We caught up with MakerBot CEO Jonathan Jaglom recently and discussed the state of affairs at MakerBot, perhaps the most well-known desktop 3D printer company.
Our chat took place at the recent Consumer Electronics Show, a massively popular event that was so crowded our chat ended up taking place on the only available space: a comfy carpeted hallway floor! Joining us was MakerBot’s VP of Marketing, Colby Dennison.
Fabbaloo: Have you heard of us?
Jonathan Jaglom: Oh course I know about Fabbaloo! I know the name, I know the site.
Fabbaloo: MakerBot was the original consumer 3D printing company in 2009 and they had the view that everybody is a maker; Bre told us that many times. Is that still the case?
Jonathan Jaglom: From what I can tell walking into MakerBot, is that they were obviously very successful with what they did, grew tremendously fast in a very short period of time. Inevitably I would argue that you do mistakes along the way, you can't get it all right. You are growing 600% in 2 years, remarkably growth.
I do believe two things, to that effect: I believe MakerBot at the time out grew that market, it out grew that makers market and very quickly understood that it outgrew the market and asked, “who else do we address?” More “EDU” than commercial tapped in at that time.
And to the effect, a spin off of that is the consumer market itself, I believe is not yet as ripe as we thought it was. That doesn't mean, and I hate to say it because I always get misquoted, I really do believe in the consumer market, I think it makes good sense, but I don't think we are there yet.
Fabbaloo: What has to happen to get there?
Jonathan Jaglom: User experience I think has to be further enhanced. It has to be even easier to get content at hand, to be able to manipulate more, customize that part, print that part, the whole experience needs to be even more inviting than it is today. Even though I do believe strongly that MakerBot by far has the most inviting and the most ease of use, most accessible approach there is still more work that needs to be done on that front and we are working along those ends.
And than educating the market which is also really a big challenge. So once you do have all that, how do you educate the market, what needs to be done on that front? We are tapping heavily into the EDU space because we believe that it is ripe - it is clear we are far ahead into that. We have printers in over 5,000 schools and also by doing that the secondary effect is when those kids grow up they will embrace 3D printing in their workplace or at home.
Fabbaloo: MakerBot has been reinventing itself internally over the past number of months, what’s been happening behind the scenes?
Jonathan Jaglom: Yeah, behind the scenes… What can we say? <smiles>
In more general terms I would say we are focussing on core: customer and product. Very early on I chose to go on a listening tour. I think was a really good call. I got exposed to almost 100 customers in 8-10 weeks in 22 states. But I think the value behind that was that you think you saw it all because you have been in the industry for so long, but absolutely not.
The EDU approach with MakerBot for me was a revelation. And around product, making sure we provide good quality solid product to market, making sure we provide a good solid product to market. Making sure we readdress the issues we had in the past: The Smart Extruder+ is just the best way to start the year.
On literally the first working day of the year we launched the Smart Extruder+. Of all the calls we had on the printer, 87% - nearly 90% - of all of our issues are around the Smart Extruder. And this Smart Extruder+ is really solid. We have been running in parallel Stratasys on there end and on our end. We ran two joint quality teams in parallel. We are definitely tapping into the Stratasys part of the equation that I bring after being there for so many years. And being able to launch a product that we feel so confident about so much so that we doubled the warranty to six months.
Fabbaloo: What would you tell the average DIY guy that heard the bad reputation of the original Smart Extruder? What would you tell them to convince them that this is really and truly fixed?
Jonathan Jaglom: First of all I would say that even prior to the Smart Extruder+, MakerBot has gone a long way with this product. Recently PC Magazine came out with their reviews and we were top on their list, so we have done a lot of great things.
But the Smart Extruder+ is we believe the most exhaustive undertaking in quality on any extruder in the Industry. I truly believe that statement. 200,000 hours of prints, it is almost like it was an overkill, but I think that it is great that we did it.
Therefore, we are so confident in the product because of all the data and the length of time we put into it from a testing perspective gives us that confidence and to your DIY guy, I would say we were solid before, there is an expectation and you need to set the expectation that the MakerBot printer is not your Fortus 900, but neither is it at that price point and the technology and innovation is not around the technology of 3D printing but making it accessible at that price point. I think we’ve overcome those challenges as well. So I am really excited about 2016 because it is the best way to start off the year with the announcement.
Colby Dennison: Just to clarify that number, Stratasys stopped quality testing at 160,000 hours and we continued well beyond to 200,000 hours.
Fabbaloo: Whatever number it is, it is lots!
Jonathan Jaglom: It was 1.44 miles of filament!
Fabbaloo: We think that is exactly what you guys should have done. That is what is going to convince people.
Jonathan Jaglom: I think so to.
Colby Dennison: And give it a shot. Try it out. We are now running a promotion for $99 for existing customers, which is half price and I guarantee people are going to see the results.
Jonathan Jaglom: That is another valid point, we dropped the price to our customer base. We want to focus back on the customer. We dropped it to $99 for them, if not it is $199. We want that experience to be an positive as possible.
Fabbaloo: The thing is convinced us is that you extended the warranty, so you guys must have great confidence that it will last that long at least.
Colby Dennison: When you have as much data as we had that is what makes you confident.
Fabbaloo: Some of the changes we noticed are that there is a new factory and a bunch of distribution changes, it kinda smells like you are setting up for a lot of sales or something?
Jonathan Jaglom: I would flip that and just explain the rationale behind the acquisition of MakerBot by Stratasys is such that we have a parent company that is very solid. It has almost 30 years experience in FDM, fundamentally the same technology that we use, and a wide range of material offerings. It would just be good common sense to tap into that know how, and to exchange ideas and leverage off that, which I can share with you from an R&D perspective a lot of that is happening.
Fabbaloo: That all makes sense. It’s been about two years since we have seen a new machine and there has been a ton of new developments out there with all sorts of new machines with bells and whistles. You don't have self levelling, for example, you don't have this and that. You guys are due?
Jonathan Jaglom: Yes, and I would be that last one to advocate the importance of the hardware. I come from a hardware but one of my learning nine months into the job at MakerBot is the power of the software around the products at MakerBot and there we’ve had a number of interesting launches. The MakerBot Desktop software version 3.8 that was really important. We’ve improved speed by 30% <snaps fingers>. That’s massive in itself. And we have a lot more things coming on that front as well. So when you think MakerBot, it is not only hardware it is also the software. I am sure you would agree that the software side also MakerBot is known for.
The remainder of our chat will appear in Part 2!