Sonny Vu, the former founder and chief executive of the wearable technology company Misfit, has had a busy summer since he was named the new chief executive of 3D printing technology company Arevo.
Vu’s new startup brought on a new executive management team, launched a crowdfunding campaign for its 3D-printed Superstrata bicycle and is now announcing the close of a $25 million financing round to support the growth of its business.
It’d be a lot for anyone to take on even if it didn’t happen in the middle of a global pandemic. But Vu, a serial entrepreneur whose last business went head-to-head with Apple before it was acquired by Fossil for $260 million, doesn’t shy away from challenges.
Vu was first introduced to Arevo in 2019 and was initially going to come on as an advisor to the company. Since the acquisition of Misfit he had been investing from Alabaster, his personal investment vehicle. First introduced by Vinod Khosla, an investor in the business, Vu quickly moved from being an advisor to an executive at the helm of the business and an investor providing bridge financing until the company could close its latest round.
Vu had initially intended to start his own business, but was drawn to Arevo’s potential. “3D printing is about making things slowly and in small quantities. With Arevo’s technology you can make big things quite fast,” Vu said in an interview.
Several companies are attempting to take 3D printing into heavy industry and large-scale manufacturing. Relativity raised $140 million in its most recent financing to make rockets using 3D printers, Velo3D is a supplier of 3D printers to SpaceX and now Arevo has $34 million for its efforts to scale 3D printers. Of course, all of these investments pale in comparison to the whopping $438 million that Desktop Metal has raised for its 3D printing tech.
“Arevo is a compelling opportunity for us as it combines our three main investment foci: consumer internet, enterprise, and smart tech. We see fantastic potential in this market, and have backed Sonny before at Misfit,” said Hans Tung, in a statement. “Arevo is led by an experienced team with solid technological foundation and 3D printing manufacturing know-how at scale – to offer breakthrough products at competitive prices.”
Arevo already has a successful proof of concept with its Superstrata bicycle and manufacturing facilities in Vietnam that are intended to prove that the company’s technology will work as expected.
“We’re making this bike to make a point that we can make complex shapes at a pretty large scale,” Vu said. Unlike other companies that sell their printers to manufacturers, Arevo intends to sell parts. That’s because the printers are a pretty hefty ticket for anyone to buy. At $1 million to $1.4 million, it’s a big ask for a company to acquire if it wants to start using 3D printing.
On top of that cost, Vu said candidly that the company’s Achilles’ heel was the post-manufacturing treatment process required to finish the pieces. And while Arevo already counts automotive and aerospace companies as customers (including Airbus, which previously invested in the business), Vu wants to bring this to consumers. “We’ve had tennis racquet companies, golf clubs, surfboards,” approach Arevo about using the company’s technology, Vu says.
“We can do about two frames per day per machine,” Vu says of the latest production rates. “And coming up with our next-gen system we can do about six frames per day.”
The ascension of Vu to the chief executive position and the new capital infusion marks the latest chapter for Arevo, which is on its third chief executive since it was founded. Two years ago, Jim Miller, a former Amazon and Google executive, was brought on board to take the reins at the company. Miller’s appointment coincided with a $12.5 million investment round led by Asahi Glass, with Sumitomo Corp., Leslie Ventures and Khosla Ventures participating. Miller was involved with collaborating with Studio West on the design of its Superstrata bike.
Now, Defy Partners and GGV Capital are joining to lead the company’s Series B round with participation from Khosla Ventures, Alabaster and others. Brian Shin, a scout with Defy Ventures is joining the board, which now counts Bruce Armstrong, from Khosla Ventures, and Hemant Bheda, Arevo’s co-founder, as directors (along with Vu).
“Arevo’s new platform enables fabrication of high-strength, low-weight carbon fiber parts, currently not possible with today’s standard techniques,” said Trae Vassallo, founding partner at Defy. “We are thrilled to be working with the team to help scale up this incredibly impactful technology.”