Nick Pinkston opened the day speaking about CloudFab. Consumers are starting to demand customized experiences. Digital customization is everywhere, in part because it’s so easy, but there’s also been a trend towards customization of physical goods such as NikeID and Build-a-Bear. At the same time, many of these manufacturing machines are running at just 60% of their capacity. CloudFab hopes to solve this with a platform which will allow consumers take advantage of “cloud fabrication”.
In the future, we’ll all have 3D printers and will “build” our mobile phone instead of ordering it. While that may not happen all that soon, CloudFab can offer us effectively the same thing today - the opportunity to “print” a 3D model and letting a supplier with extra capacity bid on the order.
Nick cited the World of Warcraft example, where Blizzard wanted to sell branded toys from the game but had little success selling generic toys. What they realized is that one of the reason gamers were so passionate about the game was their ability to really customize their characters. Now, Blizzard is able to sell physical toys modeled after the actual characters created by the gamers instead of some generic model.
CloudFab has launched a private beta which it will expand to the public and add features to over time. They are planning on launching a full platform in Jan 2010. In June 2010, they are planning on launching a Software Development Kit which will allow others to create a World of Warcraft-like “creator” that can plug into the platform and generate the order request right there.
CloudFab’s competitive advantage in the market is that they do not have to maintain and upgrade the physical fabrication machines. This also allows them to offer a wider array of production capabilities and leverage the free capacity instead of having their own machines which may sit idle.
They expect to be cash-flow positive next year. They recently closed an angel round but are still looking to bring on additional investors who can help them accelerate growth.