One of Onshape’s earliest customers recently told us that he had been eagerly waiting to use our product even when it was just in the idea stage. “To borrow a quote from ‘The Blues Brothers,’ I heard that you were getting the band back together,” he said. “I heard that the old gang from SolidWorks was creating something new.”
As one of those former “band members,” I can say that we’re all flattered by these accolades. But this is not a nostalgia tour.
At the beginning, all six of Onshape’s founders were SolidWorks people. Most of us have worked together for more than 20 years – and many of us worked together long before SolidWorks was founded. When our founder and Chairman of the Board, Jon Hirschtick, was a student at MIT’s CAD research lab in the early 1980s, his mentor during his first summer internship at Computervision was Onshape co-founder Tommy Li, who later spearheaded geometric modeling at SolidWorks.
We have not one, but two former SolidWorks CEOs -- Hirschtick and John McEleney – so when it came to recruiting the best CAD people in the business, we had a very deep and powerful network. However, we instinctively knew that our CAD talent pool alone would not be enough to build Onshape.
A NEW GENERATION OF CAD
We were aiming to create the world’s first and only cloud-native production CAD system with a fundamentally different architecture that has never existed before. This isn’t just another desktop product that runs on one computer and stores things in files on a cloud server. You can consider what we’re doing like a marriage of the best parts of desktop solid modeling, Google Apps, GitHub, and Salesforce.
So we needed help. We needed to find the same level of technology talent and expertise in the areas of Cloud Architecture, Mobile, Browser, Security and DevOps. And not just experts, but people who have been through the fire before and can thrive under pressure.
When you’re at a startup and your company is growing quickly, the challenges you run into are unpredictable. In that stressful environment, you quickly learn whether people can deal with those challenges or not. No two startup experiences are the same, but what you really want are people who can deal with the unexpected, can handle pressure in a constructive way, and who can make smart decisions with limited information -- all while having fun and being passionate about the team’s success.
All of our founders and many members of our team have had several startup experiences – not just with SolidWorks, but two or three each – so we’ve seen a lot of different situations.
ONSHAPE'S DREAM TEAM
If you visit our Onshape Team page and glance at a few random bios, you’ll get a sense of the talent that’s now bringing the next generation of CAD to life. We’re pleased to be working alongside some of the key contributors to game-changing companies behind the latest web, mobile and cloud technologies -- some of whom were critical players in the startup phase.
Our Onshape Dream Team includes:
- Ravi Reddy (Enterprise Hardware) - Founding architect at BladeLogic.
- John Rousseau (Cloud Infrastructure) - Founding engineer at CloudSwitch.
- Forrester Cole, PhD (High Quality Graphics and Streaming) - Graphics expert at Pixar Animation Studios.
- John de Freitas (Cloud Infrastructure & Internet Security) - Cloud software architect at Intel/McAfee and security engineer at DataPower/IBM.
- Seshu Pasam (Cloud Infrastructure & Internet Security) - DMTS at Verizon and principal software engineer at RSA-Security Division of EMC.
- Mike Morton (Mobile) - Senior software engineer at Google.
- Kyle Smith (Cloud Infrastructure) - Staff engineer at VMware.
- Kori Ryter (Rich Web App Expert) - Scribe, AutoVirt.
To be clear, this is only a partial list of the extraordinary people who dropped what they were doing to help build Onshape. But I’d like to mention one more: Michael Lauer, Onshape co-founder and CTO. Despite heavily focusing on CAD for more than 20 years, he is somehow also amazingly well-versed in these new technologies. Michael, an MIT PhD, has provided much of the intellectual and technological “glue” that makes the Onshape team and the Onshape product work so well.
When we first started, a lot of people in the CAD R&D community didn’t think what we were trying to do was even possible. Onshape is a very interactive production CAD modeling experience where most of the work is done in the cloud, but feels instantaneous when you’re drawing sketches and resizing fillets. With this team, we were able to make it happen.
MAKING CAD FASTER
We’re learning now that people are finding Onshape’s performance equal to or often even better than desktop CAD. We know that things really can’t be optimized much more on traditional desktop CAD systems, but they can be improved a lot more in our pure-cloud CAD system. Anybody can see that by looking at the installed products that they’ve run on their desktop over the last ten years. CPU clock speed is no longer increasing -- it has hit a wall. But cloud performance and Internet performance are rapidly improving. Onshape is seizing the moment.
We couldn’t have succeeded without bringing together all of this talent and expertise beyond just CAD. We’re inspired by a lot of ideas from other technology leaders – such as Google, GitHub, Amazon, Workday and Salesforce – and are applying them for the first time to the highly interactive and compute-intensive application of mechanical CAD.
Every Wednesday, we have a brown bag lunch where an expert in the company is presenting to everyone else for cross pollination of knowledge and ideas. We CAD folks are teaching the non-CAD folks CAD, and the non-CAD folks are teaching the rest of us all those other things. Looking back, we’re thrilled that we’ve made the right choices and found people who can thrive outside their comfort zones.
Ultimately, though, our names and bios don't matter when you are working on your projects. As Jon Hirschtick likes to say, “We’re not in the CAD software business. We’re in the business of helping people make great products.”