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Abstract Raises $16 Million To Bring Workflows To Designers

Design team workflow tool Abstract has raised $16 million in a Series B round led by Silicon Valley-based Scale Venture Partners. Previous investors Amplify Partners and Cowboy Ventures also participated in the round.

The San Francisco-based company was launched out of a design-focused incubator in 2015 by Josh Brewer, Kevin Smith, and Frank Chimero. The startup aims to provide designers with a workflow tool that allows them to both collaborate on and view historical versions of existing projects.

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CEO Josh Brewer has a background in design as the former Design Principal at Twitter, and his motivation to build a workflow tool was fueled by his past frustrations with traditional design processes.

“Design basically tends to send out screen shots of things in email, and Slack, and Jira, and Asana, and in some cases all of those things for the exact same project,” Brewer told Crunchbase News in a phone interview. “The designer is left to basically jump through every single place where there might be feedback […] and make sense of it in order to take the next step in their job.”

Through Abstract, designers create a project by importing design files and can add team members to existing projects. By creating branches off of the master file, a designer can brainstorm edits and ask for feedback without disrupting it. When those changes to a branch or branches are reviewed and accepted, they are then merged to the master, project members are updated, and a record of the design changes and file names is added.

Crunchbase News reported on the design collaboration space earlier this year with InVision’s acquisition of Wake. Though it is a collaboration tool, Brewer emphasized that Abstract isn’t in direct competition with design platforms like InVision.

“Sharing and commenting is becoming a default to all of those drawing tools. But none of them have done what we’ve done from a workflow and filing standpoint,” Brewer explained, adding that Abstract is meant to aid designers with their current design process, not replace the software that they already have in place. In fact, Abstract was built to be compatible with file formats produced by the popular design tool, Sketch, and plans to add compatibility with other design file formats in the near future.

Abstract previously closed a $2.25 million Seed round in January 2016 led by Cowboy Ventures. The company then launched its product in July 2017 after announcing a $6 million Series A in July 2017 led by Amplify Partners. Since then, the company has grown to 2,500 paying customers and 70,000 active users.

“We had known that it was a huge pain point. Given what Josh described with the whole workflow,” Board Member and Partner at Scale Venture Partners Stacey Bishop told Crunchbase News. “Despite not having the marketing, word was getting out that abstract was in demand from a product standpoint […] there’s huge demand, and the numbers showed that.”

Abstract has increased its sales and marketing focus in preparation for its launch of its enterprise product later this year, hiring a Chief Revenue Officer to wed its sales and marketing strategies and expand those teams. Specifically, the company will also invest in producing content about design education and training aimed at helping design teams better understand and improve their workflows and institutional management.

And on the R&D side, the company will be using its funding to add features like developer handoff and review requests.

“We want to institutionalize and formalize that system of record so that [not only the work of] designers […] is recorded, but also the [work of] folks that are leaving feedback, requesting changes, and finally approving it,” Brewer told Crunchbase News.

Abstract’s workflow and version control application has attracted customers like GitHub, Everlane, and Instacart, and the startup is looking to bring more enterprise teams into the mix with these new features.

Illustration Credit: Li Anne Dias

Editorial Note: A previous version of this article stated that Abstract raised $14 million. It has since been updated. 

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