Ottawa entrepreneur brings 3D printing to TechCrunch stage

Ottawa entrepreneur Michael Golubev, founder of 3DPrintler.com, is showcasing his latest venture at the TechCrunch Crunchie Awards next week in San Francisco.

Golubev will be exhibiting CAD.ai, a SaaS-based API business that builds on 3DPrintler’s search engine for finding 3D printing files. CAD.ai uses application program interfaces (APIs) to share, view and convert files used in 3D printing.

While Golubev is still running 3DPrintler, like many classic startup stories, he realizes that what his customers really wanted was the part of the product that was running behind the scenes.

“People were reaching out to us saying, ‘Hey, you’ve got all of these tools with 3DPrintler, I’m a 3D printing company, I want to have those features. I want to convert files. I want to have a 3D viewer. I want to share files,’” he says.

Though 3DPrintler is generating a steady flow of cash, Golubev says the path to scaling CAD.ai is much clearer, and the market opportunity with his new company is exponentially higher.

“With 3DPrintler, it was more focussed on 3D printing. But with CAD.ai, the market is a thousand times bigger: It’s not just 3D printing, it’s engineers, it’s drone-operators, it’s manufacturers.”

In short, any company that provides an application that benefits from viewing and manipulating virtual models can make use of CAD.ai’s APIs.

APIs allow CAD.ai’s product to integrate with existing applications by “talking” to each other. Companies like Twilio, which just went public this past year, use this feature to power the communication platforms in apps such as Uber and Airbnb.

“The future is all about software talking to software,” Golubev says.

Though Golubev still lives in Ottawa, CAD.ai is a U.S.-based startup with headquarters in Ogdensburg, N.Y., and a team of 10 developers in Serbia.

The company received its start from Stripe’s Atlas program. The American payment processing firm covered the startup costs for CAD.ai in exchange for collecting on the fees from its transactions. The company has also raised a $100,000 seed round, a benefit of having access to U.S. investment rather than Canadian capital, Golubev says.

“It’s an attitude. People are more business oriented (in the United States),” he says.

Though only a few months old, Golubev says CAD.ai is nearing the break-even point. The company currently has more than a thousand free users, in addition to a few hundred that it’s successfully converted to paid subscriptions.

The company caught a stroke of good luck when AutoDesk, a company that produced similar APIs, discontinued its 3D products in mid-January. Since then, CAD.ai has been sweeping up the customers that were left behind: He compares it to an older brother tossing aside a half-eaten pie, with the little brother sitting at the table eager to dig in.

“It’s selling like hotcakes so far,” Golubev says.

The annual TechCrunch Crunchie Awards recognize the hottest up and coming startups. CAD.ai will be exhibiting its solution as part of the tech spectacle on Feb. 6.