The mysterious Massachusetts-based Desktop Metal company has attracted a very large investment, yet little is known about their technology.
The facts: last week the company raised a massive USD$45M Series C investment round from three parties: Google Ventures, BMW and Lowe’s. That’s in addition to prior investment rounds of USD$4M, USD$33.76M and USD$14M, for a startling total of USD$96.76M.
That’s an enormous amount of money for a startup, especially one that hasn’t even launched their product yet. In the 3D printer space, Carbon is perhaps the only similar example, where they have raised USD$222M in four rounds, but that company widely demonstrated their technology in a series of events, including even a TED talk.
That’s not the case with Desktop Metal, who haven’t shown much to the public. All we know is that they have apparently developed a powerful 3D metal printing process that is said to be more economical than existing systems.
Yet, the company has still attracted almost USD$100M in investment. And apparently have dozens of staff.
Of course, those investors were obviously shown more about the project and evidently it attracted them.
The most recent investors are quite interesting. Let’s take a look at them:
Google Ventures is a broad startup investment firm, known for investing in a wide range of advanced technology startups. Thus it is not surprising that they’re involved here.
BMW is of course the well-known automaker, and it seems clear why they would be interested in a 3D metal printing system: advanced automotive parts can be created with the technology, yet some of the existing players in the space have been scooped up by GE, who seem to be forming a bit of a monopoly on 3D metal printing. By getting in on Desktop Metal, they may be hedging their bets on easy access to 3D metal printing capabilities as they unfold.
The strange one on the list is Lowe’s, a large retailer of building supplies. Why would they have interest in Desktop Metal? Aside from a general investment where they feel they could make some cash, there must be a reason for their interest. We do know that Lowe’s has a soft spot for 3D printing, as their “Innovation Labs” pioneered methods of 3D printing objects for customers. More notably they participated in the AMF 3D printer aboard the international space station.
I’m speculating, but perhaps they’re angling to gain a way of 3D printing metal objects for customers in the same way they’ve done so with plastic. Perhaps their vision is to install 3D metal printers in their numerous retail stores to enable printing of large objects onsite to avoid costly shipping expenses. Or maybe something else.
It seems that not only should we keep watch on Desktop Metal, but we should also watch their investors.