"We've been Googled," Brad Schell (ArchEngr '82) announced on his web site March 14, after the Internet search giant acquired his Boulder-based company, @Last Software. The company developed the award-winning 3D design product SketchUp, which is popular among professional engineers and architects, filmmakers, and even students.
Schell and his colleagues worked with Google last summer to create a plug-in for Google Earth, which allows users to view SketchUp models in their real-world context. The collaboration set the stage for the company's acquisition. "We're thrilled! We see it as the best way to continue our mission to bring 3D to everyone," Schell says about the news.
A native of Steamboat Springs whose four siblings also attended CU, Schell says he first "got the 3D bug" while working for an engineering company that made pre-cast structures. With some friends, he then started CadZooks, which built an application to automate the drawing of pre-cast structures. He sold that company to Autodesk before starting @Last Software in 1999.
"I was frustrated that more people weren't using this incredible tool of 3D design," Schell says about launching his latest venture. "I believe it was because (the applications) were tough to learn and they didn't resonate with the people who should be using them."
SketchUp has been praised for being both powerful and easy to learn. Its popularity grew through the offering of a free trial, and in six years @Last Software grew to include 70 employees working in offices in Boulder, Munich, and London.
Schell says the company will remain in Boulder, where he has enjoyed walking to work on the Pearl Street Mall for the last 16 years. But it will likely see a faster rate of growth because of Google's acquisition.
"Google's reach will allow us to expose more people to SketchUp in one year than we could have touched in 10 years on our own," he says. "Having Google get behind our vision is incredible."