Colab's engineering collaboration tools generate $21 million in new funding

Engineers Adam Keating and Jeremy Andrews were tired of using spreadsheets and screenshots to collaborate with teammates. So they launched a startup, Colab, to develop a better way.

The two met as students at Memorial University of Newfoundland, where they studied mechanical engineering together. As they were completing their final internships before graduating (Andrews at Tesla, Keating at health startup Reflexion Medical), they noticed that professional engineering teams were relying on clunky tools—namely spreadsheets and PowerPoint decks—to get collaborative work done.

“We experienced firsthand the disadvantages of putting together critical design reviews by sending screenshots of designs back and forth via email,” Keating told JS in an interview. “It led to frustratingly long review cycles, endless administrative work and issues that slipped through the cracks despite everyone's best efforts.”

Being entrepreneurial types, Keating and Andrews decided to start a company, which they called Colab, to build the mechanical engineering collaboration suite they would want to use themselves. The company's tools, which Keating says are now being used by teams at Ford, Johnson Controls and Schneider Electric, allow engineers to review design files, capture and track feedback and document issues from a single dashboard.

“Using Colab allows multiple engineers and cross-functional stakeholders to review designs together and build on each other's feedback,” said Keating, now CEO of Colab. “Colab brings together design discussions previously lost in emails, spreadsheets and notebooks into a platform that can be integrated back into business systems such as product lifecycle management, making it easier for engineers to focus on decision-making with the right data available.”

Colab stores customer design data, such as 3D models and technical drawings, in the cloud. Built-in sharing tools allow technicians to send files to one or more vendors while keeping certain information, such as feedback and comments, private.

Image credits: Colab

AI is not currently a major part of the Colab experience, but Keating says it will be in the coming months. Colab plans to use its growing customer data — in an anonymized and privacy-protecting way, Keating promises — to build AI models that help engineers make “better informed” decisions while automating routine tasks and administrative work.

“Colab has a large amount of user-generated natural language data (design feedback) that is not always captured in other enterprise systems,” Keating said. “This allows Colab to explain and analyze why designs evolve based on human insight. Colab understands not only how a design has changed, but also why it has changed.”

Meanwhile, Colab, which operates on a software-as-a-service model, appears to be doing fine financially; Keating says sales have doubled in the past six months. He expects paid add-ons to appear this year and next and boost profits even further.

Colab today announced that it has raised $21 million in a Series B funding round led by Insight Partners with participation from Y Combinator, Killick Capital and Pelorus VC.

“The $21 million, which brings Colab's total capital to $40 million, was raised specifically with the intention that half of it would accelerate the scaling of the existing go-to-market movement and the other half would be invested in bigger bets like AI. he said. “A large part of the investment will go towards expanding the team, having built a highly efficient business over the past few years.”

Colab aims to grow its workforce of 86 people, most of whom are based in Colab's headquarters in Newfoundland, to approximately 120 people by the end of the year as the company expands into Canada and the US.

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