You may have seen the news that 3D Robotics has just announced a $30 million Series B investment, led by some blue-chip VC firms, including Foundry and True (investors in MakerBot and other open source companies such as WordPress/Automattic). You can see Foundry's announcement post here.

This is our second funding round (the Series A was November last year), and each round reflects a new era of the company. Because 3DR started in this community, which I created one weekend six years ago, I wanted to take a moment to talk a little about our evolution as a company and what it means for users, developers and the community as a whole. 

Our first phase as a company (2009) was led by my co-founder, Jordi Munoz, and it looked like this:

Jordi hand-soldering original ArduPilot shields

My kids packing up Blimpduino kits at the dining room table

Jordi then built up a proper manufacturing operation, taking it to this by 2012:

At this point 3D Robotics was still selling mostly electronics, essentially bare boards and "bags of parts" kits, much like our role models at Sparkfun and Adafruit.  But it was clear that the industry was growing up and was ready to go more mainstream. So on the basis of that and our progress so far, we raised our Series A round in December 2012 and I came onboard as CEO nine months ago. 

Our mission over the past nine months has been to professionalize the company and our products, and although that's far from done we've made a lot of progress. On the company side, this meant new websites, ecommerce systems, improvements in customer support (still a work in progress but we've shortened response times and moved to Zendesk to track issues better), and most importantly, the opening of our big new manufacturing facility in Tijuana.

On the community side, we've sponsored the software dev teams, the documentation teams and the community management teams here, on the new documentation sites and on the GitHub dev repository. 3DR just sells the "atoms" (the hardware) while this open source community creates and gives away the "bits" (the software), but as a company we've worked hard to support the community in every way we can to encourage a healthy community/company partnership. (We're modeled after WordPress/Automattic in this respect).

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the hundreds of developers, editors, moderators, beta testers and other volunteers who have created such an extraordinary thing here: the software teams, the documentation teams and everywhere else where the open innovation model has worked so well to serve a community of nearly 44,000 members. Our commitment is to use our funding to help make this community even better, by investing more in the open innovation model. As we have from the start, we'll continue doing what we can to help people here help each other, following the lead of open source models from Linux to Adafruit and our original mentors at Arduino. 

On the product side, the last year has seen the development (with ETH) of our next-gen autopilot, Pixhawk, and the consumer-friendly Iris autonomous quadcopter designed for tablet/phone use, and a suite of software that will be announced soon as part of the Iris Consumer Edition. 

That brings us to our third phase, which starts now: not just creating drones, but putting them to work. This means finding new applications for aerial robotics by creating entire systems, from the cloud to tablets/phones to communications systems to more sophisticated aircraft systems and payloads. From Agriculture to Hollywood, this is where the real opportunity lies. 

I feel we're like the PC industry in 1983. As an industry, we've come close to taking drones from industrial equipment or hobbyist gear (from the mainframes to the Apple II of the late 70s) to the first Macintosh, making them consumer friendly and easy to use. Now that drones are not just for the technically sophisticated anymore, it's time to find out what they can really do, by putting them in the hands of regular people, from GoPro owners to farmers, and see how they use "anywhere, anytime access to the skies" to discover new applications and markets, much as we did with computers after the original IBM PC and the Mac.

In short, this is just the beginning. I couldn't be more thrilled to embark on our next chapter. 

Views: 15065

Comment by Thomas J Coyle III on September 26, 2013 at 2:02pm


Nice synopsis of your efforts and of those who share your vision of the future!!!


TCIII ArduRover2 Developer

Comment by Mike P on September 26, 2013 at 2:03pm

Encouraging and exciting post Chris. Looking forward to see what comes next!

Comment by Steve Maller on September 26, 2013 at 2:32pm

Congratulations! Very exciting, and very well deserved!

Comment by Pete Hollands on September 26, 2013 at 3:24pm

So it's no longer  "DIY", It's "Buy and Fly".

Comment by Brent Crude on September 26, 2013 at 3:33pm

Hurray for monetizing a community. What's the timeline on the cash-out exit?

[From the press release]...

“The opportunity to bring ‘big data’ to agriculture through low-cost automated aerial crop surveys could be a game-changer for both farming and the UAV industry alike,” said Chris Anderson, CEO of 3D Robotics. “Adding UAVs to the precision agriculture toolkit of a 21st Century farmer gives them the power to use imaging data to not only increase yield, but decrease water use and the chemical load in both food and environment.”

So we're industrial now...

In conjunction with Iris, 3D Robotics has extended its exclusive relationship with the PX4 team at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), one of the world’s leading UAV research institutions. In collaboration with ETH, 3D Robotics has announced its most powerful autopilot to date, Pixhawk, which will ship in October.  Pixhawk is a new 32-bit open autopilot platform designed for improved ease of use and reliability while offering unprecedented safety features compared to existing solutions.

Heh, "exclusive". How open-source friendly...

Anyway. Lots of talk in this post about community, but not a lot of talk in 3DR (or Foundry's) press release about the community or open-source. Well, there's this: 

3D Robotics has created the industry’s leading open UAV platform

I thought it was bought in the beginning? And DIYD did a lot of the creating? (Well, up until the VC A Round and the mass-hiring of developers, and one or two DIYD insiders.)

It's been a good strategy all-around. Open-source community, insider press exposure, locked-in marketplace to fund the R&D for the metamorphosis into a fat B Round. And of course the visionary sUAS stuff.

Go go MakerBot Industries!

Comment by Richard Boyhan on September 26, 2013 at 3:35pm
Congratulation, now can you get product out within 24 hours please.
Comment by S. Rado on September 26, 2013 at 4:01pm

Yeah, big business, but still can't ship one of their major products since two months!

Comment by Phil P on September 26, 2013 at 4:10pm
I hope developers are now remunerated accordingly. Is that info open?
Comment by Brent Crude on September 26, 2013 at 4:12pm

I hope developers are now remunerated accordingly. Is that info open?


I've a follow-up question: what % of DIYD is owned by XYZ Capital Partners now?

Comment by Brent on September 26, 2013 at 4:25pm

Well there goes the neighborhood.


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