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UPDATE August 30, 2015: Kwambio was finally released, but currently the platform doesn’t support the streaming of 3D models directly to users’ 3D printers. The only option is on-demand printing with the service i.Materialize. Kwambio team doesn’t provide any timeline when the streaming feature will be implemented.
Kwambio is a Techstars-backed Ukrainian startup that appeals to me a lot, since I like unique items and designs, but not quite comfortable with spending tons of money for an «exclusive designer» piece. 3D printing is the right answer in my case, and Kwambio created a service making it very easy to embrace this idea.
Founded in 2014 by Vlad Usov (CEO) and Dmitriy Krivoshey (CTO), Kwambio is a marketplace where designer upload 3D models of their products falling into the following categories: home decor, fashion, gadgets and art. One of the key advantages with Kwambio platform is that the user can co-create the future item by modifying certain parameters, and get a personalized item at an affordable price.
The user story will look like this: you choose a product you want to print (i.e. a vase or a shoe:), then use easy slider-like controls to modify its size, shape, color, pattern or material, click “print” and, if you’re a lucky owner of a 3D printer, the 3D model will be streamed directly to your printer, and voilà, enjoy your unique piece. All you have to pay, is the price for the 3D model set by the designer. And if you don’t own a printer, you can order the item to be printed on-demand and shipped to you, and the cost will depend on the materials, product complexity, and shipping destination. The marketplace will be launched within a week or so and will offer more than 300 products with ambitions to further expand the product range.
In June Kwambio closed a $650K funding round from TechStars Boston and angel investors and got into their summer startup accelerator program, and the next investment round is planned for this Fall. Despite hot and busy times for team, the CEO Vlad Usov found time to answer to our questions, and this is an interesting read.
GoalEurope: In a few words, who is the customer of Kwambio?
Vlad Usov: Kwambio is a service for those who prefer shopping online and would like to get a new experience of product customization. It’s also for those, who own a 3D printer and have no idea where to find verified stunning designs. For those who believe that in a mass produced world there’s a place to add personal touches to any product you buy. For those who don’t own a 3D printer or even have no clue about his technology at all, Kwambio gives an option to customize the product and then order its printing on-demand in various materials (ceramic, metals and even wood).
To provide on-demand printing option, we’ve partnered with i.Materialise, an online 3D printing service, headquartered in Leuven, Belgium. They have factories in Europe and in the US. We negotiate partnerships with some other 3D printing services so hopefully we’ll have some great news to announce soon!
Idea from the editor
You could implement a feature where your users who own 3D printers tick a box «I can print your product», and those who don’t have one can see the list of printer owners in their area who are ready to print their item. This will reduce shipping costs and delivery time, and strengthen the community and social aspect of the platform.
GE: How Kwambio works from the technical point of view?
Vlad: We developed algorithms which allow to change the shape and pattern of a product by using “slider” keys. Customization options have certain constraints set by the designer, however, customers can co-create their own version of the products up to these pre-set limits. Also, since files are streamed directly to the 3D printers, there are no downloads necessary – allowing designers to make money on each product without the risk of design-piracy.
GE: Who are the competitors? How do you differentiate?
Vlad: There are guys who offer some customization options, they print and deliver 3D-printed products and there are other marketplaces for not verified 3D files but they don’t offer any customization options.
The key differentiators with the first group are: wider range of products, more customization options and better user experience. They all offer only products that are printed on-demand, while we at Kwambio see the owners of 3D printers as a big part of our target audience (as we initially solve the existing problem for 3D printing enthusiasts).
The main difference with file marketplaces is that we verify products and we stream files directly to 3D printers, that allows designers to make money on each customization, and guarantees our customers products of a high quality.
GE: Describe your monetization and pricing model. Earlier you mentioned it was pay-per-print, and that you share the revenue with the designer. Please provide more info on how it works.
Vlad: Yes, you are right, we chose a pay-per-print monetization model but it works this way: our customers pay for a customized and 3D-printed product. Designer of that product sets a price for each design and gets 70% of it, while we make 30% on each print. Prices on items vary, but the most affordable tend to fall into the $20 range, and they go upwards from there depending on size and material. If a customer owns a 3D printer then products will be streamed directly to his 3D printer and cost them from $1. If a customer orders a product on-demand, then he pays for design and covers 3D printing in selected material and shipping fees. Of course, it’s highly depends on the complexity and size of the printed object.
GE: How the idea of Kwambio platform was born?
Vlad: It all started at the end of 2013 at the IDCEE2013 (Investor’s Day Central and Eastern Europe), where my colleagues and I presented a new project on the main stage, from Gutenbergz Inc. This is a digital publishing house which provides a cross-platform storytelling experience, merging beautiful design, educational data, and augmented reality with interactivity. We were selected for the startup short list but unfortunately didn’t end up winning. During those three days I was discovering different startups based around the whole of Europe, and suddenly I noticed a guy who was sitting on the floor near his tiny stand, set up with a 3D printer. That was Alex Mustafayev, the first man to invent a 3D printer in Eastern and Central Europe (at least, the one made an official statement). That printer wasn’t really an attractive piece of tech, and definitely not an easy gadget to play with, but I was thrilled with the possibilities that 3D printing could give to people. We made some nice small talk, and Alex convinced me to buy my first 3D printer (not his own invention, but a Chinese one).
We bought one 3D printer and then couldn’t stop; soon we had Formlabs Form1, Cubify Cube3, Makerbot Replicator 5th Gen, Ultimaker 2, Up Mini, Buccaneer and certain other brands. To tell the truth, it was a pain in the ass to get them because Kickstarter projects are often delayed, shipping also took a few months more, and of course we had some problems with the customs department. When we received our first printer, we could have just stopped and not made our lives so complicated, but really it just revealed the Gutenbergz team’s true passion for 3D printing.
We were working on our planned projects still BUT also starting to focus on our new idea, which was inspired by all the inconveniences we found when 3D printing.
3D printing and mass customization are both trendy topics and many companies are moving in these directions. Kwambio was created to combine the two and to offer a new shopping experience for a mass produced world.
GE: How are you planning to use the funding from TechStars? Are you planning another funding round?
Vlad: The money are used for business development, product design, marketing and launch on the US market. The next round we plan to raise the coming Fall.
GE: Highlight your most remarkable partners (3D printer manufacturers, designers).
Vlad: Kwambio streams the designs directly to 3D printers including Ultimaker 2, The Printrbot Plus and Solidoodle Press (we work to expand this list as soon as possible).
Kwambio has partnered with iMaterialise, an on-demand service offering 3D printing in 18 different materials.
The first designers invited to the Kwambio platform are: Daniel Michalik, Klaudia Miczan, Alissia Melka-Teichrow, Andrew Sack, Colleen and Eric, Ivan Zhurba, Hart Marlow & Angela Eberhardt.
GE: Do you have a campaign to attract new designers?
Vlad: We had some great ideas for an ad campaign to attract new designers but then decided to make the invite system as Dribbble has done. All designers who joined Kwambio get 5 invitations to share with their fellows. Other designers can drop us a message and we’ll make our best to get them on board as soon as possible.
GE: Earlier you announced that the service will be launched in late July, but it was postponed. What is the bottleneck?
Vlad: We are perfectionists and that’s why we delayed the launch to provide our customers the best possible experience of product customization. We are ready for launch within a week or so. We still know what can be improved but it’s a continuing process.
GE: Describe core people in the team, how did they get together?
Vlad: We have talented industrial designers and developers in our team. Since we joined the Techstars Summer class the team has doubled. We are headquartered in Boston, MA and we have an office in Odessa, Ukraine. Also, a few persons work remotedly. We work in four time zones and meet mostly online but we have a great team spirit.
+44 (020) 3290 3544
vita at goaleurope dot com