Tools for design of apps are gaining serious traction and attracting more venture interest. Here are some of the design tools which have received funding recently:
Founded in 2011, this New York based company closed a $100M Series E round in Nov 2017. InVision is a prototyping tool very widely used with the SketchApp to make clickable prototypes for web and mobile apps. I have used it extensively, and find them to be very customer-oriented and user friendly.
This is an Amsterdam based startup founded in 2013, focusing more on high-fidelity interactive prototypes. Framer raised $7.7 Million Series A in Dec 2017. Accel Partners has invested in both InVision and Framer.
Founded in 2012, Figma raised $25 Million Series B in February 2018, led by Kleiner Perkins. This is a design tool which lets you create designs and prototypes in the browser itself. It’s interesting to know how fast it has grown, having come out of stealth mode only in 2016.
These investments have happened in the last few months signaling that better design is a competitive advantage, and hence VCs are willing to back these. Collectively, these three startups have raised $287 Million.
I can think of the following consequences:
Better design tools. InVision is already launching InVision Studio, which is a competitor to Framer, and Sketch. InVision now goes from only prototyping to screen design. This should also lead to overall, better designed products, and as the tools get easier to use, more people will try these out.
Talent movement. More experienced design talent joins these companies. Hiring is one of the key reasons for fundraising. We can see Invision hiring more already.
Pressure on Adobe. With the arrival of mobile design, Adobe’s decades old tools (Illustrator, Photoshop) were used for mobile screen design, before Sketch App came along in 2010. Adobe responded with a similar tool Adobe XD in 2016.
It is exciting to note that these tools were made ~5 years after the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, which brought in the smartphone revolution, and the continued investment shows that there is still quite a lot of room for product improvement. After more than 10 years of iPhone introduction, the screen design tools still have room to grow.
This makes me bullish about the 3D design tools of tomorrow. With continued focus on AR/VR/MR experiences, we need more creators and better tools for 3D design. While I think the Photoshops of 3D design already exist and are doing well, there are no quick and easy tools for 3D design, even though solid communities exist.
In the short term, we can expect much better UX design for the mobile and web platforms, in the longer term, I am waiting for much easier creation tools for 3D design with applications in AR, and these companies would be worth funding.
- Sketchfab, a 3D design community, has over 8 Million monthly visits. In comparison, Behance (acquired by Adobe) for web/app designs has 57 Million monthly visits. There is much room to grow for 3D design community by this metric.
- Communities like Behance (2006), and Dribbble (2009) to share designs came before the tools like Sketch and InVision were released after 2010. For 3D design, communities like Sketchfab might be a leading indicator of better tools to come.
- The rise of Sketch and InVision follows the template of disruptive innovation – which implies that non-users start using the tool. If someone learned design on-the-job, my guess is that they are likely to have started on Sketch rather than Photoshop. While tools like Rhino and Blender can be seen as the ‘Photoshops’ of 3D design (and Autodesk can be called the Adobe), there is a clear gap for something like ‘Sketch’ or ‘InVision’ for 3D design.