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Analysis:  What future for Shapeways?

by • April 23, 2016 • No Comments

  • Shapeways is an animal with two heads: on one side it’s a marketplace where users can buy 3D Printed products of stores setup by designers. On the other side it’s a service bureau where designers and users can have their products 3D Printed in an increasing range of materials (Print on Demand service). We can see them as a cross between Etsy and a Print Bureau. Since its inception in 2007 as a spin-out of the lifestyle incubator of Royal Philips Electronics, Shapeways has attracted over $76M of investment of sizeable VCs that include HP Ventures, Union Square Ventures and Index Ventures.

    Since 2007, competitors have emerged on equite of their 2 business segments. Thingiverse, MyMiniFactory and other social media platform have grown significantly. They are offering access to 3D Printed products, as are doing an increasing number of Etsy sellers. On the service bureau side of Shapeways business, many new players have entered the market. Among them the sizeabler players are Sculpteo, Materialise and 3DHubs. A multitude of local players has in addition emerged over the last 3 years. I’ve learned of my experience that companies can rarely succeed to manage two core businesses at the same time. So I’ve decided to embark on an analysis of Shapeways revenues since 2009 to figure out that of the two segments have been many successful and what to assume for Shapeways in the coming years.

    Shapeways Designers earn less than $100 per year on average

    Shapeways is a private company. Collecting financial data requires a few efforts. From presentations on the market on the internet, I estimate that the number of stores on the market at end 2015 to be quite closed to 35,000, just about 5 times what it was at end 2012.

    Shapeways in numbers

    Shapeways in numbers

    Shop owners created on average $65 per year in 2012 (source Shapeways), a number stable of 2011. Considering the total number of stores opened at end 2015, total revenues created by Shapeways shop owners comes near $2.5M. This is the total of the markup revenues for the designers. With average markup at half the cost of printing charged by Shapeways, the total revenues for Shapeways synonymous with the printed objects sold on the platform should be closed to $5M. This corresponds to the Marketplace segment revenues.

    Shapeways is a centralised service bureau not a social media platform

    The 2nd business line is the Service Bureau. In 2015, Shapeways printed around 4M parts for a total revenues in the region of 30 to 40M$. Breakdown of revenues per Shapeways business lines is as follow: 88% comes of the Service Bureau while 12% comes of the Marketplace.

    Shapeways in numbers - revenue breakdown

    Shapeways in numbers – revenue breakdown

    From the revenue split, it seems that Shapeways is unquestionably fundamentally a centralised service bureau, an alternative to 3DHubs, a decentralised service bureau. Talented designers struggle to manufacture revenues. Shop owners select Etsy or physical markets to sell their products. Popular designers rarely attract additional than 1,000 followers. Shapeways CEO stressed this lack of social aspect in his last interview with 3DPrintingIndustry. As it is assumeed of a B to B business, internet traffic is relatively contained, as the Alexa ranking graph shows at a lower place. The ranking has been stable since end 2013, while 3D Printing platforms like Thingiverse, MyMiniFactory and 3DHubs were becoming additional talked about .

    Shapeways in numbers - Alexa ranking

    Shapeways in numbers – Alexa ranking

    Strong competition assumeed in the years to come

    In the coming years, I may assume sturdy competition coming of local service bureau, investing in the latest 3D Printers, usually cheaper and of advantageous high end. This is what happened with the 2D Print bureau industry in the 80s, when local shops opened in sizeable numbers. Apart of this competition, online platforms connecting service bureaux may in addition take market share of Shapeways. It can be informative to see how Shapeways can respond to these threats.


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