Venture Capitalists Looking Closely at 3D Printing Deals
Why are venture capitalists looking closely at 3D printing deals? This discussion highlights the interest of Brad Feld and the Foundry Group.
MakerBot is probably the most well-known venture-backed 3D printing startup, with nearly $11 million in funding and 125 employees. It also helps that MakerBot’s CEO Bre Pettis is 3D printing’s first celebrity.
One of MakerBot’s investors is Foundry Group, based in Boulder, CO. Foundry Group is investing out of two $225 million funds and has made over 70 investments. The group is composed of four managing directors with cultural leader Brad Feld.
Brad recently published a blog post about what he is obsessed with as an investor.
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.
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. 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
Note that 3 of his 7 themes are: HCI (human computer interaction), 3D printing, and user-generated content. As the software and hardware for 3D printing becomes more accessible to the masses, these 3 ideas go hand in hand.
At Maker Faire Bay Area 2012, Brad spoke at a “Hardware Innovation Workshop” and relayed his thoughts about the Maker movement and 3D printing. As reported by VentureBeat:
“We don’t give a shit about hardware, and we don’t do hardware investments,” said Feld, whose Foundry Group has invested in several hardware companies, including MakerBot Industries, Spheero, and Fitbit. “What we love is software wrapped in plastic.”
Later, Feld moderated his statement, acknowledging that he does care about hardware. But what matters to Foundry, in this case, is whether the company fits into one of its major themes: In this case, human-computer interaction, or the ways in which humans feed data to machines. For that to work, hardware depends on software to help it interface with its human users.
“The maker movement … has really shifted this dynamic,” Feld said. “Users can create stuff that they care about.”
We look forward to seeing more startups focused on HCI, user-generated content and 3D printing – more “software wrapped in plastic” - getting support from renowned investors like Foundry Group.
Brad Feld photo by Rocky Mountain Joe used under Creative Commons license.