Will Formlabs Go Public? 3D Printing Double Unicorn Reinforced by Microsoft CMO as Board Member

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Alright, I’ll say what you’re thinking: they’re definitely going to go public. Today, Formlabs announced that Chris Capossela, Microsoft’s Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, is set to join its board. This is a significant coup for the 12-year-old company, which has expanded its Pro segment from initially offering vat polymerization to later adding powder bed fusion machines, thereby becoming a major player in the 3D printing market.

“Chris Capossela’s skills and experience will complement the board as we help guide Formlabs in the expansion of its ecosystem on a global scale. Microsoft is one of the best and largest B2B technology companies in the world. We have so much to learn from Chris about how to bring technology solutions to a huge range of customers,” Formlabs’ CEO Max Lobovsky said.

“I’ve seen the potential of 3D printing firsthand. Formlabs is a standout in the 3D printing industry with a growing, innovative ecosystem of printers, software, accessories, and materials that will advance adoption of the technology. I’m excited to join the Formlabs board as the company continues on its impressive growth path,” added Chris Capossela.

restor3d 3D prints surgical tools. Image courtesy of Formlabs.

Capossela has held various senior positions at Microsoft, ranging from leading EMEA operations and Microsoft Project to overseeing the Office division. Currently serving as the company’s CMO, he has skillfully transitioned the company’s marketing focus from office products to cloud-based solutions. His responsibilities extend to Microsoft stores, business software marketing, consumer software marketing, and more. With 30 years of experience at Microsoft, encompassing tumultuous periods of growth and shifts in focus—from Zune and Xbox to Yammer and Mojang—his expertise appears invaluable, especially in areas where Formlabs could benefit such as software development, customer experience, integration with other software ecosystems, and strategic growth.

Capossela’s battle-tested knowledge is rare and precious. Microsoft hasn’t always succeeded in every venture, but it has consistently engaged, sometimes wisely retreating or persevering against the odds to find success. The lessons learned from these experiences are hard to come by. Furthermore, the challenges Microsoft faces are uniquely complex. For a medical device maker, the primary focus may be on innovation and quality control. But the path for Microsoft, facing various technological waves like the advent of browsers, search engines, content aggregators like Yahoo, and social media, is far less straightforward. Capossela’s expertise in navigating such complex challenges will be particularly valuable in this regard.

The Form 3+. Image courtesy of Formlabs.

He’s also from Boston, where Formlabs is headquartered, adding a layer of convenience. Notably, Capossela brings extensive experience from a company that is both public and active in mergers and acquisitions, which could offer valuable insights to Formlabs in the coming years. While the company opted not to go the SPAC route when such opportunities were abundant, it has nonetheless grown significantly. During the 2021 AM Investment Strategies event, CEO Max Lobovsky said about the SPAC trend:

“I like to offer a slightly contrarian position. I think everyone’s in agreement that 3D printing will continue to grow as a as a portion of this large manufacturing market. We’ll make more things with 3D printing over time. That’s what’s going to drive growth, but I think we’ve built a bigger business with less money than other startups. And, in large part ,that’s been by actually going against the hype. I think the investor community has almost been pulling 3D printing down by getting people focused on the big idea that we’re going to replace injection molding, which we may eventually do, but it’s years away. And the way you build a business is by building a product that people buy next year or the year after. That comes more incrementally.”

With a diverse range of offerings, especially in the medical and dental sectors, Formlabs seems well-positioned for future success. Although the launch of its powder bed fusion technology took longer than anticipated, installations are underway. The company appears on track to strengthen its market position in desktop 3D printing across various sectors, including hospitals, dental clinics, design offices, and businesses. Its software is top-of-the-line, and the overall user experience it provides is exceptional.

Going public would be a clear path for Formlabs, if not for the current sentiment that the sky is always falling. Is an acquisition by a larger company also a possibility? Or will Formlabs choose to remain private? Can it persuade its increasingly patient venture capital investors to hold on, aiming to build a company that grows sustainably without needing a significant exit strategy? Overall, this move is a positive one and is likely to bolster both investor and partner confidence in the company.

Lobovsky will be participating in the 2023 edition of AM Investment Strategies next month, where we’ll have an opportunity to learn more about the company’s strategy.

Feature image courtesy of John M. P. Knox on Flickr.

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