Boulder's concept3D gets cash infusion, expands mapping, energy application
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Posted by: Maggie Reber-Wynn
The Boulder-based developers of SketchUp set off to build a 3-D modeling software program, they sought to create an application that would make 3-D modeling more accessible and they wanted to make a living in return.
"Honestly, we could've never imagined in our wildest dreams how that played out," said Brad Schell, co-founder of SketchUp developer @Last Software, which was acquired by Google Inc. in 2006.
While SketchUp led to Google and, later, Trimble dropping anchor in Boulder in recent years, it also fueled concept3D — a burgeoning Boulder-based company that is making significant moves in arenas such as interactive mapping and energy auditing and assessment.
Concept3D, which got its start thanks to some involvement and funding from SketchUp employees, recently raised a $1.25 million equity investment — a round funded in part by Schell.
The money will help boost concept3D's efforts in expanding its CampusBird interactive mapping program and software, and bringing its simuwatt energy assessment application to market.
"We still touch on our 3D roots through everything we do," said Oliver Davis, concept3D's co-founder and chief executive officer.
The company, which has offices in Boulder and Denver, plans to add to its 15-person staff and bring the company to 25 to 30 employees in the coming year.
That would complement some management moves made within recent months. Concept3D brought on Market Force Information Inc. co-founder Rushton McGarr as president and chief operating officer, and marketing veteran Lisa Harris as vice president of marketing.
The growth could push Concept3D out of Boulder. Company officials say they're looking for new space in Boulder, Boulder County and around Denver.
Gregg Larson, back left, Allen Winterstick, left, and Brett Truka work at concept3D's Denver offices last week. (Mark Leffingwell / Daily Camera)
The privately held Concept3D, which does not disclose financial details, expects to have revenue in the "low-to-mid seven figures" in 2014 and to record "nominal profits" in 2014 because of the ramp-up in hiring, said Rushton McGarr, president and chief operating officer. The company essentially was break-even last year, he added.
Investor Schell said he will not be involved with concept3D in any official, boardmember role; however, he'll serve as a resource for the firm.
"They're at a point where they're stepping up to another level, and I wanted to be a part of that," Schell said.
Concept3D started as a services shop, but eventually evolved into an outfit specializing in software development.
"We realized that we wouldn't be a valuable company without embracing software-as-a-service as a platform," said Oliver Davis, co-founder and chief executive officer of concept3D.
During the past three to four years, concept3D developed and honed its Atlas program, a database-driven map content management system. Atlas serves as the umbrella for CampusBird, software that allows universities and entities to develop maps with rich graphics, interactive capabilities and the ability to customize and update information.
More than 75 entities have used CampusBird, including Duke University, Walt Disney World Resorts and the Harvard Business School.
The CampusBird business is projected to grow four-fold this year with the added expectation the company will have a position in new markets, Davis said, adding that the software could apply in industries such as commercial real estate, resorts and economic development.
"There's a lot of fertile ground out there that we haven't really approached," Davis said.
More companies are able to incorporate 3D mapping as the technology has become easier to use and more affordable, said Joe Francica, editor in chief of Directions Magazine, which follows the location technology and geospatial industries.
"People want that realistic look, or that semi-realistic look," he said.
Businesses also are looking for sophisticated ways to embed location technology and collect location-based data for marketing, customer service and for municipal planning, he said.
However, privacy concerns may continue to be highlighted in the dialogue about the incorporation of that data and the use of high-resolution satellite imagery and unmanned aerial vehicles.
"3D city models (have) hit the radar of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology ... because with all the modeling, all the social media and sensor data and satellite data," he said. "In and of themselves, those applications don't deal with a privacy concern; linking them together could create a privacy concern."
The executives' approach to concept3D will continue to be conservative, Davis said.
"We could've raised more money," he said, adding the round was over-subscribed. "We opted to pull back."
Concept3D has revenue coming in and cash on hand, but the extra infusion of money will help the firm grow more aggressively and kick the simuwatt Energy Auditor and simuwatt Solar software into the market.
Both simuwatt products — an energy auditing platform and an application for photovoltaic surveys and design — were funded in part by federal grants and developed in partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden.
Energy auditing, a more than $1 billion industry, presents a huge economic opportunity for concept3D and partner NREL, said Larry J. Brackney, section manager for controls and analysis tools at the federal lab.
The auditing and design tools — which are supported by a massive Building Component Library online repository of energy models — will take retrofits deeper by accounting for systems, controls, windows and even the heat emitted by the individual workers. The software, mobile app and corresponding web-based database and application will add consistency to the auditing process, Brackney said.
"Now you could produce an audit from 10 different sources and get 10 different answers and 10 different costs," he said.
Additionally, the same auditor could then use simuwatt Solar to evaluate the potential for photovoltaic installations.
The field tests have returned favorable results and garnered positive feedback from hundreds of auditors and energy services firms, Brackney said.
"It's been tremendous, almost overwhelming," he said. " ... We and concept3D are inundated with inquiries."
Contact Camera Business Writer Alicia Wallace at 303-473-1332 or firstname.lastname@example.org.