As fellow Fool Blake Bos pointed out last week, it appears that 3-D printing specialist MakerBot is in talks with suitors, which could potentially lead to an acquisition of the four-year-old company.
MakerBot Replicator 2 image, Image source: MakerBot.com
More specifically, according to a Wall Street Journal article Wednesday, the folks at MakerBot were recently gauging "options for a new round of venture capital at a valuation of $300 million when the discussions led to interest from possible acquirers."
For those of you keeping track, MakerBot last publicly accepted venture0capital money back in August 2011, when CEO Bre Pettis excitedly announced on the company's website a number of investors had supplied $10 million to help fund its growth. In all, the contributors during that round were led by Foundry Group, but also included Bezos Expeditions, True Ventures, RRE, and more than a dozen other angel investors.
Yes, that Bezos
If you're wondering why Bezos Expeditions might sound familiar, that's because it belongs to none other than Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN ) CEO Jeff Bezos.
As of this writing, Bezos has used Bezos Expeditions to make selected investments in exactly two dozen promising young businesses, including MakerBot, Business Insider, Heartland Robotics, and, of course, Twitter.
Now, that doesn't mean Jeff Bezos intends on using Amazon to eventually gobble up all of these companies. After all, Bezos Expeditions is a natural extension of his knack for encouraging long-term-minded innovation. What it does show, however, is that Bezos most certainly maintains an interest in MakerBot's operations.
Amazon definitely isn't afraid of making acquisitions that complement its core business. Remember, the company's more recognizable past purchases include Internet Movie Database in 1999, Audible.com and Box Office Mojo in 2008, Zappos in 2009, Woot in 2010, LoveFilm in 2011, warehouse-optimizing robotics specialist Kiva Systems just last year, and both display-maker Liquavista and book-sharing site Goodreads so far in 2013.
Why not MakerBot?
Back in February, I went out on a limb to say someone needs to by MakerBot already. Naturally, I started by naming the usual suspects, including both 3-D printing stalwart Stratasys (NASDAQ: SSYS ) and serial acquirer 3D Systems (NYSE: DDD ) .
But Stratasys, for its part, already seems plenty busy trying to fully integrate the operations of fellow additive manufacturing industry giant Objet, the acquisition for which was completed just last December. Even so, shares of Stratasys did manage to pop 6% in a single day after it announced better-than-expected results during its first quarter (during which GAAP revenue rose 116% from the same year-ago period while adjusted net income rose 40%), so it's safe to say Stratasys is still doing just fine as it stands.
3D Systems, on the other hand, would seem a more likely suitor until we note it has already developed a number of a relatively affordable consumer-focused printers with its Cube printer line. In fact, just last month, 3D Systems reminded us that Staples is not only selling one version of its Cube printers online, but will also soon carry the nifty-looking devices in its bricks-and-mortar stores.
Given the relative redundancy, then, and short of simply purchasing MakerBot to shutter its operations, I'm no longer convinced such an acquisition would make sense for 3D Systems, either.
Amazon's next revolution
In fact, that yet another reason I think Amazon is a front-runner to acquire MakerBot, especially when we consider that this week's recent acquisition talks supposedly arose from conversations with venture capitalists.
What's more, like so many acquisitions before it, MakerBot could also serve nicely to complement Amazon's existing operations.
MakerBot's already huge Thingiverse design library, for example, could be integrated into Amazon's core website, thereby giving it unprecedented reach and bolstering more interest in 3-D printing than ever before.
Amazon could also use MakerBot to sell electronic designs for many of its existing products, allowing MakerBot owners to simply print the items out at home instead of waiting for them to be shipped. In the future, as 3-D printing solutions continue to improve and evolve, the number of possible printable products will only continue to rise.
But what do you think? Would Amazon be better off spending its money elsewhere? Is there another company you think is more likely to purchase MakerBot?
By all means, share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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