The Onshape Story

Oct 23, 2019

Today, PTC announced announced that they are acquiring Onshape in a move that could dominate the stage for collaborative product development and data management for at least the next decade. It’s no surprise that this team, led by Jon Hirschtick and John McEleney, has again created something that will have a lasting impact; in the nineties, this same team created Solidworks, which offered the first graphical user interface in Windows for computer aided design—a brand new experience in a design world dominated by green screens. The implications were felt for two decades, and today that business accounts for more than a third of Dassault’s revenue. In 2012, Jon and team set out to do it all over again.

Shortly after they had raised their Series A, early investors Elliot Katzman and Ric Fulop introduced me to the Onshape team. I was very focused on design-centric businesses at that time, and these guys were reportedly going to reconfigure the heart of product design. Their planned cloud solution would distribute design changes instantaneously and truly collaboratively over web or mobile. This is a big deal given the field’s ‘state of the art’ was still delivered via a client-server environment. My memories here are bittersweet as I recall meeting up with my late partner, Harry Weller, to discuss the space. It was wonderful to team up with him and tackle new things, and this is one of the few projects we were able to partner deeply on. He had a contagious level of excitement when he got the vision and over breakfast with the team at the Mandarin Oriental in Boston, we ended up sketching out an investment on a napkin!

Fast forward to today and the Onshape team has not only built a full product development system in the cloud but they have also completely reinvented the design paradigm around data. The way the system secures and accesses data in the cloud allows the velocity of product design to accelerate at major rates. Teams have become increasingly distributed and can still satisfy their needs for power, accessibility, accuracy, and traceability. I’ve learned so much from watching the creative destruction of the product design and development market and have traced downstream innovations to find other investments in 3D printing and automation, such as, Desktop Metal and Tulip Interfaces. Again, big changes are afoot in these markets over the next decade.

The Onshape cloud platform was created in a way that can host a variety of technical product design and development needs, and that’s why this combination of Onshape and PTC is especially interesting. Together, they will accelerate the distribution of cloud-based product development. Onshape was named to the prestigious Cloud 100list earlier this year and we’ll soon see how far-reaching the impacts of their platform will be. I consider myself very fortunate to have worked with this amazing team and to have watched customers adopt the SaaS model for the first time.

Thank you Jon, John, Dave, Michael, Tommy, Scott, David K., Clint, and the whole team at Onshape!