The advent of 3D printing is poised to disrupt the $10T global manufacturing industry. Using CAD data enabled rapid protoyping and modeling, 3Diligent is a B2B marketplace for 3D Printing for Industrial Grade Rapid Manufacturing. The company based out of El Segundo has raised a total of $1.2M across two rounds including a $900K seed in March. Today, CEO Cullen Hilkene shares with LA TechWatch the innovations behind 3D Printing and where 3Diligent fits into that picture.
Tell us about the product or service.
3Diligent is the Sourcing Solution for Industrial Grade Rapid Manufacturing – a B2B marketplace for 3D Printing (metal, plastic, and resin), CNC Machining, Injection Molding, Vacuum Casting, and other services. You could think of us as the Amazon of custom manufacturing – we network independent businesses and based on what the customer is seeking, source their RFQ to the right set of vendors to competitively bid the job.
Customers submit Requests for Quote (RFQs) on the 3Diligent.com platform, and our algorithm identifies the right vendors to competitively bid for the job. Our innovative veiled bidding structure allow vendors to offer their services at below market prices when vendors have idle or excess capacity. This creates a win-win situation – customers report saving as much as 80% off typical pricing and faster turnaround times for parts from the highest quality equipment on the market, while vendors get more out of expensive capital assets before they are rendered obsolete by next generation innovations.
How is it different?
The 3D Printing space is still in the process of being defined, so there aren’t a lot of usual suspects to reference for the “how is it different?” question. I suppose the easiest reference point is Shapeways, a consumer-focused 3D Printing marketplace. Whereas they do a great job of servicing consumers and artistic 3D prints, our focus is businesses and industrial parts. We primarily support to industries like aerospace, automotive, medical device, and consumer/industrial products for their prototype and production work. We also don’t just leave the marketplace as a wide open and potentially confusing place; we utilize an algorithm to steer customers to the right set of vendors for the job. Simple point and click just doesn’t work when it comes to these sorts of projects and this rapidly evolving industry, so helping customers identify the right folks to connect with is a part of the value add our site provides.
What market are you attacking and how big is it?
Global manufacturing is a $10.5T industry. Manufacturing in the US alone is $1.7T. It’s commonly estimated that 3D Printing will end up displacing more than 10% of traditional manufacturing. So that’s a market opportunity of at least $1 trillion. That isn’t factoring in net new opportunities 3D Printing creates that aren’t part of the traditional manufacturing world – like bioprinting and construction – which we may someday support as well. When you figure for those, there’s no telling how big the market opportunity is, but it’s pretty sizable.
What is the business model?
We take a percentage of the deals we facilitate. Unlike a pure advertising/lead gen site that sells ad slots to the highest bidder, we feel our primary service is in helping streamline the procurement process for customers and vendors. For each RFQ a customer submits, we create a curated competitive marketplace that is custom-tailored to that request. We only alert those vendors that are well equipped to the job so that they can focus on the work they’re best at and our customers get the most capable vendors for their job competing. This allows all parties – vendors and customers – to come out ahead, and allows us to let vendors win on their merits rather than on marketing budgets. When transactions happen and tangible value is demonstrated, that’s when we generate revenue as a percentage f the transaction.
What inspired the business?
A number of experiences I had while at Deloitte Strategy and Operations Consulting. On one of my first projects, I worked with an aerospace company that had football field-sized warehouses full of replacement parts. They had to stock spares for every part they’d ever made because of a lifetime warranty on the aircraft. So they were faced with either stocking parts or stopping the production line to make replacement parts. When I learned about 3D Printing later on, it made me think back to that project and how huge it would be have been for that company to print replacement parts on demand rather than stockpiling spares for a rainy day that may never come. After tracking the industry and seeing pervasive issues in the industry for both customers and service providers that could be addressed by a B2B marketplace, we decided to build one ourselves.
What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?
Since our business is a marketplace for most intents and purposes, our key performance metrics are built around our customer base, vendor base, and transactions between the two. Within six months, we aim to have 10 active Fortune 500 customers, >50% of the American 3D Printing vendor base on the platform, and more than 200 transactions executed.
If you could be put in touch with one investor in the community who would it be and why?
Andreesen Horowitz or Elon Musk. Both understand disruption and what 3D Printing is poised to do in terms of disrupting the $10T manufacturing industry, among others. Both would also seem equipped with the patience and pioneering spirit to support us through the evolution of this industry from a $4B one to a >$1T one. Even with ~30% YOY industry growth, it’s going to require some patience and perseverance. They seem to be equipped with both.
What does being “Made in LA” mean to you and your company?
When I think of LA, I think of this incredible and unique mix of creativity that has crystallized into reality. It’s been here virtually since the founding of the city with the motion picture industry – making dreams and stories take lasting shape as films and television – and I think a lot of that DNA shines through in the city’s startups. Specifically for 3Diligent, I think about LA’s significant manufacturing base – this is a town that truly creates things. We’re honored to be a part of that lineage, accelerating people’s ability to harness 3D Printing and other rapid manufacturing techniques to drive invention and innovation.
What else can be done to promote early stage entrepreneurship in Los Angeles?
We’ve been extremely pleased with the support we’ve had as a young business in LA. But I think the feedback I tend to hear from entrepreneurs is 1) a desire for more early stage investors to open up offices in LA and 2) arranging more structured meetups and learning sessions for companies that are past the initial ideation stage and into market.
Where is the best place to watch the sun set in Los Angeles?
Manhattan Beach Pier. Hands down.