If you’re an electrical engineer, DigiKey, Octopart and Mouser are permanently etched into your browser history — all the components you could ever need, right at your fingertips. Volition just raised $11 million to become the indispensable supplier for mechanical and industrial engineering alike: think motors, gears, pneumatics, hydraulics, controllers, sensors, measuring and test equipment, and more. Checking out the company’s beta site, I found components I didn’t even know existed, much less how to use them.
The company claims that it has built the world’s largest inventory of these components (16 million and counting) by partnering with some of the leading industrial distributors.
“I grew up in a manufacturing family in the Rust Belt of western Pennsylvania, and I was always building things and going to factories. After learning about both digital manufacturing and the tech startup world in college, I dedicated my career after graduation to simplifying hardware development and using technology to revitalize the industrial sector, known as the tech industry and the American Got very little love from the society. in recent decades,” says Nick Pinkston, founder and CEO of Volition, who in past lives created HackPittsburgh, Pittsburgh’s first maker space. He also created CloudFab, one of the first marketplaces for 3D printing.
“My co-founders Natalie Clapper and Duffy Tillman worked with me at my last company, Plethora, so we’ve got a band back,” says Pinkston. “Natalie led our highly technical product teams from deep user research with our engineering devs, working with our PhD computational geometry devs to solve some of the toughest problems in manufacturing, while Duffy handled the engineering side. Leading the way, built a fully integrated 3D design feedback system and production system that drives the e-commerce side, factory production software and other systems from the ground up.
For the funding round, Newark Venture Partners and Quiet Capital were the two co-leads. The company’s cap table has been quiet since the pre-seed round. The round will enable the company to ramp up its go-to-market and expand product offerings.
“Our mission is to ‘accelerate the pace of hardware innovation.’ By organizing all of the world’s components in one place and building discovery methodologies specific to this industry, we not only make the search and buy process more efficient (i.e. increasing speed), but we’re also helping people choose better parts by putting more options at their fingertips they wouldn’t otherwise discover,” says Pinkston. “However, industry components Creating a marketplace is the first step in becoming a hub for the entire industry more broadly. Once we achieve this, we are able to build many other tools to integrate our data and services at every stage of the product lifecycle from prototyping, testing, manufacturing and beyond.
As you might expect, it’s very difficult to build a data system that aggregates millions of products at a high enough quality to meet the strict requirements of hardware engineers – and Volition points out that the likes of Amazon, Alibaba and other marketplace havens. The reason this hasn’t been done yet is that each supplier presents their data differently – and often quite poorly.
For example: Search for “34 and 36 inch long coffee tables” on Amazon, and it returns… well, nothing useful. If Amazon can’t do this for something as simple as a coffee table, you can imagine that hardware engineers, who have precise needs about the parts they wish to prototype and make into products, are in a pang of frustration. Living in a little angry bubble. If Volition can deliver on its vision, I can definitely see it shaking up this industry.