Tag: 3d printers
In 2010, when we invested in MakerBot, the maker movement was just beginning. While 3D printing technology had been around for 30 years, there were no desktop 3D printers. The concept of using an additive process for 3D printing, where you built up a 3D object from continuous extrusion of a material such as ABS or PLA (plastics) was well understood. But this technology had not been brought to the desktop at a $2,000 price point. MakerBot did that and created an entirely new market segment within the 3D printing industry.
Last year we invested in Glowforge, a company playing into the same trend that made MakerBot successful but in an inverse way. Instead of an additive process, Glowforge uses a subtractive process to create objects. Glowforge has a product that uses lasers to perform the subtractive process. In the same way that MakerBot completely disrupted the 3D additive manufacturing industry, we believe that Glowforge can completely disrupt the 3D subtractive manufacturing industry. Last week we announced that we led a $22 million financing for Glowforge.
In 2011, at about the same time that MakerBot was starting to scale, another new company – Formlabs – was founded with the vision of also creating a desktop 3D printer. However, unlike the technology that MakerBot used which was called FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling), Formlabs used a technology called SLA (Stereolithography) which has many advantages over FDM, but is more complicated to implement. As a result, it took Formlabs longer to get their product into the market.
In the fall of 2012, Formlabs did a $2.95 million Kickstarter campaign. In the early summer of 2013, around the time Stratasys acquired MakerBot, Formlabs started shipping their Form 1 printer. By the end of 2015, Formlabs shipped their Form 2 printer, which is a spectacular product.
While we knew Formlabs because of our MakerBot investment, we didn’t meet Max until after Stratasys had acquired MakerBot. I knew Max from a distance because we were both in the Netflix documentary Print the Legend. Even though there are many cringe-worthy moments, it’s a powerful story about the creation and emergence of MakerBot, Formlabs, and desktop 3D printing.
In 2014 Max hunted me down at a talk I did in Boston hosted by Katie Rae and Reed Sturtevant with my uncle Charlie about his book The Calloway Way: Results and Integrity. We talked for a little while and he made a powerful impression on me that I tucked away deep inside my brain.
This spring, Max and his cofounder Natan Linder reached out to me about having Foundry Group lead a financing. The company had only raised one major round of $19 million, led by Barry Schuler at DFJ Growth. Barry had a long history with 3D printing and he had put in a term sheet to lead the round Makerbot was considering. When Stratasys acquired the company, Barry invested in Formlabs. I’m on the board of littleBits with Barry and have loved working with him so between Barry’s encouragement, Max’s direct approach, and my love of lasers, we dug into Formlabs.
In the past two years, 3D printing has gone through the classic Gartner Hype Cycle bottoming out in the trough of disillusionment.
At this point, we think there is an enormous void for a new market leader as we move into the slope of enlightenment. We are honored to get another shot at this with our investment in Formlabs.
Oh – and lasers are super cool.
Yesterday Amy and I contributed $10,000 to the MakerBot Academy campaign which is on a mission to put a MakerBot 3D printer in every school in the United States.
We did it via a contribution on Donors Choose, one of our favorite non-profit contribution sites.
We specifically finished out the funding for five MakerBots for the following teachers in their classrooms:
- Mr. Hendry – Yorba Linda High School, Yorba Linda, CA
- Mrs. Bragdon – Brownsboro Elementary School, Brownsboro, TX
- Mr. Eiland – Woodlawn High School, Baton Rouge, LA
- Mr. Condon – Decorah High School, Decorah, IA
- Mr. Colling – Coronado High School, Scottsdale, AZ
Amy and I are planning to give a lot more to this campaign, but we decided to do something tangible right now by finishing off several of the campaigns on Donors Choose.
For those of you who have asked in the past “what can I do for you Brad?”, here’s an easy one. Just go on the MakerBot Academy Donors Choose page and make a contribution of any size to one of the campaigns. You’ll be helping the next generation.
Defrag and Blur are only two weeks away, and if you’re not yet registered to come, you should find a way. Why?
1. Makerbot will be there with the Replicator 2 in hand. And is there anything cooler than 3D printing right now?
3. The networking will be intimate and awesome, as usual.
You’ll see and interact with everything from social business software to big data stuff to robots to 3D printers to augmented reality.
If you’re not a student, use “ejnvip” to take 25% off of your Defrag registration , and if you’d like to come to Blur — use the super secret handshake code of “bifr12” to take 60% off of your blur registration (shhhh)….
Don’t miss it!
As the endless stream of emails, tweets, and news comes at me, I find myself going deeper on some things while trying to shed others. I’ve been noticing an increasing amount of what I consider to be noise in the system – lots of drama that has nothing to do with innovation, creating great companies, or doing things that matter. I expect this noise will increase for a while as it always does whenever enthusiasm for startups and entrepreneurship increases. When that happens, I’ve learned that I need to go even deeper into the things I care about.
My best way of categorizing this is to pay attention to what I’m currently obsessed about and use that to guide my thinking and exploration. This weekend, as I was finally catching up after the last two weeks, I found myself easily saying no to a wide variety of things that – while potentially interesting – didn’t appeal to me at all. I took a break, grabbed a piece of paper, and scribbled down a list of things I was obsessed about. I didn’t think – I just wrote. Here’s the list.
- Startup communities
- Human instrumentation
- 3d printing
- User generated content
- Integration between things that make them better
- Total disruption of norms
If you are a regular reader of this blog, I expect none of these are a surprise to you. When I reflect on the investments I’m most involved in, including Oblong, Fitbit, MakerBot, Cheezburger, Orbotix, MobileDay, Occipital, BigDoor, Yesware, Gnip, and a new investment that should close today, they all fit somewhere on the list. And when I think of TechStars, it touches on the first (startup communities) and the last (total disruption of norms).
I expect I’ll go much deeper on these over the balance of 2012. There are many other companies in the Foundry Group portfolio that fit along these lines, especially when I think about the last two. Ultimately, I’m fascinated about stuff that “glues things today” while “destroying the status quo.”
What are you obsessed about? And are you spending all of your time on it?
Today we announced that we’ve led a $10m round for MakerBot Industries and I’ve joined the board. I’m super excited to be working with Bre Pettis, Adam Mayer, Zach Smith, and the rest of the MakerBot gang to create consumer-grade 3D printers.
When I first met Bre, Adam, and Zach at the Botcave in Brooklyn, it was love at first sight for me. The entry way to the BotCave has a series of Thing-O-Matics (the current MakerBot 3D printer) printing out all kinds of things. A display space of 3D things sits next to a vending machine with 3D parts in it, which all open up into a warehouse space full of tiny little parts neatly arranged and being put together in kits to be shipped. At the back were a bunch of people banging away on computers.
I took a deep breath and at that moment thought “I have to invest in this company.” I spent a few hours with Bre, Adam, and Zach and came away even more excited. I knew I had a massive nerd crush on them, but I also felt like if anyone was going to create a self-replicating machine that my father would buy, these were the guys. It’s well known by now that I believe the machines have already taken over – investing in MakerBot seems like another way to help them out.
Fortunately my partners loved the MakerBot gang as much as I did. But, rather than just theorize, I bought a MakerBot Thing-O-Matic and Jason, Ross, and I put it together. It’s been busy printing out all kinds of things for the past few months. The day we signed the term sheet, I made some Foundry Group coins (with the Foundry Group logo on the front and a $ on the back) and fedexed them to Bre. I wonder what he’ll make and send back to me now that we are investors.
I believe that we’ll look back in 20 years and 3D printers will be as ubiquitous as laser printers are today. We aren’t yet at the point that is equivalent to the first HP Laserjet in 1984, but I think we’ll see a comparable product from MakerBot within a year. In the mean time, I’m going to keep downloading 3D things from the Thingiverse and keeping my Thing-O-Matic busy.