As a person who will be eternally interested in entrepreneurship and those involved in creating technology businesses, our team thought it would be both fun and educational to describe how our latest startup–www.you3dit.com–was born.
My interest in 3D printing started in March 2012 at a Spanish company called Intelliglass, located in Madrid, Spain. Having met the founder of Intelliglass through a mutual friend, he rescued me by hiring me part time to help out–initially with some contract design work–and then some business development creating services for 3D printing. Their R&D lab had a Dimension Elite 3D printer and I was fascinated at how easily and quickly I could make new and functional prototype parts. Never before in my engineering career did I realize how quickly design iterations could be made and how creative juices could start flowing as new parts were printed and tested. Seeing that a lot of the “best practices” were non-existent online, I began to create some tips and tricks to improving your 3D prints and wanted to coin a term called: Design for 3D Print (DF3DP).
After they launched their business–www.imastresd.com, which noticing at the time of writing this article is having database issues–focused on 3D printing services on their Dimension Elite 3D printer, I started reading more about more Do It Yourself (DIY) 3D printers like the Makerbot and was just drooling. I wanted one. Then I started thinking, “man, how come more people don’t have access to these machines? At least more engineers? Why aren’t more people excited about this? Don’t they realize how this could change the manufacturing world and access to the making of physical objects?” I really thought there should be a service that could help bring this technology to the masses–but being busy with other projects (a Ph.D., BuddyGripper.com and HandsOnRapidInnovation.com), I set this “idea” aside for awhile. But while that idea germinated, I ended up buying my own Makerbot Replicator 1 with all the bells and whistles and began exclusively 3D printing my products at BuddyGripper.com. I could print to demand, offer personalization, multiple colors and rapidly iterate and try new things. Product development guided by customer development as praised by such entrepreneurial legends like Steve Blank and Eric Ries.
Summer 2012 came around and that’s when I met José Luis Mondelo–our other co-founder. We met during the launch of Stanford’s Online Entrepreneurship class: Venture-lab.org. While the class was online, our team was formed with Madrid locals meeting at the International Lab in Madrid, Spain. José represented a real-deal Spanish entrepreneur and a guy who had a passion for technology development–specifically in web services–and a genuine interest in 3D printing. Our other teammates were also exceptional entrepreneurs all frustrated with the lacking entrepreneurial spirit in Madrid / Spain and who had experience launching companies (www.minggler.com, www.themadvideo.com).
During our “idea brainstorm” / “opportunity recognition” (step 1 in the Rapid Innovation Cycle) for generating startup ideas for this online course, I took it upon myself to pitch this idea of a 3D printing service which would help bring 3D printing to everyone by means of a community of 3D CAD model designers, 3D printer owners and the people who wanted to “bring their ideas to life.” While some of us were doubtful about the concept, the idea was chosen and we proceeded to make a Minimally Viable Product (MVP) to test market interest in the idea. Experimental results (measured by Google Analytics–a free and powerful web analytics tool) were somewhat grim but it got us started and with time, we ended up getting a couple customers and people interested in being a part of our newly founded community.
www.You3Dit.com is a web-based community of 3D CAD designers and 3D printer owners who are spread out globally and who are ready & eager to help YOU bring your idea to life via networked 3D printing. No longer do you have to have special file types (*.STL are the common ones), nor an expensive 3D printer (they range from $400-$400,000). All you have to do is submit your idea to www.You3Dit.com and people in our community will begin the CAD modeling process and upon completion, will locate a 3D printer near YOU. This eliminates the typical shipping costs and lead times normally associated with 3D printing services like www.shapeways.com and www.ponoko.com.
In our view, companies like Shapeways and Ponoko are our partners…offering one of the more premium services. Additionally, companies who build the 3D printer machines–like Makerbot and Form Labs–are also our partners as they provide 3D printers to add to our network. However, for other more basic requirements, we can allow 3D printer owners and enthusiasts to amortize their 3D printers and help designers improve their design skills by participating in our customers’s design and development process. Some of our common requests are personalized iPhone cases, one-off prototype parts (that would be prohibitively expensive to manufactur in any other way), 3D printer parts and many others. We are here to help people build and make things–improving the world around us. We believe that if you put people in an environment that facilitates making, then people will become more creative and add more choice to our world of products and solutions.
Based on this vision, José and I have formed a strong and global team to build and support this ideal community. We have a designer and printer network that is continually growing to help you with your You3Dit.com projects and we look forward to seeing what people–who aren’t necessarily techies–want to build. Mothers, grandpas, sisters, uncles, kids and anyone else who wants to make something their own. We’re here to help!
So what are you waiting for? Submit your idea to You3Dit.com and become part of our story and a new member in this global community of 3D printing enthusiasts. Start 3Ding today!
p.s. many many many thanks to all of you who have helped us along the way: Sara, Yoli, Miguel Ángel, Zubin, Riley, Walter, Ricardo, Christina, Vero, Mom, Dad, TechShop.ws, and anyone else I may be forgetting!