Interview with Janne Kyttanen on Investing in 3D Printing

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Janne Kyttanen is a pioneering designer in 3D printing. The first to develop a whole host of end-use products, he was also the first to set up a design label in 3D printing and sell tens of thousands of lamps. He really brought design to bear on what was then an industrial technology and created many applications as a result. Janne has been a real inspiration to me for many years and it was great to talk to him for our podcast. Now he is exploring investing and in helping to create 3D printing startups with WTFVC. We asked him to talk to us about what it is like to invest in 3D printing right now.

How is the world of investing in 3D printing?

I think we have learned a lot from what happened between 2012-2014. Companies are getting smarter and investors too and everybody is gradually learning to ask the right questions. I wrote blog post about this a while back and for me the questions circle around: Who are you creating value to, how and how does it scale? I think the days are numbered where investors blindly just invest in a particular technology without a clear use case.

How do you see the future?

The most value will be created by what the technology does and not how a particular machine may look like in your workshop.A lot of people talk about 3D printing disrupting the $12 trillion global manufacturing industry. I don’t see it replacing or disrupting anything, but its just a new kind of hammer with its’ own pro’s and con’s and the applications it enables are just going to be new and new industries will be created. Bear in mind that in most manufacturing sectors the machinery generates the least amount of revenue. Let’s say on average 2-5%, so we have 0 interest investing in companies that are just creating machines. At least, I have not yet seen a deck yet, which would change my mind on that.

 

Where do you invest into and why?

We invest in crazy. If it makes sense, most likely its incrementally making something existing just better. We are drawn to companies and ideas, which connect proven and existing technologies in the most interesting ways. I like to tell people we want to take existing technologies, put them in a blender and see what happens.  

Do you go for the end to end tooling only? So printer plus software and materials? Or not?

End to end is a new trendy phrase in the industry. There things have been figured out in every functional business already, so this phrase is a bit of an oxymoron. It’s a bit like a car sales man needing to pitch you on the sequence of events that are needed in order for a car engine to run.

My interest is in creating new value chains for new products all together. If you backtrack from the user using a product to its’ raw material, adding value to each point in the chain is what interests me the most. Smile direct club is a good example of a company, which benefits from most points of a value chain. By going direct to the consumer and cutting the dentist out of the equation completely, they are creating on top of an already proven product, but for far less money. Well done.

Is there a 3D Printing cluster emerging somewhere in the world?

Dunno. But I am happy its’ all happening all around the world. It’s also fascinating to see how the adaptation happens with the late bloomers in a very similar way as it happened in the western world first. That creates also quite predictable investment opportunities when you can map the human psychology before things are even happening yet.

Are you still optimistic about 3D Printing for consumers?

I think it will have its place in a home in a similar manner as a Peloton bike or the drill bench. What I mean by it, is that by the time the novelty factor wears out, it really boils down to value creation or the lack of it. No value or excitement and it just lands in your garage. I have not had a printer in the house for quite a while now. It is just far easier to just upload stuff on a 3D platform and get it all delivered by courier for me, but now that we have small children, I am going to install a few printers here again. The value for me will be to introduce my kids to the tech hands on very early on and build a narrative in their brains that they can make whatever they want and whenever they want. How they will create further value with it all, I am so excited to see.

What investments are you excited about?

Not many to be honest. 90% of the decks I see are “me too products”. Most startups are focusing on the same superlatives as their neighbors. Faster printers, bigger printers etc.

What companies would you love to invest in but you’re not seeing?

I am excited to see companies building tools specifically for a niche product or a service and owning the entire value chain and brand for that. I think what we are seeing is the hangover from prototyping. When your tech is geared towards making prototypes, it being able to make “everything” is great. When it comes to manufacturing, that paradigm is a pest. The clever ones lock their machines to do one thing really well, hammer on that and ignore the rest.

How important is it for founders to have 3D Printing experience and knowledge?

The less you know about 3D printing, the better, so your brain is not clouded by nonsense. I am interested in founders who have the ability to ask the right questions at the right time. All business is the same and you will be able to get to the root of it in 5 minutes of it, if your brain is tuned in the right way.

Where is the opportunity in 3D Printing?

As a “machine”? 2-5% of a particular manufacturing sector.

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