Yesterday, it was announced that Makerbot was acquired in a deal that could be worth up to $600 million. While any exit in NYC is great, what makes this particularly special to those of us on this side of the river is that it was the first tech startup in Brooklyn to sell that was a) native, b) bought for what it did, and perhaps, more importantly, c) had a model whose idea was native to the ideals we promote in this community, namely creativity.
Sure, Wireless Generation sold for $360 million, but they moved to Dumbo six years after they were founded.
Drop.io and Hot Potato were acquire by Facebook, but those were acqui-hires where the value of the teams (all great folks) were more valuable than what they created. That's not really positive or sustainable for building a startup ecosystem.
No, Makerbot was valued for it's existing, real, growing business and it will continue to be in that business for years to come. It seems fitting, too, that it started at NYC Resistor--a little known to the rest of the world hardware hacker space called NYC Resistor tucked away not in Dumbo or Williamsburg, but in Gowanus. (If you don't live in NYC, you're probably googling Gowanus right now, reading about the canal, and imagining Makerbot's birth to look like something out of Swamp Thing. That's basically accurate.
I'm also excited to say that Brooklyn Bridge Ventures has already committed to funding a new product also born out of NYC Resistor.
Check out this post from NYC Resistor's blog four years ago about the launch of the very first Makerbot. It features this fun video from the founders:
Perhaps the most important aspect of this exit is that it was from a company whose ethos--allowing people to create things--ties in completely to the values we promote as a community. Brooklyn is the creative capital of the world--and to produce such a successful market leader who makes a business out of creativity is a huge win for what the brand stands for.
It also seems fitting that the company was built by a wacky, mad scientist hacker founder, and funded by an even wackier angel (thank you Jake Lodwick for being the right kind of crazy to take a shot on ideas like this). Brooklyn is going to be an entrepreneurial powerhouse because it's got a critical mass of outside the box thinkers like Bre, cheaper real estate and fantastic talent. It's going to produce more exits of game changing companies. Etsy can't be far behind, and Kickstarter, native to Brooklyn and returning soon, while it likely won't sell to anyone, will throw off enough cash to make their investors quite happy.
It's exciting for me to be running the first venture capital fund in Brooklyn and to be a part of this ecosystem so early--not just as a Brooklyn resident but as a Brooklyn native. I was once someone who thought they had to move to the west coast to go to Stanford to become a VC and now who invests in my own backyard.
I'll continue to invest everywhere in the NYC area, but I think Makerbot is just one of many amazing opportunities that will get built on this side of the East River--and I look forward to helping to build up this community. And it does need help. It needs more investors, more founders, more established companies willing to move and anchor their business in the world's creative capital, and more startup friendly real estate. If you are interested in helping out with any of the above, please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.