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The Place for 3D

We all are used to hear about 3D printers, 3D pictures, 3D prototypes etc. Nowadays, such topics are not total strangers for us and quite familiar to our ears. Although, what can we say about 3D publishing and 3D library?  Where will we keep and share our 3D files? To all these questions and more, you will read from our conversation with the co-founder of Sketchfab, Alban Denoyel.

Can you, please, tell me about your company? When and where did the initial idea for your startup come from?

A.D: Sketchfab is the leading platform for publishing 3D files. The idea started in 2011 in France. My co-founder, Cedric, was working in the gaming industry with 3D artists, who were sharing screenshots of their 3D works, because there was no other way. He built a tool answering his needs: a simple web-based 3D viewer, letting you upload a 3D file, display it in a browser, share it and embed it.

A.D: I met him a few months later. I have more of a business background, but I do sculpture as a hobby, therefore I was deeply interested in the 3D space. Cedric showed me his early prototype and I started helping spread the word about it, and that’s how it took off. Pierre-Antoine, our 3rd co-founder, joined us a few months after that.


Photo Credit: Alban Denoyel

Building and scaling a business is no simple feat. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in building your business? How do you overcome the barriers to your success?

A.D: We quickly realized that we needed to be in the US, if we wanted to grow and achieve our vision, because that’s where a lot of our users, possible partners and potential investors are. But it’s not so easy to think about relocating your company while you are also trying to run a business and tackle all issues. We applied through various US accelerators and got rejected quite a few times, but finally made it to TechStars in New York City. The three of us came to New York, and then one of my co-founders went back to Paris to build our tech team. Being on my own, selling my vision and trying to attract investors in a foreign country was quite challenging.


A.D: There aren’t many secrets about how to overcome barriers, it’s usually a lot of hard work and I would have to do that as I’m rather pragmatic person. Therefore, I like to find practical solutions. You also need a lot of hustle to overcome all the NOs you get, and finally a good dose of creativity to find new ways to open new doors.

Most companies evolve around their team, what is your secret to motivate them?

A.D: We do our best to provide a good and relaxed working environment. We organize team activities, lunches and drinks. Last summer we did a week of holidays near the sea with the entire team. We all had a great time and we also went surfing, but I think beyond all this, what really matters is that we are working on an incredible product and vision, and this is probably the best motivator. Our product has a global reach, and it is used in so many different and incredible ways that we discover a lot of things every day.


What do you think, where will your company be in few years?

A.D: Our vision is to do for the 3D format exactly what YouTube did for the video format, which means we need to provide the best 3D player and be the largest 3D library.

We are betting on two things:

  • Everybody will become a 3D creator with technologies like 3D capture in our phones, which means everyone will be able to take 3D photos in a second.
  • Everybody will start consuming 3D content, with the proliferation of VR and AR headsets.

So in a few years, we’ll be a huge platform where everyone will publish 3D files of different content, browse and explore virtual things.

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Photo Credit: Alban Denoyel

What makes you unique from your competitors?

A.D: To be honest, we don’t have any real competitors. We had a few when we have started, but we grew much faster than others. Most of our competitors could not survive, while some of them got acquired. Generally to say, we are the only one who are vertical-agnostic and accept all major 3D formats, which can be supported on all publishing platforms (like Facebook, Linkedin, Kickstarter, Reddit, WordPress etc) with a focus on showing and sharing.

For a full mindmap behind this article with articles, videos, and documents see #3dlibrary

Okay, so tell me about what impact do you want Sketchfab to have?

A.D: There are several levels of impact:

  • As a product, we are bringing to the market a new media format, just like YouTube did with video. It’s pretty revolutionary when you think about it.
  • In terms of content, we are hosting thousands of 3D files; a lot of them are digital archives of our cultural heritage that will be preserved forever.
  • The education aspect of the platform is very important.  Our product is already used by doctors for teaching purposes or even to perform operations, and by many schools.
  • In terms of the company, most of the market leaders in this field are Americans. We are proud of having French roots, and I wish that our company’s success influences positively on our country.

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Photo Credit: Alban Denoyel

Now, what is your perfect work routine?

A.D: I have a rather hard time getting into having a routine, as the part of our team is in France and the time difference is about 6 hours. The mornings are usually spent syncing up with them as they are finishing their day.  Therefore, I like to start the day early so I can have a lot of time overlapping with them. Usually,  the afternoon is devoted to the main work.


Photo Credit: Alban Denoyel


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FEATURED IMAGE: Alban Denoyel 
EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of




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  1. Claude Forthomme

    Very ambitious, the next YouTube! But why not? I do believe they can make it: they got in early on the 3D game and they haven’t tied themselves to any given technique, they’re wide open, vey clever. Thanks for a very interesting interview.

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