Investor Bets Big on 3D Printing
Andreessen Horowitz, a Silicon Valley investment firm, is known for placing big bets on a small number of companies and industries, but today it upped the ante with a $30 million bet all on one company: Shapeways, a growing player in the 3D printing industry.
According to Chris Dixon, the Andreessen Horowitz general partner who led the firm's investment, what makes Shapeways special is its mission to do for manufacturing what the Internet has done for self-publishing: make it available to anyone.
Of course, that service comes at a price. But after they pay a fee, customers have access to industrial-grade 3D printers that can build anything from jewelry to ceramic figurines. What separates Shapeways from the more prevalent desktop 3D printers is the quality of the product, which can bump your creation up from a pet project to a professional masterpiece.
And that brings us to the second impetus that has pushed Shapeways so far so quickly. Not only has the company handled printing, it has also set up a marketplace for its users where they can sell their creations, which range from novelty cuff links to custom-made chess sets. Much like similar services from Etsy or Amazon, Shapeways handles the payments and shipping as well to give first-time small business owners the help they need.
For the industry as a whole, what this means is instead of a forming future where 3D-printing enthusiasts set up small factories in their homes, this company is influencing the industry's trajectory by offering their own 'factory-as-a-service.'
If the cloud market is any indicator, companies will be quick to abandon hefty investments in infrastructure for a more flexible, service-based paradigm, which likely made the company all the more attractive to Andreessen Horowitz.
“I don't know if I believe in a world where in my closet in San Francisco I have 30 different materials for my 3D printer,” said Dixon. “It may be that a service model is just better.”
With this investment, Shapeways is closing in on $50 million raised since its 2007 inception, which came as a spinout from Royal Philips Electronics. The capital will most likely be used to create additional factories to work alongside those in New York and the Netherlands.
“We want to build factories that are efficient and that are as close as possible to our end-users,” said Shapeways co-founder and CEO Peter Weijmarshausen.
As for where the next factory will go, however, Weijmarshausen says he doesn't have an answer just yet.
Full story at Wired