We were pretty stuck
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Rolf Meijer, Citoforma 'We were pretty stuck'

Despite, or precisely because of, substantial growth, the corona crisis presented Citoforma with an acute financial problem. How was the already ordered inventory to be financed? The bank was holding out. Great stress! Until the company was alerted to the Corona Bridging Loan (COL).

'Even without COL, we probably would have survived,' says Rolf Meijer. 'Only then we would not have been able to continue the growth. The bridge loan came just at the right time.'

Rolf owns Citoforma, a fast-growing startup in the additive manufacturing market, also known as 3D printing. 'We deal in 3D printers and accessories,' he summarizes briefly. 'If you're looking for a 3D printer that can print very accurately, with nice smooth shapes, you should come to us.' Citoforma was founded in 2017, initially on a small scale. At the time, Rolf, a techie at heart, also ran a company focused on research development. However, market demand proved so great that in mid-2018 he decided to throw himself into Citoforma full time, together with former business partner Arjan Yspeert.

NASA and Disney

A short time later, Citoforma consisted of three sales channels: a web shop for 3D printers and consumables, a trading company for distribution, and a research lab for the development of proprietary 3D technology. 'We specialize in a specific type of 3D printer that produces objects more detailed and accurate than common 3D methods,' Rolf explains. 'Not without reason, jewelers, dentists and numerous European research institutes have been among our customers since the beginning. But even large international organizations such as NASA and Disney have now placed orders with us. Because of my good contacts in China, we are the only company in Europe that has certain parts. It sometimes even goes so far that we have parts in our range that are not even available in China. That has given us a strong market position as a niche player.'


So things moved quickly with Citoforma. But that was also necessary to keep up with the growth of the market, in other words, not to lose market share. And to keep up with that growing demand, more and more stock had to be brought to Groningen. That stock, of course, had to be financed. 'For that, we had been in serious talks with a bank for some time,' says Rolf. 'Nothing seemed to stand in the way of funding. Our contact went on a winter vacation and would make a final decision immediately afterwards. However, a skiing accident landed him in the hospital, causing a delay. And then it was mid-March and corona broke out in the Netherlands. At the bank, everything went on hold from then on. In other words, the credit we had counted on did not come. While we had placed substantial orders with suppliers to continue the growth.'


Still, Rolf had high hopes that the corona crisis would soon pass. But alas, it didn't. 'Then we were pretty stuck,' he looks back. 'We had made substantial financial commitments and at the same time salaries and fixed expenses had to be paid. A scenario we had never considered as a growing company. We managed to slightly delay the orders placed, which temporarily gave us a little more air. Unfortunately, that did not take away the fact that we were forced to say goodbye to a number of employees whose contracts expired.'

Excellent exercise

A search for support measures initially yielded nothing. Citoforma did not seem to qualify for any. 'We had to show that there was a loss of income of at least 20 percent,' says Rolf. 'That wasn't the case. In fact, we had actually grown by 300% in the first months of 2020. Nevertheless, we had a major financial problem at that time.' Through NOM, Rolf was alerted to the arrival of the COL. But, he was told, be quick because it is a limited pot. An advice that was, of course, immediately followed. And so the application was submitted with the utmost care. 'An excellent exercise for any entrepreneur,' Rolf stresses. 'Especially for a company like Citoforma. Because of the speed at which we were growing, we were running out of every forecast. We were forced to take another critical look at that in the current situation. That was good and above all very enlightening.'


After answering a few additional questions, the COL was awarded. The relief was great, of course. 'Of course, it is and remains a loan,' Rolf knows. 'But it was the money we desperately needed at that moment. A big compliment to NOM. During the whole process we received excellent guidance and support. There was very open and clear communication, so everything went quickly and smoothly.' The bridging loan was logically used by Citoforma primarily for stock funding. But it was also partly used for doing new innovative projects and hiring additional staff. 'Developments in the world of 3D printing are moving at lightning speed,' says Rolf. 'Standing still is going backwards. We just have to keep growing. Without the COL, we would never have succeeded.'


The end of the corona crisis is not yet in sight. The uncertainty remains. Nevertheless, Rolf sees the future with great confidence. 'We are heading for 350% growth this year. We are also in the process of concluding exclusive contracts with a number of renowned 3D printer brands, aimed at industrial applications. The choice to focus on SMEs with our printers and accessories is turning out well. Products in the high-end market are far from always accessible to this sector. While it is precisely SMEs that can significantly increase their innovative power with 3D printers. We have some nice cards in our hands.

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