Drura Parrish started MakeTime with a simple idea: There should be an online marketplace where people who want to make things could connect with people who have the spare machinery to do it.
Eighteen months after the Lexington-based company was founded, that idea is turning out to be a pretty good one.
The company now has 40 employees in Lexington. It also has 12 employee programmers in Ukraine, because Parrish says he couldn’t find enough programming talent locally.
Although the privately held company doesn’t disclose revenues or profits, Parrish said business has far exceeded his expectation of $2 million in gross transactions during its first year.
The company has raised nearly $12 million in investment capital, including $8 million from the Foundry Group of Boulder, Colo., which was announced last week. Earlier funding came from Almaz Capital and the Kentucky Science and Technology Corp., which Parrish said has been a big supporter of the company’s vision.
MakeTime has just reached a strategic partnership with Autodesk, a leading maker of the computer-aided design software used to create everything from machine gears to skyscrapers.
That is especially important, Parrish said, because engineering and design software now drives advanced manufacturing. Autodesk’s AutoCAD is an industry standard that in recent years has become both more sophisticated and more affordable to use.
“One of the crucial components of the future of making things is the democratization of design,” Parrish said. “Autodesk has a huge commitment to lowering the barriers of entry.”
MakeTime’s approximately 1,500 active customers — 47 percent of whom are buyers of manufacturing capacity, and 53 percent are sellers — include everyone from small start-up entrepreneurs to most of the nation’s major auto manufacturers and several aerospace companies.
In some cases, those big companies have excess manufacturing capacity to sell. But in other cases, their equipment is used so much that they are looking for machine time or specialized equipment elsewhere for small jobs, Parrish said.
We’re here to stay. Lexington is a great place for manufacturing thinkers.
Drura Parrish, founder and CEO of MakeTime
Another part of MakeTime’s business is small entrepreneurs who want to affordably make things they have designed. The company’s network makes those connections and can handle logistics.
“It’s all about the movement of data from the thinking side to the doing side,” Parrish said of the company’s business model. MakeTime’s revenues come from a percentage of transactions and fees for handling other services.
Parrish, 39, grew up in a manufacturing family in Henderson (Scott Industries) and formerly taught architecture and design fabrication at the University of Kentucky’s College of Design.
He came to UK with former College of Design Dean Michael Speaks from the Southern California Institute of Architecture. For several years, Parrish ran the Land of Tomorrow gallery on East Third Street and a company that helped contemporary artists around the world produce their art installations.
Parrish and Jeffrey Markowitz, a New Yorker who is now the company’s chief operating officer, said they see a lot more growth potential for MakeTime. And Parrish said there is no better place for the company to be located than in Central Kentucky, where Toyota and other companies over the past three decades have pioneered advanced manufacturing processes from robotics to “lean” manufacturing and Kaizen (continuous improvement).
It’s all about the movement of data from the thinking side to the doing side.
Drura Parrish, founder and CEO of MakeTime
“We just happen to sit smack dab in the largest supply chain corridor in the United States at the time in U.S. history when manufacturing is absolutely going to be the future,” he said.
Parrish said the vast majority of the manufacturers MakeTime works with are located within 400 miles of Lexington, mostly up and down the Interstate 75 corridor.
Central Kentucky also is a good place to attract talent, because of a good quality of life, a relatively low cost of living and institutions such as UK’s College of Medicine, which attracts a lot of faculty and student spouses with talent to the region.
“We’re here to stay,” Parrish said. “Lexington is a great place for manufacturing thinkers. And it’s really ironic that the potential future for the world of making things lies in a place that never was part of the Rust Belt. I love that.”