Our Investment in Glowforge

by Brad Feld

We are pleased to announce that we have led a $9 million round in Glowforge, a Seattle-based desktop 3D Laser Printer company.

In 2010, when we invested in Makerbot, the maker movement was just beginning. While 3D printing technology had been around for 30 years, there were no desktop 3D printers. The concept of using an additive process for 3D printing, where you built up a 3D object from continuous extrusion of a material such as ABS or PLA (plastics) was well understood. But this technology had not been brought to the desktop at a $2,500 price point. Makerbot did that and has created an entirely new market segment within the 3D printing industry.

Glowforge is playing into the same trend that made Makerbot successful but in an inverse way. Instead of an additive process, Glowforge is using a subtractive process to create objects. While the additive process is called “3D printing” the subtractive process is generally called “machining” and there has never been a particularly good retronym for it. To date, most subtractive processes still conjure up visions of giant machine tools cutting different materials with very sharp objects or dangerous lasers.

Glowforge has a product that uses lasers to perform the subtractive process. While there are expensive, industrial 3D laser cutters, there are very few inexpensive desktop laser cutters. And they are all positioned as “cutters”, rather than a 3D laser printer, which has a broader range of functionality.

In the same way that Makerbot completely disrupted the 3D additive manufacturing industry, we believe that Glowforge can completely disrupt the 3D subtractive manufacturing industry. In support of our premise, the two leaders of Makerbot – Bre Pettis and Jenny Lawton – have each invested alongside us in Glowforge. We are also joined by our close friends at True Ventures, who were also our co-investors in Makerbot.

We are excited to be working with Dan Shapiro, Tony Wright, and Mark Gosselin, all multi-time entrepreneurs with a broad range of experience. Guys – thanks for letting us join the gang!