Shapeways raises $5M and opens HQ in New York

We have great news to share with you. Shapeways recently raised $5 million from Union Square Ventures in New York and Index Venture] in London. This means that Shapeways is now an independent company with Philips, Union Square and Index Ventures as shareholders. The investment enables us to grow the team, add more features even swifter and open our new Headquarters in New York!

Three and a half years ago (the 1st of March 2007) we started working for the Lifestyle Incubator of Philips Electronics in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. The Incubator is a great environment that enables entrepreneurs with new ideas and business concepts to grow those into companies. It provides the experience and resources of a big company like Philips and the benefits of a start-up environment. When the company is successful it becomes a part of one of Philips’ divisions or spins out to become an independent company. The idea we got money from the Incubator management to work on, was enabling mass customization using rapid manufacturing. This was the birth of Shapeways.

Initially we had to do a lot of research, including visits to RAPID (getting to know the 3D printing market) and SIGGRAPH in San Diego looking for upload validation and creator software. In September of that same year the software development started on the first elements of the Shapeways service. In December, the first, albeit very conceptual, creator was running enabling us to convince Philips to continue.

In February of 2008 it happened! The first part completed the upload – test – manufacture – ship cycle. We were holding the first Shapeways manufactured piece in our hands. Now we had to start testing, first with friends and family, later with friends of friends. Finally in July 2008 Shapeways launched with a press announcement – a unique service enabling everybody to make, customize and sell unique products made using 3D printing.

At first, we offered one material, but 2 months later we already offered 3 materials. In the meantime, we also launched our first “creator” the Lightpoem, at SIGGRAPH 2008 in Los Angeles. The creators were the first step in making unique products very easy to make for everyone. This is one of the core elements of what we want to do at Shapeways, making it easy and fun for everyone to make whatever they want. Either for a hobby, as a personalized gift or just something really nice for yourself.

Since then, we have built on that initial platform: In January 2009, by adding the Shops, where everyone can sell their products. Then in August 2009 by adding the Co-creator platform making customizing products really easy. And on a regular basis by adding different materials, including metal and glass, materials that have only recently become available. Last, but not least, Shapeways has a vibrant, friendly and helpful community, that shares our passion, of more than 50,000 members! As a result, there are now more than 20,000 makeable products publicly available on Shapeways and lots more privately. There are more than 1,000 shops and close to 800 customizable products. On a monthly basis, we produce more than 10,000 unique products and these numbers are growing fast.

As early as 2008, we discussed with the Lifestyle Incubator management what the future of Shapeways would look like. Would we become part of a division of Philips – we could not stay in the Lifestyle Incubator forever – or an independent company. Both are great options to choose from, but we decided we want the ability to maximize our growth and do business with anyone as an independent company. This implied looking for outside funding to grow Shapeways, as we are currently not able yet to pay all of our bills ourselves. So we had to go and find investor money. This was a first for us and also not easy, as the concept of Shapeways is so different and new. Therefore, it is really great to have found great partners in Albert Wenger from Union Square Ventures and Ben Holmes from Index Ventures together with Simon Levene. They believe in Shapeways and have funded us. Shapeways has now become an independent company, which we are really excited about.

So what are we going to do in the future? We are passionate about improving our service. We have been doing that and we will continue to do so, perhaps even faster than ever. Expect the Shops to improve based on feedback and the Co-creation platform to become a lot more powerful. We will make uploading models easier and we will add more materials, reduce lead-times and lower prices.

Since the start, Shapeways has been located in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, which has been great for us with the Technical University and the Design Academy providing both technical and design input. However, with our ambitious growth plans we also had to look at moving to a place where we could really find all the people we need both from a design and a technology perspective. With a big chunk of our community in the US we also wanted to be closer to them. That is why we decided to move to New York, the great melting pot where media, design, culture and technology come together. Our office in Eindhoven remains with our great service team and supply chain management.

Do you want to help? Perhaps you can! We are looking for enthusiastic, talented developers, a UI specialist and more, to come and join the team in New York. Do you feel as passionate about creating as we do? Check out our job page.

We would also like to thank a few people who gave us the opportunity as early as 2007 to work on Shapeways and make it the company it now has become. Without their vision and coaching this would not have been possible. Thanks to Carlos Zwikker for your patience and coaching on all aspects. Thanks to Steve Seuntjens for your help on the financial side, with your knowledge of venturing and your support to get the deal done. Last, but not least, to Jos Burger for your advice and coaching.

kind regards, Peter Weijmarshausen & the Shapeways Team

47 comments

  1. Mitchell Jetten

    GEFELICITEERD!!!

    great to hear!! really cool to see shapeways growing so quickly!

  2. Mitchell Jetten

    @Peter, does this mean you will be moving to New York as well?

  3. a.p

    Will you be able to still suply the customer in Europe??

  4. Michiel Cornelissen

    Wow – amazing news guys. We’ll be sad to see you go from our kikkerlandje though… (or maybe not?)

    Cheers – Michiel

    1. Marleen Vogelaar

      Ralph and his Customer Services team will stay in NL and keep on growing together with the community. It just means that we will be closer to our American community as well whilst staying close in touch with our current friends. Customer services will remain happy to enable creation!
      Marleen

  5. jeff bare

    Great news, it only seemed like a matter of time before an office opened up in the states. I’ll welcome you to the northeast along with Jessica. Looking fwd to whats to come. And looking fwd to meeting some of the Shapeways Team this weekend @ the makerfaire.

  6. Anja Johansson

    Oh… that’s good for you I guess but it got me a bit nervous. What will the prices be for us in Europe? What about taxes and shipping? It was just so great to see a company that is NOT US-based for once… :( Oh well, wish you all the best anyway of course!

    1. Marleen Vogelaar

      Dear Anja,
      No worries, when you are in the EU nothing will change. We will keep on shipping from the EU, now and in the future. So don’t worry about import charges. Shipping will remain free of charge. That’s how we like it.

      For our American friends it can have a positive impact on import taxes. We would love to get rid of those. So somewhere in the future, we hope to share some good news on this………………
      Marleen!

    2. Anja Johansson

      =) Thank you for those wonderful news!! Made my day!

    3. Tommy Strömgren

      Phew!
      That made my day as well! :-)

      I don’t know how I could have missed this comment before I posted (below).
      If that’s the case then this is truly a win-win situation for everyone. :-D

  7. Glenn Slingsby

    Most excellent news. I know that if I had a ton of money I would have invested too. I’ve seen 3D printing popularity coming way before I even heard about Shapeways…

    It probably won’t affect me in terms of Import taxes (being in Canada) – still will have to pay $5 for a $9.40 metal ring… :( but maybe the shipping will be quicker, although it’s not exactly slow now. Perhaps we could have more options in terms of shipping…?

    Glenn

    1. Glenn Slingsby

      Further to my own comment – when you open up your office in Toronto THEN I’ll be happy! :)

      Glenn

  8. Dimitri Kobzar

    congratulations guys! that is a big investment and a huge step in your development!!!

    I do regret though, that Shapeways is no longer a true-Dutch company :(

  9. Noodles

    Amazing! Congratulations guys & gals! 5 million should be enough to buy some shiny new machines :)

  10. chris bense

    I really admire and encourage the openness of this message.
    You guys state how, why, who and what about this investment, the history behind it and the reason to also open up in new amsterdam.. i mean.. new york. Very very appreciated.

    And of course: CONGRATULATIONS! It’s great news!

    1. Robert Schouwenburg

      Yes, please! We can need some real talented PHP / LAMP developers.

  11. JessicaL

    When will you be here in NYC? Welcome. I’m a New Yorker, so this is amazing!

    1. Robert Schouwenburg

      We plan to be there somewhere in November.

  12. Dizingof

    Awesome news Shapeways – Congratulations !

    A few minutes ago i started receiving the Google traffic analytics reports for my shop
    It shows that most of my traffic comes from Google searches for “Shapeways”..

    This last Google search-term sent to my shop (number 10 on the list) sais it all for the future !

    “shapeways stock”

    ;)

    Cheers,
    Dizingof

    1. Mitchell Jetten

      Dizingof! mine started yesterday,,, in 1day i had 40unique visitors :D

      but most of them just typed in “shapeways”,, not my trains or something,, did they go to my shop through google? or did they go to shapeways.com?

      SHAPEWAYS 4 LIFE :D

  13. David Drummond

    Excellent work, folks! And very welcome news. As a Bostonian, I can’t wait to drop by your new digs — what does “opens” mean exactly, by the way? — if you don’t mind gawking science-types wandering about. Looking forward to more sensational customer service, sweet services, and mind-bending ideas from y’all. Congratulations!

    1. Marleen Vogelaar

      Hi David,
      Let us know when you are in the area!
      Marleen

  14. T. Shawn Johnson

    *Does a TOUCHDOWN dance!!* :) Congrats!

    -Whystler

  15. Erica

    hooray!! welcome to the neighborhood!!!!! love from brooklyn :-)
    even more awesome than the news i was expecting (silver printing).

  16. Tommy Strömgren

    Congratulations! :-)
    A part of me is very, very, veeery happy for you, with success of the company.
    The summary of the company’s history was a great read, loads of interesting and inspiring information.

    Another part of me is somewhat worried..

    First, there’s the notion that you might get “americanized” and lose the “small company feeling” that we’ve grown so fond of here.
    After reading the comments here I understand that the CS guys will stay as is… which is a great relief :-)
    Will our metallurgy go-to guy GlenG still be “in the loop”?

    The there’s the moved production facility..
    I guess it will mean training entirely new staff who will possibly fall into old problems that have been resolved at the current facility.

    Then there’s the egotistical part of me that realized that the days of cheap (toll-free) deliveries from Shapeways within the entire EU are probably over soon.
    If you add the outrageous “additional charges” from UPS that some of your customers have experienced (since the “extra work” will now be needed for us europeans instead) this might turn nasty for some of us…

    I guess what I’m trying to say is:
    PLEASE keep the original production facility for your european customers. :-D

    1. Robert Schouwenburg

      No worries. We will keep on producing in the EU. We love our small-company-culture too and we like to keep it that way. It is not that grow 1000 people anytime soon.

  17. fx2

    I’ve got a mixed feeling about this news: I hope you will not become too much “US centric”-please read below to understand what I mean :
    Venture companies could decide (2011) it is not cost wise for this type of company to have HQ and CS on two different continents. They decide to move customer service to the U.S., take U.S. sub contractors for 3D printing in order to reduce overhead. All orders are now produced in the U.S. Small change in the shipping cost structure follows: shipping cost to the U.S.: Free / to elsewhere: starting from $29.95…
    I really hope I’m plain wrong on this !

    1. Robert Schouwenburg

      Don’t you worry. We will not change the way Shapeways delivers to her customers. We do not charge US customers extra today so there is no reason to turn it around. EU is also a very important market for us.

    2. Anonymous

      i’m with you on that one!

      Robert says no,,, but it’s possible that venture companies change the rules?

    3. Robert Schouwenburg

      The investors and Shapeways management team are aligned on these topics.

    4. Robert Carlsen

      I suspect (hope) that they are aiming for a Ponoko style structure..several production centers, near their customers. They could save A FORTUNE in shipping by producing in Europe AND the USA

    5. dhawktx

      I too hope that they are taking a close look at the Ponoko model…local production of global designs! This is especially sweet for those locations that take a beating in import duties, as well as goods damaged during customs inspections due to handling and/or improper repackaging. I KNOW how lucky I am in the US!

  18. Peter Weijmarshausen

    Hi guys,

    thanks for all the great comments !

    To be clear and confirm what Robert has posted – Shapeways will keep all the things that are good and improve those that we can. We are extremely happy with Union Square Ventures and Index Ventures *because* they believe in exactly what we are doing. With your help and the money raised we are going to make Shapeways even cooler/easier to use/faster than before.

    Hope this helps.

    Peter

    1. Vinnie Apicella

      Peter…I’m wondering if you will ever consider raising capital via an Initial Public offering of common stock?

  19. T. Shawn Johnson

    Folks always get worried when they’ve got a good thing, and it wants to change. They will assume, sometimes, that the change will take away some of that good thing.

    So I say to them … let’s just wait and see. You can’t change change. It will happen anyway. We try hard, but we really can’t predict the future.

    We have to put our trust in the nice people at Shapeways, and have faith that the personalities we have come to love will continue to pride themselves in the “good feelings” they give more so than getting more than they need out of the company.

    -Whystler

  20. Mitchell Jetten

    Today Shapeways was on RTL Nieuws (the netherlands ;) ) :D
    Virtox,, (user)
    Marleen,, (finance)
    Bart (community)

    cool to see you 3 in the video!

    @Bart,,, so where are you going? also to NY? haven’t seen you in the list of staying people?

    1. Dizingof

      Put it on youtube with subtitles ! :P

  21. Jeroen

    I’ll be sad to see Shapeways leave Eindhoven, as I thought it was great to have such a cool and innovative company in this area.

  22. Grant

    I would regret them leaving Eindhoven (if true), if it meant that they had served the locals more quickly… but our experience is that it still took weeks to get a part delivered to a location 5km away… and on one that did not work out we are still waiting on a reply on how to fix it… that kind of service will never get them far, in a business where quick creation is one of the key added benefits…

  23. JeromeWarren

    When, if ever ,do you plan on going public? Your stock would be a big hit!

  24. Duke

    From a investment perspective, it will be interesting to watch how the 3D industry evolves. Many more are coming into existence and will begin to compete with each other. I want to see how high cost states like those located in the Northeast, will compete with lower cost states located elsewhere. Surely those states are going to also look to be part of the growth in the 3D industry. Throw in if the companies are publicly traded and its impact on the business model and shareholder expectations. Optimistic yes, cautious yes.

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