Industry 4.0 at Forward Partners: our investment in Mouldbox
Industry 4.0 is a term that was coined at the start of the decade, and refers to the increasing penetration of technology within manufacturing. That said, tech companies have often struggled to sell to heavy industry.
At Slush last year I remember having a conversation with a German industrialist who lamented that startups had often promised the world and delivered very little; in the context of her big-scale-low-margin business that’s a deal killer. As a result, her company is now wary about engaging with startups. We see that tide turning and believe tech companies will be able to deliver significant value to manufacturers where they haven’t before.
Artificial Intelligence techniques, software and connectivity are now in a place where existing processes can be disrupted both effectively and reliably, with massive value capture as a result. As a result, we’ve made a couple investments in the space: first, Gravity Sketch, now Oxford-based Mouldbox.
Mouldbox’s value proposition is arrestingly simple: drop a CAD file of your desired composite mould into their web-app, instantly receive recommendations to improve the mould or to streamline it, then Mouldbox arrange for production, inspection and delivery. More often than not, businesses receive their moulds at competitive prices before their competitors have even gotten around to quoting, let alone fulfilling an order. That kind of 10x improvement on existing processes is exactly what we look for when making investments.
Mouldbox aren’t the only business out there with a similar value proposition, mind you. In the UK we have companies like CloudNC. 3D-Hubs is a Netherlands/US based business of some note. However, Mouldbox’s focus on composites really caught our eye. The market is smaller than the Injection Moulding, 3D Printing and CNC Machining markets that those aforementioned companies are focusing on, that’s for sure. Nonetheless, composites are primed for growth. The price of composite materials keeps on coming down. It’s strength relative to its weight is well known but it’s increasing affordability opens up avenues for use that previously didn’t exist. We see increasing usage in automotive and aviation. You may not have noticed but we’re also at the beginning of another space race, another composite hungry business.
The team behind Mouldbox are, of course, a key reason behind us investing. A team of 3 school friends, they’ve lived and breathed composites for the last decade. Martin Oughton and Adam England have honed their engineering skills having worked in a number of roles for teams in Formula 1, Americas Cup and for aerospace companies. Adam Lofts is an experienced start-up CTO who has created an incredible tool, not short on deep complexity behind the scenes, on a shoestring. That mix of experience, complementary skills, risk appetite and tenacity are some of the things that get investors excited too.
One final piece of the puzzle is the market reception for Mouldbox. With next-to-nothing spent on marketing, Mouldbox have an enviable roster of huge name manufacturers and suppliers who all count on them for an increasing proportion of their composite design and production needs. That’s an amazing signal for an early stage business and augurs well for the future.
We can’t wait to get to work alongside the team.