3D-printing has been one of the hottest areas tech with the countless applications that it can be used for. Voodoo is focused on high-volume 3D printing integrating powerful AI software for large scale manufacturing jobs rather than the one or two novelty pieces that’s been the status quo in the industry. The company, founded by MakerBot alums, just raised a new round of funding to propel 3D manufacturing for the masses as it leads the charge into the next phase of commercial applications in the 3D printing realm.
AlleyWatch spoke with CEO and cofounder Max Friefeld about the future of 3D printing and the company’s latest round of funding.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
We raised $1.4M in Seed funding from Investors KPCB Edge, Y Combinator, with participation from various angels, including David Karp, founder and CEO of Tumblr.
Tell us about your product or service.
Voodoo Manufacturing is a software-enabled, high-volume 3D-printing factory. We produce parts on a 160 printer cluster of desktop 3D printers and control them with software that we write in-house. This is the largest cluster of printers in US, possibly the world, and they are all co-located so that we can ensure the best prices with top quality and consistency for our customers.
What inspired you to start the company?
The idea for Voodoo started while our team was at MakerBot. They had internal “Bot farms” where they made sample parts and ran select projects for customers. At one point, we realized this could be turned into a larger business and convinced them to let us take it out on our own. We left MakerBot in May 2015, publicly launched in October 2015, and have been growing since.
How is it different?
Voodoo is the only high-volume 3D printing provider that we know of. Instead of focusing on low volumes of high-value parts like prototypes or jet-engine components, we are making everyday plastic parts.
We can make 1 to 10,000 plastic parts at prices that are competitive with injection molding.
We are a fully digital manufacturing company, meaning our machines work on digital files instead of molds, jigs, or fixtures. This really just means zero setup costs. As a result, our turnarounds and iteration cycles are incredibly fast, objects can be customized, and runs can be small.
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
It has been estimated that between 1-3% of the worldwide $200B injection molding market is for runs of less than 10k units. That would mean our addressable market within injection molding is appx. $2-6B. Truthfully, many of the projects we do aren’t even possible with injection molding, making the possible market even larger.
Our orders come in two flavors: marketing and advertising (swag, merchandise and promotional products), and hardware and engineering (prototypes, models, components/parts for kickstarter projects)
What’s your business model?
Pretty simple, we produce parts and products for our customers. This is divided across two main services:
Direct print, a quick turn around low-volume service. Volume Printing, high volume orders (up to 10,000 units in 2 weeks) that may include 3D design and project management components.
Is manufacturing scaleable in the US?
Absolutely, but only thanks to robotics and automation. If we didn’t have technology making manufacturing more efficient, labor arbitrage to cheaper markets would be impossible to overcome.
What was the funding process like?
Fundraising is a lot of work. We aren’t the typical software startup, so we spent a lot of time trying to find the right investors.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
There aren’t a lot of investors out there who know anything about manufacturing.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
We are building a next-generation manufacturing facility on-top of the newest technology out there. At scale, a software-driven factory has massive advantages over traditional manufacturing. The investors who see that future are the ones who wrote checks.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
I can’t really share the product roadmap, but we have a lot of exciting product and technical milestones that we are going to launch in the next 6 months. This is going to be one of the busiest, most exciting times in Voodoo’s history, so stay tuned!
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Before we started raising, we focused on hitting profitability. You never want to raise money because you have to for survival. If you can, focus on making money and building an efficient, profitable company. Read Paul Graham’s essays on startups.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
We are focusing in two areas: how do we reduce costs, and how do we match injection molding capability. We’ve proven the demand for our services, so we are focusing on making them better, faster, and more cost effective at scale.
What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?
That’s a very hard question, but recently I’ve been craving Parm almost every day.
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