November 21, 2014
The tales of garage-startups are few and far between these days with startup ecosystems popping up left and right (and offering relatively cheap rent prices). However, it’s a part of the startup culture that hasn’t completely disappeared yet. Henry Liu founded Full Spectrum Laser, and their wholly owned 3D printing subsidiary FSL3D, in his garage in Las Vegas back in 2009 and has become another garage success story.
Although it had a modest start, Liu built Full Spectrum Laser with the express mission to design, manufacture, and sell a full range of consumer and industrial grade laser products. Not long after starting up, he was able to hire his first two employees while slowly expanding the business, and in late 2011 Andrew Boggeri, Lead Mechanical Engineer at Full Spectrum Laser, joined the team. That’s when they made the move out of the garage.
It was the right decision as Full Spectrum Laser soon after started their first Kickstarter campaign which brought in over $250,000. Along the way Liu kept improving the manufacturing process while also digging into the 3D printer technology. In early 2012 the laser portion of the business was cruising along just fine, so Liu committed even more resources to the 3D printer prototype he and the team had designed six months prior.
The company has grown from five employees to 32, and they attracted attention of some Summer Street Capital Partners, a Buffalo, New York based private equity fund. Last week, Summer Street Capital gave Full Spectrum Laser and their FSL3D subsidiary a $10 million growth equity investment to be used to further expand the engineering and R&D. The funds will also help Liu develop sales, marketing, and customer support initiatives.
“FSL has assembled a highly talented team and we’re excited by the prospects for the Pegasus Touch and the 2D laser cutters and engravers, as well as additional 3D printers Full Spectrum Laser currently has in development utilizing other technologies and materials. Each of these product offerings has excellent growth potential,” says Garth Troxell, a Partner at Summer Street Capital.
One of Liu’s major goals is to accelerate the development of his next generation laser cutting and 3D printing platforms via the funding. He wants to capitalize on the significant market demand for laser and 3D printing technology.
“With this funding we have some breathing room and can take some more aggressive risks,” says Boggeri.
Sometimes with big funding announcements comes the decision to relocated to the Bay Area, but Liu and his team are planning on sticking to Las Vegas for the foreseeable future. And if you can beleive it, a big part of their decision stems from the financial argument that can be made against the Bay Area.
“If you move to the Bay Area, you’re going to have to accept VC funding,” says Boggeri. “That or you better be damn profitable because your runway matters even more there.”
Funding aside, Las Vegas also offers a higher probability to secure the niche specialist talent Full Spectrum Laser needs to succeed. Specialists are going to be rare no matter where they’re based, but up in the Bay Area a lot of talent gets swept up by bigger companies who can offer higher pay and perks for the already limited supply.
Granted, Las Vegas offers perks of their own that other cities on the East Coast or Midwest can’t offer, and that’s its proximity to China. It’s only a one hour flight from Los Angeles, and Full Spectrum Laser buys a lot of parts from China directly; that’s helpful when they fly to meet their partners or go to get their shipments.
“3D printing is obviously huge right now, and it’s only getting bigger,” says Boggeri. “In terms of deal size and printer manufacturers, we’re only the third company that’s had a large manufacturing deal. And there are 270 companies in the US making printers.”
Full Spectrum Laser has years of experience in the field, and they’re positioning themselves for the burgeoning market. According to Boggeri, there’s a huge amount of interest in metal 3D printing, and that’s one of the areas where Liu wants to begin making an impact.
As they move forward, growth seems almost inevitable. Liu and the Full Spectrum Laser team are actively looking for new employees to help them as they work to establish dominance in the market; there’s no question that Liu, a man who has kept Full Spectrum Laser profitable since day one, will offer the world some breathtaking innovations down the road.
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