Over the last few months, Manufacturing Disruption has published a series of articles describing opportunities created in the additive manufacturing / 3D printing industry and how VC firms can capitalize on these opportunities. The genesis of the research began with an independent project I began at London Business School during my Executive MBA and the more I got into the topic, the more promise it showed.
My research has shown four distinct strategies for value creation and capture arising from additive manufacturing technology, with corresponding opportunities across the venture capital industry, from small seed funds to corporate VC funds, all the way up to major top-tier firms. Each strategy is summarized below and includes links to in-depth articles:
3D-Pen Startup, CreoPop, Raises Financing Round Led by 500 Startups
On 26 January, Singapore-based CreoPop announced a new financing round led by 500 Startups, with participation from Singapore-based venture capital firm Ruvento, in addition to a number of private co-investors. Investment in CreoPop continues 500 Startups’ interest in 3D printing, highlighted by the successful acquisition of Makerbot by Stratasys for a reported $400 million, and joins other printer-based startups – pinshape and AstroPrint – hoping to follow in Makerbot’s successful footsteps.
Venture Capital Strategies for Additive Manufacturing (Part 4)
The long term success of any manufacturing technique is greatly coupled to users’ access and ability to make the most of the technique’s inherent advantages. Additive manufacturing / 3D printing is no different. So while the previous investment strategies outlined on Manufacturing Disruption (The (Printed) Full Stack, Reinventing the Hardware Startup and Innovating Internally – Corporate Venture Capital) focused on leveraging technological advantages, the final strategy is all about expanding access to additive manufacturing and helping users unleash its power. This strategy is approachable to many would-be entrepreneurs and is particularly attractive from the venture capitalist’s perspective as it is flexible, scalable and conforms to existing investment strategies already employed by many prominent VCs.
Stratasys strengthens Southeast Asian distribution channels and New Capital Fund II gets a new investor
After the excitement of last week, the advanced manufacturing funding scene has been relatively quiet, apart from the the 3D-printed rocket exploits of prominent venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson. That said, there were a couple stories worth noting:
botObjects acquired by 3D Systems and Rethink Robotics raises $26.6 million in Series D
botObjects cashes in on colorful innovation
On January 5, 3D Systems announced that they had acquired London-based botObjects, designers and manufacturers of the CubePro C, a color desktop 3D printer. When botObjects first announced the launch of their new printer in 2013, their claims of full-color 3D printing caused both excitement and disbelief in the additive manufacturing community. When the printer was finally revealed, botObject showed that it could achieve a color filament solution for PLA (plastic) extrusion using a five-color cartridge system. Each of the five filaments are a primary color (cyan, magenta, yellow, black and white) and by mixing in specific ratios (pre-deposition), the printer can print all the colors of the rainbow. It represents significant innovation beyond essentially open-source extrusion printing and is a good case study for value being created in the wake of Stratasys‘ original FDM patent expiration.
On December 19th, metamaterials startup Echodyne announced a $15 million Series A investment round led by Bill Gates and Madrona Venture Group. As the fourth spinout from Intellectual Ventures, Echodyne is seeking to commercialize novel metamaterials-based radar technology, whose origins trace back to research at Duke University and UC San Diego. The investment demonstrates the building of commercial momentum for the technology and is good impetus to define and discuss metamaterials, identifying why they will be important, especially in the context of advanced manufacturing:
Metamaterials: “Beyond Nature”
The exact definition for metamaterials can vary depending on the source, but it is important to realize that the term “metamaterial” does not refer to one specific material, but rather to a design concept for materials.
VC Firms Invest in Two Additive Manufacturing Startups Adding New Materials Capabilities
Within the past few days, various news sources have reported that two new additive manufacturing startups, Voxel8 and Impossible Objects, have received venture funding from Braemar Energy Ventures and OCA Ventures, respectively. While Cambridge (MA)-based Voxel8 is focused on printing embedded conductors, wires and batteries, Northbrook (IL)-based Impossible Objects is targeting composites, such as carbon fiber, fiberglass and kevlar. Their material palettes might be quite different, but the theme of the investments strikes the same note: there is much to be gained from the ability to print varied and complex materials.