Bre Pettis is the co-founder and CEO of Makerbot, the first company to bring 3D printers to the home, and Thingiverse, the online community for sharing digital designs for real-life objects.
XOXOing: 3D Printing and Creative Community
It turns out, the Metropolitan Museum of Art shares Makerbot’s (and Bre’s) values of sharing, so he was able to collaborate with them and make printable versions of their art using the Makerbot. And now 3D models let you mash up different models, remixing classic art with new scans of new sculptures.
“How does a project grow into a business?”
There are 13,000 Makerbots out in the wild and the company has 150 employees. And lots of other amazing stats about what a big business Makerbot is.
“We’re going to hit every single wall until we find a door.” And one of the refrains is that you have to find as much help as you can to handle non-essential parts of your business. And like many of the other XOXO speakers, they’re finding people trying to explicitly clone their product, sometimes at lower prices. But it makes it tricky to invest so much time in an open source product when others can just copy & paste it. So there are many challenges with innovating while still trying to be open.
In contrast to Glif, which doesn’t worry too much about IP challenges because they’re too small to be concerned, Makerbot is competing with products 100x their expense. By navigating through the patents that those giant competitors have filed, Makerbot is trying to be a small country amongst a bunch of nuclear powers that are fighting a war of mutually-assured destruction around patents.
Makerbot has created a community called Thingiverse to explicitly support its developer community, with over 30,000 objects created. And their biggest customer is NASA. [Woo!]
Makerbot plans to keep sharing how they are progressing, and wants to connect with others who are solving, or who have to solve, these challenges. And we’re in a place where independent creators can share their creations and help each other.