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Ex-SolidWorks execs reunite to take another swing at product design software, with $9 million in funding

Posted by Scott Kirsner  December 6, 2012 07:15 AM

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It was a loooong time ago, in tech terms, when Dassault Systèmes paid $316 million to acquire SolidWorks, a Concord-based company that developed powerful and easy-to-use 3-D modeling software geared to engineers designing products. The year was 1997, and SolidWorks was just four years old as a company.

Fifteen years after the acquisition, Dassault still maintains a substantial campus in Massachusetts, with more than 800 employees, and SolidWorks' products generate almost half a billion in annual revenue for its parent company.

Now the founder of SolidWorks, Jon Hirschtick, right, has assembled a team of former colleagues, including long-time SolidWorks CEO John McEleney, to develop a fresh take on product design in the era of cloud computing. The place-holder name for the new venture is Belmont Technology Inc., and they've raised $9 million from two local venture capital firms, North Bridge Venture Partners and Commonwealth Capital. And whaddaya know... the investor at Commonwealth who did the deal, Eliot Katzman, was the CFO at SolidWorks at the time of its acquisition by Dassault.

McEleney, Belmont's chief executive, isn't saying much about what the company is up to, beyond that the team is "building enterprise product design software using modern software tools and platforms." He tells me that there are currently nine employees in Waltham (not Belmont), and that the company will adopt a new name when it has a product to market.

Just last August, McEleney sold another startup, CloudSwitch, to Verizon. And Hirschtick only left SolidWorks last October.

Venture capitalist Fred Destin, whose firm was an investor in CloudSwitch but isn't involved in Belmont, said he believed Belmont is developing sophisticated CAD software that can run in the cloud and allow designs to be easily accessed by teams spread across the world. "CAD files are huge, and that is a non-trivial issue," Destin said. "You don't want to be moving gigabytes of data around."

But when asked about "CAD in the cloud," McEleney responded, "That's probably a bit too narrow of a view." A few CAD industry blogs, including GraphicSpeak and CAD Insider, have written about Belmont, but the funding hadn't previously been reported.

One last note: Interesting that Matrix Partners, which had also put money into CloudSwitch, isn't involved in Belmont; that VC firm has an investment in GrabCAD, which has lately been working on its own cloud-based CAD software.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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