Prior to launching his new venture, What the Future Venture Capital (WTFVC), designer Janne Kyttanen acted as the creative director for the 3D printing giant 3D Systems for five years. One of the more renowned 3D designers across the industry, Kyttanen was responsible for designing the Cube desktop 3D printer, which won a multitude of awards and helped immerse 3D Systems into the consumer market. But, as time went on, 3D Systems began to withdraw itself from the consumer market, and Kyttanen ultimately decided to depart from the industry for greener pastures.
With WTFVC, which is a collaborative partnership with Dutch entrepreneur Eduard Zanen, they will focus on generating ideas for new companies first-hand, and developing these companies and projects around these ideas. In this way, the new venture capital fund is unlike any other. Instead of searching for innovative business models to invest in, the firm will instead work on developing these ideas themselves, and will then go out and find the right CEO for the task.
Interested in his sudden departure from industry, as well as his unique new investment platform, we sat and spoke with Kyttanen about his new VC, his thoughts on the present state of 3D printing industry, and more.
Q: Where did the idea for WTFVC come from? Can you explain how this unique VC will function differently from others?
Kyttanen: “The inefficiency of big corporations gave me the idea to start something revolutionary, something new. Our mission at WTFVC is to push out new companies at the speed of designing new products. Infact we are a start-up, designing start-ups. We work the other way around to normal VC’s. We have the means to build organizations around our ideas and we source kick ass CEO’s to run with them in return for a nice salary and equity. Some of our ventures are mature and some are just ideas on a sheet of paper.
We have a special interest in the magic that is found at the crossroads of tech and design, 3D printing, virtual reality and machine learning etc. Our first ventures are set to launch this summer.”
Q: How has your impression of the 3D printing industry changed from the time you joined 3D Systems in 2011 compared to now?
Kyttanen: “Nothing has really changed in my mind. I still believe a lot in the industry and its only going to exponentially grow from here. Unless we somehow decide to stop digital evolution and prefer to do tedious work vs automating it, then we may be in trouble. I don’t see that happening any time soon. There is a lot more awareness about the tech in the world now and most of the concepts, which have worked in the west are been applied in new markets such as China or India, so its not for the selected few anymore.”
Q: In 2013, at the height of the consumer 3D printing hype, you were already pointing out that many startup companies had stopped innovating and were just “replicating”. Is that the biggest limit of consumer 3D printing? Is this what you feel happened in 3D Systems as well?
Kyttanen: “When you make a cake, you have a thick base, a good layer of cream on top and last you add some icing on it. When the industry is big enough all of the layers can be interesting, but when its not, majority just prefer to focus on the boring base. When your industry is going through an exponential growth trajectory and you overlook any of those elements from your cake in the process, somebody else will just take your base and build the most amazing cream and use even better icing on top.”
Q: Looking to the future, how would you define the major industrial trend that you foresee for your work on WTFVC?
Kyttanen: “Exponential growth in connectivity and the “free” model. API’s talk to each other like never before, but its not just the App world in which it is interesting. There is digital data available for every industrially fabricated product today, so my main interest is in how to use the connectivity in order to create new products and companies like never before. When your entire organization runs on the “free” business model, your overhead is very low and things suddenly speed up like never before.”
“You don’t need a car, you take an UBER. You don’t need an office, you rent a desk at Wework. You don’t need project managers, you have Asana. You don’t need a bookkeeper, you use Expensify. You don’t need big servers, you use the cloud. You don’t need your own factories, but you use…yes…3D printing platforms. Yes, we have a lot of hurdles to overcome, but I am very happy to see how far we have come. When I first started selling my lights, it was literally from the boot of my rented car going to retailers one by one on my own. Look at where we are today.”
In addition to his new venture with WTFVC, Kyttanen will have selected works on display at the Miami-based Art Basel, which takes place from June 14 to 19. The exhibit, which is being hosted by the Los Angeles-based Gallery ALL and Rotterdam-based Galerie VIVID, will feature a wide-range of the designer’s sculptural work.