MacroFab nabs $2M to re-invent electronics manufacturing

Bambi Francisco Roizen · July 28, 2015 · Short URL:

Techstars Ventures invests in the Houston-based startup

These days, consumers are pretty familiar with getting what they want with a few clicks on their computers and phones, from buying groceries and having them delivered, to getting a car or taxi without waving their arms in the air.

With our expectations changing, it's no wonder that more industries, like manufacturing, are evolving to involve fewer human interactions.

MacroFab is part of this emerging class of innovators trying to make the manufacturing process of hardware more efficient, especially for startups that don't have the budget to outsource to overseas manufacturers, particularly for prototypes and small batches.

The Houston-based startup, which was founded in October 2013, just announced it's raised $2 million, led by Techstars Ventures to streamline the manufacturing process for hardware startups. Prior to this round, the startup raised $600,000 in angel funding, which helped MacroFab go live this past January.

MacroFab is designed to enable a hardware startup, like Arachnid Labs, to go onto the site and select materials and parts, assemble them together and put in an order to have the product manufactured. MacroFab then shows how much the parts cost, and the time it takes to build and ship. MacroFab buys the materials and makes the product in their warehouse. On MacroFab, Arachnid Labs was able to make its Kickstarter product.

"We handle relationships with supplies and we manufacture the products," said Chris Church, Founder and CEO of MacroFab, who founded the company out of frustration when he was building electronics for filmmakers. "There was no transparency with manufacturers," said Church. "We built the platform to give them [designers] that transparency."

Today, if you're a hardware startup, you have to call around to different suppliers to price materials, and then work with a manufacturing plant to build your product. Most of this process is done via emails or phone calls. "The process seems archaic," Church explained. "You email in request for quotes and when they get around to it, they email back." 

While the manufacturing industry can be made more efficient in a number of ways, Church didn't like the idea of being a marketplace connecting manufacturers with producers. Rather, he wanted to be the soups-to-nuts manufacturer. "The match-maker or broker model has been done before," said Church. "But that doesn't create transparency and control for the customer [designer]. Our real focus is a platform to give them the tools to make the product from beginning to end. The match-maker model solved the discovery problem. But it doesn't make the process more transparent."

As for why he chose to focus on hardware startups, Church said it's the market he's most familiary with and it's "the market that has the greatest need for tools to make manufacturing easier at this time. 

"We believe that the rise of easy-to-use hardware development platforms, combined with a lowering in cost of advanced micro controllers and micro processors, and the communities that develop around them have heavily field the growth of hardware start-ups, while crowdfunding has made it easier for them to raise enough money to bring their products to market."


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Bambi Francisco Roizen

Founder Vator, Managing Partner - Vator Investment Club; Former Columnist/correspondent Dow Jones MarketWatch; Business anchor CBS affiliate KPIX

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