Shapeways unexpectedly announced a rather large investment round today.
The popular consumer-oriented 3D print service that pioneered many of the processes used to supply requestors with 3D prints announced a USD$30M Series E round.
This is a very significant amount of money. Previously, the company raised rounds of: USD$5M, USD$5.1M, USD$6.2M, USD$1.2M, USD$30M and finally another round of USD$30M three years ago.
The total amount of money they’ve raised is now USD$107.5M, making them one of the very few 3D print startups that has raised over nine digits.
Why do they need this money? They explain:
The capital will be used to accelerate company growth and launch additional services to support Shapeways’ overall vision to become the complete end-to-end platform helping creators ‘design, make, and sell,’ regardless of 3D modeling experience. While Shapeways receives 140,000 uploads each month, the company plans to simultaneously laterally and vertically expand its current services, addressing both creative and business pain points for creators.
So it seems that they are doubling down on the artistic angle, hoping to attract and help make designers even more successful.
One of the new features they will deploy and improve with the cash is their new Design With Shapeways program. It seems to be a kind of wizard / advisory service that can assist designers to traverse the lifecycle from idea to designed product.
Shapeways obviously has plenty of experience in this area, having overseen hundreds of designers go through this sequence. They now wish to provide those lessons to any designer using Shapeways. In fact, another new program they’re offering is doing exactly this. They explain:
Additionally, the team is working on offering an end-to-end service that will help creators successfully scale into small businesses via Shapeways. Through brand development, website design, marketing support, merchandising, customer service, utilizing Shapeways as an outsourced production and integration into its management system and more, users can take advantage of Shapeways’ experiences to grow their own companies. Current beta clients for this service create products in the outdoor recreation space. More details about the program will be released in the coming months.
Shapeways also intends to showcase product types in new splashy brands intended to attract buyers from certain markets, such as jewelry. To me, this seems to be the equivalent of an online specialty department store, where buyers don’t have to worry about finding dozens of product brands and instead just come to one place to find them.
It appears that the company has been observing the experience of their designer participants and wants to optimize their use of Shapeways through simplification and offers of assistance.
This is all very good news for designers, as these steps all seem to be focused on the notion of making use of Shapeways easier. That seems to be their growth strategy, and it is a very reasonable approach.