Our Series A Investment in Foundry Lab
“Vignesh, I know it sounds impossible, but just hear me out and imagine functional cast metal in minutes in your office/R&D lab, completely moving metal foundries out of the picture, I call it ‘Digital Metal Casting’ ”, those were the first inspiring and energetic words David uttered to me in 2019 about the future of global metal casting and his fledgling startup Foundry Lab.
Fast forward to 2021, and we at GD1 are super excited to have deeply bought into David’s vision and jumped onboard the Foundry Lab journey, heavily anchoring this latest Series A round alongside our NZ and US VC friends. Welcome out of stealth mode Foundry Lab!
GD1 loves to back founders who are not only doing audacious things but also are deeply clued in to their industry and attuned to the market need for their innovation from the get-go. David and the team at Foundry Lab are a clear example of this and what we look for, with deep insight into how their ‘digital metal casting’ technology will modernise what is a fairly antiquated space and why there is latent and pent up demand for this technology.
David started as an Industrial Designer, with more than 15 years of experience designing metal parts for consumer products, and one of our favourite conversations from our diligence process was hearing more about how he struggled to design and meaningfully fabricate a metal component for a customer, pushing him down the rabbit hole of investigating same day casting for short-run metal components and ultimately creating Foundry Lab.
Deep Tech is difficult enough as it is, and being a Hardware focussed Deep Tech startup is another level of complexity altogether. Again here the insight and commitment to rapidly prototype a solution, understand the market externalities and how you fit within it, along with a solid foundational understanding of how you will potentially interface with other market players all before you have come out of stealth is an impressive feat. The answers may not be 100% mapped out, and will likely be subject to change again very soon, but we’re confident in the foundations and we’re committed to the journey.
‘Digital metal casting will make functional metal part production simple and orders of magnitude faster and cheaper’
Up until 2018, and prior to the rise of Operator type VCs like us, true manufacturing technology startups were far and few, and often languished under the perception of being specialist “unsexy” technologies because of value propositions that were difficult to understand for generalist investors ( side note: Foundry Lab isn’t a 3D printing/ additive manufacturing startup) or germanely geared towards engineering purists, with value propositions such as improvement across yield, cycle time, and lead time being touted. As an engineer myself, there is something especially compelling and inspiring about a founder that is able to not only talk my language but also show me that they know more about this realm and where it is going than I do.
From my time working for Apple across the US and Asia, and from being deeply embedded across its product development and manufacturing pipeline, one of the single biggest pain points I observed in consumer electronics was the inability to obtain rapid (same day, or sometimes same week) production stable and reliable metal parts that were not only functionally useful but also cost effective. I recall many many times having to work with our offshore partners to tweak certain design parameters for products such as the MacBook Pro and then subsequently fretting that I wouldn’t get parts in time for build tests in Cupertino that, among other things, could a) withstand equivalent/simulated rigours of final parts, and b) be cost effective when unit impact is scaled up to tens of million/year so that Apple’s margins weren’t negatively impacted. These sorts of value propositions are equally valuable, if not more valuable, to verticals such as the automotive industry that utilises a large chunk of cast metal (pardon the pun) for safety critical parts, and as such the market opportunity in automotive as an example is undeniably large given the massive expansion in EV and global vehicle demand. Companies such as Tesla and Apple are dedicating huge swathes of their balance sheet to address core material engineering problems that connect to execution and manufacturing operations, and Foundry Lab is well poised to capture some of this value on a global stage given some of the initial conversations with Tier-1 partners in these verticals.
This is a team with all the right features, capabilities, and ambition, all coming together at the right time in the right place — we’re super excited to be part of the journey going forward.