Why Startups Fail: The Launch of Premium Case Study 02 (Pirate3D)

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Pirate3D aspired to be the world’s leading provider of consumer 3D printing solutions by creating a 3D printer that was simple to use and affordable! So, what led to its downfall?

In this newsletter, we’re excited to share our second in-depth case study with you, investigating why the startup Pirate3D failed and what you can learn from its mistakes.

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Why Startups Fail: Pirate3D

Company Overview

Pirate3D is a 3D printer manufacturer. Its 3D printer, the Buccaneer, was intended to be a user-friendly consumer printer and was listed as the most successful Fused Filament Fabrication project on Kickstarter (US) in 2013.

  • Description: 3D printing, Fused Filament Fabrication, Product Design, and Mechatronics
  • Category: 3D printing, 3D technology, Consumer Electronics, Robotics
  • Country: Singapore
  • Period: 2012–2015
  • Size of the company: 11–5
  • Number of funding rounds: 3
  • Number of investors: 1
  • Total amount raised: USD 3.9 million (USD 1.4 million from Kickstarter)

Pirate3D had the vision of becoming the world’s leading provider of consumer 3D printing solutions by making a 3D printer that’s user-friendly, affordable, and accessible to everyday consumers. With such a nice goal, why did it fail?

The Beginning

Brendan Goh and Tsang You Jun, both Materials Science undergraduates at Nanyang Technology University (NTU), met through a school assignment in which they had trouble assembling and getting a 3D printer to work. After meeting Roger Chang, a 3D printing enthusiast and business undergraduate from the National University of Singapore, the trio intended to start a 3D printing service. However, they were later advised by Neo Kok Beng, an adjunct associate professor at NUS Business School to design a 3D printer instead.

They launched Pirate3DP in August 2012 after graduating from university.

The Failure Points

So, what went wrong with Pirate3D?

  • Failure Point #1: The Failure to Manage the Value Chain
  • Failure Point #2: Over-reliance on Kickstarter
  • Failure Point #3: Failure to Understand End-To-End Processes in Software and Hardware Development
  • Failure Point #4: Error in Product Pricing

The Startups Failure Checklist

Pirate3D achieved more than 14 times its Kickstarter campaign target of USD 100,000 with USD 1.4 million raised. Refer to the checklist summary of failure points and what can you do about it below:

The People

  1. Delegate the main responsibilities and support
  2. Start small and celebrate small wins mentality

The Process

3. Set up processes to monitor key financial and project metrics

4. Control and checking system in place

The Product

5. Understand the nature of the products/offerings

6. Product Pricing

What’s next?

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*All information extracted from external sources was correct as the article was posted. The information contained in this article represents the authors’ views, and opinions that are based on public data available online and do not necessarily reflect the position of the organisations mentioned in the article.

Hyperlinks for the information obtained from external sources are provided in the article. Please click on the links for updates on the information provided in the respective articles. Please email media@blackstormco.asia for any enquiries or clarifications on information contained within the article.



BlackStorm Consulting is a boutique growth consultancy firm that specialise in Business Growth & Transformation; and Market Entry.

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BlackStorm Consulting

BlackStorm is boutique growth consultancy firm that specialises in corporate strategy, profit management and investment management.