Our Investment In MakerBot

by Brad Feld

makerbotWe are excited to announce that we’ve led a $10 million financing in MakerBot Industries, a Brooklyn, NY-based company that has developed the first low cost commercial 3D printer.

While 3D printing technology has been around for a while, to date it has been limited to high-end industrial printers costing between $10,000 and $500,000. While the applications of 3D printing are very broad and extremely compelling, the cost and complexity of the products and process has limited the application of 3D printing.

Over the past decade, the DIY (or “do it yourself”) phenomenon has resulted in an increasing number of people using 3D printing technology. Until recently, if you wanted to print a 3D object, you borrowed a high-end machine or sent a design to an outsourcing firm that did 3D printing on demand. Several years ago, three hackers – Bre Pettis, Adam Mayer, and Zach Smith – teamed up and created the first open source 3D printer, known as the MakerBot Cupcake. While the Cupcake needed to be assembled by hand, it was a unique product that enabled anyone to own a 3D printer for around $1,000.

The Cupcake generated a wave of excitement among DIY hackers and the analogy was made between early personal computers such as the MITS Altair 8800 or the Healthkit H8 and the Apple II – namely that the Cupcake resembled the H8, and in a few years a 3D printer analogous to the Apple II would be created.

A similar analogy is at play in the laser printer market. The laser printer was invented by Xerox in 1969 but didn’t gain mass-market adoption until 1984 when HP created the Laserjet. As with the Apple II, the HP Laserjet marked the beginning of the creation of an enormous market for a new technology.

Last year, MakerBot came out with their second generation product, the Thing-O-Matic. At the same time, they’ve created an incredible community of 3D designs called Thingiverse. And they are hard at work on their third generation printer.

We believe MakerBot has the potential to be the Apple or HP of the 3D printing market and are honored that we get to be part of the effort.