Since its founding in 2011, Lithuania-based CGTrader has grown into one of the biggest online marketplaces for 3D models. The platform hosts roughly 800,000 3D models and enables businesses to easily connect with talented 3D designers for 3D modeling projects and commissions for VR/AR applications, game development and 3D printing.
CGTrader has become known for its designer-focused approach, which has enabled it to build its marketplace and to grow with valuable input from its users. We recently caught up with the company’s CEO Dalia Lasaite who has seen the marketplace evolve from startup to leading 3D marketplace.
3dpbm: Can you tell us a bit about your own background and how you came into 3D modeling?
Dalia Lasaite: My background is in finance and startups. I worked in the finance industry for several years and was involved in several technology startups that didn’t work out before I met Marius [Kalytis], who is the founder of CGTrader. We knew each other from the startup ecosystem in Lithuania and when he started CGTrader he needed someone who knew the market for the first round of funding so I joined.
Before joining, I didn’t know anything about the industry, except in the broad sense of what you hear in the media, so it was a very interesting learning curve for me. In the beginning, we were just five people, so I did a lot of work talking with early CGTrader designers and learning about all the technologies, bringing on partners and growing the marketplace.
This meant I was able to learn a lot about the 3D industry quickly. It’s fascinating how it has grown and everyday I’m fascinated by the creativity of the designers in our community and the artworks they come up with.
3dpbm: We spoke last September when CGTrader announced it had over 1.5 million users, have there been any key updates since then?
Lasaite: We’ve been growing very fast and there are a lot of opportunities for growth at the moment. In general, the 3D market is growing and we are working with our marketplace to serve that industry. In more specific terms, there is a lot of growth in e-commerce—where businesses are adopting augmented reality because it reduces product returns and provides a better customer experience.
Let’s say a customer is buying a sofa online, for example. With augmented reality they can see how it would look in the room. At CGTrader, we are seeing that e-commerce companies are really embracing this opportunity and investing very heavily in that market.
Because we have a very large 3D designer community and proprietary tools that help the 3D modeling process, we’ve been able to help these companies in migrating their products to 3D. For them, the biggest bottleneck in adopting augmented reality is 3D modeling and 3D content; some of these companies have thousands or millions of products and if you want to turn them into 3D models from 2D images, it’s a bit of a problem. We can solve that problem with our own dedicated system. One of the advantages of working with us is that we are able to scale very fast and can deliver thousands of 3D models very rapidly.
3dpbm: In those cases, how do you assign 3D modeling jobs to designers?
Lasaite: The way it works is that e-commerce companies provide the links to their products and we discuss the specifications of the 3D models and distribute the different tasks to designers in our community. The designers we choose from are highly qualified: they need to pass a test in order to access these large projects. We also do internal quality control and use our tools to review the 3D model so that the customer gets exactly what they’ve asked for.
3dpbm: Have you seen any growth in terms of 3D printable models?
Lasaite: Yes, 3D printable model sales are continuously growing. We’ve seen a lot of different examples of how 3D printing is used in the media, but through our data we are actually seeing constant growth in 3D printable model sales.
Increasingly, we are seeing that the customer is buying 3D printable models to incorporate them into their own projects. For example, if a customer is building a new product and prototyping it, they might beed some screws and bolts. To avoid 3D modeling everything, they might buy a set on CGTrader and then dedicate more time to designing the value added parts of their work. It makes it much more efficient and enables customers to really focus on what they are trying to achieve instead of redesigning things that already exist.
3dpbm: What has your experience been in the 3D modeling industry as a woman? Is there a big gender discrepancy in the segment?
Lasaite: We haven’t done a formal study on this, but we have seen that females are still outnumbered by men in this field. Though that’s more of an anecdotal observation.
At industry events it does happen that I’m one of the few women attending—even though there are some amazing women in this industry. The last event I spoke at, my session consisted of two men and two women, which was good.
3dpbm: Is it important to support women in the 3D modeling sector?
Lasaite: From our marketplace standpoint, it’s a very democratic process. Our designers are judged on the quality of their work. It’s not just gender that doesn’t come into play, but also language barriers that some designers might have when selling 3D models. You are really valued based on your art—people aren’t really looking into your background.
We have also done some initiatives, like a challenge for our designers to model female characters so that we have a wider variety. Of course, we try to do as much as we can to encourage everyone to join CGTrader.
3dpbm: Do you think there’s been a growing awareness for the need for diversity in the industry?
Lasaite: I think that the technology industry in general has become much more aware recently about diversity and inclusiveness, so I think the same is happening in the 3D modeling space. In our company, we have three women in senior management positions out of six (including myself). The way I see is it is that the less biases there are against certain populations, the more talented people will come show their skills and talent. If there’s some kind of bias inherent in the company or in the industry, it’s basically limiting the talent pool and it might miss out on some very talented women.
3dpbm: What does the future hold for CGTrader?
Lasaite: We are just scratching the surface of the possibilities you can have as a designer for using these types of marketplaces. You can both monetize your 3D models or earn income as a freelancer, but you can also buy and modify models that already exist.
We have always been focused on on getting as many 3D models online as possible because what that means is that the customer can save a lot of time. Right now, not everyone is aware that you can save a lot of time by using these online marketplaces.