SoftBank Ventures Asia (SBVA) has announced that it is a leading investor in the Series A funding round of Sketchsoft, a 3D sketch software developer that aims to commercialise human-computer interaction technology for 3D sketches. SBVA jointly led the US$3.2 million round with SV Investment, with additional participation by Bluepoint Partners. With this funding, Sketchsoft will recruit more industry talent and explore new global markets in different fields related to 3D creation such as design, art and entertainment.
Technologies such as blockchain, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) are blurring physical and digital boundaries, resulting in the rise of the metaverse – loosely understood as a collaborative and immersive virtual world. Since the metaverse can be expressed in 3D environments, it represents a new frontier for 3D creations as they can be both the building blocks of the world and digital artwork that can have real value assigned to it via NFTs. In March 2021, an NFT-minted 3D house called Mars House was sold for an estimated value of US$500,000.
Established in 2020 by Dr Kim Yongkwan, who holds a PhD in Industrial Design from and is a former researcher at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), Sketchsoft is a tech-based startup that aims to reduce the complexity of existing 3D creative tools and facilitate the easier expression of ideas in 3D data. Its flagship product is Feather, a 3D sketch software that enables artists and designers to draw their concepts in 3D as easily as if they were using pen and paper. Creators can also use their fingers to view their drawing from all angles in 3D space, as well as see what their sketches would look like in the real world through AR technology. Feather is currently released in beta and is compatible across multiple devices.
“Sketchsoft has a strong team of excellent developers, in-house designers and artists, which gather to develop innovative products based on Sketchsoft’s original technology for 3D sketches. We expect that it will lead the new digital ecosystem through easy, fast 3D content creation tools, especially amidst current metaverse-focused trends,” said Jung Hee-Jae, Senior Associate at SoftBank Ventures Asia and lead for this investment.
In a past collaboration between Dr Kim Yongkwan and KLIO Design, Feather was used in a vehicle design created by KLIO Design for the 2019 Seoul International Motor Show. The software successfully reduced KLIO Design’s 3D modelling time from two weeks to two days and was instrumental in the design subsequently winning three international design awards. Sketchsoft is also exploring new possibilities in the education sector by introducing Feather into the curriculum of Hongik University’s Department of Industrial Design.
“Our vision for Sketchsoft is to create a tool that can help creators produce their ideas directly in a three-dimensional format as easily as if recording their thoughts in a notepad. By making it simpler and more accessible to turn ideas into 3D, it is easier for anyone to explain and visualise their concepts, leading to better understanding and efficiency. With this funding, we hope to add more depth to our talent pool and unlock the potential of 3D creation for more verticals across global markets,” said Kim Yongkwan, CEO of Sketchsoft.
This represents SBVA’s debut investment into the digital creation industry and reinforces SBVA’s confidence in the potential of future technologies, including AI and robotics. This year, SBVA has participated in early-stage funding rounds for three AI startups – MarqVision, an AI-powered IP protection platform that automates reporting and detection of counterfeits; VoyagerX, which develops AI-based solutions such as mobile scanner and video editing apps; and Upstage, whose main cloud solution can standardise and automate key tasks in an enterprise.