As Hardware Startups Take Off, Materials And Technology Marketplace Inventables Raises $3M

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Chicago-based Inventables, a marketplace for technology and materials for developers and designers, has raised $3 million in new funding led by Tim Draper (via Draper Associates) with Dundee Venture Capital, Richard Yoo (founder of Rackspace), Georges Harik, and True Ventures participating. This brings Inventables’ total funding to $5 million.

Inventables launched in 2010 as a marketplace for software, hardware and materials for makers, designers and manufacturers to create prototypes and low-volume production runs. Essentially, Inventables sells the parts, machines and materials that many hardware developers or manufacturers need to build their products.

The marketplace itself is similar to any other shopping site, where you can purchase supplies online that are shipped to you within a few days. But Inventables has added a few features which make it friendly for makers. For example, on a product’s page, you’ll see what other designers have made with the material or how they used it to develop a product. You’ll also see questions (and answers) posted about the product.

Additionally, Inventables develops and sells its own products, including a CNC milling machine, called Shapeoko, which is used by a watchmaker to design and manufacture its leather and wood watches. The machine allows customers to create products digitally on the computer and then download them into a digital manufacturing machine where they are actually produced and made. Inventables also has one of the largest selections of acrylic sheets. And as 3D printing has taken off, Inventables sells 3D printers (including Makerbot), and has a selection of filament for these printers in 24 colors.

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As founder and CEO Zach Kaplan explains, Inventables is helping to make it possible for a new generation of individuals and companies to manufacture and sell their own products without needing to outsource production. As we are seeing more hardware startups enter the market, Inventables has become a destination to buy the components needed to build these products.

Of course, Kaplan acknowledges that its a competitive market, with Inventables going head to head with AmazonSupply. But he thinks Inventables can differentiate itself via its community of designer, makers and entrepreneurs. Already there is a passionate community around some of the products and functions supplied by Inventables, and the company has even open-sourced the software and hardware behind the milling machine.

Inventables will use part of the new investment to expand to a new 25,000-square-foot facility in Chicago where product development, engineering and distribution will be co­located. And Kaplan is hiring a larger engineering team to develop additional proprietary software and hardware.