Gravity Sketch, a product design platform that uses virtual reality, has raised £2.9m in funding the latest investment into the growing product design industry in Europe.

The platform, founded in 2014, allows designers to collaborate on 3D projects in real time using VR technology. The platform has been used to design cars, buildings, trainers, and even an underwater craft that resembles a manta ray.

Design platforms which aim to facilitate remote working, like Gravity Sketch, have seen an upsurge in users as more people shift to online work because of coronavirus. As a whole, it’s estimated that the digital design market will be worth $10bn by 2022.

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It’s not just the pandemic that has increased the need for collaborative tools. “There is also a surge in multinational companies growing globally distributed design and engineering teams,” explains Oluwaseyi Sosanya, chief executive of Gravity Sketch.  

“Collaboration is increasingly important as time frames are shortened and consumers request products sooner, with more features and produced more sustainably.”

Gravity Sketch is the latest European digital design tool to secure funding, signalling that startups from Europe could match the success of global companies like Trello or Canva. 

And, in a sign that design companies intend to focus on the European market, Figma, an American design tool worth $2bn, announced earlier this month that it will open a new headquarters in London. 

Other European product design startups to watch:

Miro

Russian company Miro secured $50m worth of funding in April this year, with Accel and Iconiq amongst the investors. Miro makes digital whiteboards, allowing teams to brainstorm remotely on videolink. Like Gravity Sketch, the startup saw an upsurge in demand when more companies moved online during coronavirus lockdowns. 

Sketch

Sketch is a Dutch company that provides vector graphics software, used to design user interfaces for websites and apps. In 2019, the company landed $20m in funding from Benchmark. At the time, Chetan Puttagunta, a partner at Benchmark, said they had been “blown away” by Sketch. Since last year, Sketch’s team has doubled in size. 

Maze

Maze, a Paris-based company, raised $2m in its latest funding round in January. The platform allows designers to test the usability of their designs by sharing prototypes with users and receiving feedback on their interactions with the design.  

The company has 20,000 users worldwide and has been used by IBM, BMW, Accenture and Greenpeace amongst others. It’s recently added a new feature which allows the integration of Figma designs, too.

Framer

Dutch startup Framer allows designers to create apps using an interactive design platform. Framer was founded by Koen Bok and Jorn van Dijk, both former product designers at Facebook. 

The company raised €21m in 2018, with funding from Accel, Atomico and AngelList. Framer has been used by numerous companies to build their apps, notably Uber, Facebook, Airbnb, Microsoft and Google.

Cycle

Belgian company Cycle aims to streamline the product development process by allowing teams to track a product from specification to delivery in one application. Product teams often work in multiple platforms, Cycle’s founders say, but this allows all of those processes to be recorded in the same place.

Productboard

Productboard, based in the Czech Republic and San Francisco, provides product management software for designers, allowing engineers, developers and designers to collaborate and track the progress of a product. The company was founded by two Czech engineers in 2014 and secured $45m in funding in January of this year, bringing the company’s valuation to $350m.

 

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