A local entrepreneur’s Hollywood-inspired technology that helps retailers showcase their products in 3D has landed a blockbuster new funding round to fuel its global expansion plans.
Threekit, which is headquartered in Chicago but does most of its R&D in the National Capital Region, said Tuesday it’s raised US$35 million in a series-B round led by Leaders Fund, a VC firm based in Toronto and Atlanta.
Other participants in the round include software company ServiceNow, French IT giant Capgemini and previous investors Salesforce Ventures and Shasta Ventures.
The latest funding brings Threekit’s total venture capital haul to US$65 million. The firm’s other backers include NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young and Godard Abel, a wealthy Silicon Valley venture capitalist who invested US$10 million in the company in 2019.
Threekit’s run of success feels like something straight out of a movie for Ottawa’s Ben Houston, who founded the venture in 2014 after quitting his career as a Hollywood special effects guru and putting his skills to work in the software business.
“I would not have believed this six years ago, where the company would end up,” Houston, who now serves as chief technical officer, told Techopia on Tuesday. “We have an amazing team.”
Threekit’s software creates ultra-realistic online 3D images of everything from couches to diamond rings, giving e-commerce customers a much better idea of what they're about to buy.
As online shopping has surged during the pandemic, so have Threekit’s revenues. The company’s sales have tripled in the past year, and its growing customer base includes furniture retailer Crate and Barrel, golf equipment giant TaylorMade and camera manufacturer Nikon.
Houston says the technology was a godsend to retailers who couldn’t tour consumers through physical showrooms once COVID-19 shuttered brick-and-mortar stores around the world.
“It could be crushing if you didn’t have effective online sales,” he said. “Our platform allows companies to be more nimble.”
But even as in-store shopping ramps up again, Houston says demand for the software keeps growing as retailers use it to deliver customized experiences to consumers.
For example, the firm’s augmented reality tech lets homeowners place 3D models of furniture right in their living rooms, allowing them to view sofas and chairs in various configurations while rendering the merchandise in whatever colour or fabric they want.
"What we’re seeing is the online (shopping) experience is surpassing the in-person experience for the large majority of physical products at this point."
“What we’re seeing is the online (shopping) experience is surpassing the in-person experience for the large majority of physical products at this point,” Houston said, adding retailers often see higher sales conversion rates after implementing Threekit’s software.
While it now generates most of its revenues in North America, the company also has offices in Paris and London and just closed its first sale in Africa. Houston says the firm will use some of the new funding to grow its sales and marketing teams as it continues to expand its global footprint.
He also sees huge opportunities in creating products for the “metaverse,” the burgeoning online environment powered by 3D and AR software, as well as selling virtual merchandise that can be sold to fans and collectors as NFTs – digital files that use blockchain technology to verify their authenticity.
Houston says he envisions a day when a salesperson in a clothing store, for example, will do virtual walkthroughs of a customer wardrobes and suggest matching outfits.
“I think this is the future,” he said. “Is that three years away or 10 years away? It’s not very clear.”
In the meantime, the company continues to grow.
Threekit now has more than 150 employees, up from 20 three years ago. About 30 people work for the firm’s Ottawa-based product development hub, which recently relocated from an office on Metcalfe Street to fancier digs in Shopify’s former headquarters at 150 Elgin St.
Asked whether Threekit would ever follow the lead of that office’s previous tenant and go public, Houston said the firm is focused solely on ensuring it spends its newfound capital wisely.
“With more funding comes more opportunities to do things, but we shouldn’t do all of them,” he said. “Because if you do everything all at once, you generally don’t do all of them well.”