The printed world


May’s Launch section features three recent startups: RapidMade, Clearwater Pump Service and CiviData.

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Mark and Renee Eaton are manufacturers — and local business owners — at heart. “We had both been through corporate America,” says Renee, 56, a former manager of a Nabisco plant in Pennsylvania and now CEO of RapidMade, a Portland startup that provides rapid prototyping, reverse engineering, 3D printing and 3D scanning services. “We wanted to do something where we could create value and keep it local, hire people and be focused on more than just the next quarter.”

The Eatons were also inspired to launch after reading a magazine article about the promise of 3D printing. Housed in the Portland State University business accelerator, RapidMade reproduces to-scale models of industrial equipment — pumps, boilers, container makers — so clients can easily transport samples to trade shows or customer sites.

“We’ve even made miniatures to be used as promotional business card holders,” says Renee, who splits her time between Portland and Baltimore, where the state of Maryland has launched an initiative promoting 3D printing and additive manufacturing. Three-dimensional printers are becoming less expensive, but software and printing materials remain costly, Renee says. “The idea that everyone and their brother are going to have [a 3D printer] in their home … I don’t think it’s going to happen as quickly or to the degree that people think it will.” This slow adoption trend bodes well for RapidMade. Renee declined to reveal revenues, but the startup, funded with the assistance of a $150,000 PDC grant, has about 200 customers, most in Portland. The company experienced significant growth last year and is making inroads in the mid-Atlantic states and Canada. “We’ll expand, but our hearts are in Oregon long-term,” Renee says.

Launch IMG 1560The scoop
“One of the biggest challenges we had was getting people to understand what 3D printing was,” Renee says. “In 3D scanning, you’re taking a physical object and making it a file. Three-dimensional printing is the opposite; you’re taking that file and creating a physical object.”

Family friendly
RapidMade employs four full-time staff, including Renee’s son, Micah Chaban, who serves as operations manager. “Everyone talked about how much harder it was going to be for the next generation to exceed us in terms of their quality of life,” Renee says. “So it’s been really exciting for me to be able to create something with and for the next generation.”

Liquid gold

Clearwater Pump Service
Launched: 2012
Owner: David Parson

Stuff of life: “Water is a valuable resource, and it’s too often taken for granted. Most people who aren’t on city water are on wells, so they need pumps to get water to their homes or businesses or farms. We provide service and installation. We also provide filtration. Water comes in different qualities. Some of it’s pure, some not.”

Thirst quencher: “Wells and water are something I’ve done since high school. It’s a bug or a fever you catch, because it’s addicting to feel you’ve provided that much gratification to somebody. Most of our deals are done on a handshake. There’s a level of trust; it’s more than just a receipt.”

Farm bound: “Our next focus will be in agricultural irrigation, both as a supplier and as a contractor. It’s a niche where there’s not a lot of expertise out there, and that’s really where we want to become one of the bigger players in the state.”

Number cruncher

Launched: 2014
CEO: Andy Parks

A web-based tool, CiviData automates data collection and benchmarking information from the public sector, with a current focus on utilities. Parks says the goal is to help local governments make more informed policy decisions.

What we do: CiviData gathers information about rates “across a spectrum of other utilities for the same meter size and amount of consumption, and graphically displays that for an organization to very quickly see where they are in the marketplace.”

Case study: CiviData compiled a report comparing water rates for the city of Newport with 24 other comparable municipalities. Staff included this report in their materials presented to city council as they considered a rate increase last year. A similar report comparing Portland water rates to other water utilities could prove useful to residents who are voting this month on a special water district, Parks says.

Next: CiviData has verified rates for more than 225 utilities in 20 states and will soon “have rates from more than 400 utilities in 25 states.”