Vention Inc., a rapidly-growing Montreal startup that enables industrial manufacturing professionals to create, design and order custom equipment with a few mouse clicks, has secured $17-million in venture financing led by Bain Capital Ventures and backed by previous investors White Star Capital, Bolt Innovation Management and Real Ventures.
“We’re building the next generation of industrial giant,” said Etienne Lacroix, an inventor and former McKinsey & Co. consultant whose firm grew to 44 employees from nine in the past year. Mr. Lacroix said revenue, which he declined to disclose, increased revenue 600 per cent during that period and he anticipates it will more than triple this year. “We’re in a market that is so big we know there’s a path to reach $1-billion in revenue.”
Vention has created a platform that simplifies and speeds up the process for manufacturers to source the equipment they use to make the machines they sell. The 2½-year-old startup is a combination of 3-D computer-aided design software, hardware designer, parts supplier and e-commerce firm.
The company’s customers, industrial manufacturing professionals, create custom equipment for their factories and test facilities – ranging from test benches and pallet stackers to contraptions that move robots along assembly lines – on Vention’s free drag-and-drop web-based software design program. They can then order the parts used in the design from Vention, which has a library of 500 components, as well as more than 400 ready-to-order designs that users have contributed to the platform, on the company’s e-commerce portal. Vention employees assemble the kits and ship them by courier for next-day delivery. That shaves months off the typical process for manufacturers to get custom equipment into operation, which in turn speeds up production. Vention now has hundreds of customers globally, including General Electric, Bombardier, Tesla and Siemens, up from 60 a year ago.
“The underlying opportunity is the fact there’s a desire to drive more speed and agility inside the world of manufacturing,” said Ajay Agarwal, a partner with Bain, which was an early backer of warehouse robot maker Kiva Systems, bought by Amazon for US$775-million in 2012. “Vention has really hit on a nerve here and a huge market need … I think the biggest opportunity for the company is scaling up awareness.”
Order sizes range widely from $1,000 to $100,000 for its assembly kits, and much of the business comes from repeat customers. “They’ve proven their product is sticky and those customers are coming back and purchasing more equipment,” said White Star managing partner Jean-François Marcoux.
Mr. Lacroix, a former GE product manager who co-founded the company with chief technology officer Max Windisch two years ago, said Vention would use the funds to expand its software platform and components library, increase marketing and triple its distribution capacity with a new warehouse near the airport in Montreal. He said Vention is quickly outgrowing its 8,000 square-foot space in the city’s St-Henri neighbourhood.