Glowforge, the Seattle startup that rebounded from early setbacks to become a fast-growing 3D laser printer maker, announced high-profile hires and a big board appointment Wednesday as it plans for the next phase of growth.
Dr. Maria Klawe, the president of Harvey Mudd College, is joining the Glowforge board. She is the newest independent director to join the board, following Foundry Group’s Brad Feld.
Glowforge makes 3D printers that use lasers to quickly cut and engrave products and lets people use raw materials like leather, paper, plastic, fabric, or cardboard and make items with a push of a button. Glowforge’s devices don’t function like traditional 3D printers. Instead, they cut and engrave existing materials to modify them. Glowforge says the process is similar to the way a laser printer modifies paper.
The company “struck gold when Maria agreed to join us,” said Glowforge CEO Dan Shapiro in an interview. He said it took half a decade searching for “the kind of board member who would take us all the way from where we are today, through to a publicly-traded company that has a dramatic impact on the world.”
Klawe is no easy get. She is a noted computer scientist and academic, and a former Microsoft board member. Before becoming the first woman to lead Harvey Mudd, she served as dean of engineering at Princeton University and dean of science at the University of British Columbia. Klawe is credited with achieving gender parity at Harvey Mudd at a time when other institutions are struggling to recruit and retain women.
But Shapiro had a unique advantage. He is a Harvey Mudd grad.
“It was so joyful for me to see my alma mater grow and thrive under her leadership,” he said.
“My passion is to diversify science and engineering and improve society as a result,” Klawe said in a statement. “I’m thrilled to be joining the board of a startup that holds these same values and continues to push for diversity and inclusion in tech. But there’s still work to be done to equal the playing field, and I’m excited to be a part of a company that is trying to do just that while changing people’s lives with their technology along the way.”
Glowforge also announced two new additions to its executive team Wednesday. Renuka Ayer is joining as chief financial officer, and Nate Kelly will be Glowforge’s new chief operating officer.
The hires signal a new chapter for Glowforge, a startup that was navigating difficult waters just a few years ago. After setting a crowdfunding record, Glowforge had to delay shipments three times over several years to the consternation of customers.
But today, Glowforge has shipped tens of thousands of printers and customers have printed more than 5 million items. The company now has 90 employees, up from about 75 last year.
Glowforge has raised $40 million in venture funding, on top of the $27.9 million crowdfunding campaign. The company has fulfilled all of its backorders with the exception of countries with regulatory hurdles and customers who haven’t requested delivery of their units yet, according to Shapiro. He said sales tripled in 2019.
In June, Glowforge announced a partnership with WeWork to install 3D printers at co-working locations in Seattle, San Francisco, Houston, New York, and London. Shapiro said that partnership is still alive and well despite, WeWork’s recent troubles.
“It started out as a combination of a dream and a hope as we launched our first crowdfunding campaign,” Shapiro said. “Now it really is this magic box that people can use in their everyday life that makes it better.”