GrabCAD Grabs $8M from Charles River Ventures, Yammer’s David Sacks

GrabCAD is looking more and more like the quintessential Boston tech company—and maybe, just maybe, a big part of the future of the whole tech ecosystem.

First of all, the company has CAD (computer aided design) in its name; Boston, of course, is the cradle of CAD, with SolidWorks/Dassault, PTC, an Autodesk presence, and many product design firms. Second, it’s a great immigrant story, as well as a story about global innovation; GrabCAD’s founders hail from Estonia (birthplace of Skype’s software), and half the company is still based there. And third, a critical mass of Boston’s big VCs are buying into the vision.

Cambridge, MA-based GrabCAD has raised an $8.15 million Series B round led by new investor Charles River Ventures; partner Izhar Armony is joining the board. Another new investor is David Sacks, the co-founder and CEO of San Francisco-based Yammer (also backed by CRV, and bought by Microsoft for $1.2 billion) and former COO of PayPal; this appears to be Sacks’s first investment in a Boston startup. And GrabCAD’s previous investors Atlas Venture, Matrix Partners, and NextView Ventures also participated in the round. The startup has now raised about $14 million in total.

GrabCAD has been going through a major transition. Early this year, the company shifted away from its online marketplace for mechanical engineers and designers, and toward collaborative CAD software for companies. The new product is still forthcoming, and the company isn’t saying much about it other than that it will help engineers, designers, manufacturers, and their customers collaborate more efficiently.

“We want to change individual engineers’ lives,” says Hardi Meybaum, the startup’s CEO and co-founder. “The vision is growing all the time.” The company now has some 300,000 users in its community of engineers.

And GrabCAD has been on a hiring tear, Meybaum says, bringing on 10 people in the Boston area in the past four weeks. The company has 21 employees total, and is looking to hire about 20 more people in 2013. “Boston will be the bigger office by end of next year,” he says. “We are hiring key guys from the CAD industry.”

The startup is part of a growing trend toward more social and personalized product creation, and more software and devices geared toward designers and makers (see Formlabs’ 3D printer, for example).

The involvement of CRV and Yammer’s Sacks adds an interesting new wrinkle. (You can read an in-depth interview with Sacks after the Yammer acquisition by my colleague Wade Roush.) Yammer is a notable example of social Web technology being applied successfully to the enterprise software market. So look for GrabCAD to apply some of those lessons to the product design sector over the coming months.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and Editor of Xconomy Boston. E-mail him at gthuang [at] xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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