If there’s one thing Peter Weijmarshausen keeps getting questions about, it’s his decision to move his company to New York in 2009. Today, at the High Tech Capital Conference, the Shapeways CEO explained this was necessary to get access to funding and talent. 

Shapeways is, according to Weijmarshausen, an example of a company that proves the power of digital age. “Shapeways is not about tech or commerce, it’s about connecting people to one another. Giving them the opportunity to create, be inspired, have their favourite products made. But doing this in a 100% digital way opens new opportunities . Digital manufacturing gives us a lot of advantages above mass production. We can bring – and we will bring – our factories as close as possible to our consumers.

Shapeways is nine years on the road and at this point has about 200 employees and produces 3,000 3D printed products every single day. “And this is only the start. We are operating in a 25 billion market, of which some 10% might be 3D printed. So you can see: big ideas actually lead to big companies.”

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    This has been, Weijmarshausen stresses, only possible through the help of great investors like LUX Capital and HP. “I want to share this advise with all startups and scaleups: as a starting company you need funders who believe in you and offer you the time to develop. We have never felt pressure to come up with results too soon, they have always given us the time and opportunity to validate properly.”

    Back to New York. Shapeways started as a Philips spinout, but was firmly based in Eindhoven. And still is. But in 2008, it was merely impossible to get the right talent, let alone the right funding, to get the company really going. Weijmarshausen: “Mega cities can provide access to talent, and to an ecosystem. Eindhoven didn’t have that status back then. I noticed when I spoke with people from London and other places, who were very interested in our company, but didn’t feel the joy of moving to Eindhoven. I just couldn’t convince them. So, in order to get access to people and to cash, I just had to move to New York.”

    “People from New York find it incredibly cool to go to Eindhoven”

    Now, the situation has changed, Weijmarshausen explains. “Believe it or not, people from New York find it incredibly cool to go to Eindhoven. They even would want to come live here for a couple of years. The development of Eindhoven has made this possible. It is not only a safe city, with a high standard of living, it is also a city with a great startup ecosystem. This city is on its way to be a hub like San Francisco or New York.”

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    Author profile picture Bart Brouwers is co-founder and co-owner of Media52 BV, the publisher of innovationorigins.com.