An “industrial lego” company has just gotten a few more bricks to play with.
Vention has announced a $3.5 million seed funding round led by White Star Capital, alongside previous investors Bolt and Real Ventures.
The Montreal company is also launching the first public version of their free cloud-based 3D MachineBuilder platform. The platform was previously in a closed then open beta.
Vention has been around for just under a year and a half and enables engineers to design and order custom equipment for next-day delivery through a completely automated and digital workflow. Before Vention, a traditional design-to-build model would take anywhere from four weeks to six months to ship. Now users in the U.S. and Canada can access next-day delivery, while international users can still access their manufactured designs much quicker than normal.
For a company just entering their seed round, the idea of handling design, building and shipping is a lot to undertake.
“I always say to my team: listen, guys, we’re building three startups in one,” says Etienne Lacroix, CEO of Vention. “We built a full-fledged e-commerce website, we built a large amount of our cloud-based 3D design software, and we’ve built a full hardware platform.”
The beta was a huge success for Vention. The platform saw a lot of testing from thousands of users, and several feature upgrades were introduced over 25 separate updates. Hundreds of pieces of custom equipment were delivered to various industries including high-end automotive and aerospace, and there is now a library of over 200 public assemblies for engineers to fool around with and test out.
Lacroix started his career as a tooling designer working on big pieces of custom equipment like the landing gear for Boeing 787s. From there, he realized the workflow for manufacturing was severely broken and needed to change.
“The traditional process took forever,” he says. “We took the workflow and created a digital environment where our users can design, order and assemble in a single place.”
“When we started Vention, there was no debate about what we were going to do,” he continues. “It was more about ‘what’s the fastest way to accomplish the vision.’ I can only give credit to my team because everybody has worked so hard.”
Vention is described as a digital manufacturing platform dedicated to machine design—software to build the machines that build machines, essentially. But the comparison to “industrial lego,” as Lacroix puts it, is much apter. Users can access the platform for free then use those lego parts to design, seeing costs, assembly estimates and shipping in real-time.
Lacroix compares Vention to the rise of WordPress in the mid-to-late 2000s. The company is enabling a new class of users to design machines and access something they might not have been able to before.
“We see Vention as a democratization of manufacturing,” he explains. “The users might not necessarily be 3D design experts, but they can now design and order by themselves.”
Not always with the best results though.
“The single most important bit of learning we’ve done,” says Lacroix, “Is that there are a lot more people that want to design equipment than people who know how to design equipment.”
The seed funding will allow Vention to grow a bit and move into their new office comfortably. The platform has a few thousand users, but Lacroix knows the next step will be to use the seed round and grow that few thousand to a few hundred thousand.