Advanced Manufacturing Weekly News

Welcome to the first ever edition of Advanced Manufacturing Weekly news. Our goal is to aggregate the most interesting moves in advanced manufacturing and deliver to your inboxes. This is an experiment, don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions or ideas to improve this.

1.) MachineMetrics Raises $11.3 Million in Financing
MachineMetrics, which equips factories with the digital tools needed to increase productivity and win more business, raised $11.3 million in Series A financing, the company said this week.

2.)Hannover Fairs USA Announces New Event for IIoT, Industry 4.0
Details – This coming September, Deutsche Messe, through its U.S. affiliate, Hannover Fairs USA, will stage the biennial Digital Industry USA, an event for Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) covering everything from proof-of-concept for factories to completely networked operations. Digital Industry USA will be held at the Kentucky International Convention Center, Louisville, Ky., Sept. 11 and 12, 2019.

3.)Robotics manufacturing firm Bright Machines expands to Seattle
Details – San Francisco-based Bright Machines is coming to Seattle. The maker of software and robotics systems for manufacturing plans to open an office in 2019 and has hired Nick Ciubotariu as SVP of software engineering. Ciubotariu formerly worked as a senior software engineering leader on Amazon’s Alexa and Amazon Cloud Drive.

Mechanical Engineering Startups

Are you a mechanical engineer looking for a change? Want more autonomy? Want to rule your own destiny? Great, you have come to the right spot.

Forward Capital Fund provides seed funding to engineers for contract manufacturing startups. Seed funding is the earliest stage of venture funding. We pay for your expenses, machinery and working capital while you’re getting started.

We think engineers are most productive when they can spend most of their time hacking on equipment, automation and products. Our goal is to create an environment where you can focus exclusively on building products, automation and talking to customers.

We make investments in return for stakes in the companies we fund. All venture investors supply some combination of money and help. In our case the money is by far the smaller component.  The most important thing we do is work with engineers on their ideas. We’re manufacturers ourselves, and we’ve spent a lot of time figuring out how to make things people want and exploring machines and markets. The next most important thing we do is help founders deal with investors, customers and acquirers. Lastly, we have built a network of manufacturing sales reps, engineers, accountants, lawyers, software partners, machinery, tools companies, investors, and mentors to help you every step of the way.

Forward Capital Fund knows how difficult it is to make the leap from a nice job to a startup, we’ve done it ourselves. We have done our best to create the type of place that we would have liked to jump to and control our own destiny. We hope you like it!



Manufacturing – Venture Capital vs. Private Equity

When I started planning my first venture capital fund, I really had a difficult time explaining to LPs how I was going to create a venture capital fund which invests in contract manufacturing. I really didn’t know what to call my unique brand of investing.

As I started to get out into the field I began to get more and more inbound inquiries from manufacturing, robotics, IIoT, and automation engineers that didn’t know where to start. If you are a software company its easy, you just find a local incubator or accelerator and drop in. If you are developing hardware, you might need $100,000 – $200,000 just for the equipment. This doesn’t fit the incubator model.

If a robotics startup gets to revenue and profitability, they have their choice of venture capital funds or private equity funds to choose from but when they are just starting out it is not as easy.

Venture Capital or Private Equity

Venture capital funds normally invest in fast-growing startups. Private equity firms normally invest in established manufacturing firms. There are quite a few “hardware” incubators, accelerators, prototypers, etc. but nothing remotely close to startup contract manufacturing. If you had to do a poll of how contract manufacturers get started, I think 99% have a machine in their garage or poll barn to build clients on the side. Who invests in manufacturing startups and why?

Financial Arbitrage

Private equity firms typically pay a multiple of EBITDA. Let’s generally call it 5x. When you purchase a manufacturing machine, you are strictly paying for the machine. A good rule of thumb for manufacturers is that you would like to get your machine paid off in 2 years. Granted EBITDA and the amount you pay for your machine are not the same thing but if you can put down 20% on your machine, pay it off in 2 years (5x) and then sell the company for a multiple above that, returns can rival those of a venture capital firm.

Manufacturing Platform

With manufacturing comes jobs. Most economic development groups are interested to help manufacturing operations get going. The fund will develop a platform to help startup manufacturers get off the ground. We will have small manufacturing suites available for low rents or for free with investment. We will have bank relationships that know how to work with startup manufacturers. We will have tool shop space and machines available to startups for standard equipment (mills, lathes). We will work with software and machinery providers to provide discounted prices to startups. We will work with manufacturing reps to identify markets and opportunities.

Why Now?

We feel that the current industry trends are creating fast mover advantages. Off the shelf automation components can help create a pardigm shift for even old and entrenched manufacturers. We stay on top of current trends in automation to help our portfolio companies grow.

Manufacturing Network

Several of the key players in the platform also help create the network. Banks, engineers, sales reps, economic development, investors (manufacturers) and most importantly the other manufacturing startups. By building a network of manufacturers with a common thread, we should be able to help each other grow through knowledge sharing, networking and job sub-contracting.

Manufacturing Startup Bank Loan

If you are a manufacturing startup, that cannot get a bank loan, even based on assets, don’t hesitate to reach out. We work with a handful of banks to help manufacturing startups get going. If you are in the Milwaukee area we also can help you find some space.

More to come… Do you have thoughts on this concept (good or bad) feel free to email me at

Manufacturing Accelerator Beliefs

Here are the Manufacturing Accelerator Beliefs (1st Draft 3-19-15):

  1. The manufacturing accelerator will be a network of contract manufacturers, manufacturing distributors and OEMs.
  2. In addition to accelerator companies, we will build a network of machine makers, service providers, bankers, industrial real estate and foreign sourcing experts to assist our investment companies.
  3. Manufacturing Accelerator companies will be able to operate with autonomy.
  4. We seek out first good people. People that can manage and grow companies. Key characteristics of our CEOs are trustworthiness, attentiveness to needs of the market and quality engineering.
  5. We invest in long-term growth. There are no quarterly goals to be met. CEOs have long term opportunities to see their vision become a reality.
  6. The Manufacturing Accelerator will itself be sparse. We will have a Chairman, CFO and Automation Engineer. We expect our CEOs to be high-level engineers and operators.
  7. Manufacturing Accelerator will almost never sell accelerator companies.