing that hasgrown in prominence in my thinking about the future of CAD is the importance of mesh/facet-based 3D models. They have become much more important to the future of CAD than I might have thought a few years ago. I think the future of CAD will include great capabilities for importing facet/mesh-based 3D models and working with them as ‘first-class’ objects. Measuring to them, referencing them in building parts and assemblies, using them as components in assemblies, performing modeling operations on them (both parametric and direct editing), and even mixing them in a model with traditional Boundary Representation type 3D models.
The reason for this is because of additive manufacturing, generative shape optimization technology, and the enormous advances in 3D scanning. All of this has increased the ‘currency’, if you will, of facet/mesh data, like STL files.
Also, the future of CAD is going to be a lot more about how many, many people can work together in teams rather than what one person can do with merely creating a model. Products are not built by one person, nor can they even be built by an old-style, one-person-at-a-time workflow.
Teams of the future want their CAD to work in real-time: real-time deployment to anyone anywhere on all their devices, real-time data management, real-time collaboration, real-time analytics, real-time controls. There’s no time for the old ways anymore.
What are some goals you want to see Onshape hit over the next year?
The most satisfying and important thing we do at Onshape is to see our customers build real products in Onshape, and do it faster and with more innovation than they ever did before (and have more fun doing it).
So the main goal is to continue, as we have in year 1, to quickly grow the number of customers who are doing this. That’s the biggest goal.
We want to have another huge year of product growth, and improvement too, of course — in all areas: modeling, drawings, speed, applications, collaboration, data management, etc. And we are really looking forward to introducing our Enterprise product with a whole bunch of brand-new features, which have never been part of CAD before, for managing and analyzing and controlling teams of CAD users.
A big thanks to Jon for the interview, for some new thoughts on the future of CAD and the insight into how people are using Onshape. A happy birthday to the entire team as well. As always, we’re interested to see what Onshape is bringing to product development and we’re looking forward to what they do next year!