Our investment journey with 3D Hubs

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Our investment journey with 3D Hubs

The acquisition of our portfolio company 3D Hubs by Protolabs in January 2021 created the world’s largest digital manufacturing platform. By gaining access to 3D Hubs’ global network of manufacturing partners, a highly automated AI powered manufacturing platform and a great team of professionals, Protolabs consolidated its leading market position. The transaction, worth $330m in cash and shares, is the largest ever in the field of digital manufacturing to date. At Endeit, we are very proud of our contribution in 3D Hubs’ growth trajectory, and would like to share some insights and reflections on our investment journey with Bram and Brian.

Bram de Zwart and Brian Garrett

Bram de Zwart and Brian Garret, founders of 3D Hubs

How the journey started

Our journey with 3D Hubs started eight years ago, when we first met 3D Hubs founders Bram and Brian at a Rockstart event in 2013. We were immediately impressed. Both founders had quit their job in industrial design and started a company together in Amsterdam, because they believed in a future of highly personalized and decentralized manufacturing.

At that point 3D Hubs operated as peer-to-peer network for 3D printing for entrepreneurs, hobbyists and inventors to upload their designs and match with local owners of 3D printing machines, who would then produce their product.

With Bram de Zwart, CEO of 3D Hubs, Endeit discussed the potential of focusing the business on the B2B market and adding other manufacturing services. After several early-stage Dutch investors, and foreign investors such as Balderton Capital, EQT Ventures and Future Shape joined, 3D Hubs made the jump from peer-to-peer marketplace to a fully-fledged digital manufacturing platform.

By adding industrial 3D printers, CNC machinery and unique technology to its platform, 3D Hubs was able to tap into the growing need of engineering companies for on demand manufacturing, and increase its appeal to investors in the process.

Intelligent empowerment

The 3D Hubs business model perfectly fits Endeit’s intelligent empowerment thesis. As a decentralized automated manufacturing platform that utilizes overcapacity in the market, which can be used on demand by customers, 3D Hubs doesn’t own any machines itself but creates value for engineers with its unique worldwide network of manufacturing partners. From 3D printers to CNC machines, sheet metal fabrication and injection molding services; 3D Hubs is able to offer its clients a wide range of manufacturing services for all types of designs, materials and finishing’s at different lead times and competitive price points.

Because the manufacturing market, and especially 3D printing, is rapidly evolving, a ‘one-stop shop’ is of great value for engineers, who use 3D Hubs to create revolutionary products with unique machine learning algorithms and automation.

Thanks to 3D Hubs’ wide-ranging manufacturing capacity, for example, the necessary costs and time to create the Kepler satellite and prosthetics were heavily reduced.

The platform

Because of the instant price quotation on the 3D Hubs platform, engineers can start production with the click of a button. They also receive instant feedback on the manufacturing parameters of their parts. Thanks to the 3D Hubs website, companies are able to receive parts that are submitted online within days or weeks, which makes the platform ideal for rapid prototyping and end-series production.

The platform also enables businesses to go to market faster and keep lower inventory levels. The simple user-friendly interface and depth and quality of its manufacturing services at competitive price points means that engineers return to 3D Hubs for their manufacturing needs. 3D Hubs has one of the highest customer ratings in their industry, and over 35.000 businesses worldwide – from Amazon to Robotics, Audi, HP, NASA and Merck- rely on its services.

Endeit’s series C investment in March 2019, enabled 3D Hubs to add many talented new team members, expand the platform’s global network to over 240 premium manufacturing partners across 4 continents, open offices in Berlin, Paris and Chicago and grow into top 3 global player in the digital manufacturing industry.

Exit to Protolabs

Before we invested in 3D Hubs, we identified potential companies for our exit strategy, and concluded that Protolabs was an ideal candidate for a possible future merger. With its own highly automated factories in several countries, Protolabs offers the fastest delivery times, compared to 3D Hubs, but less depth in its manufacturing services. Strategically, to combine super-fast lead times with the global partner network of 3D Hubs, makes a lot of sense. After we identified the possibilities, the exit of 3D Hubs a few years later to Protolabs became the logical next step in the founders’ ambition to build a next-generation, on-demand manufacturing leader.

Unique team of people

It was a pleasure to work with the founders of 3D Hubs, their team and other investors on something that has real impact: democratizing manufacturing and making it robust.
The team of 3D Hubs is highly professional, analytical and very execution-driven and the founders put a lot of work in empowering everyone in the company to contribute to the company goals and ensure a top notch experience for all its customers. Almost every board meeting at 3D Hubs started with a reminder of the company’s mission, to be the biggest, most accessible manufacturing platform in the world, without owning a single machine. The combination of visionary founders and a superb team is rare and we are grateful to have played a part in their success. We are looking forward to the next phase of 3D Hubs, and their journey together with Protolabs.

3D Hubs Team

3D Hubs Team

Read here the blog post of 3D Hubs about joining Protolabs

Ilan Goudsmit

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