by Roopinder Tara, Tenlinks.com
Who or what is Lagoa? And what makes a relative newcomer think they can go up against a reigning champion? CAD Insider readers know of Lagoa for its cloud-based renderer and a user part library/gallery. It was a hit at SolidWorks World, where it was nominated for a Best of Show.
I am invited to see them last week at COFES, where they rented a suite. I expected them to show me a newer version of what I had already seen. I'm expecting a hit; I have no idea they'll be swinging for the fences.
I find Lagoa founder and CEO Thiago Costa and marketing guy Chris Williams finishing an earlier interview. Thiago is talking in English, then switches to French. He is from Brazil -- I think -- and Lagoa may be named for a town in Portugal, but the company was once Canadian. Recently, it has situated itself in Boston. And that's where they find their pot of gold -- as in VC money.
Then it's my turn, and they ask if I had heard their announcement: "We will be releasing a 3D modeling program." I hadn't. There was nothing on the wire, nothing on Twitter. It was being leaked at COFES.
"It's a soft launch," says Chris. Chris is known at COFES, and in previous years he pushed his collaboration product, Vuuch. Now he is handling Lagoa marketing and has talked Thiago into coming to Scottsdale, Arizona. "We're telling a few press people," says Chris.
It's All Happening in Boston
Boston has proved fruitful to Lagoa. The area is a beehive of CAD activity, old and new. PTC, Dassault and Autodesk have offices in nearby Waltham. Talent bred at MIT in Cambridge is grown with VC funding pools nearly which seem as deep as those in Silicon Valley -- at least for design and engineering software. GrabCAD has recently benefited from this largesse ($13.6 million in funding). But the one on which all eyes seem to be riveted is Belmont Technologies, now named Onshape. The name is not as important who is in it: none other than originators of Solidworks, Jon Hirschtick and his gang.
Onshape has raised $34 million. Everyone bets on the horse that won the last race so VC money piling up behind Jon Hirschtick and company should be no surprise. Thiago is betting his horse is faster, younger, and, in contrast to the very secretive gang at Onshape, this horse has jumped the gate.
"We are backed by some of the investors of SolidWorks," he says. "And Siemens." Lagoa has raised almost $7 million. They have 30 employees. Now this is getting interesting.
What Does Lagoa Have?
The Lagoa modeler (company name and product name is the same) is cloud-based and will work through a thin client on your browser. It can be used on mobile devices though not on my iPad at the time of this writing. The model resides on the cloud, which Lagoa will provide.
The model can be passed around with a hyperlink. Two users can operate on an assembly regardless of their location. Moving a part around on one screen will update the part on the other screen. "The model is no longer tied to the user's desk," says Thiago.
The price has not been determined. Currently, only Lagoa's rendering products are for sale.
You Really Want to take on SolidWorks?
"What is Solidworks except an interface to Parasolid?" asks Thiago. "We are using Parasolid, too." A brash young challenger could be easily dismissed. Hasn't Solidworks had 20 years to refine its tools? Generated an immense user base? Emerged as the language in which mechanical design is spoken?
Blame the confidence on youth. Thiago, his knit hat pulled over his head, doesn't quite fit in among the, um, shall we say distinguished attendees who take the Congress on the Future of Engineering Software quite seriously. Will they dismiss Thiago, who looks more like a game developer?
Moms on SolidWorks
But according to Thiago, CAD is easy compared to special effects (which he did) and game development. "My mother could use SolidWorks," he says.
He shows Maya on his MacBook on a screen so cluttered with commands it shrinks the Maya work window. Mastering such a software require not just a knowledge of a myriad of commands but writing scripts. "Film guys are making things that no one else has made," says Thiago. A film company had to create the skeletal muscle system to get realistic facial expressions in CG characters.
Supermoms to the contrary, is Lagoa really easy to use for the casual user or non-CAD user, the sort who has no experience with CAD or desire to learn to learn it? He just wants to get a model made so he can 3D print it, for example.
Thiago concedes Lagoa is not easy enough to use just yet, but by the time of release, he promises it will be.
[Reprinted with permission of CAD Insider.]