Tag Archives: software
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.
Robert Schouwenburg, CTO and Co-Founder of Shapeways, wrote an interesting blog post connecting venture capitalist Fred Wilson’s 100-10-1 rule of social services with the 3D printing and personal fabrication industry.
Fred Wilson – VC Union Square Ventures – often recites his rule of thumb of social internet services. It is the 100-10-1 rule. He sees with social internet services that on average 100% of users consume, 10% of users interact and 1% of users actually create.
When you apply the 100-10-1 rule of thumb, the opportunities for scaling such a service become immediately clear. As far as I know there are no exact figures available on how many 3D modelers / product designers there are in the world. But let’s assume there are 5 million of them. That would turn social fabrication into a 500M users opportunity. That is Facebook and Google territory. Just imagine 50M users interacting on personal fabrication and the effects it can have on product design and how we design products. This is a very significant opportunity. Of course, the big caveat is that not all 3D modelers / product designers are interested in social fabrication. Maybe only 10% or less. That still leaves a 50M opportunity.
Great analysis, but we believe the 100-10-1 rule will be broken for 3D printing and personal fabrication.
Let’s define the steps as 100% browse 3D printed goods, 10% buy 3D printed goods, and 1% make 3D printed goods.
First, the 10% will likely increase to 50% or 75% as the industry grows and buying a 3D printed good is as seamless as buying a SKU at Walmart.com or Walmart retail. This would be further aided if Amazon, for example, gets into the business of selling 3D printed goods.
Second, the 1% will likely increase to 10% with a combination of globalization and design software becoming easier
Globalization: 3D design of consumable goods will become a mainstream profession for people in developing countries, especially India and China, if there is an efficient marketplace for them to sell their designs.
Software enablement: How many people use Photoshop? Only professionals and hobbyists. But how many people use MS Paint? I would wager a decent size of the population who have computers have dabbled in MS Paint. If 3d design software is made to be as easy as MS Paint to create real, valuable 3d printed objects, the creation will increase. We are already seeing steps in that direction with Autodesk 123D and other tools.
The implication is that not only are there more designers and more purchasers, but a greater volume of 3d printed goods purchased, making the overall size of this industry quickly a multi-billion opportunity in the next five years.
Photo credit to anjan58 via Creative Commons.
Here are the key pitch points:
- Funding target: £120,000 by June 27.
- Software: Similar to TinkerCAD, Sketchup, and 123D, the Anarkik 3D Design studio can be used to create designs that can be manufactured using 3D printing.
- Hardware: Anarkik 3D Design (formerly Cloud9) employs a haptic device, which is like a 3D mouse with force feedback. This lets a designer manipulate the software as if she is truly working with physical material. ”As an artist and designer, it’s really important to have touch as sensory feedback in addition to sight. Cloud9 allows you to feel the object change in more than one dimension.” – Farah Bandookwala, 3D Artist
- Objectives: Cloud9 is already usable software. This funding goal will be used to fix the bugs, add more features, hire new programmers, and expand internationally.
Visit their crowdfunding page on IndieGoGo for details on their perks to contributors. Good luck to Anarkik3D!
3D Printing for kids: it’s a noble and imaginative concept. Just as other disciplines, from math to basic science to foreign language, are being introduced to children at a young age, there could be many educational benefits to giving kids a hands-on 3D printing toolset.
The team at PotteryPrint launched a Kickstarter project to raise $12,000 to build an iPad app where kids could design pottery that would be 3D printed. Unfortunately, only $6,000 was raised by the deadline.
Why Did It Fail to Raise Funds?
First, perhaps the focus on pottery is too much of a deviation from the core developments in 3D printing today. Pottery is a decorative art, and pottery pieces can be quite fragile. 3D printed objects in production today are mostly utility, though some are art, but all are made from commercial polymers to ensure durability.
Second, the key deliverable of this Kickstarter project was the iPad app. What will truly drive kids education in 3D printing is access to printers, not access to software. The PotteryPrint concept outsources the 3D printing itself, thereby removing that hands-on experience from the educational cycle.
I hope PotteryPrint resubmits a new project with a promise to make 3D printing as accessible as its design software.
Below is their Kickstarter pitch.