CrowdFundBeat – Robert J. Mullins – Sr. Staff Writer, San Jose, Ca. September 20, 2013 – Although 3D printing was developed as far back as 1988, it’s enjoyed rapid growth in just the last few years due, in part, to crowdfunding.
The surge of growth in 3D printing was on display in San Jose, Calif., at the Inside 3D Printing Conference and Expo held Sept. 17 and 18, drawing 3D printer makers, service providers and others in the 3D ecosystem.
In just the last year, more than 100 3D printer manufacturers have entered the market, most of them selling consumer-targeted printers rather than large industrial systems, said Hod Lipson, the chair of the 3D Printing Conference. While he’s not sure how many of those startups were crowdfunded, some of them certainly are. Nonetheless, many of these startups use open source software to run their printers, which he said is a form of crowdsourcing. At the same time, other businesses buy 3D printers to start their own businesses.
“What 3D printers allow people to do is to bootstrap their manufacturing operations without needing large upfront investments in manufacturing. That goes hand-in-hand very well with other forms of bootstrapping like crowdsourcing and crowdfunding,” Lipson said. “So I think it’s not a coincidence that 3D printers and crowdfunding sort of go hand in hand.”
One of the exhibitors at the conference was Sixense, the maker of a wireless, modular motion-tracking platform for video games or virtual reality programs. Its connection to 3D printing is that objects created in a video game, for instance, can be created in physical form on a 3D printer.
Sixense raised $250,000 on Kickstarter in just four hours on Sept. 12 and doubled that to more than $500,000 within a week.
“We got completely caught by surprise, but we couldn’t be more excited and thankful to the community for such amazing support,” said Amir Rubin, the CEO of Sixense. He said many of the more than 2,000 supporters of the Kickstarter campaign are developers of games or virtual reality (VR) applications that would run on Sixense’s STEM System platform.
Using sensors that a person would wear on their arms, waist or feet, plus a pair of VR goggles, a player would seem to be physically in the game or VR environment instead of just watching it on a video display, Rubin explained. Although the company has previously been funded by angel investors, it went to Kickstarter to raise money to improve on its STEM System, enabling the system base to communicate wirelessly with a computer running the gaming or VR software.
“We went to the Kickstarter community and let the community understand what we are trying to do, what we are trying to deliver and let them help us get there,” he said.
Also at the Inside 3D Printing conference were service providers who make 3D objects for other companies, including Scuplteo, a French company that also has offices in San Francisco.
Sculpteo’s ArthurCassiagnau said he believes that between five and 10 of his company’s clients are crowdfunded and said the process helps them raise money more quickly and easily than through traditional methods such as venture capital.
“Crowdfunding gives anyone the tool to leverage massive awareness around their projects,” Cassiagnau said.
Critics say angel or venture capital investing involves more due diligence about a company, its business model and its strategy than crowdfunding, but that assessment “comes with a bias,” said Richard Bliss, who produces a podcast on crowdfundingcalled “Funding the Dream on Kickstarter.”
“The traditional equity-based guys are coming from a history and a world of controlled money, gatekeepers. Access to that money is highly regulated,” Bliss said. “Kickstarter is probably going to do a billion dollars in the next 18 months without a single piece of oversight.”
While crowdfunding doesn’t have the oversight of a venture capital firm analyzing a startup before investing, Bliss said that in crowdfunding, the wisdom of the crowd governs what to invest in. If people give money to fund a startup and it fails, the crowd will look more closely at the next prospective investment.
Of Sixense CEO Rubin, Bliss said this: “Kickstarter made it possible for his company to go to the fans and say ‘What do you think?’ and the fans are able to say ‘We support you and here’s our money.’ This is a different way companies think about raising money for their projects.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to see photos of the event
Source: CrowdFundBeat – Robert J. Mullins – Sr. Staff Writer